James Taylor and The Beatles, the Connection

When you see James Taylor in concert, you’ll be experiencing more than a performance from a great talent.

You’ll be seeing one of the bestselling artists of all-time and a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of fame.

You’ll get to hear one of popular music’s best male voices.

You’ll be seeing the man who didn’t invent, but defined and popularized the “singer-songwriter” meme. You know that guy who sings and plays guitar at your local coffee shop? He’s doing James Taylor.

Bottom line, you’ll be seeing a living legend.

James Taylor Carly Simon, Yoko Ono and John Lennon in New York City on January 18, 1977. From http://www.meetthebeatlesforreal.com/2014/09/john-james-carly-and-yoko.html

You’ll also be seeing a performer who has a direct connection to the greatest popular music act the Earth has ever known, The Beatles.

In the late 1960s, drugs, depression, and vocal cord surgery forced James Taylor to seek a change of scenery. The North Carolinian moved to England.

There, he recorded a demo. A friend of a friend was able to get that demo to Peter Asher. At the time, Asher was the head of A&R (artists and repertoire) at Apple Records.

For those of you who don’t know your Fab Four history, that was The Beatles record label.

Asher played Taylor’s demo to Paul McCartney and George Harrison. They loved what they heard and James Taylor became the first non-British artist signed to Apple Records and Peter Asher became his manager. James Taylor has been performing live concerts and making albums ever since.

The Beatles

Taylor recorded what would be his first album in late summer and early fall of 1968. He was recording the album at the same time The Beatles were recording The White Album—no pressure there.

McCartney played bass and Harrison added backing vocals (although he didn’t receive a credit) on Taylor’s classic “Carolina in My Mind.”

During the recording of his debut album, Taylor began using heroin and methedrine… again. He went back to rehab and eventually into a psychiatric treatment facility located in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

He was hospitalized when Apple released his album (December of 1968 in the UK and February of 1969 in the United States). Critics loved his debut platter but his inability to promote it, because he was hospitalized, hurt sales.

Then, in late 1969, he broke both hands and feet in a motorcycle accident. Despite the injury, and being unable to perform, he signed with Warner Bros. Records.

His association with The Beatles was over.

There’s another direct Taylor-Beatles connection. One of the songs on the demo given to Paul and George was “Something in the Way She Moves.”

George used the title as the first line of his song “Something.” George’s song eventually went to number one.

Taylor never thought George plagiarized him. He also says the ending of “Something in the Way She Moves” borrows from the ending of The Beatles “I Feel Fine.”

In the words of JT, “What goes around comes around.”

James Taylor in the seats at Fenway Park

It’s not a direct connection to The Beatles but it is a connection to John Lennon and the darkest day in rock history.

In December of 1980, Taylor lived in the building next to John Lennon and heard the five shots fired during the assassination. Even more disturbing, Taylor had a run-in with Lennon’s killer, Mark David Chapman, the day before.

Rolling Stone Magazine’s 100 Greatest Drummers That Are Performing Live In 2016

RingoStarr

Rolling Stone Magazine’s 100 Greatest Drummers That Are Performing Live In 2016

It was released the day before April Fools’ but it still had some jokes in it.   Meg White ranked ahead of Larry Mullen, Jr. and Charlie Watts placed outside the top ten.

I’m talking about Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 Greatest Drummers of All Time.  It was published on their web site on March 31, 2016.

As they mentioned in the final paragraph of their introduction, it’s actually the 100 greatest pop and rock drummers of all-time.

Now, I’ve written a lot of articles about music and I’ll admit I’m not afraid to bite off more than I can chew or argue positions that are a bit out of my comfort zone.  When it concerns popular music, I’m not afraid to give an opinion.

Yet, the 100 Greatest Drummers of All Time makes me ceremoniously brush off my hands and excuse myself from opining.  There’s no way I can effectively parse this list.  

I have no idea if #80 Steve Jordan is properly placed behind #79 Mick Avory or if #47 Dave Lombardo and #46 Dave Garibaldi are slotted too high or too low.

