Lyric euphemism. Pop songs that have explored lyrical euphemism has always made me smile. I think there is a fine art to language of which euphemism plays a role. There are tons of songs in popular music that are some type of euphemism. For decades and decades musicians have skirted parental control with the use of euphemism. But that’s just my opinion. I’ll let you decide. Let’s get the party started. How many euphemisms are there for your backside? More than I thought. LOL
Another installment: thinking of the world we are leaving our children and the children of the future. We are on the cusp of the next great extinction event caused by climate change. Climate change cause by humanities overwhelming impact on the environment and the planet on which we call home. Our children should not be the ones to warn us yet that is what is happening. We adults have shrugged off our responsibility and now our children are crying out for help. What are we doing to provide light during these dark times? What are we doing to keep them safe? How long will we pat our children on the head and offer our empty comforting words? Or, will we continue to write pretty songs to placate and humor the need instead of meet the need? It’s not enough to say, “It’s just too hard. At least the world won’t end while I’m alive. We’ll let someone else figure it out.”
When will we say, “…NOW is the favorable time. NOW is the day of salvation”(*) for our children?
* II Corinthians 6:2
I grew up in a safe environment. Everything was safe. The food was safe. Society was safe. School was safe. Home was safe. But as I got older I learned that it wasn’t safe it was just protected.
There are people who still want to live in their own comfortable “protected” worlds. But protection is a myth. A legend elders tell children. It does not exist. And insisting it does exist, does not make it so.
Further I suggest that propagating this delusion is more harmful than preparing for the facts. The truth. Example: Climate change deniers often use their arguments as an excuse to keep from preparing for the consequences of climate change and taking action to slow it’s impact. And now with the pandemic, humanities approach to disease belies their own unpreparedness. Death and sickness has become unacceptable (even though it is inevitable) So they wear masks, they fight over it, they try to shame those who are “awake” and not afraid. They want a safe world where things don’t change. The climate doesn’t change. People don’t get sick and die. The world doesn’t change. Everything is safe.
What does this have to do with difficult music/difficult listening?
Like the quote from William S Burroughs in the Laurie Anderson video,
“language is a virus from outer space.”
Difficult music challenges a listeners perception of the norm. It suggests there is something else we need to consider. It suggests that we look into the dark corners. Difficult music is to sound what abstract expressionism was/is to art. And most people who have abstract art work treat if more as wallpaper than as something that has something to say/contribute to the conversation of our times. And in music, people typically do not choose to engage it because it requires them to think about what they are listening to. It is often difficult if not impossible to just hang it on a wall as pretty wallpaper for the soul. Difficult music is often derided as messy, juvenile, scary, ugly, inaccessible (not conforming to any known genre parameters) and ultimately ignored. It is the red-headed stepchild of the music world.
But we can learn much from difficult music. It is not something to be afraid of. The shadows are not scary if you enter with a flashlight. It can teach us about ourselves in ways we haven’t considered or dared think about. But to encounter and engage difficult music one must be prepared and perhaps that is the problem with our “protected”, “safe” elders they are not prepared and they do not know how to prepare the younger generation for the facts and truth of existence.
So, do you want to explore difficult music? Don’t know where to start?
Step One: Turn off the radio and TV – they are notorious “taste makers” that would rather keep you safe than expose you to truth. There are many artists that have helped me in preparing for the real world. I started learning about many “difficult” artists just from reading the underground music press (back in the 1980’s) when popular music was experiencing an explosion of variety. But difficult music existed long before I started reading about it.
Here are some artists you can start with (in no particular order):
Laurie Anderson Public Enemy
Einsturzende Neubauten/Blixa Bargeld The Last Poets
Alva Noto Lustmord
Robert Fripp/King Crimson et al Ornette Coleman
Diamanda Galas Lester Bowie
Sun Ra Terry Riley
The Art Ensemble of Chicago Steve Reich
Philip Glass (early works) Markus Reuter
Robert Rich Scott Walker (after 1994)
Merzbow Cabaret Voltaire
Swans Nurse With Wound
Matana Roberts Godspeed You! Black Emperor
The above artists all have work available on Youtube so enjoy your excursion into difficult music. Maybe in the future I’ll write about some of the specific recordings. Again this is just an introduction to difficult listening. Maybe not what you want to listen to in these difficult times but the music does speak to the truth of the times we are experiencing.
I’ll start you off with this Nurse With Wound video for the song BOTTOM FEEDER
This post was inspired by fellow blogger, Oannes. He has been posting some wonderful songs about childhood. Be sure to check out (and follow) his blog https://oannes.gr/category/other-musical-stuff/
For my own contribution I present Chuck Mangione’s title track from CHILDREN OF SANCHEZ which was also the soundtrack for the Mexican-American movie of the same name.
A passionate track that covers so many emotions. While listening I can’t help but think about Children in the world in which we now live. Are we teaching them to hate instead of love? Are we teaching them to be afraid instead of accepting and courageous? Are we teaching them to not trust anyone? We adults set the example for these adults of the future. Just what are we teaching our children? What kind of dreams are we giving our children? What memories will our children have?
