Written By Braddon S. Williams

The Velvet Underground & Nico

Sometimes great art takes awhile to be recognized. Such is the case with The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967), the debut album from the notorious New York City band The Velvet Underground.

Initially, the album went virtually undetected in the marketplace, selling around 30,000 copies. Musician Brian Eno was quoted as saying that everyone who bought that album in the beginning all started their own bands.

This created a ripple effect, and eventually The Velvet Underground & Nico accumulated glowing reviews from respected rock critics and wound up on lists such as The Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time (it placed 13th). It was also added to the 2006 National Recording Registry by the Library Of Congress. Not bad for a little record that flew in the face of the Summer Of Love with its dark, street level subject matter; themes of drug addiction, prostitution, sadomasochism, and sexual deviancy.

For every action there is an opposite and equal reaction, and The Velvet Underground were apparently the reaction to the hippie movement.

Led by Lou Reed and John Cale, this iterary masterpiece of a debut included the songs Heroin, I’m Waiting For The Man, Venus In Furs, Femme Fatale, The Black Angel’s Death Song, All Tomorrow’s Parties, and Run Run Run.

Oh yes, Nico only sang lead vocals on 3 of the songs, but she had a pretty hypnotic sounding voice that fit right in with what was going on.

Andy Warhol himself painted the iconic banana cover art, and as a guy who has been known to wear a banana suit from time to time, you know that scored major approval points from me! Bottom line is this: go out and get a copy of The Velvet Underground & Nico and start a band!

https://youtu.be/lOmT535hMGE

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Cheap Trick: Live At Budokan

Hordes of screaming Japanese girls and boys led the Cheap Trick revolution, letting the rest of the world know that the Illinois based rock band was a global sensation.

The live Cheap Trick At Budokan (1978) brought the power of Cheap Trick’s explosive stage act to the vinyl format. At times the screaming crowd nearly eclipsed the full throttle sound of the band.

The single I Want You To Want Me was everywhere that summer, and pretty much every song on the album was full of infectious energy, singalong choruses, lean guitar riffs, massive drumsticks, and much, much more.

I saw Cheap Trick for the first time the following year and I can testify that they put on one killer live show. Years later, the cd version was released as Cheap Trick At Budokan: The Complete Concert, and it included a handful of great songs that didn’t fit in the original format. I highly recommend the expanded version, because there isn’t a weak song in the whole show.

https://youtu.be/8tD1oHVPXVg

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Deep Purple: Made In Japan

Deep Purple didn’t even want to record a live album, but their record label prevailed, and we can thank them for their perseverance in the form of Made In Japan (1973), one of the greatest live albums in history.

At one point the listener can clearly hear lead vocalist Ian Gillan proclaim, “Can we have everything louder than everything else?” This turned out to be the recipe for the outstanding sound contained on the double LP.

In addition to the relative volume levels (Deep Purple were listed in the Guinness Book Of World Records as the world’s loudest band for a long time), the songs were stretched out from their studio versions to emphasize the musical wizardry of lead guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, keyboard guru Jon Lord, and the titanium rhythm machine of Roger Glover on bass and Ian Paice on drums.

Seven killer Purple classics featured on Made In Japan, including a monster jam on Space Truckin’ that took up all of side 4, the definitive live version of the immortal Smoke On The Water, and incendiary opening song (Highway Star), the great call and response between Gillan’s voice and Blackmore’s guitar on the bluesy Strange Kind Of Woman, and Gillan’s vocals throughout Child In Time that range from the softest whispers to the throat shredding primal screams that were his trademark. Lord and Blackmore had some fun stretching out the intro to Lazy before the whole band came in and blew the minds of thousands of Japanese fans in person (and countless music fans on vinyl, cassette, CD, and streaming to the end of time). Even Paice got in on the party with a fusillade of drumming techniques on The Mule. Not bad for a band who didn’t really think a live album was that important for their career!

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Robin Trower: Bridge of Sighs

Bridge Of Sighs (1974) put Robin Trower firmly in my list of guitar heroes. Being the enormous Jimi Hendrix fan that I am, I found Trower’s power trio simply irresistible.

Like Hendrix, Robin Trower played Fender Stratocasters primarily, and both men favored a blues-based approach to playing guitar. Unlike Jimi, Trower left the vocals to his bass player, James Dewar, who did a great job on Bridge Of Sighs with lush, soulful tones throughout the 8 standout tracks on the album.

Reg Isidore provided the steady drumming, but the guitar work of Trower was the star of the show. Songs like Too Rolling Stoned, Day Of The Eagle, Little Bit Of Sympathy, and the psychedelic, dreamy Bridge Of Sighs still find their way into my playlists from time to time. Great tone and great tunes never go out of style.

https://youtu.be/n9T06UfP1S0

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Rage Against The Machine

Lollapalooza 1993 began with a band I had never heard before and would never forget as long as I live. Rage Against The Machine took the stage and nearly stole the entire show that day. They played nearly their entire self-titled debut album (released in 1992), and displayed an intensity that was palpable…like an electric current that ran rampant through the crowd.

I’m sure Rage converted countless followers that day, and I bought the album soon after, delving into the politically charged lyrics of Zack de la Rocha, and fell in love with the gargantuan grooves laid down by Tim Commerford’s bass and Brad Wilk’s funky but powerful as gunshots drumming.

Tying it all together was the guitar work of Tom Morello, combining metallic riffs that were drenched with soul, guitar solos that alternated between traditional hard rock and sounds that emulated turntable scratches.

