Top Ten lists are inherently flawed in that they are based completely upon subjective opinion. So don't start complaining that I didn't mention your favorite album!
The lunatic is forty years on
You can't say these eight bands didn't have their chance to do it one last time before the world came to an end.
There are a lot of great music autobiographies out there, but there are great ones still to be written. Chris Holmes counts down the Top 5.
Pink Floyd’s The Wall is being released February 27 in an expanded Immersion Edition that charts the development of this landmark release. To mark the occasion, we take a close look at the album’s most enduring song.
“Comfortably Numb” is more than just a great song, more even than Pink Floyd’s final great achievement. It is the culmination of the fitful and often antagonistic partnership between Roger Waters, the band’s lyricist and creative visionary, and David Gilmour, its primary singer, lead guitarist and most accomplished musical technician. Never close friends, the two men had grown increasingly embattled as Pink Floyd ascended the pyramid of rock megastardom. “Comfortably Numb” marked the last occasion of artistic accord between them, an unlikely flowering of beauty that melded their complimentary gifts as no Pink Floyd song ever had.
For all the rancor they would unleash toward each other, neither man ever lost his affection for this song. Like a child of divorced parents, it would go on to live under a kind of dual custody; one writer has claimed, and I can’t gainsay it, that Gilmour and Waters have played “Comfortably Numb” at every single concert each has performed since the song was released. In that sense, there is nothing quite like it in the rock and roll canon; imagine if Lennon and McCartney had both insisted on playing “We Can Work It Out” at every one of their solo performances. The history of “Comfortably Numb” is like a fossil record detailing the last decade of Pink Floyd and beyond, with each permutation reflecting the essence of its creators and highlighting each man’s strengths and weaknesses.
Despite its climactic position at the end of Side 3 of The Wall, “Comfortably Numb” was actually conceived before the album was written, and it had no place in the song cycle as originally roughed out by Roger Waters in 1978. The song began as a wordless demo recorded by David Gilmour for his 1977, self-titled solo album. While missing some elements — lyrics, for a start — it is still recognizable, and there is undeniably the seed of something beautiful here:
Gilmour has said that he “ran out of time” before he could finish the piece for his album, but my guess is that this is a face-saving way of admitting that he sat on the song, knowing he wouldn’t be able to complete it satisfactorily on his own — and knowing who he could turn to for help. Gilmour has been candid about his lack of self-confidence as a songwriter and lyricist, which kept him from contributing to Pink Floyd on equal footing with the domineering Waters. Yet whatever Gilmour may have thought of Roger Waters as a person, the bassist had shown skill and great generosity in transforming Gilmour’s musical sketches into fully conceived, moving songs: “Wish You Were Here” and “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” both owe their existence to Gilmour guitar phrases that Waters made a point of building upon and completing — often seeing in them more potential than the guitarist himself.
Accounts differ — this is Pink Floyd we’re talking about — as to how keen Waters was to incorporate “Comfortably Numb” into The Wall. Waters, irked by his colleagues’ claims that he shut them out of the creative process, said recently that “I was desperate for [the other band members] to write, always, always, always.” Bob Ezrin, co-producer of The Wall, remembers, “At first Roger had not planned to include any of Dave’s material […] I fought for this song and insisted that Roger work on it.“ Whether Waters leapt or was pushed into working on “The Doctor,” as it was known at this stage, his first pass at the lyric sounds like a piss-take on Bob Dylan, with a suitably hammy vocal on this later demo:
Waters also asked Gilmour for some extra bars to accommodate the chorus he had written. The climactic melody Gilmour came up with gave the song its identity, and “The Doctor” was henceforth known as “Comfortably Numb.”