This album is one of 3 favorite Chuck Mangione albums. And I highly recommend it. This title track is ambitious starting off with powerful lyrics sung by Don Potter. And then once your heart is softened the drums and horns come in full force to break it all apart. The lyrical verse is then repeated with Chucks Flugelhorn replacing the vocal and then again by guitar virtuoso Grant Geissman. There is a whole verse improvised around the theme by Chuck that is pure hopeful celebration followed by a lyrical reprise. By the end when that last drum and horn break forces it’s way into the song I find myself pumping my fist in the air in righteous agreement – wanting to shout “WAKE UP PEOPLE AND THINK OF THE CHILDREN!”
I recall how Native American tribes would plan not only for their children but for the 7th generation. We need to get back to that. It’s not too late. That seems to be a good lesson for our children and our children’s children….
a.k.a. the evolution of a chord progression….
So have you ever heard songs and you’ve thought “I’ve heard that before, but just can’t place it”. Chances are it’s because of a copied/inspired/emulated chord or rhythm progression. That happened recently to me when I was revisiting Led Zeppelin’s first album. You may have heard the phrase “3 Chords and the truth”. Well this post is about 5 Chords and the truth.
The song “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You Now” has a 5 chord progression that stopped me cold in my tracks. I said, “Hey! That’s Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4”. Was one inspired by the other? Which came first? So, having asked the questions I started doing some research.
Actually Led Zeppelin’s version of “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You Now” was a cover of the song by singer/songwriter Anne Bredon. It’s believed to be written around 1959/60 when she first appeared on the folk music radio show called The Midnight Special (not related to the TV series). Later, Led Zeppelin heard a cover of the song by Joan Baez and decided to cover it on their first album in early 1969. What they did differently was arrange the 5 chords of the song and introduce it as the familiar “power chords”, that we’ve come to recognize and love, later in the song.
Chicago’s song has the same descending 5-chord progression of power chords (this time way out front) in their song “25 or 6 to 4” from their eponymously titled second album which came out after Led Zeppelin’s first album late 1969. The song was released as a single in 1970. And it is amazing that they were not sued for copyright infringement for using that riff. By moving the chord progression out front and adding the punchy brass Chicago has shown a much more progressive, aggressive and harder edged use of these chords. And I never ever thought of Chicago as harder or more aggressive than Led Zeppelin; but in this case I think it applies.
But get this, Chicago wasn’t the first to copy the riff in one of their songs. None other than George Harrison (that’s right the Beatle’s) used the riff (albeit, a subtler version) in the song “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” recorded in September 1968, around the time Led Zeppelin was recording their first album. And the Beatles White Album was released in November 1968.
So what is the likelihood of all three supergroups (Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Chicago) being aware of each other use of these 5 chords? Well, I would say not at all unless they shared the same recording/engineering personnel. We have to remember that this was during the analog age, before the internet, social networks etc., and these bands were all in the studio around the same time, in their respective locations, working on their own albums with no interaction during this time.
According to an article I read this chord progression/riff has repeatedly showed up on many rock songs. Probably one of the more recent, and famous, ones was “Brain Stew” by Green Day in 1992. It’s interesting that Green Day “dismantles” the riff keeping the familiar power chords but spreading them out; making it familiar yet distant.
While the songs are all different they are in some ways the same. So enough of the history lesson. I’ll let you listen for your self.
Anne Bredon – BABE, I’M GONNA LEAVE YOU (the earliest recordings)
George Harrison – WHILE MY GUITAR GENTLY WEEPS
Led Zeppelin – BABE, I’M GONNA LEAVE YOU (arguably the most popular version of this song)
Chicago – 25 OR 6 TO 4
And last, but not least…
Green Day – BRAIN STEW
While some may lament that copying a riff or chord pattern reflects a lack of originality. I remember one popular artist that said basically that all artists steal from each other. It’s the old notion of “standing on the shoulders of giants”. So maybe it’s not important to copy something as long as you are able to incorporate into an original expression as these artists have. After all it doesn’t seem a whole lot different than today’s hip-hop and electronica artists who sample other peoples work. In fact what happened in this case was less deliberate and more organic than sampling.
Well I hope you enjoyed this post. My investigation started on the Wikipedia page for Led Zeppelin after which I migrated to the Wikipedia page for Chicago’s song “25 OR 6 TO 4” which led me to an article for the main source of my information – a column written by Andy Hermann from LA WEEKLY called “You Still Can’t Copyright A Riff – And That’s A Good thing”.
Rock on my peeps. Hope the rest of your week goes swimmingly.
Happy Saturday August First. Today is the first in a new series of abstract compositions. I hope you enjoy them as much as I had finding them. The title is in code followed by the number in the series.
Are the two videos describing things that we are seeing now?
The situations are different but the practices and results are the same.
Any American citizen who is afraid of China and Russia needs to watch these videos and ask if we should continue down this path we are on. Just because we can doesn’t mean we should. These videos highlight two history lessons from America’s past. A dark history at best and a sinister dangerous chapter that should NEVER be repeated. But it IS currently being repeated with a 21st Century twist promoted by the President of the United States enabled by his republican supporters, spread by the media, a democratic opposition propagating dangerous alternate views. There is no balance. The deep cynicism of politicians in Washington is doing more harm than help. While Trump and his Republicans have ushered in the end of Democracy the Democrats are securing it. There is only foolishness on both sides. Surely the hunger for POWER, the FEAR, ANGER, HATRED, IGNORANCE and DISTRUST are the same.
“Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.” – Matthew 12:25