The man was so fresh and original in his approach to guitar that it made my head spin.

Rage Against The Machine (the album) contained a collection of amazing songs, like Take The Power Back, Wake Up, Bullet In The Head, Bombtrack, Freedom, Township Rebellion, and the defiantly anthemic Killing In The Name.

My favorite song was Know Your Enemy (featuring a killer cameo appearance by Maynard James Keenan from Tool). The production work by Garth Richardson was fantastic, too.

Rage Against The Machine sounds as great today as it did back in the early ’90’s. They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression, and RATM made a monumental first impression on me!

Influences And Recollections of s Musical Mind

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Uriah Heap: Sweet Freedom

Uriah Heep released Sweet Freedom in 1973. I was only 11 when it came out, so I didn’t discover it right away, but when I finally did, I thought they had some amazing vocals, great lead guitar and keyboards, and most importantly, songs that were filled with infectious melodies and lyrics.

In particular, the song Stealin’ is on this album, and it has followed me through the years, being a song I have sung many times in cover bands throughout my small-time musical career. Other highlights include the high energy Dreamer, the elegant title track, and the epic Pilgrim, with a passionate vocal by Dave Byron, and a soaring lead guitar showcase by Mick Box.

I feel like the lineup that Uriah Heep had at that time was probably the strongest one they ever put together.

Other albums I almost chose were Demons And Wizards or Magician’s Birthday, but ultimately, Sweet Freedom has Stealin’, and that one just means more to me than any other song they ever recorded.

https://youtu.be/CiRFW8QSQYY

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Victoria Gill BBC NEWS Science/Environment

I’ve had one desire since I was born; to see my body ripped and torn. 

The lyrics of death metal band Bloodbath’s cannibalism-themed track, Eaten, do not leave much to the imagination. But neither this song – nor the gruesome lyrics of others of the genre – inspire violence. 

That is the conclusion of Macquarie University’s music lab, which used the track in a psychological test. 

It revealed that death metal fans are not “desensitised” to violent imagery. 

The findings are published in the Royal Society journal Open Science,

“[Death metal] fans are nice people,” said Prof Bill Thompson, from the Australian university, which is based in Sydney. “They’re not going to go out and hurt someone.”

This latest study is part of a decades-longinvestigation by Prof Thompson and his colleagues into the emotional effects of music. These effects, he explained, are complex. 

“Many people enjoy sad music, and that’s a bit of a paradox – why would we want to make ourselves sad?” he asked. “The same can be said of music with aggressive or violent themes. For us, it’s a psychological paradox – so [as scientists] we’re curious, and at the same time we recognise that violence in the media is a socially significant issue.” 

How do scientists test people’s sensitivity to violence? 

With a classic psychological experiment that probes people’s subconscious responses; and by recruiting death metal fans to take part. The test involved asking 32 fans and 48 non-fans listen to death metal or to pop whilst looking at some pretty unpleasant images. 

Lead researcher Yanan Sun explained that the aim of the experiment was to measure how much participants’ brains noticed violent scenes, and to compare how their sensitivity was affected by the musical accompaniment. 

To test the impact of different types of music, they also used a track they deemed to be the opposite of Eaten. 

“We used ‘Happy’ by Pharrell Williams as a [comparison],” said Dr Sun. 

Each participant was played Happy or Eaten through headphones, while they were shown a pair of images – one to each eye. One image showed a violent scene, such as someone being attacked in a street. The other showed something innocuous – a group of people walking down that same street, for example. 

“It’s called binocular rivalry,” explained Dr Sun. The basis of this psychological test is that when most people are presented with a neutral image to one eye and a violent image to the other – they see the violent image more. 

“The brain will try to take it in – presumably there’s a biological reason for that, because it’s a threat,” Prof Thompson explained. 

“If fans of violent music were desensitised to violence, which is what a lot of parent groups, religious groups and censorship boards are worried about, then they wouldn’t show this same bias. “But the fans showed the very same bias towards processing these violent images as those who were not fans of this music.” 

What did the band think of their music being used like this? 

“We don’t have any issue with it,” Bloodbath’s lead singer Nick Holmes told BBC News. “The lyrics are harmless fun, as the study proved.” He added that Bloodbath’s lyrical content was “basically an aural version of an 80s horror film”. 

“The majority of death metal fans are intelligent, thoughtful people who just have a passion for the music,” he said. “It’s the equivalent of people who are obsessed with horror movies or even battle re-enactments.” 

Why does this matter? 

Prof Thompson said the findings should be “reassuring to parents or religious groups” concerned about violent music. 

More broadly, there is still concern that violence in media leads to social problems. “If you’re desensitised to violence, perhaps you wouldn’t care if you saw someone on the street getting hurt – you wouldn’t help.”

But while research has found some evidence of such desensitisation in people who play a lot of violent video games, music, it seems, is different. 

“The dominant emotional response to this music is joy and empowerment,” said Prof Thompson. “And I think that to listen to this music and to transform it into an empowering, beautiful experience – that’s an amazing thing.”

Nick Holmes identified with that, saying that most of the music he enjoyed was “melancholic, dramatic, sad or aggressive and not much in-between”. 

“I take joy and empowerment from those styles,” he told BBC News.

On the topic of the Eaten’s lyrics, he added: “I didn’t personally write them, but I would be frankly astounded if anyone listened to that song and then felt a desire to be eaten by a cannibal.”

Death metal music inspires joy not violence