Apart from the odd lyrics (which, in fairness to Waters, may have simply been filler and never intended for the finished song) and the lack of a second chorus, the main point of difference between this version and the finished studio production is the rougher, more ragged accompaniment to the verses. Gilmour preferred this guitar-heavy approach, while Waters and Ezrin favored a cleaner orchestral arrangement. This difference of opinion escalated into one of the most heated and notorious arguments in the Pink Floyd saga, with Gilmour and Waters eventually reduced to shouting at each other over appetizers in an L.A. restaurant. Gilmour lost, and “Comfortably Numb” was recorded as Ezrin and Waters wanted it. (Though this by no means settled the issue for Gilmour, as we will see shortly.)
In its finished state, “Comfortably Numb” is Pink Floyd’s “A Day in the Life” — the song on which the band’s two chief creative forces came together at their absolute best. Gilmour’s chord progression is simple and effective in classic Floydian manner: a B-minor verse alternating with a D major chorus, each section acting as the distorted mirror image of the other. Singing as the doctor, Waters is all oily charm, his cajoling manner hiding an icy professional (“I do believe it’s working. Good!”) only interested in propping up the battered Pink for one more performance. Gilmour’s section depicts Pink at his most childlike and vulnerable; you can hear the voice of the pleading child in the melody itself. Waters and Gilmour had shared vocal duties on songs before, but never had the contrast between their voices been put to such powerful and dramatic effect. (It is telling that neither man ever attempted to sing the song entirely by himself.)
And then there are the guitar solos.
If you bothered to read this piece at all, you probably take at least a casual pleasure in David Gilmour’s guitar playing. And if you’ve read this far, it’s just possible that those signature high, pealing notes do something to you that no other player quite manages. Lots of guitarists of all stripes have a style; Gilmour is the rare player who has a voice, as expressive in its wordless way as Roger Waters’ most expansive lyrics. I actually find the first solo better — or at any rate more satisfying — than the show-stopping final one, not just for its economy but for the emotional high it delivers. The comfortable numbness into which Pink escapes in the first chorus is warm and welcoming, even rapturous, and Gilmour’s phrases are feather-light and flow effortlessly from one to the other. (For all the times Gilmour has played “Comfortably Numb” live, he never alters a note of this solo.) On the extended coda, he plays over the minor chords of the chorus, and the effect is much more unsettling. Phrases sputter to life and drop away, or jostle against each other brusquely. In keeping with its thematic role in the song, the solo has no clear shape; it is more of a sequence of utterances, short primal bursts of pain and confusion that hearken back to Gilmour’s signature work on “Shine On You Crazy Diamond.” This is even more the case on this version, recorded during a live performance of The Wall (skip to 5:20 if you just want to hear the solo, and note that the video footage is taken from a different performance):
Pink Floyd, Live in Concert (1982)
“Comfortably Numb” proved to be the final peak of inspiration for Pink Floyd. With founding keyboardist Richard Wright thrown out of the band by Waters, the three remaining members convened for one last album, the entirely Waters-driven The Final Cut, before all concerned acknowledged that Pink Floyd could not endure in its present form. In 1985, Roger Waters formally informed Pink Floyd’s record label that he was leaving the band, which he described publicly as “a spent force,” and one which he had every expectation would promptly lapse into dignified retirement. David Gilmour had other ideas.
Pink Floyd‘s A Momentary Lapse of Reason, alas, was no Dark Side of the Moon. Criticized then as now for being transitional and samey, though, it was far from the worst thing foisted on unsuspecting fans during the 1980s.
It bothers me that Bryan Ferry's new album Olympia slips into the "what might have been" category so easily. For what it is, being a release primarily comprised of Ferry's original tunes versus his standard slate of cover songs, it works rather well. The album
We’re going to end the letter G this week with a super post filled with great tunes and the Grateful Dead. Enjoy a ton of music as we continue our alphabetical trek through the rock end of the ’80s.
“Innocent Days” 1989, #11 (download)
This is a pretty brilliant track by the Huff brothers and Giant. I lamented about Giant back in the original Bottom Feeders series and how they were labeled both hard rock and glam of which they were neither. However, Last of the Runaways from which “Innocent Days” was from, had quite a few moments of brilliant pop-rock. I’m not sure they would have made it even if they weren’t mislabeled, but “Innocent Days” is a lost gem.
