May 102012

It’s time for a Last Man Standing contest. You know how it works: if you have a submission, post it as a response. One submission per post, please. You may not respond twice in a row. The last man standing when all answers have been exhausted or time is up wins the RTH no-prize!

The rules:

  1. Present a rock video with an acting appearance by someone who was not yet well-known as an actor but would become one later.
  2. We’ll take off the table Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark,” featuring an unknown Courteney Cox, as the obvious example.
  3. The Sting Rule: Band members or other already-well-known non-actors or celebrities who later turned to acting are ineligible.
  4. The Liv Tyler Rule: Band members’ immediate family are ineligible. And while we’re on the subject of Aerosmith, let’s just make all Bon Jovi videos ineligible.

To start things off, I give you  the video for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “Swingin,'” from their 1999 album Echo, featuring Robin Tunney, now a lead actor in the popular TV show The Mentalist.

Aug 162011

I just saw this performance on The Late Show with David Letterman. My instant reaction to the song’s bold statement that “This Is What Rock ‘n Roll Looks Like” was to turn to the collective wisdom of the Rock Town Hall for analysis.

Is this what rock ‘n roll looks like? Please put forth only your positive vibes!

Jun 222011

A car commercial on TV recently perked up my ears for two reasons. First, the sound of the jangling guitar and bass moving beneath it, were suspiciously similar to the outro of “American Girl.” I mean, like rip-off similar, even though it was only a couple of bars of music. And it was not the original recording.

Second, it gave me déjà vu about another car commercial blatantly ripping off Tom Petty some years ago. I can’t find any reference to it, but I sort of recall Petty suing them about it; it seemed to me as if they probably wanted to use his song but he didn’t want to license it, so they just recorded a new sound-alike. I think it was a car cruising along a curvy two lane road among rolling hills of brown grass, to a tune that was a direct rip-off of the opening power chords of Petty’s “You Wreck Me,” not long after its 1994 release. (Ironic theme title for a car, if have that right!) Does anyone recall the details on that one, or am I imagining it?

What other accusations of gross musical theft come to mind? “My Sweet Lord”/”He’s So Fine” is the most famous case (court case, at least) that comes to mind for me. Maybe we should omit rap sampling of rock music because that list would be endless!

Mar 182011

The topic for this post came to me today when I ran across this documentary (or is it a long-form ad?) about the Cry Baby Wah Wah pedal. I remembered George Harrison‘s song “Wah-Wah” from All Things Must Pass.

Wah-wah/You’ve given me a wah-wah

Now, I’ve read that George was using the term “wah-wah” to refer to a headache, which recording Let It Be with Paul in the director’s chair apparently gave him, literally or metaphorically enough to quit. But still, I like to think of the song as an ode to that piece of gear.

Are there other good songs about beloved musical equipment or instruments? Generic instrument references like The Beatles‘ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and Talking Heads‘ “Electric Guitar” (great lyrics, by the way!) are plentiful, but what about more particular instruments, like B.B. King‘s guitar “Lucille,” or specific items, like a Vox Amp or a Gretsch guitar, in songs?

Nov 152010

B.A.D. production?

Don’t you hate it when there is a really good song that you used to love, but listening to it now you realize that the production sounds horribly dated? Maybe it’s because the production screams, “Hey, this new synthesizer just came out, here is factory patch #11 as the song intro!” Or, “Check out the massive reverse gated snare sound!” Or, “Listen to my new guitar effects processor!” Now, this is not the same thing as a recording that is simply of its time, or from an artist with a unique sound. Whether or not you like the B-52s, the sound is their own, and not really dated. And a crappy song isn’t really hurt by a dated production style. I’m talking about songs that would be great if they just toned down the production, but instead are mediocre or worse. And the opposite: a song so good it overcomes the dated or excessive production.

Nov 022010

Off-mic, rockers are probably just as foul-mouthed as the average person, if not more so, but for various reasons expletives are not used in recorded rock all that often. If nothing else, it hinders the likelihood of a song getting airplay. Still, there are plenty of notable exceptions, good and bad, of rock expletives that made it onto the record. What are your favorite examples?

I’ll start things off with these two. First: I am curious if anyone knows whether Roger Daltrey‘s “who the fuck are you?” was part of the penned Pete Townshend lyric for “Who Are You” or just ad-libbed at the mic.

Second: Warren Zevon‘s “My Shit’s Fucked Up.” Zevon gets extra credit for using two high-scoring expletives, putting them right there in the song title, and not using them just for a joke, but also for something serious. It’s all the more poignant to watch this video now, given his untimely death just 3 years later, when his shit got incurably fucked up.



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