Monday, April 25, 1994

Blur released Parklife: April 25, 1994

Originally posted April 25, 2012.

In the summer after Parklife was released, Britpop reached a feverish peak with the Blur vs. Oasis battle. The only the thing the bands truly shared, “apart from their public loathing of each other, was their preoccupation with the sixties, with the former attempting to re-write the entire Beatles back catalogue while Blur revived the archetypical English whimsy and art school artifice of The Kinks.” PR

However, “Blur’s admiration of The Kinks isn’t as blatant as their rivals’ fixation for The Fab Four.” PR While previous album “Modern Life Is Rubbish established Blur as the heir to the archly British pop of the Kinks, the Small Faces, and the Jam” AMG, Parklife “revealed the depth of that transformation” AMG by serving up “more eccentricity and more focused evocations of everyday life than Oasis’s work.” TB “The ghost of Ray Davies can be heard on the character sketch Tracy Jacks and there are echoes of the similarly styled Small Faces in the title track,” PR a “mod anthem” AMG in which Phil Daniels, the star of Quadrophenia, “lends his broadest ‘sarf London’ accent.” PR

Parklife

However, the band doesn’t just utilize “Ray Davies’ seriocomic social commentary” AMG; “Parklife runs through the entire history of post-British Invasion Britpop in the course of 16 songs, touching on psychedelia, synth pop, disco, punk, and music hall along the way.” AMG “From the fairground-style dembellishments and novelty instrumentation to the flirtations with punk and psych-pop, Parklife constantly surprises with its diversity of material and infectious good humour.” PR “Damon Albarn even manages a fair stab at Syd Barrett on Far Out.” PR

Indeed, Albarn “intended these songs to form a sketch of British life in the mid-‘90s, and it’s startling how close he came to his goal; not only did the bouncy, disco-fied Girls & Boys and singalong chant Parklife become anthems in the U.K., but they inaugurated a new era of Britpop and lad culture, where British youth celebrated their country and traditions.” AMG However, it was still “a thoroughly modern record in that it bends genres and is self-referential.” AMG “And, by tying the past and the present together, Blur articulated the mid-‘90s zeitgeist and produced an epoch-defining record.” AMG

Girls and Boys


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50 years ago: Woody Guthrie recorded “This Land Is Your Land”

First posted 4/25/2014; updated 3/19/2021.

This Land Is Your Land

Woody Guthrie

Writer(s): Woody Guthrie (see lyrics here)


Recorded: April 25, 1944


First Charted: --


Peak: -- US (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, -- video, -- streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

Guthrie’s song is “one of the most stirring testaments to the American spirit ever put to music” SS and might have been the national anthem if he was alive during the foundation of the United States. TM His song isn’t just “a pleasant ode to the beauties of the countryside” SS but a conviction that America belongs to the people, not just “the politicans, or the corporate executives, or the priviledged class.” SS

Guthrie was born in Oklahoma in 1912. During the 1930s, he witnessed firsthand the effects of the Depression and the dust storms which ravaged the Great Plains. This impacted his songwriting and earned him a reputation as a spokesman for the disenfranchised. When he went to California in 1937, he forged a reputation for songs with biting social commentary in his radio broadcasts. In 1940, he went to New York to record a series of “Dust Bowl Ballads” for Victor.

Guthrie wrote “This Land Is Your Land” in 1940 as “an alternative American anthem” CR in response to Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America.” He was annoyed by the song’s suggestion that all that happened to the country – including poverty and injustice – was somehow blessed by a divine being. SS He set the lyrics to “When the World’s on Fire,” a traditional melody used by the Carter Family in 1930. That song, in turn, had been based on the 1928 hymn “Rock of Ages” as recorded by Blind Willie Davis. SS Guthrie’s song was built on “just three simple chords and a childlike lyrical quality.” TM

In 1944, Guthrie recorded more than 170 songs for Asch Records, a small independent label in New York City. Among the songs was a slightly reworked “This Land Is Your Land,” but it didn’t see release until 1951. SS By then, the song became “a leftist national anthem, sung at rallies, political events, and in schools.” NPR The song was made familiar to most Americans by the Weavers. PM It has now become “a triumphant anthem for the march of Anglo-American progress and the doctrine of Manifest Destiny.” CR


Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for Woody Guthrie
  • CR Toby Creswell (2005). 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time. Thunder’s Mouth Press: New York, NY. Page 492.
  • NPR National Public Radio (1999). “The Most Important American Musical Works of the 20th Century
  • SS Steve Sullivan (2013). Encyclopedia of Great Popular Song Recordings (Volumes I & II). Scarecrow Press: Lanham, Maryland. Pages 62-3.
  • TM Time magazine (10/24/2011). “All Time 100 Songs
  • PM Joel Whitburn (1986). Pop Memories 1890-1954. Menomonee Falls, WI; Record Research, Inc. Page 189.

Tuesday, April 5, 1994

Kurt Cobain commited suicide: April 5, 1994

Originally posted April 5, 2012.

image courtest of billboard.com

On August 8, 1994, an electrician found Kurt Cobain’s body at his home in a room above the garage. He was dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. A gun and suicide note were nearby. The coroner determined the 27-year-old rock singer/songwriter had died on April 5.

Nirvana, the band Cobain fronted, attained global fame in 1991-92 with Nevermind, a #1 album which achieved sales of 10 million in the U.S. and more than 20 million worldwide. It ranks in the top 10 albums of all time. That album’s lead single, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, is also considered a landmark in music history, ranking in the top ten of the DMDB book The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era, 1954-1999.

The huge success of that album and song put Nirvana at the forefront of the grunge movement. Considered the most vital music genre to come about in years, Cobain was heralded as its John Lennon – the voice of a generation of dissatisfied teens and young adults in their twenties.

Cobain was tortured by a chronic stomach ailment, heroin abuse, depression. In death, he became – some say intentionally – a member of “the 27 club,” a group of musicians including Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and later Amy Winehouse, who all died at age 27. Quoting from a Neil Young song in his suicide note, he said it was “better to burn out than to fade away” (read note here), an indication of his desire to go out on top.

CNN’s repot on Cobain’s death

NBC’s report on Cobain’s death


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