Ranking drummers is nearly impossible.  They are taken for granted.  They’re not asked to be “lead” and are usually not up “front.”  They keep time and maybe, every once in a filler track, they get to do a solo. 

Unless they are one of the few legendary session musicians, members of a hall of fame band, or can regularly “wow” fans in the percussion-stifling genres of rock and pop then drummers are fairly anonymous. 

Still, your average rock fan (myself included) knows enough about drumming to know if Rolling Stone’s list is well thought out or a bunch of rubbish. 

Overall, it’s a fairly solid list.  There are enough noodle scratchers to get you the right amount of angry and enough “good picks” to satiate your rock snobbery.

John Bonham is #1.  Keith Moon is #2.  Ginger Baker is #3.  Neil Pert is #4.  And George Hurley actually made the list.

As for the noodle scratchers: Tommy Lee is not only included but he’s #85 and David Grohl is probably a bit too high at #27.

Not making the list are Don Henley, Nick Mason, Lars Ulrich, Mike Joyce, Peter Criss, Chris Frantz, and Paul Cook.

Also, the list isn’t the top 100, it’s the top 103.  Three of the entries are actually two drummers. 
>>Allman Brothers Band’s drummers Butch Trucks and Jai Johanny "Jaimoe" Johanson come in at #71.
>>Grateful Dead’s Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann comprise pick #34. 
>>And at #6 are James Brown’s drummers, John "Jabo" Starks and Clyde Stubblefield.

The first question fans will have when learning about the existence of Rolling Stone’s list is who is number one?  We’ve already answered that.  The second question they’ll have is “Where is Ringo Starr?”

Ringo Starr is #14.

While Starr and his musicianship have been the butt of a lot of jokes, he is, without a doubt, one of the greatest drummers of all time.  I’d put him in the top ten but I’ll take #14.

Where the list really shines is placing John Bonham at number one.  His work with Led Zeppelin is phenomenal.  There are several Led Zeppelin songs you wish you could mute the other musicians and just listen to him.  That’s saying something since Bonham’s Zeppelin bandmates were Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, and John Paul Jones.

Bonham is the best rock drummer we’ve ever heard.

Of course, the best way to experience a virtuoso drummer is live and in person.  Fortunately several of the top 100 are on this road this year. 

Below, are 15 of Rolling Stone’s top 100 drummers who will be playing live sometime in the 2016…

#10 Stewart Copeland Former Police drummer has a few dates planned including several with Jon Kimura Parker & Co.

#14 Ringo Starr – Ringo is touring the United States this June with his All-Starr Band.

#18 Joseph "Zigaboo" Modeliste – Zigaboo is a busy drummer in 2016.  Check out his web site for more details.

#20 Bernard Purdie – Look for Purdie at the Newport Vermont Jazz Festival on July 8, 9, and 10.

#21 Ian Paice – Paice is touring with his band Deep Purple.  In May and June, they have dates scattered all over the world.

#27 Dave Grohl – Doubt you’ll see him behind the drums but a rumor has Grohl replacing Brian Johnson’s as AC/DC’s front man for a string of upcoming U.S. dates.

#28 Carmen Appice – Appice will play with King Kobra on June 4 in Las Vegas.

#34 Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann – This June and July you can catch Hart and Kreutzmann performing live in Dead & Company.

#36 Steve Smith – All summer Smith will be out and about with his band Journey. 

#40 Jack DeJohnette – Look for DeJohnette in Santa Fe on May 22, Northridge on May 26, and Baton Rouge on June 3.

#41 Carter Beauford – This year, as member of Dave Matthews Band, Beauford will be performing live from May 7 to Sept 4.

#46 David Garibaldi – Garibaldi and Tower of Power have 27 shows planned for the rest of the year.

#49 Vinnie Colaiuta – Colaiuta will be playing with Sting during his June and July tour of the United States.

