Thursday, September 19, 2013

Country-rock pioneer Gram Parsons died: September 19, 1973

Originally posted 9/19/11. Updated 9/19/13.



Gram Parsons has been called “the father of country-rock.” STE Writer Radley Balko argues that “Parsons may be the most influential artist yet to be inducted to either the Rock and Roll Country Music Hall(s) of Fame.” WK He was only 26 when he died on September 19, 1973 from an overdose of morphine and alcohol. However, he left behind an immensely influential body of work with his two solo albums as well as work with the International Submarine Band, the Byrds, and the Flying Burrito Brothers.

The circumstances surrounding his death make for one of rock and roll’s more unusual stories. Before launching his tour in support of his second solo album, Grievous Angel, he went to Joshua Tree National Monument in California. The spot was a frequent getaway and he’d even told his tour manager, Phil Kaufman, that when he died he wanted his ashes spread there. The resulting chain of events maded for an unbelievable and comic story; it was even turned into the 2003 movie Grand Theft Parsons starring Johnny Knoxville.

Parsons’ stepfather intended the body to be shipped from Los Angeles International Airport to New Orleans for a private ceremony. With a borrowed hearse, Kaufman and Michael Martin, a former roadie with the Byrds, stole the body from the airport and headed to Joshua Tree. Once there, they poured five gallons of gasoline into Parsons’ coffin and threw a lit match inside. It made for an enormous fireball, but not a successful cremation. Kaufman and his friend were arrested several days later and fined $750 for stealing the coffin, but there was no law against stealing a dead body. They were also not prosecuted for the 35 pounds of charred remains they left behind in their failed effort. WK

Parsons came from a wealthy but troubled family. He was born in 1946 to “Coon Dog” Connor, a World War II flying ace, and Avis, the daughter of John Snivley who owned about one-third of Florida’s citrus fields. STE Both parents were alcoholics. Two days before Christmas in 1958, Coon Dog committed suicide. WK Avis moved in with her parents in Florida and a year later married Robert Parsons. STE Tragedy struck again when, on the same day Gram graduated from high school, his mom died from alcohol poisoning.

Musically, Parsons was smitten with music at 9 years old after seeing Elvis Presley perform at his school. As a teen, he was a member of several bands. In his solitary semester at Harvard, formed the International Submarine Band. They released an album, Safe at Home, in 1968 but the group was already defunct by its release.

Parsons met Chris Hillman, the bassist of the Byrds, and was brought into the group. He only lasted one album – 1968’s Sweetheart of the Rodeo, but it is considered one of the most important in the development of country-rock.

He then formed the Flying Burrito Brothers with Hillman. They released two albums, 1969’s The Gilded Palace of Sin and 1970’s Burrito Deluxe. During this era, Parsons became close friends with Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones. He also dove deep into substance abuse.

After a failed attempt in 1971 to record his first solo album, Parsons released G.P. in late-1972. A second album, Grievous Angel, was released after his death.




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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Katy Perry hits #1 with “Roar”

Last updated 3/16/2021.

Roar

Katy Perry

Writer(s): Katy Perry, Lukasz Gottwald, Max Martin, Bonnie McKee, Henry Walter (see lyrics here)


Released: August 10, 2013


First Charted: August 11, 2013


Peak: 12 US, 15 RR, 115 AC, 15 A40, 12 UK, 15 CN, 19 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 10.0 US, 1.2 UK, 13.08 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 0.14 radio, 3254.4 video, 200.0 streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

For the lead single for her Prism album, Katy Perry and her songwriting team crafted a message of empowerment, which many saw as a commentary on her failed marriage to Russell Brand. She told BBC Radio 1 “I wrote it because I was sick of keeping all these feelings inside me and not speaking up for myself.” SF Fellow co-writer Bonnie McKee described it as a “pick yourself up and dust yourself off and keep going” song. WK Max Martin, another of the songwriters, talked about seeing a video of the staff from a children’s hospital singing the song. “A song finds its way outside the studio and comes to really mean something to people. It’s not every time that I’m proud of a tune, but I am when it comes to a song like ‘Roar.’” SF

Musically, the song “features elements of arena rock” WK while the lyrics reference Muhammad Ali, Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman,” and the “eye of the tiger” phrase from the 1982 movie Rocky III. The movie’s main character, Rocky Balboa, used the phrase as “a mantra of courage and determination.” SF The movie’s theme song, “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor, topped the U.S. charts for six weeks.

