Tag Archives: historical album

Historic album of the month – Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys

If Sir Paul McCartney himself says that without this album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band would not have been made, you know it’s a historic piece of art. We’re talking about Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys. After this timeless record was released in 1966, the world of pop music was never the same again.

If you listen to the work of The Beach Boys until 1965, you will hear a good connection with an adolescent view of the world. Most of the songs are about cars, the beach and surfing. In other words, the band lives up to its name. And then it happens, Brian Wilson hears The Beatles’ latest album Rubber Soul.

Rubber Soul

By his own account, the Beach Boys front man smoked a few big joints before listening to the newest work of his British colleagues. Years later, in an interview, Wilson says: “Wow. It just blew my mind.” The producer feels a strong connection with Rubber Soul.

It’s an album with no unnecessary filling material, he says. Each track is as good as the rest and fits perfectly into the whole. You’ll only find strong compositions on the record. “I don’t know why, but I felt a sense of competition after listening to Rubber Soul. I wanted to make something better than this record,” Wilson later confesses His goal would become making the “greatest rock album ever made.”

The Beach Boys

Until then, the work of his own band was lighthearted. This is one of the reasons why the act has been successful with young teenagers. When Wilson dives into the studio at the beginning of 1966, to start the work on Pet Sounds, everyone expects he will produce sounds that are similar to All Summer Long (1964), Beach Boys Today (1965) and Summer Days (1965).

The young producer, however, has other plans. He uses the knowledge he has acquired while making the previous albums to do something completely different. Thinking of Rubber Soul, Wilson composes songs in which orchestration plays an important role. For this he hires the same musicians that have recorded for Mr. Wall of Sound himself, Phil Spector. They play strings, oboe, horn and harpsichord, among other things.

Brian Wilson solo album

With songs like Caroline No, Wouldn’t it be Nice and Sloop John B, Pet Sounds is sometimes called a Wilson solo album. Not only did Brian Wilson write eleven of the twelve tracks, he also took a year off from touring to do so. While The Beach Boys are touring America, the front man is working in the studio.

Wilson looks back on this period of his life as a process of maturity in which he struggles with panic attacks and has difficulty dealing with social situations. The album reflects this struggle and could be seen as a way in which the artist comes to terms with himself.

In 1965 Wilson decides to indefinitely withdraw himself from touring with The Beach Boys and do what he does best, create music. The texts on Pet Sounds reflect these developments. Wilson dares to look inwards and express the emotions associated with the transition from boy to man.

Tony Asher

What Lennon is to McCartney, Asher is to Wilson. Asher is a writer who is hired to help Wilson with his lyrics. After a meeting in Los Angeles the two exchange some ideas. Wilson later approaches the copywriter of jingles and advertisements with a request. He wants to work with someone he has never worked with before. Asher agrees, and the two quickly start working on Pet Sounds.

“Most of the time, Brian played me a melody and said what the theme of the song should be,” says Asher in a documentary about Pet Sounds. “I wrote a piece of text that could go along with the music. Brian listened to it and then continued. Sometimes he came back with another piece of music, or with a lyrical idea of his own. That’s how it went back and forth. In the end, the choice of words was mostly my work. I translated his ideas into smoothly-flowing sentences.”

Wall of Sound

When The Beach Boys return from touring in December 1965, Wilson awaits them with twelve new compositions. The musicians start recording Pet Sounds right away. The band members quickly give Brian the nickname Dog Ears, because they have to record harmonies take after take and Wilson is always dissatisfied with what he hears, while for the rest of the band it all sounds the same.

“Apparently he heard things that a normal person couldn’t hear,” his brother jokes in an interview. “Maybe he heard even when someone didn’t have pure thoughts while singing!” The vocals are not the only thing that Brian completely dives into. The artist is fascinated by producer Phil Spector’s so-called “wall of Sound.” With his productions for The Beatles, among others, Spector is able to create a literal wall of sound, which becomes his trademark.

