1989 was a crucial time in my musical education. At age 11, I was several months into taking drum lessons when my teacher asked me a loaded question: “What drummers do you listen to?” Given that it was the ‘80s and I was deeply enthralled with metal, I rattled off a list of big-haired, double-bass drum playing thunder gods, including Anthrax’s Charlie Benante. My teacher, in what was likely a well-rehearsed speech, quickly rattled off a list of drummers I should be listening to including: Neil Peart of Rush, Bill Bruford of Yes, session drummer Steve Gadd and jazz masters Billy Cobham and Art Blakey. All great drummers, who I’ve been listening to for years – the fact that I can still rattle off the list 31 years after the fact is telling.
Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.
Protest music is back, spread the word!
The bio for Brass Against on Spotify tells it all: “In this politically challenging era, it’s time to stand up against the machine. We want the music we perform to sound inspiring and resonate with people’s emotions, encouraging them to act.” Their style is a mix of big band and sick bars. The band does have their own original music, but they are known for their covers, like those of the band they paid homage to in their own name, Rage Against the Machine.
Brad Hammonds, leader of the Brass Against group, was inspired to return to protest music as Donald Trump started amassing power. He told Louder, “I know when I listen to political inspired bands I get really energised, especially Rage.” Same, Brad. Same.
And as alluded to, Rage Against the Machine is no stranger to protest music (or covers, for that matter). The band members have been vocal about their anti-authoritarianism and have used their platform to advocate for their beliefs. They have held protest concerts at both the Democratic National Convention (in 2000) and the Republican National Convention (in 2008), which led to both violence and police action. Rage Against the Machine is back to raging, reuniting for a world tour nine years after they have last played together and twenty years since their last full tour. Proceeds from the tour will go to charities, including those that advocate for immigrant rights.
I encourage you to work through Brass Against’s full three albums when you need a little fuel for your hate fire, but we’ll go through some highlights here.
Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!
It’s been a mere 41 years since Parallel Lines was released, a fact that finds this writer flat on his back. How can it possibly be that long? But is is and it was, 1978 being a particularly good year for Blondie, themselves already far from spring chickens.
Debbie Harry, astonishingly already 33, just two years younger than Mick Jagger (and two older than Ronnie Wood), was the mother hen of the band, together with her partner, Chris Stein, half a decade younger. The pair of them and drummer Clem Burke, were the heart of the band, and the only omnipresent members, rounded out at that time by keyboardist Jimmy Destri, guitarist Frank Infante, and bassist Nigel Harrison. Of course they all hated each other and all hated their producer, Mike Chapman, drafted in for this record to widen their appeal.
This would be the band’s third album, the first two having been helmed by Richard Gottehrer, who maximized their punky charm and promise, turning them into the counter-intuitive leaders of the pack at and from Max’s Kansas City and CBGB’s. Chapman, an Australian, had produced UK chart toppers like the Sweet, exiled Music City maven Suzi Quatro, and Mud; he was immensely successful, but looked down upon by any serious musician or fan.
In truth, they didn’t actually all hate each other, Stein was allegedly far too stoned to know much of what was going on, but there was no love lost elsewhere, not least as Chapman felt that Infante was the only one up to it, musically. Burke could not keep time, it seemed; Destri couldn’t play; and whatever Harrison could or couldn’t do, Chapman’s criticism was enough to have Harrison throw a synthesiser at him. But Harry could sing, that much Chapman could sense, carefully restricting her involvement to both protect her voice and prevent costly meltdowns, weeping in the restroom.
Despite all of this, Parallel Lines still came in a full 4 months ahead of schedule, and, amazingly, this line-up and Chapman went on to make four more albums before the band’s 1982 disintegration. It wasn’t until 15 years later they reformed, the original trio with (for a while) Destri, augmented by any number of additional sidemen. They still play on.
In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.
One of Walt Whitman’s most famous lines is, “I am large, I contain multitudes” and nowhere is this more evident than in Adam Yauch.
He was MCA – one-third of legendary hip hop troika, Beastie Boys. He was Nathanial Hornblower, Sir Stewart Wallace and Nathan Wind as Cochese. He was an MC, a bassist, a director, a film distributor, a punk, a hip hop head, a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, a practicing Buddhist and a staunch advocate of civil rights and the Free Tibet movement. He was a son, a husband, a father, and (despite being an only child) a brother. He was cooler than a cucumber in a bowl of hot sauce.
Adam Yauch, known to his fans as MCA of the Beastie Boys, passed away on May 4th after a near three year battle with cancer. When Yauch was first diagnosed in 2009, Coldplay played an unexpected but well-received cover of the Beastie Boys “Fight For Your Right (To Party).” On the day of Yauch’s passing, Coldplay brought back the cover while playing in Los Angeles in tribute to the great musician, filmmaker, and philanthropist.