The World According to Keitho

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Posts Tagged ‘Led Zeppelin’

Just another night at the office

Posted by keithosaunders on December 7, 2016

There are so many louts at our gigs that it’s hard not to go all Stockhomy and start liking them.  When your office is a dive bar expectations had better be low or you could go crazy from frustration and aggravation.

At last night’s gig there was ultra loud couple sitting in the booth right across from the band. This guy must have been the funniest thing since Sid Caesar because every ten seconds there would be an ear-piercing cackle from his date. He had this nasal voice that could penetrate the loudest decibel, like a knife slashing through butter. We could have been Led Zeppelin and you would have heard this guy.

Needless to say they stayed the entire night. After the gig I noticed they were making out in the booth so I decided to give them a taste of their own medicine. “GET A ROOM,” I screamed. Then I approached them: “How do you like it when I intrude on your business?”

Posted in jazz, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

2001 A Space Odyssey

Posted by keithosaunders on June 28, 2016

2001 A Space Odyssey is to Stanley Kubrick what Stairway to Heaven was to Led Zeppelin.  (minus the lawsuit) It’s like no other film he ever made.  In fact it’s like no other film I’ve ever seen.  I have seen 2001 dozens of times and it remains riveting, suspenseful, and mind-bending.

A lot of people find this film boring.  There are huge swaths of it with no dialogue — the docking scene at the space station, the scenes in the pod, and of course the psychedelic final 20 minutes of the film.

In fact, much of the dialogue is small talk.  (Almost all of the action in the film unfolds in maddeningly deliberate real time.)  There’s a scene in the 2nd act of the film in which scientist Heyward Floyd leads a meeting at a space station above the moon.  It’s one of the wordier scenes in the film, but most of the dialogue is the exchange of pleasantries between the scientist!

I just finished re-watching the film on a 3 day installment plan.  Day one was the dawn of man through the moon sequence.  Day two was the beginning of the Jupiter mission through the intermission.  Day 3 began with the pod accident.  While astronaut Frank Poole is attempting to replace an ‘antenna control device’ he is rammed by his EVA pod, controlled by HAL, the computer, severing his oxygen supply and causing his death.  This is one of the most chilling scenes I’ve ever seen in cinema.  There is literally no sound in the scene other than Pooles breathing.  Once he is rammed the perspective shifts to his fellow astronaut Dave Bowman and the remainder of the scene — Bowman’s attempt to rescue Poole – takes place in silence.  This is followed by Bowman having to reenter the ship through the airlock and subsequently deactivate Hal.

The 4th act, the descent into the star gate and the evolution of Dave Bowman, is the most ambiguous and provocative part of the film, but for this time around I enjoyed focusing on some of the more mundane happenings:  Bowman receiving a video happy birthday from his parents, the stewardess on the shuttle retrieving a floating, weightless glass of water from a sleeping passenger, and the aforementioned small talk. It was these touches, contrasting with the futuristic and metaphysical, that made the movie realistic, as well as otherworldly.

Posted in film, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

At last I can sleep

Posted by keithosaunders on June 23, 2016

Well we can all rest easy.  A judge has ruled that the 7 minute Led Zeppelin leviathan, Stairway To Heaven, was not plagiarized from another band’s song.  In 1968 Zeppelin, then just starting out, were on the road with a group called Spirit who performed an instrumental number – Taurus –  that was suspiciously similar to the acoustic guitar opening to Stairway to Heaven.

It’s not a stretch to think that Jimmy Page may have consciously or sub consciously stolen the riff.  After all he shamelessly “borrowed” several other blues riffs from artists such as Willie Dixon, Robert Johnson, and Sonny Boy Williamson.

Stairway to Heaven is unique no matter how you look at it.  No other Zeppelin song is quite like it in the way it takes its time building intensity. From the solo acoustic guitar opening, to the screaming heavy metal final minute and a half, it’s almost, but not quite through-composed. (Its verse repeats several times)  It’s a good song but it’s a stand alone.  We like Zeppelin for their riff heavy, hard grooving rockers such as Dazed and Confused, Living Loving Maid, and Black Dog.  You tolerated the folky Going to Californias to get to the Misty Mountain Hops.

For that matter, where is Spirit’s lawsuit against Emerson Lake and Palmer?  ELP had an entire record called Taurus!  If Spirit wants they can always use my law firm, Dewey, Cheatum, and Howe.