He does this by orchestrating simple melodies and having them performed by several musicians and instruments. He also uses classical techniques such as antiphonals, instruments as harpsichords in rock and often of course strings as an accompaniment. Wilson uses these acoustic tricks and techniques on Pet Sounds. The album itself is an ode to Phil Spector, this is also evidenced by the fact that his initials PS are in the title, Brian openly states after the release of the record.

Pet Sounds

The album was released on the sixteenth of May 1966 and reaches the top 10 of the Billboard rankings. It is kind of a disappointment for the band as their earlier records easily ended up in the top three. Pet Sounds is so unique and innovative that the record company refuses to finance a decent marketing campaign.

Instead of pushing the new record, the label reacts in fear and quickly releases a Best of the Beach Boys album to reduce losses. As a result, Wilson’s masterpiece hardly has the chance to shine in his own country. Abroad however is a totally different story.

Recognition of the Masters

During their tour, after recording Pet Sounds, The Beach Boys visit London. There, Keith Moon of The Who arranges a meetup with John Lennon and Paul McCartney. John and Paul listen carefully to the new record. At the end of the album they play it again for a second time. Paul McCartney is speechless and calls the track God Only Knows “my favorite song of all times.”

Later, McCartney and Lennon confess that Pet Sounds was the inspiration for their album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Good news travels fast and a lot of great composers listen with adoration to Wilson’s record. After hearing Wilson’s masterpiece, Elton John says he’s never heard such a beautiful and subtle production before in his life.

The birth of Post Rock

“Stick to the formula!” One of co-front man Mike Love’s most famous quotes from Rolling Stone magazine, which he has never said, according to himself. It refers to Pet Sounds and the discussions the band had with Brian Wilson. According to a Rolling Stone journalist, the band members did not want to deviate from their success formula and argued over it during the production of the record.

Whether this is true or not, one thing is certain, Wilson did not only turn his back on the formula, he rewrote it. With Pet Sounds he paved the way for musicians who wanted to evolve in the rock genre. It’s a life beyond rock, the beginning of post rock. Without Pet Sounds, there would be no Pink Floyd, Talking Heads, Jefferson Airplane, or even Deftones.

Historical album of the month – Tokyo Tapes from Scorpions

Tokyo Tapes is the first live album of the German band Scorpions. This album, recorded in April 1978, is the official recognition of the rockers as a force to be reckoned with in the hard rock universe. Behind the recordings lies a moving story of five boys from Hanover who see their dreams come true.

Anyone who does their best can achieve anything. With this motto in mind, guitarist Rudolf Schenker founded the band Nameless in 1965. This is the very beginning of what later will become one of the most successful hard rock bands in the world. The international acceptance to the hard rock family takes place thirteen years later in Nakano Sun Plaza, Tokyo.

Scorpions

In 1966 Schenker dreams of conquering the world with his music. In addition to a good sound, this also requires a short, concise and catchy name. Something universal that conveys the hard rock message: Scorpions. Although the guitarist is already a rockstar in his head, Schenker must first make sure that his own city Hanover knows his band.

He works hard and manages to organize performances in venues. First in Hanover and later throughout Germany. Since Scorpions is one of the first bands on German soil to play American rock ‘n roll and hard rock, the act conquers their native club circuit in a few years’ time. After that the rockers head off to Europe.

Hardrock Made in Germany

German rock fans finally have an act they can be proud of. The sound of Scorpions doesn’t detract from the big bands of those days, like Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and Rainbow. It’s downright hard rock Made in Germany.

Despite the band’s success in Europe, they have to work harder and harder to gain international fame. Their record company RCA publishes their records in minimum quantities. Schenker calls the label time after time to ask if his band’s albums can appear on the record shelves in cities where Scorpions are playing.

Big in Japan

Despite the limited distribution of the band’s albums, fans in Japan are able to get their hands on the first five records. Scorpions thus acquires a fixed fan base in the land of the rising sun. The rockers from Hanover find out how big this fan club actually is when they receive the invitation to play in Tokyo.

