26 years ago today the world lost grunge rock icon Kurt Cobain
Kurt Donald Cobain, born February 20, 1967, Aberdeen, Washington died April 5, 1994 in Seattle, Washington. Yet another tragic member of the 27 Club. He was an American singer, songwriter, and musician, best known as the guitarist and frontman of the grunge rock band Nirvana. Regarded as a Generation X icon, he is considered to be one of the most iconic and influential rock musicians in the history of alternative music.
He died by suicide on April 5, 1994. His body was discovered inside his home in Seattle, Washington, three days later by Gary Smith, an electrician, who was installing a security system in the suburban house. Despite indications that Cobain, the lead singer of Nirvana, killed himself, several skeptics questioned the circumstances of his death and pinned responsibility on his wife, Courtney Love.
The Nirvana rocker was in a downward spiral that led to his death. Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain’s close friend, Mark Lanegan, hadn’t heard from the rocker for about a week in April 1994 when he began to fear the worst. “Kurt hadn’t called me,” he told Rolling Stone later that year. “He hadn’t called some other people. He hadn’t called his family. He hadn’t called anybody… I had a feeling that something real bad had happened.”
Lanegan’s intuition proved to be correct. On the morning of April 8, an electrician found 27-year-old Cobain dead of an apparent suicide in a greenhouse above the garage of his Seattle home. According to Rolling Stone, a 20-gauge shotgun was lying across his chest, and, as a medical examiner’s report later revealed, Cobain, who had already been dead two and a half days at that point, had a high concentration of heroin and traces of Valium in his bloodstream. The magazine also reported that he was identifiable only by his fingerprints.
During his life, Kurt Cobain was a pioneer for grunge and rock music with his band Nirvana. To celebrate the life he lived, we picked out five Nirvana tracks.
5. ‘Drain You’
“Drain You” was famously written on the spot at Sound City Studios during the Nevermind recording sessions. Cobain never revealed who inspired the love song, but it was written just three months after he met Courtney Love.
4. ‘Come As You Are’
Thanks to radio play, this song as the second single from Nevermind helped launch Nirvana from a popular band into a massive global success.
3. ‘Heart-Shaped Box’
This song still sounds incredible and genre-defying to this day. In a 1994 interview with Rolling Stone, Courtney Love recalled hearing Kurt work on ‘Heart-Shaped Box.’ “We had this huge closet,” she said. “And I heard him in there working on ‘Heart-Shaped Box.’ He did that in five minutes. Knock, knock, knock. ‘What?’ ‘Do you need that riff?’ ‘Fuck you!’ Slam. [Laughs] He was trying to be so sneaky. I could hear that one from downstairs.”
2. ‘All Apologies’
These days it’s hard to hear this song as anything but a suicide note. “I wish I was like you,” he sings to his huge global audience. “Easily amused.” It ends with him repeating the line “all in all is all we are” 13 times.
1. ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’
Look, you’re not cool for pretending to not like this song. Leaving it off this list would just be offensive. Despite its popularity, however, Kurt Cobain was not a fan. “I was trying to write the ultimate pop song,” Cobain told Rolling Stone in 1993. “I was basically trying to rip off the Pixies . . . It was such a clichéd riff.”
Statement confirms that Ginger Baker died peacefully earlier this morning after being admitted to hospital late last month
Cream drummer Ginger Baker has died at the age of 80.
The news was confirmed on his Facebook page, with a statement reporting that he died peacefully earlier this morning.
The message reads: “We are very sad to say that Ginger has passed away peacefully this morning. Thank you to everyone for your kind words to us all over the past weeks.”
The drummer was admitted to hospital late last month, with his family saying at the time that he was in a critical condition. Last week they checked in to let fans know that he was “holding his own.”
No cause of death has been made public.
Baker had suffered ill health in recent years, and was forced to cancel a number of live shows in February 2016 after a fall and being diagnosed with a serious heart condition which required surgery.
He later thanked doctors and was back playing again at the Jack Bruce charity fundraising concert in London in the October of that year.
