The Wrecking Crew

Was Hal Blaine one of your favorite musicians back in the 1960s? How about Larry Knechtel? Carol Kaye? Oh yes they were.

On a cool, overcast February night in Hollywood, near the slightly scruffy, down-on-its-luck intersection of Vine Street and Santa Monica Boulevard—the final stretch of Route 66—a group of highly talented musicians gathered in a weathered, non-descript former dentist’s office are about to make rock ’n’ roll history. No one present, from the bass player to the drummer to the guitarist, has any inkling that this particular studio session is likely to differ from any other. Read more »

Popular Culture

“Popular culture” is not the opposite of or the alternative to something called “high culture.” It is not degraded, debased, simple, or undisciplined. Nor is it defined primarily by its mass appeal or commercial values. It is not the size of the audience Aa* is important but its diversity.Read more »

Brian Wilson’s Wave

For the brilliant songwriter behind the Beach Boys, the endless summer gave way to a very hard winter. Now he is back, with a work that wants to be no less than a musical history of the American dream.

The voices are clear and strong, their song crackling with energy. “Early in the morning we’ll be startin’ out, / Some honeys will be comin’ along / We’re loading up our woodie with our boards inside / And headin’ out singing our song.... Let’s go surfin’ now / Everybody’s learning how / Come on and safari with me....”

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Confessions Of A British Invader

He was in the vanguard of that wave of young Britons who, in the 1960s stormed our shores and gave us back our musical heritage

I always used music. Pop songs were my escape chute from the austerity of postwar Britain, a drab and flaccid land where I wore thick long underwear and Wellington boots, where I was always saying good-bye to my parents and trying not to cry. On the grimy train puffing me back to boarding school by the mud gray sea, I would counter the clacking wheels by chanting such songs as “Enjoy Yourself (It’s Later Than You Think)” preparing for the inevitability of rough blankets, bullies, the eating of toothpaste, the learning of Latin, and the mystery of math. Read more »

Agents Of Change

You’ve probably never heard of them, but these ten people changed your life. Each of them is a big reason why your world today is so different from anyone’s world in 1954

For want of nails, kingdoms are won and lost. We all know that. The shoe slips, the horse stumbles, the army dissolves in retreat. But who designed the nails? Who hammered the nails? Who invented the nail-making machinery? Who figured out how to market the nails in neat plastic blister packs hung from standardized wire racks in hardware stores? • The house of history, that clever balloon frame of statistics and biographies in which we shelter our sense of tradition, of progress, of values gained and lost, is nailed together with anonymity.Read more »

Country

It’s the fastest-growing music in America. It’s a three-billion-dollar-plus industry. Cable stations devoted to it reach sixty-two million homes. And yet, says one passionate follower of country music past and present, its story is over.

Country music is one of those phenomena that remind us how much we’ve packed into the twentieth century, for it is younger than many of our parents. This is its story. Read more »

Dvořák In America

The great Czech composer arrived on these shores a century ago and wrote some of his most enduring masterpieces here. Perhaps more important, he understood better than any American of the day where our musical destiny lay.

I did not come to America to interpret Beethoven or Wagner for the public. That is not my work and I would not waste any time on it. I came to discover what young Americans had in them and to help them express it.”

Antonín Dvořák was very clear about his mission in the New World. He never wanted to be an ambassador representing the music of the Old World but rather a discoverer of what the New had to offer. Read more »