#53 Jimmy Chamberlin – Chamberlin rejoined The Smashing Pumpkins in 2015.  In April of 2016, the band will launch a tour of North America.

#61 Clem Burke – Burke joined Blondie in 1975 and has been with them ever since.  Blondie has a handful of dates scheduled in 2016.

Justin Bieber And His Musical Accomplishments

Justin Bieber Purpose Tour

Justin Bieber And His Musical Accomplishments

Justin Bieber launches his “Purpose World Tour” on March 9, 2016 in Seattle, Washington.  The singer has already routed 58 concerts in North America.  The trek culminates July 19 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

The tour starts just eight days after Justin Bieber’s 22nd birthday.

Amazingly, he’s been the most famous pop singer for the past five years; he’s been the one singer everyone can name.

Due to the current nature of celebrity, one’s fame can far outstrip one’s accomplishments.  Much of Bieber’s fame comes from things he says and does away from the microphone.

What exactly has Bieber accomplished?  Is he nothing more than a “Kardashian” with a recording contract?

Actually, Bieber has achieved a lot—a whole bunch.  That would be true for an artist of any age but it’s especially true for a pop singer that’s just 21.

Below, Musicology-101 looks at Justin Bieber’s musical accomplishments.  After perusing our list, you’ll view Bieber more as a musician and less as a tabloid headline.

Four For Four
Justin Bieber has released four studio albums…

…My World 2.0 (2010)
…Under The Mistletoe (2011)
…Believe (2012)
…Purpose (2015)

All four LPs debuted at number one.  That’s quite an accomplishment.  It’s also a feat that Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and Usher weren’t able to do.

Six Number One Albums
Besides the four aforementioned number one platters, Bieber also saw two of his remix albums top the charts.

Never Say Never: The Remixes went to number one in February of 2014.  Believe Acoustic did the same in January of 2013.

In total, Bieber has six number one albums to his credit.  That’s more number one albums than Bob Dylan, Aerosmith, The Who, or Bon Jovi ever achieved.

Sales
Bieber’s first three studio albums have all been certified platinum.  His latest offering, Purpose, is well on its way to the million units sold plateau.

Purpose sold 649,000 “equivalent album units” in its first week on the streets.  That’s the best sales week of Bieber’s career.

In other words…

…the demise of “Bieber Fever” has been greatly exaggerated.

A Single Number One “Single”
One of the areas where Justin Bieber has not performed like you’d expect the most famous pop singer in world to perform is number one singles.

Bieber has placed only one single on top of the Billboard Hot 100.  That lone single is “What Do You Mean” released Aug. 28, 2015.

Bieber does have 14 Top 20 singles and 8 Top 10 singles.  He’s been a part of five other Top 20 singles either as a featured artist or via promotional singles.

What’s really impressive is in his young career, Justin Bieber has already charted 63 singles on the Hot 100—that includes singles as a feature artist and promotional singles (including the cringe worthy “We Are the World 25 for Haiti”).

To put that 63 in perspective, The Beatles landed 71 singles on the Hot 100.

Big Time Debut
One of the songs you’ll probably hear during the upcoming Justin Bieber tour is “One Time.”  That’s the artist’s debut single.

“One Time” peaked at #17 on Billboard’s Hot 100.  It went on to be certified 5x Platinum.

That’s a better debut than The Rolling Stones, Madonna, Whitney Houston, Adele, or Taylor Swift had.

Road Warrior
The Purpose World Tour will be back in the U.S. in 2017 and you’ll be able to see Bieber at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA on 8/29/17.

Already, the singer has made nearly 300 tour stops and grossed more than $53 million.  That’s a lot of concert tickets for a seasoned performer much less one that’s still too young to rent a car.

The “Purpose World Tour” is Bieber’s third major trek.  His first major outing was the “My World Tour” which began in 2010.  His second was the “Believe Tour” launched in 2012.

Get this…

…Bieber has performed on every continent but Antarctica.

The Big Rooms
Bieber has not only played a bunch of shows, but he has done so at the world’s biggest venues.

