Monday, 18 April 2016

Axl Rose joins AC/DC

Yes it's true.

Yes ok, it was reported on recently, someone having seen Axl leaving AC/DC's rehearsal space in Atlanta, but so what? That was speculation then, and I don't generally buy into speculation.

Now it has been confirmed by AC/DC's management and their label. Axl has only just decided to accept Slash and Duff McKagan back into the Guns n' Roses camp for a few gigs. While he was in pretty decent voice at recent shows, despite being immobilised with a broken foot. However, the prevailing opinion (and I tend to agree with it) is that Axl is an ill fit for AC/DC. Being a mega-fan of the band, as he is, is not enough of a pre-requisite for joining a band. He just isn't the right voice for the band.

I guess AC/DC need to be aware of the Latin term caveat emptor: "Let the buyer beware". Axl has some form, with his megalomaniac outbursts, turning up late, starting riots, bad behaviour towards fans and so on as a member of his own band. As a hired gun in someone else's outfit, technically there is no room for that sort of thing, but will he try it on? It's certainly possible, given his history.

AC/DC have been a massive concert draw and record seller for years, despite many people thinking that Brian Johnson was an ill fit for the band. Brian made it work, however. Loads of fans loved his voice fronting the band. Indeed his first appearance on record with them, "Back In Black", is the biggest selling rock album ever released at the time of writing. Since "Who Made Who" in 1986 they've been rather pedestrian on record, in this writer's opinion. The Bon Scott albums, all of them, are unimpeachable. A large number of what has come since is interchangeable at best and disposable at worst. What value is Axl Rose going to add to the band? Sure he's a famous name, but that's not enough.

It was like adding Terence Trent D'Arby as vocalist to replace Michael Hutchence in INXS. A big name, a great voice, but not the right fit. It remains to be seen if this can be pulled off...

Heat the popcorn, it will be very interesting...

Brian Johnson Leaves AC/DC

It's been news for a while now that Brian Johnson, longest serving vocalist for AC/DC, is no longer singing for the band.

Notice I didn't say "left the band". It depends on whose side of the story you hear as to whether he left for of his own accord, or he was pushed. A rather contentious podcast recently suggested Brian was forcefully ejected after disclosing his serious hearing loss, however the official press release from the band suggests he left.

We'll probably never know for certain. Suffice to say that the band have now been through their 3rd singer in their 40 year career and they are now looking for another one.

The question that I need to ask is why wasn't hearing protection ever considered at some stage in the past? It's not that big a deal, really. It shouldn't have come to this. Iggy Pop may reckon hearing protection is for chumps, but if you're onstage every night for 40 years dealing with volume at that level, seems fair to use it, doesn't it?

Now I hear Angus on the lookout for a new replacement singer to complete the last 10 dates on the Rock or Bust tour. Initial signs are not promising but more on that later...

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Vale Lemmy

Inimitable frontman for Motorhead and former bass player for Hawkwind, Lemmy has died at age 70 after a short battle with illness.

Lemmy's rock and roll lifestyle has never been up for debate. Indeed, he never hid his vices either. The faster and louder aesthetic was, in a sense, a musical reflection of how he lived. However, he always seemed unflappable. He always seemed as though he was rock solid. Despite the fact he often sang about living in the moment and not giving a shit about tomorrow, it felt like he'd be around forever.

From a musical standpoint, his bass playing was more akin to a rhythm guitar player. Heavily strummed with a pick and played at massive volume, it had its own unique sound. You knew instinctively, as soon as it starts, that it's Motorohead.

The last album Motorhead released, "Bad Magic" was issued in 2015 when Lemmy was 69. It's one of the loudest and heaviest things the band have ever done. There was no signs of slowing down, or even changing the well-worn formula. Age did not weary him.

Vale Lemmy. Thanks for the music.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Vale Stevie Wright

Stevie Wright, aka Little Stevie, vocalist for the Easybeats, has died at the age of 68 on 27th December 2015, due to complications of Pneumonia.

Stevie was born in Leeds, England in 1947 and migrated to Australia at age 9. He joined as the Vocalist of the Easybeats with fellow migrants at the Villawood Migrant Hostel in Sydney when he was 17 (in 1964).

It's remarkable that by the time he was 22, the Easybeats had ceased to exist and he was, for all intents and purposes, a washed-up rock star. He did some theatre work in the form of Jesus Christ Superstar with John English and then had his biggest solo success with the albums "Hard Road" and "Black Eyed Bruiser" in 1974-5 before being dropped by Vanda and Young at Albert Productions for being heavily addicted to narcotics.

