Happy Sunday, and I hope you’re in the mood to accompany me on another zig-zag trip with the magical music time machine. As always, the journey shall include six stops in different decades, featuring music in different flavors. But this time, I’d like to shake things up a tiny bit. Let’s go!
Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble/Lenny
Today, our first stop is June 1983, which saw the release of electric blues guitar virtuoso Stevie Ray Vaughan’s debut album Texas Flood. But don’t worry, I’m not gonna hit you over the head (yet) with some hard-charging Jimi Hendrix-style blues rock. Instead, we’re gonna do it nice and easy with a relaxing jazzy instrumental, Lenny, the album’s closer. Just listen to that brilliant guitar tone and you know why I love Vaughan as much as I do. He was backed by Tommy Shannon (bass) and Chris Layton (drums), who were known as Double Trouble. Initially, they were a five-piece (including SVR) Vaughan had formed in 1978, and after some line-up changes evolved into a power trio. Sadly, the career of Vaughan, one of the most talented guitarists I can think of, was tragically cut short in August 1990 when he died in a helicopter crash, along with the pilot and three other passengers on board.
Buzzcocks/Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)
Okay, time to wake up in case you nodded off during the previous track – now we’re gonna kick some butt! This next tune takes us to September 1978. That’s when English punk rockers Buzzcocks came out with their sophomore album Love Bites. And I’m not talking about some fast and loud music and screaming vocals by some guys who can barely play their instruments. This is punk with catchy pop hooks and decent vocals – in other words, my kind of punk! The Buzzcocks were formed in Bolton, England in 1976 by singer-songwriters Pete Shelley (vocals, guitar) and Howard Devoto (lead vocals). Devoto already departed after the release of the group’s debut EP Spiral Scratch (Jan 1977) to form Magazine, an early post-punk band. By the time Love Bites appeared, the remaining line-up of Buzzcocks included original members Steve Diggle (guitar, vocals), Steve Garvey (bass) and John Maher (drums). Buzzcocks who are still around have since seen multiple changes. Shelley remained until his death of a suspected heart attack in December 2018. Diggle is still around. To date, Buzzcocks have released 10 studio albums, most recently Sonics in the Soul, which came out in September 2022.
The Platters/The Great Pretender
If you’re a frequent reader of my blog or know my music taste otherwise, you’ve probably noticed I dig great singing. A lot! As such, it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that I like certain vocal groups. One of the first such formations I heard are The Platters. I can’t quite remember whether it was Only You (And You Alone), their first hit single from July 1955, or the follow-on, which I decided to feature here. Released in November 1955, The Great Pretender became an even bigger chart success, their first single to top the U.S. pop charts. Written by Samuel “Buck” Ram, who also was a prominent music producer and arranger, The Great Pretender was a no. 1 in The Netherlands as well and reached no. 5 in each the UK and Belgium. Amazingly, a touring version of The Platters exists to this day, though none of their founders are still around. The one constant member from the group’s inception in 1952 until his death in 2012 was Herb Reed. And, sure enough, The Platters are on the road and have a pretty busy schedule throughout the year. So, let’s hear it for The Great Pretender – what a marvelous classic!
Nirvana/Smells Like Teen Spirit
Our next stop is the ’90s, the decade where I began to largely tune out from contemporary music unless it was by a band or artist I had started to follow in the late ’70s or ’80s. I realize this time and again when fellow bloggers post about ’90s music. There were a few notable exceptions – thank goodness! One I initially wasn’t crazy about were Nirvana. It took me a few times until I fully appreciated the brilliance of Smells Like Teen Spirit, the opener and lead single of their sophomore album Nevermind, released September 10 and September 24, 1991, respectively. The tune was primarily penned by frontman and main songwriter Kurt Cobain with inputs from the band’s bassist and drummer Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl, respectively. The title was derived from the phrase “Kurt smells like Teen Spirit,” which his friend Kathleen Hanna, lead vocalist of punk band Bikini Kill, had written on his wall. Cobain thought it was some revolutionary slogan. However, Hanna referred to the deodorant Teen Spirit, which she and Cobain’s then-girlfriend Tobi Vail had discovered during a trip to the grocery store. The dynamic changes in this haunting tune are just incredible!
The Rolling Stones/Child of the Moon
We’re four stops into this trip and haven’t visited the ’60s yet. This must be corrected immediately by setting our music time machine to May 1968. On the 24th of that month, The Rolling Stones released Jumpin’ Jack Flash as a non-album single in the UK. It also came out in the U.S. one week later. Since it appeared, the Stones have played Jumpin’ Jack Flash during each of their tours – I mean, it’s a dynamite tune, so who can blame them! By comparison, I think it’s fair to say the single’s B-side, Child of the Moon, has largely remained obscure, even though it’s a great tune as well. It got my attention the other day when I came across the cool official video. As noted by ABKCO Music & Record when posting the clip on YouTube, Filmed in 1968, this surrealist promotional film features all five original band members and Emmy Award-winning actress Dame Eileen June Atkins. Shot on a farm near Enfield, outside north London, the eerie music video for “Child of the Moon” is an early example of the narrative approach, when the format was in its infancy, over a decade before the advent of MTV.
Artemis/Lights Away From Home
And once again, this brings us to the sixth and final stop. You may wonder what happened to the “usual jazz track”. I told you things would be a bit different this time, though my first pick by blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan was jazzy. Here comes a second instrumental with a more traditional jazz sound, except it’s by a contemporary New York all-female sextet, Artemis, and it’s brand new. From their website: The brainchild of pianist and composer Renee Rosnes, Artemis is a powerful ensemble of modern masters. Named for the Greek goddess of the hunt, the multinational, multigenerational band was founded in 2017 under the banner of International Women’s Day. Artemis’ performance at the 2018 Newport Jazz Festival was so dynamic, Blue Note Records President Don Was signed the group to the label. Tour dates across Europe and North America followed, including performances at such iconic stages as Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, SFJAZZ, Chicago Orchestra Hall, as well as at the Detroit Jazz Festival, Saratoga Jazz Festival, and the Monterey Jazz Festival among others. Off their sophomore and new album In Real Time, which was released on May 5, here’s Lights Away From Home, a composition by the ensemble’s bassist Noriko Ueda. According to this review by Glide Magazine, this groovy track was inspired by watching a meteor shower. BTW, in addition to their involvement with Artemis, each of these six amazing ladies is leading their own band!
Of course, I won’t leave you without a link to a Spotify playlist featuring each of the above goodies. Hope you enjoyed our trip and will be back for more. And, who knows what may be in store next. Perhaps, I’ll throw in some yodel music! 🙂
Sources: Wikipedia; Artemis website; Glide Magazine; YouTube; Spotify