Baker was one of the most formidable musicians of the rock era, or indeed any era. A towering presence, both physically and musically, he elevated the role of drummer from sideman to star with monumental solos that combined polyrhythmic dexterity with brute force and irrepressible showmanship.
Together with his comrades in Cream – guitarist Eric Clapton and bassist Jack Bruce – Baker redefined the parameters of the emergent rock genre, importing the heavy dynamics and highly-skilled improvisational metrics of jazz and blues into a world that had previously revolved around the basics of the three-minute pop song.
As well as early stints with Blues Incorporated, the Graham Bond Organisation and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Baker also co-founded the post-Cream supergroup Blind Faith and led his own bands Ginger Baker’s Airforce and the Baker Gurvitz Army.
He added his signature tom-tom-driven sound to rock bands ranging from Masters Of Reality and Hawkwind to John Lydon’s Public Image Limited. And, as a percussionist whose genius crossed geographical and cultural boundaries, he recorded with a host of latterday jazz warriors including guitarist Bill Frisell, trumpeter Ron Miles, saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis and many others.
He was born Peter Edward Baker in Lewisham, south London on August 19, 1939, later acquiring the childhood nickname Ginger on account of his thatch of fiery red hair.
He grew up in thrall to jazz music, and was a fan in particular of Phil Seaman, one of the great English jazz drummers of the post-war years, who became his teacher and mentor.
Baker got his first paid gig at 16 years old and passed through the ranks of trad jazz bands led by Acker Bilk, Terry Lightfoot and Ronnie Scott before replacing Charlie Watts in Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated in 1962. Amid the ever-changing line-up of Blues Incorporated, Baker played with bass player Jack Bruce and organist/saxophonist Graham Bond. The three of them, together with saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith, formed the groundbreaking jazz/r&b crossover band the Graham Bond Organisation in 1963.
“It was uncharted territory,” said Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith. “Ginger was a jazz guy. Charlie Watts told me that Ginger Baker was by far the best jazz drummer in England.”
A brief engagement in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers brought Baker and Clapton together, and the decision to form a trio with Bruce came into formal effect when Cream played their first gig at the Twisted Wheel in Manchester on July 29, 1966.
The band’s debut album Fresh Cream was released in December 1966, ushering a new era of advanced musicianship into a scene that had hitherto been dominated by the elementary aesthetic of the beat group. In particular, Baker’s composition Toad, which closed the album, introduced the concept of the extended, virtuoso drum solo to the world of rock and roll.
Baker revolutionised the art of rock drumming. He was one of the first to use a double-bass drum set-up – along with Keith Moon of the Who – and to further expand the traditional kit with additional rack and floor toms and a plethora of crash, ride and splash cymbals. His style was visceral and powerful but also innovative and immensely creative, and his use of heavy, log-rolling tom tom patterns to underpin songs such as Sunshine Of Your Love and We’re Going Wrongwas a revelation.
He also contributed to the writing, with songs such as Sweet Wine, Those Were the Days and Passing The Time, and in a group with two such imposing singers as Clapton and Bruce, Baker nevertheless managed to muscle in with his cockney growl leading the way on several numbers including Pressed Rat And Warthog and Blue Condition.
Cream’s work rate and speed of success was phenomenal. Within a year they had gone to America, where they recorded their second album, Disraeli Gears, with artwork and lyrics which remain a benchmark of the psychedelic era. Within two years they had become one of the biggest touring attractions in the world and recorded their third album, Wheels Of Fire. And after just 27 months they split up after two farewell shows at the Albert Hall in November 1968, leaving a legacy which influenced and inspired a generation of bands from Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath onwards.
Not that Baker was bothered about any of that. “I’ve seen where Cream is sort of held responsible for the birth of heavy metal. Well, I would definitely go for aborting. I loathe and detest heavy metal. I think it is an abortion,” he once told Forbes magazine.