Sadly, Stevie's addiction held him down for the better part of two decades. It is well documented elsewhere the depths the addiction took him, the battles with electro-shock therapy moreso, so I don't need to go into them here. The only surprise to most is that he made it this long.

His contribution to Australian music cannot be understated. His charisma was fiery stage presence was of that, of not greater than that of John Lennon, if Molly Meldrum is correct (and I don't doubt it).

Those early Easybeats singles are still visceral and exciting 50 years later. Later tracks like "Evie" and "Guitar Band" crackle with soul. It was a real shame he couldn't go the distance. At one point he was viewed as the likely successor to Bon Scott in AC/DC, but with the addiction...

Vale Stevie. Thanks for the music.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Vale Scott Weiland

Vocalist for the Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver Scott Weiland has passed away at age 48 from an alleged overdose.

Stone Temple Pilots were unfairly derided as third-rate grunge wannabes in the early part of their career, however they hit their straps with their third LP and kept up the pace for the next few until Scott was sacked for his unreliability. He formed Velvet Revolver with some ex members of Guns and Roses for two albums and then maintained a sporadic solo career, occasionally moonlighting in the vocalist seat with the reunited Doors on occasion.

While anyone who dies young is tragic, Scott's problems with substances were well documented and, like many others, I wondered why this hadn't happened earlier. That's not to be negative or morbid, however he spent a great many years dicing with his death via his addictions. While the news is still sad, there was always the feeling that it was a matter of when, rather than if...

Scott had a sonorous voice that didn't necessarily have a wide range, but he elevated those songs into the stratosphere. He sang exactly what was required of the music and never anything more, with equal parts sweetness and grit.

I'm grateful for those handful of albums he made with STP and it is a tragedy that he no longer with us. Vale Scott, you will be missed.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Recovery Revival This Weekend

RAGE on the ABC are having a celebration of all things 90s Indie rock this weekend with repeats of their now-classic Saturday Morning show Recovery.

The show ran from 1996 until sometime in 2000. Why would anyone in 2015 really care about this show?

At the height of the Indie rock boom in the mid-90s came this program on Saturday morning, live to air, commercial free, with live performances, interviews and stories of interest to the Triple J crowd of the time. It gave voice to a series of young people who had very little television experience and a public stage for many bands for whom we might not have been able to see live anywhere else.

Recovery was truly a unique animal. Sure there were crazy variety shows on TV at the time, like Hey Hey It's Saturday, but they were mainstream and had different intentions for their audience. Recovery was completely off the chain, a 3-hour blast of anarchic mayhem where anything that was possible would probably happen, however unlikely. Led by eyebrow-ringed, skate-show wearing host Dylan Lewis, this program was somehow held together with his patience and off-beat personality.

Lewis was also a lightning rod for some of the show's more memorable on-air mishaps. For example, Frenzal Rhomb were interviewed by him while they decided to take an electric razor to his head. Green Day came on for an interview completed off their faces and proceeded to spend most of their interview swearing live to air before kicking the house band off their instruments and launching into two verses of their most recent swear-along anthem "The Grouch".

Along with some memorable performances, it was a program of the sort that just doesn't occur on TV anymore. There's too much at stake for such risk taking these days.

Towards the end of its run the show's format changed, to a shorter show with fewer (and then, in the last few shows, none) live performances as the then Liberal government (with its anti-ABC bias) squeezed the broadcaster's budget.

Above all the show was just damn good fun. For those who think nothing good musically happened after the 80s, take a look at this special on Saturday night...

Vale Cynthis Robinson, Sly and the Family Stone

It would be remiss of any music blog NOT to mark the passing of Cynthia Robinson, co-vocalist and trumpet player in Sly and the Family Stone.

Sly and the Family Stone were one of the first (and only) truly integrated and egalitarian bands to ever exist. They integrated male and female members, people of different races, and made some of the most vibrant and joyous music ever, at the height of the Woodstock era when there the Vietnam War was sapping everybody's faith in humanity.

Cynthia was at the forefront of this, sharing lead vocals with Sly Stone on many of their tracks, such as "I Want To Take You Higher", "Dance to the Music" and "Sing a Simple Song". She was the one exhorting us all do dance or, if you didn't feel like then "All the squares go home!"

She was also a formidable instrumentalist. Her trumpet solo on "I Want to Take You Higher" is a thing of beauty.

After 1970 Sly Stone became heavily addicted to various substances and the music became quite dark at times, however Cynthia's contributions never diminished. After the band imploded in 1975 she went on to play for former Family Stone member Larry Graham's Graham Central Station and with George Clinton.

Her contribution is underrated and deserves more attention. Vale Cynthia, you will be missed.