One of the all-time great prog rockers and keyboard players has just passed into the infinite. Keith Emerson died the other day at the age of 71 at his Santa Monica home. Police are investigating as to whether his death was a suicide. Emerson was an absolute master of the keyboard, encompassing rock, classical, and jazz in his playing. Not only that, he was a pioneer of the use of synthesizers in rock. He was also the prime mover behind the Nice as well as Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, which was one of the very biggest prog groups of the 1970s. Frankly, I’m not a huge fan of ELP – I find them to be often bombastic and sometimes overbearing – but there is no denying that Emerson’s keyboard skills were almost untouchable.
Here’s another simple Last Man Standing just in time for Halloween. Name an album, song title, or lyric which contains the word “ghost”. “Spook”, “wraith”, or other synonyms for a spectral, incorporeal after-death entity will also be accepted, but “zombie”, “skeleton” or “alien” will not. Only one entry per submission, please, and decision of the judge is final. I’ll start off with the song listed on the featured picture – the Specials with “Ghost Town”. Have fun and don’t scare yourselves to death!
In a recent post by eminent Townsperson funoka, we were asked what albums we initially hated but learned to love. A neat idea and one that just begs for the reverse – albums that you once loved but no longer tickle your fancy. We all have at least one that fits the case. In my case, it would have to be Pink Floyd‘s Dark Side of the Moon.
I remember the first time I heard DSOTM. It was early 1973 and I was a freshman in college. I was sitting in a dorm room with a friend and we were both cruising along nicely on magic psilocybin mushrooms (absolutely vile tasting but brain-twisting too). A mutual acquaintance rushes in brandishing a black album with a curious prism-diffracting-light design—the clear plastic was still on the cardboard sleeve. We slap the brand new record on the stereo and I slipped on a pair of headphones while my friends listened via the speakers. Having been transported beyond infinity as “On The Run”‘s synthesizers burbled along, I nearly went out the window when the alarm clocks hit. Surviving that moment of mental shock, I fell in love with the album and bought it for myself the next day.
Since then, I must have heard DSOTM seemingly thousands of times on turntables, in CD players, via MP3 files, and over the airwaves. I have “reference” copies in both CD and digitized form in my music collection. By now I know every nuance, every ka-ching sound, every bit of mad laughter, and every note. It’s been quite a few years since I voluntarily put it on. Frankly, I don’t care if I ever hear it again. It remains a great album but I’ve become hopelessly bored with it. I still listen to other Pink Floyd albums on occasion but DSOTM seems to have dropped off my playlist forever.
So there you have it—my tale of a once-great musical love descending into ennui and indifference. Now it’s your turn. What album that you once loved have you become bored with?
Let’s review the ground rules here. The Mystery Date song is not necessarily something I believe to be good. So feel free to rip it or praise it. Rather the song is something of interest due to the artist, influences, time period… Your job is to decipher as much as you can about the artist without research. Who do you think it is? Or, Who do you think it sounds like? When do you think it was recorded? Etc…
If you know who it is, don’t spoil it for the rest. Anyone who knows it can play the “mockcarr option.” (And I’ve got a hunch at least one of you know this one.) This option is for those of you who just can’t hold your tongue and must let everyone know just how in-the-know you are by calling it. So if you know who it is and want everyone else to know that you know, email Mr. Moderator at mrmoderator [at] rocktownhall [dot] com. If correct we will post how brilliant you are in the Comments section.
The real test of strength though is to guess as close as possible without knowing. Ready, steady, go!
In a recent Dugout Chatter, Mr. Moderator mentioned the passing of two great names in music history: Johnny Otis and Etta James. I’d like to mention the recent death of another notable if minor artist. Born in Texas in 1940, Dobie Gray started out in the 1960s as a soul singer. His most notable early hit was his 1965 cover of “The ‘In’ Crowd” (written by Billy Gray), a manifesto of pre-hippie coolness that reached #13 in the Billboard Hot 100. His smooth singing was beautifully complemented by the counterpoint of the backing vocals and a big-sounding, punchy horn section.
Gray continued to record as the 1960s wore on without major success. He also became a stage actor, most notably in the Los Angeles stage production of Hair. However, lightning struck again for Gray in 1973 with his recording of Mentor William‘s “Drift Away.” With a gentle groove and a gospel-influenced chorus, the song became a big hit in the late spring and reached #5 in the Billboard charts. This is probably his single most-popular song and it still gets wide airplay. It’s not hard to understand why.
Though Dobie never scored another major hit again, he kept on performing and recording and his singles occasionally reached the Billboard charts. After “Drift Away,” he transitioned into becoming a country singer—an unusual move for an African-American artist at the time. Gray also became a notable songwriter, providing material for country and mainstream artists. He toured overseas as a performer with some success and became (at his own insistence) one of the first performers to appear before an integrated audience in apartheid-era South Africa. Gray kept on working over the next few decades. He died of cancer on December 6, 2011, at the age of 71.
So there you have it. Dobie Gray might not be the most famous or most-remembered name in rock history, but he had two genuinely terrific classic hits in him. For that, he deserves a tribute here on Rock Town Hall. Rest in peace, Dobie, and we’ll do our part to make sure you’re not forgotten.
Congratulations are in order to Mr. Moderator; the Rock Town Hall crew; and all the wackos, looneys, and yahoos who populate and litter the Hall. Even though I’ve only been year less than a year (since last March), it’s been a really fun time for me, and RTH is a frequent must-check. Sometimes I laugh, sometimes I get pissed off, sometimes I learn stuff, and sometimes I scratch my head in utter bewilderment at aberrations like Mr. Mod’s mancrush for Mike Love. However, I am always entertained and that’s the whole point, isn’t it? In the spirit of fifth-anniversary things, I’d like to submit a Last Man Standing challenge with one simple rule…find a song that mentions “five years” either in the title or lyrics (album titles can count too). I’ll start things off with this:
David Bowie – “Five Years” Live on Old Grey Whistle Test 1972