Posted in music, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Enough with the kinder

Posted by keithosaunders on September 26, 2015

I suppose it was inevitable that as Facebook and the humblebragging that goes along with it have become ubiquitous so have videos of children precociously doing or saying adult things.  Today I saw a video of a young European girl playing the drums along to Led Zeppelin’s Black Dog. She had all of John Bonham’s fills down and you can tell she was coached thoroughly and that she was probably a quick study.  Except that it doesn’t matter.  All it proves is that she has above average concentration.  She didn’t create anything and to be honest she didn’t even groove.

I saw a video of two pre-teens dancing a sensual mambo.  They were resplendent in Cuban drag and they had all the steps down.  Impressive?  Not to me.  In fact I found it a little creepy having these two youngsters ape a sex-infused dance.

Then there are the pre-teen jazz musicians.  Listen to that kid wail on Giant Steps.  Wow!  But here’s the thing:  An important facet of improvisation is telling your story – it is the musical equivalent of your life’s experience.  What experience does a 10 year old have?  I would hope not much!

Parents, we know what you’re trying to do.  Congratulations, you have a ‘gifted kid.’ Now that your passive aggressive humblebrag is complete, how about tamping down your zeal and letting your kids be kids.

Posted in jazz, life | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

I am Woman

Posted by keithosaunders on July 1, 2011

I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore
And I know too much to go back an’ pretend
’cause I’ve heard it all before
And I’ve been down there on the floor
No one’s ever gonna keep me down again

Oh yes I am wise
But it’s wisdom born of pain
Yes, I’ve paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to, I can do anything
I am strong (strong)
I am invincible (invincible)
I am woman

We look back on this song, written and sung by Helen Reddy, and we think, “wow, is that corny.”  Yes it is corny, but it’s a well-written song with a decent melody, and for its time it was fairly subversive.  You can’t deny that it’s catchy — I’m still humming it 40 years later, and I remember most of the lyrics.

But think about it…this song could never be written today.  It would never become a hit.  It is devoid of irony.  These days a song has to be cynical, ironic, and “hip.”  Can you imagine Lady Gaga singing something as obvious as I Am Woman?  Personally, I can’t imagine her carrying any tune, but that’s besides the point. 

When you consider the early 70s, it wasn’t as if the music was dominated by Lawrence Welk.  The Beatles had already come and gone, but the Stones were till going strong, as was Led Zeppelin, Marvin Gaye, and Stevie Wonder, all of whom could be heard at various times on top 40 radio.  These days hit radio is dominated by artists who rely on auto-tune, droning one-chord vamps, with robotic [non] grooves. 

Personally I would welcome a little corn.  I hate that things have to be so contrived and vacuum-packed.  So where are the corny message songs of today?

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disco fever

Posted by keithosaunders on February 13, 2011

I was listening to my Pandora today and for some reason it decided that I wanted to hear a set of disco music.   This got me to thinking what was it about disco that I liked and disliked.  Growing up in Van Nuys, California my friends and I hated it.  What did we care about dance music?  To us, the Stones and Zeppelin were real music.  I was just getting into jazz when disco hit and I found myself feeling removed from pop music.

It’s interesting to look  at disco music in the light of where pop music is today.  These were songs written by people who had a real sense of melody, harmony, and groove.  Contrast anything that the Bee Gees or Donna Summers did with the one chord hip hop vamps, or the wall of sound syntheziser-infused Disney channel pop machine.  The music of today is very much a corporate undertaking and the musicianship and craft is sorely missed.

One of the songs that Pandora played was K.C. and the Sunshine Band’s Get Down Tonight, an early disco hit.  When you listen to the funky clavinet comping, and the sparse, funky bass-line you can hear that these guys definitely checked out bands such as The Ohio Players and Sly and the Family Stone.  The music is not far removed from the early 70s soul groups and that spirit permeates the music. 

Disco was a bass player’s music.  The drummers all but had their balls in a vice.  They were tamped down, both in terms of what they could play and their presence in the mix.  For them it was four on the floor and not much else.   (not at first, but post Saturday Night Fever)  Gone were the days of  Stevie Wonder-esque earthy, swing-infused drumming, or those Earth Wind and Fire kicks on the last sixteenth of the measure.  Disco drummers were reduced to building a shed — Bam Bam Bam Bam — while the bass players had free-reign over the groove, sometimes taking part in the melody. 

