3 Minute Record

"We learned more from a three minute record baby than we ever learned in school..." -from No Surrender by Bruce Springsteen

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How the Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch influenced my musical tastes [Remembrance]

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/85/Adam_Yauch_2.jpg/640px-Adam_Yauch_2.jpg

It has been a week since Adam "MCA" Yauch has passed away from a bout with cancer. I really felt like I should post something on here at the time, but just could not figure out what to say that you would not be able to read in any of the many stories and tributes you could find on the web.

As the news spread that day, Facebook and Twitter became grounds for an outpouring of "RIP MCA" posts and reflections of listening to the Beastie Boys and the influence the group had on many of my friends.

Sixth Grade would end up being a highly significant year in my life. I found myself starting over in a new school, having moved the previous summer from the much smaller Greenville, IL to what seemed like an overwhelmingly large Belleville, IL. At some point in the school year, I decided to sacrifice my weekly allowance for a considerably lengthy amount of time so my Mom would buy a recently introduced Nintendo Entertainment System for me. While the NES was a huge change in the landscape of video gaming, and would become a huge part of my life, there was another event in the world of entertainment during this time that would help shape the rest of my life. Licensed To Ill happened, and I was introduced to the Beastie Boys.

The first two friends I made when I first moved to Belleville were Travis and Brandon. Travis lived directly across the street and Brandon lived just down the block. Brandon had an older brother and that is how I remember getting a copy of Licensed To Ill. It was only a matter of time before Travis, Brandon, and I would have every line of the album memorized. By the summer of '87, Licensed To Ill would become the soundtrack to just about everything we did - as long as the parents were not around anyway. I cannot even remember how many times we would dub copies on blank cassettes because the previous copy would be worn down to unplayable levels.

Fast forward a couple of years and I would find myself starting high school and becoming close friends with Jeff. We became friends through a mutual interest in music, particularly hip-hop and the Beasties. Their sophomore album, Paul's Boutique, had recently been released and you just felt that they just elevated the hip-hop game to a new level. In our junior year, Check Your Head hit the record racks and the group appeared live at Mississippi Nights on tour in support of the album.

The date of the show was May 8, 1992; the first time I would ever step foot inside Mississippi Nights. This show marked the first time I would go to a concert without parents involved or being in a huge auditorium or concert hall. I remember being incredibly excited and even slightly nervous before the show. I think the nervousness stemmed from feeling like I was going into this whole new world that I was nowhere near cool enough to be a part of. I could go into the details of the show, but then this post would end up being a book. Let me just leave it at the show was amazing and is still in my top five shows I have ever attended.

Even more important than the show being absolutely amazing, was the experience I took away from being in that room that night. To me, there is no greater feeling in life than being in a small venue while a group is just absolutely killing it and the crowd is having the time of their lives. Whenever the jackpot amounts in the various lotteries get to the astronomical range, people always start talking about what they would do with the money if they won. My selfish answer to that situation would be that I would go to a show every night until all the money was gone, or just build my own venue and throw the most amazing concerts I could come up with. The Beastie Boys helped kickstart my addiction and helped me find something that makes me happier than I ever thought I could be.

Though this is embarrassing to admit, I can remember on quite a few occasions where Travis, Brandon, and I would be listening to License To Ill and all rapping along to the album and basically pretending to be the Beastie Boys. Though it seemed like we were getting to the age where this was completely silly, it just felt natural and still really fun. (I find it ironic that we still had no problem playing those video games on the NES pretending in the back of our minds to be the characters in the games, but playing "pretend" at that age was just for the little kids and we were now so old.) I was always MCA when we did this. I remember actually feeling a little resentful in that I wasn't Mike D or Ad-Rock because I wanted to be one of the more "outgoing" members. MCA always seemed like the mellow member of the group. This was fitting because I was the quieter and introverted person in our group and just wanted to be the person I wasn't.

As I got older and more involved in listening to hip-hop, MCA became one of my favorite MCs and, to me, was the strongest link in the band. While the Beasties started out as partying delinquents, the group went on to raise the consciousness in hip-hop. MCA was heavily involved in various charities and organized the Tibetan Freedom Concerts. He also was incredibly creative in the video production, often directing many of the Beasties' iconic videos under his alias, Nathanial Hörnblowér.

Maybe 47 is too young to lose someone with so much left to give. But, maybe we should be looking at it another way. Here was someone who made the most of the time he had here and remind ourselves  to do the same. Thank you Mr. Yauch for being a huge part in my love of music and, ultimately, in my life. To my friends, the next time the Beasties come on over the stereo and we all start to pretend to be one of the B-Boys in our minds, I call MCA.