The idea of a live album gradually emerges when the men realize that a boy’s dream might really come true. “People sometimes say ‘Big in Japan’. That’s really the dream of course,” says singer Klaus Meine in a documentary about the album.

Boy’s dream

In the spring of 1978 the dream comes true and singer Klaus Meine, guitarist Rudolf Schenker, drummer Herman Rarebell, bassist Francis Buchholz and solo player Uli Jon Roth fly to Tokyo. This is the first time that singer Meine has ever boarded a plane. For Roth, the tour to Tokyo is the last time he plays with the band – except for later reunion concerts of course.

Little do they know that this trip to Japan will result in a double album that will take the band to a whole new level. Even though the rockers taste the first hint of stardom when they land in Tokyo. In the middle of the night, the rockers are greeted by a limousine that takes them to the hotel. At the airport thousands of fans are waiting to welcome the Germans as heroes.

Tokyo Tapes

The Tokyo Tapes LP is a compilation of two of the three concerts that Scorpions play in a sold-out Nakano Sun Plaza. “It was one of the most bizarre experiences ever. Before the first performance it was all so quiet. I asked the promotor if the venue was really sold out,” recalls Schenker.

“He took me with him and let me take a look from behind the scenes. The plaza was completely full and everyone waited in silence for us to come up.” When the band rushes to the stage the show breaks loose and everyone goes completely wild.

For reasons of safety, the public should not be standing during the performance. A few months before the Scorpions’ show, six people were crushed to death during a Rainbow concert and the authorities therefore forbid dancing and jumping during events of this kind. “During our show no one could stop the crowd.”

Kojo No Tsuki

During the soundcheck just before the first performance in the Nakano Sun Plaza, singer Meine whispers a melody in the ear of guitarist Roth. It is the Japanese song “Kojo No Tsuki”. Immediately Roth picks up the vibe and on the spot the band jams a perfect Scorpions version of the track. Later that evening the song is a hit.

“It all sounds like I’m fluent in Japanese, but I had quite a bit of trouble getting the intonation and pronunciation right,” says Meine in an interview. “I did get a tape with the song from the Japanese fan club, but we were touring and I didn’t have time to learn it by heart.”

When he confesses to his wife that he intends to read the text of a piece of paper on stage, she forces Meine to go through the song with her on a daily basis during cooking. “Through these kitchen sessions you can still wake me up in the middle of the night and I know the lyrics word for word.”

World Domination

The release of Tokyo Tapes in January 1979 on the USA market signals the international recognition of Scorpions. The double LP sounds so awesome, that America almost feels passed by the German rockers. “We were included in the international hard rock family in a heartbeat. Tokyo Tapes is the end of a chapter and the beginning of our global success,” says Rudolf Schenker.

Uli Jon Roth leaves the band after the adventure in Tokyo. No quarrels, no hard feelings, just the need to do other things. Matthias Jabs succeeds him. “Klaus had persuaded me to go to Tokyo,” says Roth. “I didn’t want to, but because we are such good friends, I did it. My only regret is that I didn’t do the USA tour before quitting the band. But you can’t have it all. Everything happens for one reason right.”

Historical album of the month – Pantera’s Far Beyond Driven

What does it take to turn a record into a historical milestone? That’s what we’ve been asking ourselves in the editor room. Our first answer would be that a historical record needs to inspire and stand at the beginning of a new genre. A shining example is Pantera’s album Far Beyond Driven.

March 22, 1994. The Billboard charts are dominated by Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey and Ace of Base. With the growing popularity of grunge bands like Nirvana and Soundgarden, the glory days of heavy guitars seem to be over. Then the unexpected happens, heavy metal band Pantera releases their seventh album.

Far Beyond Driven

Let’s go back in time first. Far Beyond Driven is the third major record label release of the band. It’s a successful attempt to top the previous album Vulgar Display of Power, with a heavier guitar sound, and more sluggish riffs.