“A lot of these guys come up and say, ‘Man, you were my influence, the way you thrashed the drums.’ They don’t seem to understand I was thrashing in order to hear what I was playing. It was anger, not enjoyment – and painful. I suffered on stage because of that volume crap. I didn’t like it then, and like it even less now.”
Baker and Clapton quickly joined forces with singer, guitarist and keyboard player Steve Winwood and bass player Rick Grech to form Blind Faith. Hailed as an instant “supergroup”, the band played its debut show in June 1969 in front of 100,000 people in Hyde Park.
They released an eponymous album, which topped the US and UK charts. But the impossible expectations which accompanied the band’s rapid ascent to such dizzying heights, was all too much and after one, brief US tour, Blind Faith split up in August 1969, having been publicly active for all of three months.
Baker immediately recruited Winwood and Grech as the core of his own jazz-rock supergroup Ginger Baker’s Airforce which toured and released two albums featuring a vast and rapidly-fluctuating roll call of contributors including his old colleagues Phil Seaman and Graham Bond.
Baker moved to Africa in the 1970s, where he worked with musicians including the Afrobeat star Fela Kuti and set up a commercial recording facility, Batakota Studios in Lagos, Nigeria. He ranged freely across continents and musical genres in the decades that followed, recording a bunch of sublime jazz albums with his own bands – notably Middle Passage (1990) and Coward Of The County (Ginger Baker and the DJQ20, 1996) – and lending his considerable weight to various rock projects including a short-lived power trio with Jack Bruce and guitarist Gary Moore BBMwhich released one album, Around the Next Dream in 1994.
Away from the music world, he became a dedicated polo player and set up his own stables and polo club in Western Cape, South Africa. A documentary by the American film maker Jay Bulger, Beware of Mr Baker (2012), portrayed him as a reclusive and cantankerous character, an impression which his bracingly direct memoirs Hellraiser: The Autobiography of the World’s Greatest Drummer (2010) did little to dispel. In it, he wrote candidly about his years of heroin addiction which began in 1960 and continued on and off until the 1980s.
In later years he suffered innumerable health issues including degenerative osteoarthritis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, the result of years of heavy smoking. He was married four times and leaves behind three children Nettie, Leda and Kofi.
Cream were inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, when they played together for the first time in 25 years. But it was the string of Cream reunion shows at the Albert Hall, London and Madison Square Gardens, New York in 2005 which marked the most fitting memorial to this colossus of the kit.
The London shows ended with Baker once again performing his showcase number Toad. Looking like an ageing gangster, and playing with an air of super-relaxed menace, his hands were seemingly guided by his huge sticks rather than the other way round. With Clapton and Bruce standing admiringly at either side as he hammered the heads, his status as one of the original rock superheroes was sealed beyond any shadow of doubt.
“I’ve had loads of high points and loads of low points,” he told Classic Rock. “Where a lot of people would have topped themselves, I kept going. Being from a very poor background, you can handle that. Getting to know people I really admired and getting accepted and respected by them is a highlight.
Guys like Phil Seaman, Art Blakey, Elvin Jones, Max Roach – all these people became friends of mine, and I was accepted by them on the same plane. That was worth more than all of the money in the world.”
Written By Braddon S. Williams aka “The Concert Critic”
On this date in history, 8/7/2019, Heart brought the Love Alive
Tour to Deer Creek in Noblesville, IN. Along with the Wilson sisters, we were rocked by stellar sets from Joan Jett & The Blackhearts and Elle King.
It was a smart move by the veterans to bring fresh new talent along for this all female front line tour, because Elle King got that crowd pumped up from the very beginning.
I hadn’t heard much of her music prior to this show, but I was impressed with her powerful vocals, her energy, her easy rapport with the audience, and her musical diversity. Elements of rock, blues, country, and pop all weaved in and out of her songs that were born for the stage.
Her song Ex’s & Oh’s is an anthem for certain. That one had the crowd in the palm of her sassy hands! I was an immediate fan watching her play a Flying V guitar that was nearly as big as she was…and handling it like a boss.