MTV’s James Montgomery called it “one of the more perfect pop songs to come down the pipeline in quite a while.” WK There was controversy over the song’s similarities to Sara Bareilles’ “Brave.” McKee said she’d never heard the song and noted it was written before “Brave” even came out. SF Bareilles said “People got really excited about being angry about something…Katy is an old friend and I had no beef with her.” SF “If I’m not mad, I don’t know why anybody else is upset.” WK

“Roar” hit #1 in 15 countries, SF including the U.S., where it was her eighth #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was only the eleventh song to debut at #1 on the Canadian Hot 100 WK and Australia’s best-selling song of 2013. SF. It was certified for more than ten million sales in the U.S., making her the first act with three songs in that range. WK Perry became the first artist in history to have two videos garner one billion views on Vevo. WK It garnered Peoples’ Choice Awards for Favorite Music Video and Favorite Song. Perry opened her 2015 Super Bowl halftime show with the song and also performed it at the Democratic National Convention in 2016.

The video cast Perry as a kind of Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. The presence of exotic animals earned criticism from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Spokeswoman Merrilee Burke said that just having them on set exposed the animals to unnecessary stress. SF Perry responded with a letter from the American Humane Society affirming “that no animal was harmed in the making of this music video.” WK


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Saturday, September 7, 2013

Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” spent 12th week at #1

Blurred Lines

Robin Thicke with Pharrell Williams & T.I.

Writer(s): Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams, and Clifford Harris Jr. (see lyrics here)


Released: March 26, 2013


First Charted: April 13, 2013


Peak: 112 US, 110 RR, 7 AC, 16 A40, 116a RB, 15 UK, 113 CN, 18 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 10.0 US, 1.95 UK, 15.60 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 0.43 radio, 636.0 video, 200.0 streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

Before 2013, Robin Thicke had a respectable amount of success. He wasn’t a household name like his father, actor Alan Thicke, but he’d released five albums, three of which hit the top 10 on the Billboard album chart. He’d released more than a dozen singles, topping the R&B chart twice with “Lost Without U” in 2007 and “Sex Therapy” in 2009. The former was his only appearance on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #14. Guest appearances from chart-topping American singer and producer Pharrell Williams (#1 twice before) and rapper T.I. (three previous #1’s) gave the song clout, but “Blurred Lines” even trumped their previous successes.

The “disco-influenced funk track” BB topped the charts in 14 countries and hit the top 5 in another 14. WK The song’s dozen weeks atop the Hot 100 made it the longest-running #1 of 2013 in the U.S. and of the second decade of the 21st century. In just over six months, it sold 6 million downloads, faster than any other song in digital history. WK The song also set the record for the highest weekly audience with 228.9 million. BB Jackson Howard of The Michigan Daily said it was “one of Pharrell’s best beats in years…by the time the multilayered and carnal harmonies of the chorus come in, the song is completely on fire.” WK Billboard’s Chris Payne called it a “bubbly bit of disco-shuffling R&B.” WK On the flip side, Rolling Stone’s Rob Sheffield called it “the worst song of this or any other year.” WK

The song generated controversy on several fronts. A video featuring topless models was initially removed from YouTube, but later restored, although flagged as inappropriate. Thicke’s manager, Jordan Feldstein, said the video was specifically designed to be controversial in the hopes of getting banned and going viral. WK It did – inspiring countless online parodies. BB Thicke said of the video, “What a pleasure it is to degrade a woman. I’ve never gotten to do that before. I’ve always respected women.” He later said the comments were a bad joke and that the video was tongue-in-cheek. WK He even tried to claim the song was “actually a feminist movement within itself.” SF

In addition, the song’s lyrics were attacked as being misogynistic and promoting date rape. WK Thicke was also sued by the estate of singer Marvin Gaye for the song’s similarities to “Got to Give It Up;” Thicke admitted he wanted to capture the vibe of what he called his favorite song of all time. SF Thicke also generated negative attention when he performed “Lines” as a medley with Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop” at the MTV Video Music Awards. It became the most-tweeted-about even in history with 360,000 tweets per minute. WK


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Last updated 3/30/2021.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Arctic Monkeys’ AM released

First posted 9/13/2020.

AM

Arctic Monkeys


Released: September 6, 2013


Peak: 6 US, 13 UK, 3 CN, 11 AU


Sales (in millions): 1.4 US, 1.28 UK, 3.02 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: garage rock revival


Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.)