Jeff's ticket stub from 1992 show
Jeff's ticket stub from 1992 show

Coping with Death by Immersion in Music

Two days ago a friend told me her friend lost a son in a car accident. Death is a tragedy at any time of life, but when you're young it's an especially shocking jolt to the system. When I was a senior in high school, a good friend I had known since the early years of elementary school lost his life in a car accident just a couple of months before graduation. He was a bright, athletic young man and full of potential. He was part of the State Championship soccer team the previous fall and planned to go to small college in Illinois to continue his education. The visitation and funeral was typical for a person his age - attended by hundreds of people expressing their sympathy to the family for their loss. My fellow classmates, which included his twin sister, and I were devastated and his family even more so. While I grieved over the loss of a longtime friend I had to keep moving. I finished high school in May and moved onto college that fall.

The following fall, a full 18 months after losing my friend, it happened again. Another family from my neighborhood suffered the same tragic loss when their son was also killed in a car accident. While I felt sick that it happened to someone else I knew well, it was difficult to completely comprehend the situation. My emotions were already strained as my grandfather, a man I looked to with great reverence, was in the final stages of colon cancer and died that same weekend. If that wasn't enough, the father of one of my dad's best friends died later that month. This was someone I had looked up to as another grandfather figure spending time on a weekly basis at his house being paid by my father's friend to cut the grass.

Six months later, a third blow was dealt as the younger brother of one of my best friends - someone I had known since first grade and that lived two houses down - died in a tragic car accident. With his best friend at the wheel, the two fell asleep on the way home from a weekend spent with the driver's family. The driver lived as he had his seat belt on, but the accident killed my friend's younger brother. By this point the it became surreal. I skipped my only chance to see The Ramones live to be with my friend and his family. I was numb.

What allowed me to cope with these events? How do you move on from so much death around you? For me it was music. Each time I retreated into the depths of my record collection and listened to music that would ease the pain of losing these people in my life.

In 1992, seminal artist and Rock 'n Roll Hall of Famer Lou Reed released his album Magic and Loss, a highlight of the work of his middle period. As he had done lamenting the state of decay of his hometown New York City on his 1989 work New York and the death of mentor Andy Warhol on Songs For Drella (with former Velvet Underground bandmate John Cale) in 1990, Reed wrote lyrics expressing his thoughts with the topic of death for Magic and Loss. In the album's lyrics, Reed dealt with the loss via cancer of songwriting friend Doc Pomus and former Andy Warhol devotee Rotten Rita and over the course of a year. A song concerning the death of his college roommate who died homeless on the streets of New York City also appears. Reed's song cycle therapeutically allowed him to grieve for his friends and listening to his work did the same for me. Read the review for the album in Rolling Stonewritten by longtime music journalist David Fricke.

Below, I present Reed performing the song "What's Good" (on the album subtitled 'The Theme') on the original Late Night with David Letterman on NBC back in 1992. Please disregard Reed's mullet left over from the late '80s, how young Letterman seems, and how hot Elle McPherson looks, and listen to the lyrics of the song.


Previously, many other musicians had written songs about death that strongly affected them. From the sad folk ballads chronicling news events like the sinking of the Titanic to the Dixon Brothers "The School House Fire" to modern singer/songwriters grieving over friends and loved ones (i.e. Eddie Floyd's "Big Bird," Neil Young's "The Needle and the Damage Done" to Eric Clapton's "Tears of Heaven"), musicians have helped heal themselves and their listeners through song. Yet, the prolific Reed dedicated an entire concept album to the subject - a moving document to a few friends lost. Yes, I know what you're thinking - Indie rock darlings the Arcade Fire brought us down with their 2004 debut album Funeral written with several deceased family members in mind, but I have to stick with Reed as he helped me through a particularly emotional time.

Final Note: A good read for music lovers is a 2007 memoir published by Rob Sheffield, Fricke's colleague at Rolling Stone, titled Love Is A Mixtape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time about the death of his wife Renée who died suddenly of a pulmonary embolism.

R.I.P. Clarence Clemons, 1942-2011

RIP Clarence Big Man Clemons

When your music is bigger than life it takes a Big Man to convey it to the world. For Bruce Springsteen, his longtime saxophone player for the E Street Band, Clarence Clemons was that man. Sadly, Clemons died last Saturday at age 69 from the complications of a stroke.

A week ago Sunday, the sad news came that Clemons had a massive stroke at his home in Singer Island, FL, and the thoughts of having to write something like this came to mind. However, that prospect made it difficult to ponder when the person is still struggling for their life and their music meant so much to you. However, when Saturday evening the official word came from my fellow 3 Minute Record contributor Bart Darnell via text message that Clemons had passed the reality fully sank in.

The next morning as a slightly surreal Father's Day started I began to write this piece, but alas could not finish needing more time to gather my thoughts. Later that day as I listened to the music I found I could not sing along to those songs so ingrained in my head. I could only listen for any shred of sound that I could gleaned from Clemons' horn. Nevertheless, I knew that if I did not finish this piece I wouldn't be moving on.