With their guitars tuned in Cis Dime Darrell and bass player Rex Brown produce a threatening and sinister sound, that sends shivers down the listener’s spine. The low grunts coming out of front man Phil Anselmo’s throat are complemented by the raw and groovy rhythms of drummer Vinnie Paul Abbot.  The album is solid as a heavy metal rock. And, it ignited a metal revival that no one saw coming.

Critics

Despite the heavy sound the record enters the Billboard top 200 at number one. To everyone’s surprise. It shows that metal may be sidelined, but it has far from disappeared from the mainstream.

The critics are divided on Far Beyond Driven. Some journalists praise the band for producing a unique record without compromises, that still reaches a major audience. Others see a futile attempt to top the success of Vulgar Display of Power. A third group dubs Pantera “an overnight success”.

The beginning of the end

“Overnight success my ass” says bass player Rex Brown in an interview with Rolling Stone. The band, founded in 1981 by the two brothers Dimebag Darrell and Vinnie Paul, is slowly making a name for themselves at the time of Far Beyond Driven. While they once started out as a glam rock band, nine years after their formation they switched to a heavier style, that has become their typical sound.

In 1994 years of rocking are beginning to take their toll. Front man Phil Anselmo’s spine has been worn out by incessant touring and performing. His back pain is becoming intolerable and the singer turns to anesthetics. First in the form of booze and painkillers. Later this habit of self-medication develops into a heroin addiction. That’s the beginning of the end.

I’m Broken

The track I’m Broken is the first time that Anselmo shows his vulnerable side. Listening closely to the song, we can hear a cry for help. The man who was defined by the media as a tough superhero, can’t face the music anymore. The pain in his back is eating him up. It’s clear that he’s not used to losing control.

Looking back he says, in the documentary Pantera Behind Closed Doors, “This is right when I started feeling the pain in my lower back, and it felt scary. I think this is one of the first times in my life, man, that I had this thing called ‘vulnerability’ kick in, and that was a very uncomfortable feeling.”

Planet Caravan

Far Beyond Driven is characterized by groovy blues metal songs like 5 Minutes Alone, I’m Broken and Becoming. But there’s also some great material for the shredding fans. The closing track of the album is unexpected: Pantera’s cover of the Black Sabbath song Planet Carevan.

The song was recorded for a collaborative cover album in honor of the godfathers of heavy metal. An album where multiple metal bands give tribute Black Sabbath. The collaboration is discontinued because there are disagreements with the record label. Pantera decides to release the track on Far Beyond Driven. The sound is very trippy and eccentric, but doesn’t lose its characteristic Pantera vibe.

Pantera

 A year after releasing the album Phil Anselmo suffers a heart attack due to an overdose. He takes some time out from the band. Meanwhile tension between the band members increases. Therefore, the greater part of the album The Great Southern Trendkill was recorder separately. The Abbott brothers are working together with bass player Rex Brown in their home studio in Dallas, but Phil Anselmo sends his parts from New Orleans.

Pantera releases one more album after The Great Southern Kill. Reinventing the Steel from 2000 is a tribute to the genre, the fans and the history of the band. Yet, tensions still divide Anselmo and the rest.

Shooting

In 2003 Dimebag Darrell and Vinnie Paul decide to break up the band to start a new project: Damage Plan. During one of the concerts a confused fan stumbles on the stage with gun, and shoots Dimebag. The rest of band and the roadies can barely escape.

Local police stop the shooter before he can do more damage. The event not only signals the definitive end of Pantera, but also the death of one of the world’s leading guitar virtuosos. The metal scene is shocked by the death of Dimebag Darrell. To honor him Eddie van Halen even lays one of his notorious Frankenstein Guitars with Darrell in his grave.

Metal Revival

In 2014 Pantera celebrates the 20-year existence of their most successful album. Far Beyond Driven 20th Anniversary Edition Delux is a remastered double sides release of their classic record. The fans are treated to a live recording of the Monsters of Rock 1994 concert. Whatever your opinion on Far Beyond Driven is, metal was never the same afterwards.