Even with these inherent flaws there was plenty of good music to go around.  More importantly there was work for musicians.  String players, horn players, backing vocals — they all worked.  There were sessions galore, as well as gigs in town, and touring. 

Disco was ruined by the record companies who watered it down, codified it, and turned out factory records such as Disco Duck and Won’t You Take Me To Funky Town.  By the early 80s the discos began to close and people stopped buying the records.  Dance music would continue but the synth genie was out of the bottle.  One no longer needed to be a skilled musician in order to write or play a song.  The craft was lost and the record labels and corporate America had little interest in nurturing its return. 

Donna Summers

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The song remained the same

Posted by keithosaunders on October 29, 2010

Last night I took the family for a Thursday night dinner at a local Nepali restaurant.  It was a cute neighborhood restaurant with a friendly waitress and good, simple food.  

There was a song playing in the background that I took to be Nepali folk music and it had a catchy little refrain.  About ten minutes into our meal I began to notice that the refrain of the song had come back around.  It was then that it began to dawn on me that the song had never ended.  Of course once you notice something like this you can’t ignore it, and for me  it became the focal point of the evening.  Either this song was on some kind of loop, or it was one of the longest songs ever written —  it lasted for the duration of our stay at the restaurant. 

The song had lyrics, but since they were in Nepali I couldn’t tell whether they were repeating or if the composer’s attitude was, “Fuck it, I’ve got a lot to say, I’m writing more verses.”  I’m betting that the composer was paid by the note and is known as the Charles Dickens of song.  I used to think that Bob Dylan’s music was wordy until last night.  Now, as far as I’m concerned, he’s the king of brevity.  John Coltrane himself never took a solo this long.   

The question I have is why would you do this to your customers?  Even if you go on the assumption that most people are not as attuned to a restaurant’s background music as a musician, it still makes no sense.  After a while — and I was there for the better part of an hour — even the most tone-deaf among us are going to begin to notice that something is askew.  It was like a chinese water torture of music.  If I had to hear that song for another minute I’m sure I would have confessed to the murder of JFK.   

That melody is burned into my soul and if I live to be 105 I will never forget it.  But wouldn’t you know it, as we were leaving the restaurant the song ended and a new one began.  Needless to say I didn’t stay to hear how that one turned out.

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Black Dog: Seperating the men from the boys

Posted by keithosaunders on May 18, 2010

So many bands followed in the wake of Led Zeppelin, — Aerosmith, ACDC, Van Halen, and Black Sabbath — and some of them were pretty good. The best of them, such as Aerosmith, could turn out anthemic hooks with an ease that some would say rivaled that of Jimmy Page.

Here’s where they differed. Zeppelin made the complicated sound easy. Case in point is “Black Dog,” from the 4th (untitled) album, which on first listen sounds like a run of the mill blues-rock riff. But try counting the bridge. (the instrumental section with the guitar and bass unison) Is it in 4? Is it in 3? Both? Better yet, try playing it with your garage band and see how far you get.

John Paul Jones, Zep’s bassist is supposedly responsible for the arrangement, but this does not deter from the fact that the band pulled it off with offhanded aplomb that sounded like they barely broke a sweat.  Here is Jones’ on the writing of Black Dog:  “I wanted to try an electric blues with a rolling bass part. But it couldn’t be too simple. I wanted it to turn back on itself. I showed it to the guys, and we fell into it. We struggled with the turn-around, until John Bonham figured out that you just four-time as if there’s no turn-around. That was the secret.” 

This does not fully explain what is going on in the bridge, but at least it is an acknowledgement that something quirky is occurring.  What I really want to know is where do they consider one to be?  Is the beginning of the riff a pickup, or is it in fact beat one?  Is there a bar of 2 there or does it actually even out?  [By the way, this is why as a listener I am never comfortable with exotic odd-time jazz songs.  I’m too busy counting bars to enjoy the solos!]

And what about the band’s vocalist, Robert Plant? What did he have to do with all of this? He only had one of the great time feelings in rock history. He had to carry the melody by himself for the first four bars. It’s his pulse that set up the entire rest of the song. His best was so wide and so confident that he may as well have been a second drummer. Witness “The Ocean,” in which the group had a long 2 bar hold before all four of them entered as one.

This band was not to be trifled with.

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