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Posts Tagged ‘Eddie Van Halen’

(Above: Metallica perform with Ray Davies at the 2009 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary Concert in New York City.)

By Joel Francis
The Daily Record

Every great song usually inspires about a dozen covers. Most of these are pedestrian and instantly forgotten. The few that transcend the original can be troublesome for the original artist. Should they mimic the new, more popular version or maintain the original vision? Bob Dylan has turned his nightly performances of “All Along the Watchtower” into a sort-of tribute to Jimi Hendrix. Trent Reznor, however, continues to perform “Hurt” as he originally intended, ignoring Johnny Cash’s transcendent interpretation.

Ray Davies wrote “You Really Got Me” in 1964 on an upright piano. The initial sketches suggest a loping bluesy number somewhere between Gerry Mulligan and Big Bill Broonzy, two of Davies’ biggest inspirations at the time.

Davies’ brother Dave had different ideas. Latching onto the riff, and drawing on “Wild Thing” and “Tequilla,” he drove the song through his distorted guitar. The song was born anew, and when Ray Davies heard the new arrangement he knew that’s how his number was supposed to be played.

Unfortunately, the Kinks had already taken the first arrangement into the studio. It was that version that Pye, their label, intended to release as the band’s third single. The Kinks and producer Shel Talmy successfully lobbied for another session to re-record the number with the newfound grit and rawness. The result was the band’s first No. 1 hit in their native England, thereby launching their career.

The Kinks’ next single was essentially a re-write of “You Really Got Me.” Despite the similar success of “All Day and All of the Night,” Ray Davies abandoned that style of writing for the most part for more lilting fare like “Tired of Waiting for You” and “Sunny Afternoon.”

Davies and the Kinks may have moved on, but the rest of the world was just catching up. “You Really Got Me” inspired the signature grimy riff of “Satisfaction,” the feel of “Wild Thing,” and all of “I Can’t Explain.” Heavily distorted guitars became a staple in the burgeoning psychedelic rock scene and, a decade later, the backbone of punk.

In the heart of punk movement, Los Angeles party band Van Halen decided to release their version of “You Really Got Me” as their debut single. Although the song only rose to No. 36 on the U.S. charts, it was tremendously popular, becoming a concert staple throughout the band’s career (and numerous line-ups).

For the most part, Van Halen’s 1978 arrangement of “You Really Got Me” stayed true to the Kinks version. The biggest difference was Eddie Van Halen’s fretboard pyrotechnics. This transformed the song from a proto-punk jam into a guitar hero workout. Matching Van Halen’s instrumental energy was frontman David Lee Roth, whose grunting and moaning punctuated an already-strong come-on.

In 1980, “You Really Got Me” was one of the last cuts on the Kinks live album “One From the Road.” The song had already been released in live format before, on 1968’s “Live At Kelvin Hall,” but this was the band’s first recorded response to Van Halen.

Sadly, the Kinks responded by turning into a Van Halen cover band. An excellent guitarist in his own right, Dave Davies fell flat trying to imitate Eddie Van Halen (as many, many other axeslingers would also discover). Ray Davies’ pinched London voice could not match Roth’s West Coast bravado. Instead of playing to their strengths, the Kinks played to Van Halen’s strong points, thereby undermining themselves and relinquishing ownership of the original “You Really Got Me.”

I mention all this, because this month Ray Davies has elected to release another version of “You Really Got Me” on his new all-star duets album “See My Friends.” Since the Kinks have been on hiatus since 1996, Davies chose Metallica to back him on this track. Although they are working with the original songwriter, the grunts and asides spewing from Metallica singer James Hetfield make clear that his band is covering Van Halen, not the Kinks. Displaying a leaden stomp that makes Black Sabbath seem nimble, Metallica drain the life from the song as Davies stands helplessly by.

The Kinks original 1964 recording of “You Really Got Me” is a brilliant track. Van Halen’s cover some 14 years later also remains exhilarating (particularly when it is coupled with “Eruption,” the Eddie Van Halen instrumental that preceeds it on the album). Sadly, we have lost one version in the wake of the other.

Keep reading:

“Death Magnetic” is Metallica’s creative rebirth

Bob Dylan: All Along the Watchtower

Lanois + Raffi = Eno

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(Above: Cross Canadian Ragweed show off their new song “51 Pieces.” What’s with the Raiders shirt on an Oakie?)

By Joel Francis
The Kansas City Star

The television show “CMT Crossroads” found a niche by pairing seemingly disparate artists like Taylor Swift and Def Leppard or Lucinda Williams and Elvis Costello for a one-hour performance. With their blend of arena-ready country channeled through classic rock radio, Cross Canadian Ragweed could fill a show all by themselves.

The Oklahoma-based quartet preached to a half-full Crossroads Friday night delivering nearly two dozen tracks from across their 12-year career and several songs from their just-released seventh album. Singer and lead guitarist Cody Canada played like a character from the latest edition of “Guitar Hero,” flipping between Eddie Van Halen’s finger-tapping technique, the heavy rhythm riffs inspired by Angus Young and subtle finger-picked solos a la Mark Knopfler.

Although it’s fun and easy, the congregated faithful weren’t playing spot the influence. They were too busy dancing in bliss, rocking to the music, hands raised, hallelujah. Their following is so loyal Canada could toss a lyric to the crowd and get it back twice as loud, but even he was impressed when the boisterous bunch sang along to material released just 10 days ago.

The high points of the two hour set came from opposite ends of the spectrum. “Anywhere But Here” opened like the country cousin of “Panama” and benefited from the extra muscle the band put into the extended reading. When snippets of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” appeared, it was less a cover than an assimilation.