Clarence Anicholas Clemons was born on January 11, 1942 in Norfolk, VA the son of a fish market owner and the grandson of a Southern Baptist preacher. Receiving an alto saxophone for Christmas at age 9, later switching to tenor sax, Clemons took up music just as rock 'n roll was starting in the early 1950s, beginning a lifelong love affair with the genre. 

Inspired by Elvis Presley and growing up on '50s and '60s rock 'n roll, Bruce Springsteen was a young, inspiring singer/songwriter in the early 1970s making a name for himself in the boardwalk clubs of Asbury Park, NJ. The oft-repeated story of how the E Street Band fully solidified starts like the prototypical opening line to a novel when once upon a dark stormy night in 1971, Clemons quite literally busted into Springsteen's life. As the 6' 4" 250 pound former Maryland State College football player, Clemons entered the club where Springsteen was playing as a raging storm blew the door off its hinges leaving the imposing shadow in the doorway. Springsteen invited the saxophone player up on stage to jam creating a bond that lasted until Clemons death. Clemons brought his soulful saxophone playing and signature sound to what would become bedrock of the E Street Band.

Springsteen summed his thoughts about what Clemons brought to his music in the classic "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out" from his 1975 breakout album, Born To Run.

"Well, a change was made in time and the big man joined the band/From the coastline to the city all the little pretties raised their hands/I'm gonna sit back right easy and laugh/When the Scooter and the Big Man bust this city in half."

To this day, Springsteen admits that he does not know what the title of the song means or refers to, but clearly he knew - even at that early time of his career - that having Clemons in the band was very special.

For Clemons his difference in age with the rest of the E Street Band seemed to make him the older brother - a mentor of sorts. While Springsteen, "The Boss," may have taught Clemons the importance of dedication to the artistic craft; Clemons taught Springsteen how to be a big man.

Clemons tenor saxophone added depth to Springsteen's cinematic lyrics invoking full color to the stark imagery the singer experienced all around him. The sound of Clemons sax perfectly suited the overall feel Springsteen achieved with his music. Just as John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter provided their own stamp on the Jazz music of their band leader Miles Davis, Clemons provided a soulful quality to the Rock 'n Roll music played by the E Street Band.

"You can hide 'neath the covers and study your pain/Make crosses for your lovers, throw roses in the rain/Waste your summer praying in vain for a savior rise from these streets."

Certainly, the 25-year-old Bruce Springsteen did not intend this lyric from his now classic song "Thunder Road" to mourn his saxophone player, yet no saviors will be rising from the streets to match Clemons sound. The Boss can't fully replace what Clemons brought to the band both on and off the stage. While Springsteen seems to leave the door open for future E Street Band shows with the last line of his public statement following Clemons' death "His life, his memory, and his love will live on in that story and in our band," what the future truly holds for Springsteen and the E Street Band is uncertain, but the memories of the music will always be there.

"For the ones who had the notion, the notion deep inside/That it ain't no sin to be glad you're alive/I wanna find one face that ain't lookin' through me/I wanna find one place, I wanna spit in the face of these Badlands"

Whatever the future may hold we have a way to stay strong. As Springsteen notes so well in his song "Badlands" with the line "that it ain't no sin to be glad you're alive," we must cherish the happiness that Clemons gave us with his brilliant saxophone playing and enjoy life to the fullest. Because, unfortunately, the harsh reality of Springsteen's lyrics that so many fans identify with so closely have a way of telling the true reality of the situation. The music gives us the freedom to escape and be happy even if just for a little while.  Rest easy Big Man, you've made it to the Promised Land.

Jungleland - 1980

Jungleland - 2009

Thank you for the music Big Man...

Sadly, Clarence Clemons, iconic saxophone player for Bruce Springsteen and the E St. Band, passed away yesterday. I do not normally feel overly saddened by celebrity deaths, but this time I could not but help to feel very saddened upon hearing the news. If you have ever noticed the quote at the top of our page, you know that Bruce and the E St. Band's music means a lot to Scott and I. When we were kicking around ideas for the name of the blog, I was immediately drawn to the "3 Minute Record" name because of a long time love of the song "No Surrender" in which that quote comes from. That song still moves me as much now as when I first heard it some 25 years ago. I have already shared on this blog how my love of Springsteen can be attributed to my dad. The bond I share with my father has a lot to do with the music we have been able to share, especially the sounds of Bruce and the E St. Band. Mr. Clemons was one of the most important figures in helping create those sounds, and having to imagine the E St. Band without the Big Man is just unbelievable. I guess that is why I feel so sad tonight. I have so many great memories of seeing Bruce live and getting to hear Clarence's sax echo through the arena. I usually prefer intimate, small club shows as opposed to arenas, but there was something about seeing Bruce and the band live that was just amazing even in an arena. Clarence's sax soaring out of the PA and echoing throughout the hall had a way of just making you feel so alive. To know that I will never get to have that experience again is why I feel so sad tonight. Bands break up, relationships end, people pass on. When you realize that you will never get to experience something that brings so much happiness into your life, all you can really do is raise your glass and shed a few tears. Thank you sir for all the great music and performances, you had a great life.