  1. Do I Wanna Know? (6/19/13, 70 US, 11 UK, 48 CN, 33 AU, sales: 1 million)
  2. R U Mine? (2/27/12, 23 UK, 94 AU)
  3. One for the Road (12/9/13, --)
  4. Arabella (1/28/14, 70 UK)
  5. I Want It All
  6. No. 1 Party Anthem
  7. Mad Sounds
  8. Fireside
  9. Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High? (8/11/13, 8 UK, 87 CN, 56 AU)
  10. Snap Out of It (6/9/14, 82 UK)
  11. Knee Socks
  12. I Wanna Be Yours


Total Running Time: 41:42


The Players:

  • Alex Turner (vocals, guitar)
  • Jamie Cook (guitar, vocals)
  • Nick O’Malley (bass, vocals)
  • Matt Helders (drums, vocals)

Rating:

4.065 out of 5.00 (average of 15 ratings)


Quotable: “Absolutely and unarguably the greatest record of their career.” – NME magazine


Awards:

About the Album:

With their fifth album, the Arctic Monkeys broke a record in the UK by becoming the first band on an independent label to debut at the top of the album chart with their first five albums. WK The album also hit #1 in Australia, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, and Slovenia. WK It was the band’s highest charing album in the U.S. and went platinum.

The Arctic Monkeys “forge ahead into bold new territory…neatly splitting the difference between the band’s two personalities – the devotees of barbred British pop and disciples of curdled heavy rock.” AMG AM finds the band “incorporating unapologetic glam stomps, fuzzy guitars, and a decidedly strong rhythmic undercurrent.” AMG “This is vibrant, moody music that showcases a band growing ever stronger with each risk and dare they take.” AMG NME called it “absolutely and unarguably the greatest record of their career.” WK

Entertainment Weekly’s Ray Rahman said the album mixes “Velvet Underground melodies [with] Black Sabbath riffs…and has fun doing it.” WK Guitarist James Cook said David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars was one of the influences for the album, saying it was one of the only albums they listened to while recording AM. WK Singer Alex Turner cited a wide variety of influences for the album, including Black Sabbath, Dr. Dre, Outkast, Ike Turner, and Aaliyah. WK

The album was promoted with six singles. R U Mine? came out more than a year before the album and then Do I Wanna Know? was released three months beforehand. It became the fourth Monkeys’ single to sell more than 200,000 copies in the UK. It charted in the US and sold a million copies there, also picking up a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Performance. Third single Why Do You Only Call Me When You’re High? became the band’s second top-ten hit in the UK.

Fireplace percolates while…Knee Socks nearly rivals Franz Ferdinand in disco rock.” AMG Josh Homme of Queen of the Stone Ages worked on the record and said, “it’s not disco [as such], but it’s like a modern, dancefloor sexy record.” WK

Because Turner’s “is preoccupied with love gone wrong, jealousy, and general misanthropy” AMG the album has “an undercurrent of cynicism.” AMG NME said the album is filled with “tales of wasted phone calls, drunken lunges and late-night confessions.” WK However, “due to the Arctic Moneys’ muscular wallop and musical restlessness, it never feels like the band is wallowing in bleakness.” AMG


Notes: On the Polish and Japanese versions of the album, the bonus track “2013” was added. An iTunes version of the album included an EP of five live cuts. The deluxe LP edition included “2013” and “Stop the World I Wanna Get Off with You.”

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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Fish released Feast of Consequences

Feast of Consequences

Fish


Released: September 4, 2013


Peak: -- US, -- UK, -- CN, -- AU


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


Genre: neo prog rock


Tracks:

Song Title [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Perfume River [10:58]
  2. All Loved Up [5:07]
  3. Blind to the Beautiful [5:12] (4/28/14, --)
  4. A Feast of Consequences [4:29]
  5. High Wood [5:26]
  6. Crucifix Corner [7:25]
  7. The Gathering [4:30]
  8. Thistle Alley [6:08]
  9. The Leaving [4:59]
  10. The Other Side of Me [6:09]
  11. The Great Unravelling [6:32]


Total Running Time: 66:55


The Players:

  • Fish (vocals)
  • Robin Boult (guitar)
  • Foster Paterson (keyboards)
  • Steve Vantsis (bass)
  • Gavin Graffiths (drums)

Rating:

3.668 out of 5.00 (average of 5 ratings)


Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

Fish’s first studio album in six years is an independent affair, but this is no amateur production. “Most of its contents [are] road-tested…and performed by a bunch of crack, devoted musicians.” LS “The care, thought and compassion of its creation is obvious in every last note.” LS