Canada’s three-song solo acoustic set showed off his songwriting and storytelling chops. “Lonely Girl” was inspired by his sister while new number “Bluebonnets” was written for his four-year-old son. The trilogy of acoustic numbers was followed by a three-part medley Canada dubbed “The Trifecta,” which swaggered from rock to blues before ending with another new cut, “Pretty Lady.”

Bass player Jeremy Plato gave Canada a smoke break by handling lead vocals on two songs. His voice was a nice change of pace but too many bass solos – including two in the final three numbers – bogged the energy a bit. Ditto for the drum solo that preceded “Number.”

Ragweed’s set ended with guaranteed crowd pleasers “Carney Man” and “Late Last Night.” For “Time To Move On” Jonathan Tyler, who led the first act on the bill, joined the quartet on guitar. The night ended with a new song that felt old. Although it wasn’t officially released until Sept. 1, the crowd went ballistic for “51 Pieces” based on the opening lines of the story that introduced the number.

Lucero got sandwich billing between opener Jonathan Tyler and Northern Lights and Ragweed. The Memphis-based quartet sounds like the E Street Band via Uncle Tupelo and front man Ben Nichols sounds like Jay Farrar after too many cigarettes and way too much whiskey.

Their one-hour set was heavy on fan requests and included “Kiss the Bottle,””Raising Hell” and new material like “Darken My Door.” Although Lucero weren’t the band most of the crowd came to see, they did a great job of firing up the sizable swarm in front of the stage.

Setlist: Sister, Alabama, Burn Like the Sun, Mexican Sky, Deal, To Find My Love, Hammer Down, 42 Miles, Soul Agent, Anywhere But Here (including Won’t Get Fooled Again), Drag, drum solo, Number, (acoustic set) Let the Rain Fall Down (unsure if this title is correct), Lonely Girl, Bluebonnets, The Trifecta (including Pretty Lady), Carney Man, Time to Move On (with Jonathan Tyler), Late Last Night, (encore) 51 Pieces

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(Above: The long version of “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough.” Soak in all six minutes – then play it again.)

By Joel Francis

In the wake of Michael Jackson’s death, I wrote about the Michael I liked best. The young Michael, who fronted the Jackson 5, grew into his own and delivered his greatest statement and one of the best pop/dance albums ever on the cusp of the ’80s.

But that isn’t the Michael Jackson I remember. I recall the Jackson’s Victory tour kicking off at Arrowhead in 1984. Everyone at swim lessons that day was talking about it, but I didn’t really know who Michael was and what the fuss was all about. I have no memories of Michael’s follow-up stops at Kemper Arena four years later.

Later, all I knew about Michael Jackson were the Weird Al parodies, the “sha-mon” self-parodies and – Eddie Van Halen and Slash’s guitar solos aside – a bunch of slick pop that didn’t conform to my burgeoning rockist sensibilities.

Retrospectively, it’s easy to turn the finger on myself and laugh at how ignorant and dismissive I was at the time. In my defense, “Bad” and “Dangerous,” the two Michael Jackson albums that hit when I was coming of musical age, were unsuccessful attempts to replicate “Thriller.” By the time giant Jacko statues were floating in the Thames River to promote “HISstory,” Jackson was so far removed from his glory days and so entrenched in the paparazzi-enabled tabloid journalism that defined his life that I couldn’t take him seriously as an artistic force.

When someone tried to explain to me that the ghost-white, thin-nosed Jacko on the talk shows was the same African-American child who sang those Jackson 5 songs, I balked for two reasons. Firstly, it’s still hard to believe anyone could transform so drastically over such a short period of time. More importantly, however, those songs were great! They may have been created with the same crass marketing motives that plagued post-“Thriller” Jackson, but somehow this stuff more than held up.

One of the guys in my dad’s National Guard unit used to play “ABC” so often that my dad said he never needed to hear the song again. I can see where my dad was coming from; that could be pretty annoying. But I can also understand the impulse to play that song over and over. Great songs create a world we get to live in for a few minutes. Usually that world vanishes into the next track sooner than we’d like, and when it does you have the immediate desire to return. At two minutes, 30 seconds, “ABC” is not long enough.

Fortunately, I can make a playlist shoving “ABC” against “I Want You Back,” “Black and White,” “I’ll Be There,” my all-time favorite Michael jam “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” and the rest of his finest moments. It will be in the air for the rest of the weekend, allowing me to live in Michael’s musical world once again.

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(Above: This could be you – or one of your really drunken friends.)

Be it Jimi Hendrix with a broom stick or Eddie Van Halen and a tennis racket, every music fan has gone through an air guitar phase, whether he (or she) wants to admit it or not.

If you’ve kept practicing your air guitar moves or like to laugh at those who have, then make plans to be at the Record Bar, on Tuesday, June 9 for the Air Guitar Championships.

Tickets for the competition run $10 online (plus TicketBastard fees), but The Daily Record is giving a one of its loyal readers the chance to get in free.

Here’s how this will work: If you live in the Kansas City area and want to go, simply leave a comment for this entry describing your favorite air guitar song or greatest air guitar moment. Be sure to leave your e-mail address, because that’s how I’ll contact the winner to let them know they’ve won a two tickets to witness or participate in the Air Guitar Championships.

Originality counts, folks, so don’t inundate us with stories about “Eruption” and “Stairway to Heaven.”

The people throwing this competition are serious about finding the ultimate air guitar hero. Winners at the 23 regional showcases will have the chance to compete in the championship round this August in New York City. There they will be judged by reigning U.S. and World Air Guitar Champion “Hot Lixx” Hulahan (I know, but that’s what it says in the press release) and Daily Show correspondent Jason Jones.

For complete rules, videos and other information visit the Air Guitar Championships Web site.

Commence sending your stories … now!

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