"To bring joy and light to the world is my purpose in life" - Clarence Clemons

R.I.P. Ferlin Husky

The end came last Thursday for a performer with one of the more perfect names for country music, as word from Nashville came on Friday that country music pioneer Ferlin Husky died. He was 85. Born in Cantwell, MO on December 3, 1925 and reared on a farm near Flat River, MO, Husky grew up as a typical Midwesterner with a hard scrabble existence during the Great Depression and an eighth grade education.

Learning the basics of guitar as a boy from an uncle, Husky performed in honky tonks around St. Louis after dropping out of high school in the early 1940s. He worked blue-collar jobs as a truck driver and at a steel mill before enlisting in the U.S. Merchant Marine during World War II. Here he further honed his performing skills while entertaining other troops and adopting a stage persona of Simon Crum, an outspoken hayseed comic character based on a neighbor from back home.

After the war, Husky took a job as a disc jockey and performed from 1948 to 1953 under the stage name Terry Preston before reverting back to his real name. On the radio he continued to work on his Simon Crum character drawing an audience and sponsors. With the help of Tennessee Ernie Ford's manager, Cliffie Stone, Husky signed to Capitol Records in 1953 and recorded for the label until 1972.

Husky entertained country music fans in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s with hits like "Wings of a Dove" and "Gone."

His first number one hit on the country charts came during his first year at Capitol - "A Dear John Letter," a duet with Jean Shepard. The song also crossed over to the pop charts reaching number four.

In 1957, Husky reached the top spot on the country charts again with "Gone."

 

In 1960, Husky returned to the top of the country charts with "Wings of a Dove," a song written by Bob Ferguson, that stayed at number 1 for ten weeks and rose to number 12 on the pop charts.

Although Husky never reached the top of the charts again his music remained popular with country music fans. He reached number 4 twice with "Once" (1967) and "Just for You" (1968).

Husky semi retired in the late 1970s after heart issues. Though he returned to touring and performances, he ceased recording. In February 2010, the Country Music Association announce that Husky would be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville.

Over his career Husky charted 11 top ten country hits, 23 top twenty hits, and 41 top forty hits.

R.I.P. - Captain Beefheart

First reported on the Rolling Stone twitter feed this afternoon, the death of Don Van Vliet (aka Captain Beefheart) was confirmed late this afternoon. He was 69 years old. Collaborating in the early 1960's with fellow avant garde musician and childhood friend Frank Zappa, Van Vliet formed the Magic Band in 1964 and set about his musical journey. Zappa and Van Vliet met as teenagers and played and listened to the blues and R & B music for which they shared an appreciation.

Signed to A & M on the merits of their first single, a cover of Willie Dixon's "Diddy Wah Diddy" the band began recording their full length album only to have it rejected by the record company forcing the band to re-record several tracks and leave others in the vaults. Finally in 1967, Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band, after adding guitar whiz Ry Cooder, released their psychedelic blues based debut album Safe As Milk on Buddah Records as the first step in a wildly eclectic and adventurous career. Organizers of the Monterrey Pop Festival extended an invitation to play the festival in June, but Van Vliet's exceedingly erratic behavior doomed the upcoming performance and sales of the album tanked.

His old friend and competitor Zappa signed Beefheart to his own label, Straight Records, and in 1969 Zappa produced the now legendary double LP Trout Mask Replica. The surreal masterpiece became a seminal point in his career influencing every fringe of the Rock and experimental music circles.  The legendary status the album enjoys stems not only from the influence the concept and music had on other artists, but the conception and recording of the album itself.  Beefheart took a tightfisted, singular approach to his musicians in the Magic Band.  He composed complex arrangements for the band to play and forced them to rehearse up to 14 hours a day in the house they shared in Los Angeles. He lorded over each band member confining them to the house and using sleep deprivation, food deprivation, and emotional and physical pain until they submitted to his will.  This situation eventually led to the album's 28 tracks being recorded in one session lasting less than 5 hours with vocals overdubbed later.

Beefheart continued to record and tour throughout the 1970's, retired in his early 40's after the release of Ice Cream For Crow in 1982. After twelve albums of influential music, Van Vliet retreated to California to focus on his art; a deep seeded fascination that almost led to a career as an artist dated back to his formative years. He gave few interviews during his retirement from music basically creating a second life for himself outside the spotlight.

Van Vliet suffered from multiple sclerosis and eventually died from complications of the disease.