We’ve already mentioned that he’s performing at Madison Square Garden, also during his upcoming tour Justin Bieber will be at Staples Center in Los Angeles, American Airlines Center in Dallas, the Phillips Arena in Atlanta, the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, and the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.

In past tours, Bieber has performed London’s O2 Arena, Dubai’s The Sevens Stadium, and the Foro Sol in Mexico City.

Number One Artist
For the first time in his career, Justin Bieber topped Billboard’s Artist 100 chart (for the week ending Nov. 28, 2015).  That’s a list Billboard created in July of 2014 that measures an artist’s sales, airplay, and social media fan interaction.

Since its inception, the chart has been dominated by Taylor Swift (31 total weeks), The Weeknd (8 weeks), and country artists (5 weeks).

Landing on the top of the Artist 100 isn’t Bieber’s greatest accomplishment but it’ certainly another feather in his cap.

Also, it says that more than five years into his career, the pop singer is showing no signs of slowing down.

5 Seconds Of Summer And The Science Of Music

5SOSConcert

5 Seconds Of Summer And The Science Of Music

I don’t like NBC’s TODAY show, but much to my chagrin, it’s the morning news show of record and always on my cable box when I wake up (I fall asleep watching Fallon).

So, it’s not uncommon that I watch the TODAY show, if only a few minutes.

On the morning of Oct. 28, me and my cup of coffee sat down and turned on the television.  Needless to say, the TODAY show was on.

My timing couldn’t have been better (or worse).  The Australian heartthrobs, 5 Seconds of Summer, were just about to perform their single, “She’s Kinda Hot.” 

When I heard the title of their song I snickered and almost spilled my cup of Joe.

“She’s Kinda Hot”
“She’s Kinda Hot,” the lead single from their sophomore effort Sounds Good Feels Good, is a title I find quite stultifying.  I rank the epithet with such vapid designations as “Call Me Maybe” “Cailfornia Gurls,” and "All About That Bass.”

Curious, one might say morbidly curious, I put down the remote control and watched.  I wanted to hear if the song was as bad as its title. 

I also felt a diabolical urge to chuckle at hordes of swooning teenage girls who were cutting class and being chaperoned by their mothers.

Guitarist Michael Clifford began playing the song’s opening riff over a cacophony of lovesick squeals and the rattle of Savannah Guthrie’s teeth.  He was soon joined by his bandmates: Luke Hemmings, Calum Hood, and Ashton Irwin.   

Then something strange happened.  It was as strange as Matt Lauer asking a pertinent question.  I found myself tapping my feet and singing along. 

Damn!  Those kids write one heck of a catchy song. 

Revolution
Actually, the song was written by Michael Clifford, Ashton Irwin, Benji Madden, Joel Madden (both of Good Charlotte) and producer John Feldmann.

As it turns out, the song isn’t vapid at all.  It’s quite deep. 

It’s an anthem of sorts.  As Calum explained in a radio interview, the song is “a revolution for outcasts.”

They say we’re losers and we’re alright with that
We are the leaders of the not-coming-back’s

Rock Snob
Okay, the lyrics are interesting and meaningful.  Still, how can someone like me enjoy any song by 5 Seconds of Summer?

One, there’s my age.  I’m old enough that if I was caught visiting 5 Seconds of Summer’s web site I’d be put on a list. 

Furthermore, I own a Velvet Underground t-shirt.  I’ve seen The National in concert (twice).  And I own a reel-to-reel player.  A REEL-TO-REEL PLAYER FOLKS!

I shouldn’t like any music 5SOS plays.  I shouldn’t like any music 5SOS likes.

My attraction to “She’s Kinda Hot” is preposterous.

Or is it?

5 Seconds Of Science
After a little research, I learned that my appreciation for their ditty is not necessarily a crack in my personality, or even a fault in my taste for music.  No, my affinity for “She’s Kinda Hot” is all about science.

Music affects a part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens. That’s the same part of the noodle that releases dopamine.  Dopamine is also known as the “pleasure chemical.”