Speaking of bosses, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts wasted no time in asserting their badass brand of punk tinged hard rock. Jett is beloved nearly universally, and she effortlessly exudes cool confidence and sexy swagger.
Even on the big screens, one can see that glint of playful excitement in her eyes, and it is as contagious as a rock ‘n roll epidemic. When she lights into Bad Reputation, Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah), and I Love Rock ‘n Roll, everyone in the venue feels like they are 16 again, at least in spirit.
Heart proved beyond a doubt their legendary status with a sterling selection of their career spanning deep treasure chest of classic songs.
Not content to just play their own stuff, Heart tossed in some absolute gems of cover songs, including Your Move by Yes, The Boxer by Simon & Garfunkel, and an absolutely breathtaking tour de force rendition of Stairway To Heaven by Led Zeppelin. Ann Wilson’s voice was a force of nature throughout, and younger sister Nancy played electric and acoustic guitars and mandolin with masterful intensity, contributing some lovely lead vocals and harmonizing beautifully with her sibling.
All 3 bands were comprised of men playing their roles with anonymous but fierce contributions; content to let the legendary ladies claim the spotlight. My only complaints about this show were that it was too quiet (crank it up!), and that the crowd on the lawn were too lazy to get off their lazy asses and feed these amazing artists with some well earned energy. Everyone sounded great, but it was almost like someone has decided that the audience is old and tired and might want to just sit in their trendy little lawn chairs and not have to deal with that loud rock music.
I sure hope that doesn’t become the norm, because these artists deserve a better fate than that.
Written By Braddon S. Williams aka “The Concert Critic”
On this date in history, 8/4/2019, a group of friends and I attended The Night Running Tour, featuring co-headliners Beck and Cage The Elephant, with support from Spoon and Wild Belle. This diverse lineup hit the stage at Deer Creek (Ruoff blah, blah, blah) in Noblesville, IN on a picture perfect Midwest sunny day.
Wild Belle kicked things off with a set of mellow electronica, psychedelic pop, and soulful grooves. I enjoyed the first 2 or 3 songs, but ultimately felt Wild Belle were a little bland for my taste. They had a great sound mix (as did every band on the bill) and looked sharp in their fashionable white outfits, but I just felt they stuck around a little too long.
Up next was Spoon, who I just discovered are from Texas. This kind of surprised me, as I found their sound to be kind of British pop influenced, and very smoothly executed. I enjoyed Spoon a lot more than the opening band, likely due to much stronger songs and more of a rock band vibe.
Cage The Elephant delivered a fantastic set filled with the antics of the wildly entertaining lead vocalist, Matt Shultz. In no way do I want to imply that Mr. Shultz was under the influence of any drugs or alcohol, but that would certainly go a long way towards explaining his choice of stage clothing, unorthodox physical movements, and cryptic speeches between songs.
Vocally he was on point, delivering his songs with loads of passion and consistency, on pitch throughout Cage’s long set. The band played with fiery intensity and all seemed to be having a lot of fun (and a shared amusement at their singer’s actions). When the final song began, Shultz headed into the pavilion seating area (where he had previously serenaded audience members for an entire song earlier in the set) and then out into the lawn, where excited crowd members thronged around the security guards who tried to shield the fearless singer. Eventually the song ended, and Shultz was lifted into the air by the wildly enthusiastic fans. He wound up crowd surfing all the way to the back fence of the venue, where he then climbed onto the roof of the gazebo in back, striking a victorious pose on the peak of the building, soaking up the thunderous ovation!
Beck closed the concert with a phenomenal light show, an incredible band, and his own quirky and funky delivery of his many hits. The years have been quite kind to Beck, because he still looks the same as he did back in the early 90’s, and he was equally effective with a few songs performed solo on guitar as he was with the full force of that airtight band.
A long final song that also featured the return of Matt Shultz and Natalie Bergman from Wild Belle, plus loads of confetti and a great atmosphere of pure party time fun, was the perfect ending to a diverse and massively entertaining concert.
This one was outside of my comfort zone and I have to admit I should venture there more often!