Gillan & Glover
“Telephone Box” 1988, #15 (download)
I have always kind of enjoyed “Telephone Box” by Deep Purple members Ian Gillan and Roger Glover. I’ve never heard Accidentally on Purpose, the one album credited to Gillan & Glover, However I do think that Deep Purple was one of the few classic rock bands that still had some fresh ideas in the ‘80s, so it’s not a surprise to me that this is a decent song. Sure it’s a little cheesy, but cheese is what the decade is about.
About Face was David Gilmour’s only solo record in the ‘80s and is simply a wonderful listen. I’ve never been a fan of Pink Floyd and of course Gilmour’s voice gives you that unmistakable Floyd feeling but the album is a rock record that’s completely accessible to the masses, so I’m sure that’s what makes me like it so much.
“All Lovers Are Deranged” is a great rocker, co-written with Pete Townshend and “Murder” starts off slowly but then builds up to almost epic proportions. It might be the most Floyd sounding song on the album.
I’ve read so many reviews of this disc over the years, some praising it and some hating it that it’s hard to understand what it’s like if you’ve never listened to it, but the end result is that if you are going into it looking for a Pink Floyd replica then you won’t be happy. Free yourself from that notion and this should excite you.
In pop culture, lists are everything. They lend a sense of order to an otherwise orderless world. From film and literature to music, critics and readers alike love to put things in tidy rows. It is with this in mind that Popdose presents Listmania, a weekly series counting down the staff’s favorite things.
This is it! The top 10 guitarists, according to the Popdose staff. I’m certain that there are at least one or two surprises waiting for you below, alongside a few obvious choices. Next week, we’ll run an epilogue to the list with the guitarists that just missed the list. For now, here’s your top 10.
Live albums, more than any other, date themselves immediately, and not merely because the date is plastered all over the recording. Multiple artists on a roster are even more susceptible. If the choices of songs don’t lock you into a particular era, the performers will. That’s fine if you, in fact, have a thing for the represented timeframe, which is the thing that will either sell or break Eagle Records’ new Live At Knebworth release. The thought that this concert benefiting the Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy charity is 20 years old bothers me greatly, as June of 1990 hardly seems so long ago.
It was dubbed “The best British rock concert of all time,” and you couldn’t argue with the statement looking at who was on the bill: Clapton, Genesis, Pink Floyd, Sir Paul, Tears for Fears (for the kids, right?). At the same time, if you’re under the age of 30, you might be thinking, “God, what a bunch of old farts!” Clearly the two-disc set is not for you, but at the same time, one can’t escape the feeling this would have done more good being released a long time ago. And actually, it was. Polygram released this exact set in 1990 under the title Knebworth, but there’s nothing in the packaging that indicates this. Now I know there couldn’t be two different recordings sourced from a one-time event, but initially I was hoping there were other songs by these performers that didn’t fit on the previous release, that somehow this was slightly unique. It’s not, and anyone who has the original release need not get their hopes up either.
I led a semi-sheltered suburban life in my high school years, so it wasn’t until MTV made its debut on my cable system a year after it launched in 1981 that I really started getting exposure to music that wasn’t AC/DC or Rush.Â But that’s not all MTV was able to do. Because the channel only had so many videos to play in a 24 hour programming schedule, it meant that they were open to artists who had videos ready to go — ’cause, you know, they were starving for content.Â I had no idea what was going on in the bowels of MTV programming back then, but what I did find that I was able to hear and see artists I really didn’t know much about. Of course if you look at this list you’re thinking “Yeah, it’s classic ’80s…so what?” But before they were classics, they were new songs that were untried in the music marketplace.Â But MTV being what it was back in the day, meant the programmers were able to give many of these song/videos extremely high rotations.Â So much so, that one couldn’t help like (or love) what they were hearing or seeing.Â MTV affected radio playlists in ways program directors never thought it could. Kids seeing the video for something like “Rockit” on MTV would call their local stations and request the song.Â As the requests piled up, the songs eventually made their way to radio.Â Not all were breakaway hits, but if it wasn’t for MTV they certainly wouldn’t have been played on the radio all that much.