You know what other activities affect the nucleus accumbens?  Yes, that’s right, the activities of sex, eating food, and taking drugs. 

Basically, the nucleus accumbens is the part of the brain that’s triggered by sex, drugs, and rock and roll!

Music also affects another part of the noggin called the amygdala.  The amygdala processes emotions and helps in abstract decision making.

In other words, music affects the most advanced and most primitive areas of the brain. 

Intellectual Conquest
Here’s how my gray matter worked on that fateful October morn:

My brain processed “She’s Kinda Hot” and realized it sounded familiar.  “She’s Kinda Hot” sounded similar to other songs I’ve heard.  My brain had recognized patterns.

Yet, “She’s Kinda Hot” was just different enough to force my brain to predict what was coming next.  My brain predicted the future (so to speak).

As neuroscientist Valorie Salimpoor puts it, I made an “intellectual conquest.”

My brain rewarded my “intellectual conquest” by releasing dopamine.  My brain does this to ensure that I’ll do it again—that I’ll listen to music again. 

In many ways, music is a safe “drug.” 

Cultural & Personal Experiences
Also at play, are cultural and personal experiences.  I grew up listening to classic rock and classic alternative.  Therefore, the pop-punk sensibilities of 5 Seconds of Summer are familiar to me.

If I had grown up listening to the Ragas of India, there would have been no way for me to make an “intellectual conquest” of 5 Seconds’ music.

It was important that I was ignorant of “She’s Kinda Hot.”  When scientists conducted experiments to prove the above, they did so by using songs their test subjects had never heard before.

That is important since previously heard songs may come with emotional baggage.  The song was playing during one’s first kiss or during a painful breakup or by Three Doors Down.

Evolution
Remember when I wrote that sex and eating release dopamine?  That makes sense since sex and eating are necessary for survival.  Music is not.

Scientists believe that music releases dopamine because it encourages humans to recognize patterns and imagine (predict the future).  While those two things don’t perpetuate the species they are certainly crucial to human beings dominating the planet.

Ergo…

Even though I’m a rock snob, I can’t fight evolution.   So you can go ahead and tweet it to Five Seconds of Summer, my brain likes their songs.

5SOS Live
With heir dopamine-releasing music, their boyish good looks, and their Aussie charm it’s no wonder millions of people are preparing to flock to Five Seconds of Summer concerts next summer.

Five Seconds of Summer kick off the North American leg of their “Sounds Live Feels Live Tour” on July 1 in Uncasville, Connecticut at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

Highlights of their tour include July 9 in Boston, July 15 in New York City (at Madison Square Garden), and Sept. 7 in Los Angeles.

On July 22, Five Seconds of Summer visit Birmingham, Alabama and the Oak Mountain Amphitheatre.

The boys will remain in North America through the middle of September.  Their final date is Sept. 18 in Houston. 

Also look for the band in Asia, Europe, Ireland, and the UK.

Black Sabbath Tour 2016 Will Be ‘The End’

BlackSabbath

Black Sabbath Tour 2016 Will Be ‘The End’

Black Sabbath released their self-titled debut album in 1970.

In the U.K., the album dropped on Feb. 13.  A week earlier, The Doors released Morrison Hotel.  A week later, Funkadelic released their self-titled debut.

That’s a pretty good couple of weeks of music.  Had I been alive back then, I definitely would have spent all of my February allowance on vinyl.

Two days after Black Sabbath’s debut hit the streets in America, Deep Purple issued their classic Deep Purple in Rock.

That’s appropriate since Ian Gillan played in both bands and Black Sabbath and Deep Purple (along with Led Zeppelin) were the main hard rock/heavy metal bands of the 1970s.

Fast forward 45 years, and Black Sabbath has announced intentions to tour one last time.  Yes, that’s right, Black Sabbath is launching a farewell tour.

Their tour poster reads: “The final tour by the greatest metal band of all time.”