2006’s 13th Star “had a stark, almost industrial production quality that really suited the bleak and angry material.” SL Feast of Consequences “feels much warmer and organic.” SL Both sport a writing partnership with bassist Steve Vantsis. The two “ have an excellent chemistry and understanding and, between them, have created one of, if not the, best albums in Fish's solo career.” SL

Guitarist Robin Boult and keyboardist Foss Paterson, both of whom have worked with Fish in the past, and Gavin Griffiths round out the quartet. “The five musicians work well together and the songs they have created are tight, melodic, and interesting.” SL This “does not really feel like a solo project; it feels like a proper band.” SL Boult is “the perfect guitarist for Fish,” SL making significant writing contributions throughout the album and bolstering the band in the studio and live. SL

“Perfume River”

“Mixing traditional vocals and spoken-word parts, the 10-minute Perfume River is a perfect aperitif for the album’s myriad delights.” LS “The slow-burning epic” SL “opens with haunting bagpipe melody…followed by Spanish style guitar.” BD Even without words, the three-minute instrumental makes it clear the listener is about to “embark on an emotional and personal journey.” BD Once Fish starts singing, he spins a tale about a journey on a Vietnamese River and the ravages of war. BD “He is one of the best in the business at creating really vivid mental images with his words.” SL

“All Loved Up”

“Mocking the shallowness of so-called celebrity culture, All Loved Up is among the record’s rare up-tempo moments.” LS The song “is much more straightforward” SL and “catchy as hell.” SL It “screams ‘single.’” SL

“Blind to the Beautiful”

The “country-tingled” LS Blind to the Beautiful “is a really nice acoustic number in the same vein as ‘A Gentleman’s Excuse Me’ from his 1990 debut solo album Vigil in a Wildnerness of Mirrors.” SL It is “a ballad that has deep meaning with its links with climate change and consequences of feasting at the table of green and consumerism.” BD “There is gritty realism to both the vocals and the musical accompaniment.” BD

“Feast of Consequences”

The title track is a “straight ahead rocker.” SL “The main verses have a nice groove, the pre-chorus backed by the piano is delicate and that leads nicely into the catchiest chorus on the album.” SL Fish “does the longer, more progressive songs well, but he also has a knack for much simpler, melody-driven songs and this is one of the best examples of that.” SL

“High Wood Suite”

“The much-heralded centrepiece is the five-part High Wood suite,” LS which is comprised of that song and the next four. Fish visited the World War I battlefields in Arras, France, where both of his grandfathers fought. Fish “unloads a variety of emotions – sadness, disgust and above all, anger.” LS “These five songs span the generations from 1914 through to today, a sharing of history, they stir a collective memory of stories from great & grandparents.” BD It “is graphic and heartfelt to the point of being utterly unmissable. It’s certainly among the most remarkably powerful pieces of music to be released under Fish’s name.” LS “This is a concept of prog-rock poetry coming of age with confidence.” BD

Fish sets the scene in “High Wood,” which is a small wood where many people died in a major World War I battle. Thanks to Fish’s “hypnotic voice” SL on Crucifix Corner, one “can imagine the scenes…he is describing.” SL

The Gathering “details how people from the towns and cities of the UK all signed up to the army together. It perfectly captures the pride and excitement that these men had, but it also describes a much more na├»ve and carefree world where the horrors of war were largely unknown and unreported by the press.” SL

Thistle Alley “could not be more different.” SL “the horrors of war are now fully known to all serving and this heavy, murky song makes this clear.” SL “It is a very dark piece that pulls no punches.” SL The sutie ends with The Leaving, a “very poignant and intelligence piece” SL that is “a reflection on the war as a whole.” SL

“Other Side of Me”

The album’s final two tracks “refuse to be overshadowed,” LS managing “to stand up to the genius that has just been witnessed.” SL Other Side of Me “is full of wondrous yearning and wonder at what will happen next.” BD It “has a mesmerizing trance-like feeling that draws you into his introspective thoughts.” BD

“The Great Ravelling”

The Great Ravelling, “about the strands of life,” BD is “a perfect track to close the album.” BD It features “really atmospheric keyboards,” SL “call and response vocals from Fish and [backup singer Elisabeth Troy] Antwi,” SL and Boult “cuts loose for a really monster solo.” SL

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First posted 10/2/2020; last updated 6/12/2021.