The double album turns 30 this year. In upcoming installments of Test of the Boomerang, ‘ll be taking a look at the album’s creation, live spectacle, aftermath and legacy. In this first installment we’ll be looking at the long-storied origins of the album and sharing the band’s original demo recordings.
It’s one of the most repugnant tales in rock history: The final show of Pink Floyd’s “In the Flesh” tour, July 6th, 1977 in Montreal. Roger Waters had had quite enough. Floyd was performing in a stadium, fans were setting off fireworks during the quiet numbers, the sound was lousy, and finally, out of the roiling sea of people, a fan, imploring the band to play “Careful With That Axe Eugene,” clambered onto the stage, only to have Waters spit in his face.
Pink Floyd had come a long way from the spirited whimsy of “See Emily Play” just 10 years prior. 1977 saw the release of Animals – a visceral and venomous five-song diatribe on class and culture. After the worldwide success of Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here, the grislier Animals showed Roger Waters exerting himself more and more as band leader and the weightier themes on their new album suggested a pretension that was very unlike the zen parable simplicity of Dark Side’s best moments or Wish You Were Here’s built-in nostalgia.
Through the eyes of my son, I’ve been reliving a part of my youth in the form of colorful costumed super heroes from cartoons and the pages of comic books. Because Jacob’s sister, Sophie, and his mom have no enthusiasm whatsoever for this stuff, he and I get to bond over the muscle bound humans out to save the world. With equal parts fascination and wonder, the two of us leaf through my musty old comics from the ‘80s and the glossy new ones we buy once a month.
My personal interest began as a child, around Jacob’s age, when my parents bought me the oversized graphic novel Superman vs. Wonder Woman. From that point on, I was obsessed with all of the big guns, like Spider-Man, Daredevil, and Green Arrow. But my favorite adventures always involved a group of outcasts, teens mostly: The Uncanny X-Men. In my teens, most of my X-Men comics were bought in a Convenient Food Mart located next door to the small music studio where I took drum lessons. In the time between when my lesson ended and when my father would pick me up, I would peruse the comic books held in a squeaking, turning metal rack in the back of the store. With any change I could scrounge from the sofa cushions or whatever I “acquired” from my dad’s dresser, my monthly does of mutant mayhem would always get snuck into the house and immediately taken to the basement, as if I were carrying a Playboy or something worse.
I’m unsure where this feeling that reading comic books was an illicit, depraved thing came from. Particularly in high school, when I was supposed to be poring over the works of Dostoyevsky, Faulkner and Voltaire, I didn’t want my friends to know I was more interested in Chris Claremont, Alan Moore and Frank Miller. Primarily, it was an escape, yet there were strong themes that I identified with, like brotherhood, loyalty, tolerance and redemption. (Ironically, many of these same themes were found in the novels I was reading by those classic authors I mentioned.) The comics also brought me comfort. In early ’88 I holed myself up in the basement to mope about a broken heart and listen to sad Springsteen songs. My one pleasure was delving into the X-Men saga “Fall of the Mutants.” In this epic story, Storm, Rogue, Wolverine and their teammates sacrificed their lives to defeat an evil spirit unleashed on our world.
I'll be honest: I downloaded this mix a few months ago, after searching for it for years (decades, even), but planned to do nothing with it
Hey! It’s Wednesday, so let’s continue taking a look at the letter G and the ass end of the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Andy Gibb and Victoria Principal
“All I Have to Do Is Dream” — 1981, #51 (download)
This checks in at #24 on my bottom 80 songs of the ‘80s list. I’m a fan of the Bee Gees, and since Andy could have very well fit right in with his brothers, I can’t say I dislike him either. This shit just wasn’t necessary, though. At the time he recorded this he was dating Victoria Principal, but getting a little vajayjay shouldn’t translate into a record. I wonder whose idea this was — Andy’s, Victoria’s, or the drugs? Whichever way, someone should have spoken up and convinced them just to make this a “special” gift to each other rather than subject us to it.