A new documentary onLED ZEPPELINis currently in post-production. The as-yet-untitled film is being helmed byBernard MacMahon, the director of theEmmy-nominated music documentary series“American Epic”, and will feature new interviews with guitaristJimmy Page, singerRobert Plantand bassistJohn Paul Jones, as well as rare archival interviews with the late drummerJohn Bonham. It marks the first time members ofLED ZEPPELINhave participated in a documentary about the group.
The documentary will launch in Cannes withCAArepresenting the U.S. rights andAltitudehandling international sales. It is billed as the “definitive telling of the birth of the world’s biggest-selling rock band” and will be told solely from the band’s perspective, with never-before-seen archive film footage and photographs and state-of-the-art audio transfers of the band’s music.
Speaking of the upcoming release,Pagesaid: “When I saw everythingBernardhad done both visually and sonically on the remarkable achievement that is‘American Epic’, I knew he would be qualified to tell our story.”
Plantadded: “SeeingWill Shade, and so many other important early American musicians, brought to life on the big screen in‘American Epic’inspired me to contribute to a very interesting and exciting story.”
Jonesstated: “The time was right for us to tell our own story for the first time in our own words, and I think that this film will really bring this story to life.”
No official release date has been announced for the documentary.
An officialLED ZEPPELINbook,“Led Zeppelin By Led Zeppelin”, came out in October.
Shortly after I began this marathon project last year it occurred to me that my start date was 4/21, meaning my final review would fall on 4/20. From that point it became clear that there was only one possible outcome for the last album in the series…Ladies and Gentlemen, I give to you Dark Side Of The Moon (1973) by Pink Floyd! Everything about this album is classic, iconic, and larger than life.
It spent an unfathomable amount of time in the charts (over 900 to date), sold a staggering 45 million units (and counting!), has one of the most recognizable covers in all of rock music (with no title or band name listed), and continues to be a staple of rock radio all these many years later.
Dark Side Of The Moon explores timeless topics like death, greed, mental illness, and time itself.
The music was impeccably recorded and engineered, appealing to audiophiles and casual listeners alike. Dark Side was also a more collaborative effort from the band, recorded in a time before Roger Waters became the primary songwriter.
Of course, the songs themselves have become beloved to generations of Floyd fans; Money, Us And Them, Brain Damage, Time, Breathe, Eclipse, and The Great Gig In The Sky.
David Gilmour, Roger Waters, Rick Wright, and Nick Mason created something epic and cosmic and ultimately relatable to countless people across the globe and across a significant span of time.
Music is indeed the universal language, and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon speaks to the universe.
“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make” – Paul McCartney
As I near the end of this most satisfying journey into my musical inspirations and taste, I think it is appropriate to discuss Abbey Road (1969), the final time The Beatles were all in a recording studio together.
Abbey Road featured all the things that made The Beatles so wonderful: the melodies, the harmonies, the creativity, the usage of the studio as a component of their compositions…and the one-of-a-kind chemistry the Fab Four generated.
Lennon & McCartney were now challenged by George Harrison as a writer equal to their immense talents. Harrison contributed Here Comes The Sun, and the incomparable Something, proving he had established his own voice as a composer.
John and Paul had their own triumphs, adding to their own legacy, with Come Together, Golden Slumbers, I Want You (She’s So Heavy), and Carry That Weight.
Ringo Starr even got a fun entry with the whimsical Octopus’s Garden.
The suite of song fragments on Side Two of the original vinyl release was a brilliant display of The Beatles acting as their own editors; making something timeless and thrilling out of songs that might never have been completed otherwise. On The End, the boys had some fun flexing their musical muscles, with the roundabout of lead guitar trade offs from Paul, George, and John, and even a quick drum solo from Ringo.
The album cover generated a lot of speculation, conspiracy theories, and controversy on its own…and though it didn’t include the name of the record or even the band’s name…it wasn’t necessary, because everyone in the world knew The Beatles. They were a phenomenon, and Abbey Road is a phenomenal album.