Lineup
Their upcoming trek will feature Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, and Geezer Butler—three of the band’s original members.

Drummer Bill Ward (the fourth original member) had a falling out with the fellows in 2012 and it’s unknown if he’ll join.  Iommi said it’s all up to “Bill.”  

As things stand now, Tommy Clufetos, Ozzy’s drummer, is set to sit in.

Last Tour
The band last toured in 2014.  That’s when they wrapped up their 84-show “Reunion Tour” (it launched in 2012).  The trek visited five continents and supported the band’s nineteenth studio album, 13.

The album 13 was the first Black Sabbath platter to feature Geezer Butler since 1994 and the first to feature Ozzy Osbourne since 1978.

New Album?
As for a new Black Sabbath album, Iommi said he’s been writing, and “tracks are ready,” but he also said things are “up in the air.” 

One has to assume if they don’t get into the studio real soon (like right now) there won’t be a new Sabbath album… ever!  It seems a little weird to release a new album after your farewell tour.

Also, you have to believe that after a year on the road, the members will be sick of one another and the last thing they’ll want to do is spend more time together in the studio.

Farewell Tours
Sabbath’s ultimate tour comes when Motley Crüe and The Who are winding down their own farewell outings.

So…

Black Sabbath, Motley Crüe, and The Who are all saying “no more touring” forever.  What are the chances that any of those bands will stay true to their word?

Motley Crüe apparently signed a binding legal document stating they would never tour again.  Who knows if they will abide to those terms?  After all, members of that band have killed people so breaking a legal document seems well within their means.

Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey don’t need the money like John Entwistle did and touring just makes them the butt of a bunch of old jokes.  It’s highly conceivable they actually mean it when they say goodbye.

As for Sabbath, it appears this will definitely be their last go around. 

Tough Travels
“I can’t actually do this anymore,” notes Iommi.  “My body won’t take it much more.  All the traveling involved in Sabbath tours increasingly takes its toll.”

To clarify, Iommi loves performing and he loves Sabbath fans.  It’s not the rocking, or face shredding, or ear melting that “takes its toll” it’s the grind of traveling.   

Even though he’s flying, driving, and lodging in first class accommodations, the rigors of going from city to city, country to country, is just too much for the 67-year-old guitar legend.  In fact, he’ll be 69 by the time the tour is completed.

Iommi is also recovering from lymphoma.  The disease has gone into remission but he still has to check in regularly with his doctor.  

“Even when we build in rest breaks,” explains Iommi, “I have to have blood tests every six weeks.  I find it tough going.”

Between Motley Crüe, The Who, and Black Sabbath, I’ll say Sabbath is the least likely to tour again and Crüe the most likely.

The End 2016 Tour
Black Sabbath’s “The End 2016 Tour” gets underway Jan. 20 in Omaha, Nebraska.  According to Black Sabbath’s web site, their next two stops are the United Center in Chicago (Jan. 22) and the Target Center in Minneapolis (Jan. 25).

Also on the itinerary are stops in Los Angeles (Feb. 11), Las Vegas (Feb. 13), and Detroit (Feb. 19).
Of their 17 North American dates, six are in Canada: Saskatoon (Jan. 28), Edmonton (Jan. 30), Calgary (Feb. 1), Vancouver (Feb. 3), Hamilton (Feb. 21), and Montreal (Feb. 23).

Their North American leg wraps Feb. 25 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. 

Overseas
In April, Sabbath has seven dates plotted for Australia and New Zealand.

From June through early July, the band will perform all over Europe.  Their route begins in Budapest on June 1 and ends July 12 in Moscow.

According to Iommi, more dates are coming.  He says the tour, when all said and done, will last about a year.

The End
Don’t take this as hype, or as a cheap marketing ploy, but this is really your last chance to see Black Sabbath in concert.  When “The End” comes to an end expect Black Sabbath to never hit the road again. 

As Iommi said: “…we’re going out on one last tour, to say our farewells.  And then it very definitely is the end.  We won’t be doing it again.”