Robin Gibb and Marcy Levy
“Help Me” — 1980, #50 (download)
Here’s another pretty shitty track from a Gibb brother, a duet with Marcy Levy off the Times Square soundtrack. In the ‘70s Levy sang with Bob Seger’s band, the Gap Band and then Eric Clapton’s band, among others. In 1988, she became half of Shakespeare’s Sister (under the name Marcella Detroit). Robin also recovered from this mess, releasing two decent solo records in the coming years (1983’s How Old Are You and 1984’s Secret Agent).
“Rich Man” — 1981, #89 (download)
This has never really been on my radar before, but after listening to it again, I had to pull out the album (1981’s Somebody’s Knockin’) and give it another shot. It’s definitely a country record, but with some nice bluesy influences that make it worth a second listen. Gibbs made herself a decent career through the country charts, and then in 1987 took more of a gospel turn and began to fade away. She’s one of the few blind artists to have hits in the decade, having been so since birth.
Test of the Boomerang – Top Ten of 2008
I will dispense with the usual bullshit “Let’s take a look back…” year-end review. USA Today will have that shit in spades for the next four to six weeks. Nothing is ever truly over. There is no true end. Nor is there a true beginning.
Dramatic music swells in the background
In these past twelve months I have seen horror and I have seen wonder. I have seen triumphs
and I have seen the agony of defeat
and no doubt we shall see more. The utter collapse of our financial institutions and increasing aggression and war. I have seen the naked face of evil…
photo montage now strikes up of Sarah Palin and Ashley Todd shooting at wolves from a helicopter, Dick Cheney strangling a rosy-cheeked orphan with a telephone cord, John McCain eating a big greasy cheeseburger while his wife does a line of coke off of a small mirror, George W. Bush with a jet pack…
and I have seen images of hope…
Barack Obama and Joe Biden riding on a soaring magical eagle over a beautiful stretch of California coastline as the music comes to a soaring peak…
But enough of all that. Let’s get to the music, shall we?
My Top Ten of 2008.
10. Sunn O))) – DÃ¸mkirke 2-LP (Southern Lord)
Say what you will about the mighty Sunn O))) — at their fundamental core, deep beneath the waves of feedback and within their black robes, O’Malley, Anderson and company are a live band. Part performance, part transcendental experience. This limited edition double-vinyl set documents a performance by the band at a Gothic cathedral in Bergen, Norway. If that wasn’t perfect already, the band composed an actual piece of music specifically for the performance. Church organs, horns, strange electronics, vocals both sublime and guttural, soar within the old cathedral like aÂ medieval plague. Haunting, intense, (beautifully packaged) and definitely my favorite Sunn O))) release thus far.
Yuletide greetings folks. Even in these tough economic times, the annual rite of holiday gift giving must be performed to appease the mighty snow demons. So here are a few ideas…
There are three absolute “Can’t Miss” gifts – Booze, Books, and Vinyl.
Who doesn’t love booze? A bottle of moderately priced wine or a good-sized bottle of hootch will light up the face of anyone weary of yet another Borders gift card. A good bottle of Italian wine, a rare spirit, or a limited seasonal release beer is always a winner. Best of all, they might even share some of their gift with you!
The makers of 1800 Tequila can produce a 750ml bottle of their fine nectar emblazoned with any custom artwork or photograph you wish. No copyrighted images, please, no matter how friggin’ sweet a big bottle of tequila would look with the cover of Iron Maiden’s Number of the Beast on it. 1800 also makes a line of bottles featuring work by various artists from around the way (Josh Ellingson and Hannah Stouffer – OAKTOWNNNN!) and they’re absolutely gorgeous to look at. 1800 makes a damn fine tequila; now if only they could get name-checked in a rap song or two, they would be set.