Together with its predecessor Vulgar Display of Power is one of the albums that started a spiritual revolution of the metal genre. It paved the way for bands like Slipknot, Mudvayne and Korn. A new sub-genre was born: nu metal.

Historic Live Albums – The Concert in Central Park by Simon & Garfunkel

Some concerts turn out to be different than you had expected. The show by folk duo Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel in New York for example. The charity concert for the renovation of Central Park is listed in the history books as one of the best live performances of the two musicians.

In February 1982 the first live album of the folk duo Simon and Garfunkel was released: The Concert in Central Park. With classics such as Mrs. Robinson, The Boxer and The Sound of Silence you can’t erase this folk duo from the history of popular music. The record is also a vain attempt to bring the two musicians together, who haven’t played together for years due to quarrels.

The Concert in Central Park

The occasion for the concert is Central Park. The park has fallen into decline as a result of many budget cuts in the 1960s and 1970s. The green heart of New York – meant to offer the inhabitants a place where they can come to enjoy a bit of peace and quiet in ‘the city that never sleeps’ – is in need of renovation.

The city is still struggling with financial problems at the beginning of the 1980s and doesn’t have the three million dollars needed to restore the park. Mayor Ed Koch calls upon the Central Park Conservancy to come up with a solution at the beginning of 1980.

One of the initiatives of this foundation is to organize charity concerts in the park. The proceeds of the merchandise, television and video rights go to Central Park. The folk duo, which has its roots in New York and often refers to the city in its songs, is a perfect choice. Even though Simon and Garfunkel have their doubts about the project.

Simon & Garfunkel

You know what they say: “quit while your ahead.” Most artists never do, but there is always an exception to the rule. Simon and Garfunkel reach their peak after five studio albums at the end of the sixties.

Around that time, the two New Yorkers grew apart both as friends and musically. They decide to stop. Their last album Bridge over Troubled Water dominates the top of the Billboard rankings for ten weeks.

When Paul Simon is approached for the benefit concert about ten years after the act collapsed, he reacts enthusiastically. However, he has doubts about a possible collaboration with his old friend Art Garfunkel and is not entirely convinced of the commercial success of the project. Simon struggles with depression and wants to avoid setbacks. After some insistence by the promotor he contacts his buddy.

Preparations

Art Garfunkel lives in Switzerland when he receives the phone call from his old partner in folky crime. His enthusiasm is so great, that he immediately flies back to New York. There the preparations begin for what would later become one of the duo’s most successful live albums.

The rehearsals are not without struggles and fights. Old wounds open up again and the two have a lot of quarrels. In an interview Paul Simon says: “The rehearsals were terrible. Artie and I were arguing all the time.”

At first Simon wants to open the show with his solo act and then continue the performance together with Garfunkel. After some discussion, both artists agree that this concert should be carried by both of them. Although the announcement posters contain the separate names of the musicians, the artists announce a week before the show that they will perform as Simon and Garfunkel.

Commercial success

With half a million visitors, the folk duo concert in Central Park is America’s seventh largest show. It raised some 51,000 dollars for the renovation of the park. In addition, the album itself and the live recordings become great commercial successes. It almost seems like the two stars could reunite again.

After a much-praised performance, Simon and Garfunkel try to renew their career as a team and follow up with a world tour. This turns out well, but the attempts to record a new record end in disaster. Art Garfunkel leaves the studio and Paul Simon takes advantage of the situation to record and release his solo album Hearts and Bones.

The Concert in Central Park was not the last time the two claim the stage as a duo. Over the years they play at each other’s solo performances. In 2004 they even perform together under the name Simon and Garfunkel on the live album Old Friends: Live on Stage.

Set list

During the concert in Central Park, all classics are covered alternated by the artists’ own work. Of the 21 tracks played, only 19 made the record. The fans who want to hear the whole concert must check out the video recordings.

Curious about our historical record of February? Check it below.