Monday, February 28, 2011


I'm working my way through the 1960s in my rock history class. Sometimes it feels like a "greatest hits" anthology - Beatles! Stones! Dylan! Hendrix! Joplin! But it's also great to have occasion to revisit these artists and put their work in some sort of context so they're not just admired for their presumed greatness. That's why it's rock history after all, and not rock appreciation...

Janis is up next, and there's a particular source I've always found wonderfully revealing about her: a 1970 appearance on the Dick Cavett show, where Cavett interviews her at some length about her music and her life (not super-long but long in TV talk show terms, maybe seven minutes). It's a great distillation of all the qualities that make Joplin such a supremely complicated and interesting figure from that supremely complicated and interesting decade: she's brash and full of confidence and at the same time, vulnerable and downtrodden; she issues a great challenge to Cavett that undermines both his lame efforts at being hip and his lamer (though self-consciously so) efforts at standing up for "all men," and yet she flaunts her own emotional victimhood. The contradictions she exhibits in this interview are the same things that make her such a powerful performer and also, a figure who sometimes seemed overwrought, like she was trying too hard to please an audience that she assumed was not all on her side.

Here it is:

Monday, February 7, 2011

Gary Moore, R.I.P.

I was watching a few minutes of Good Morning America this morning and saw what seemed an incongruous piece of news moving across the ticker at the bottom of the screen: Gary Moore, former guitarist for "Thin Lizzie" (that's how they misspelled the band's name), died at age 58. I was surprised Moore had enough notoriety to make the GMA ticker, and also sad to hear he'd died so young.

I don't always go out of my way to note musicians who've passed away on this blog, but my sense is that Moore will get less general notice than most, in the U.S. at least, despite his GMA acknowledgment. And as a guitarist with distinct metal leanings, I guess this one hits a stronger chord than most (pun intended, sorry).

Weirdly I first got into Moore's playing with his solo album, Victims of the Future, which seems to be held in high regard by some (like but less so by others (like metal discographer Martin Popoff). I think his playing on the album is great. It's super fast and high energy like the best "shred" guitar, but with more straight ahead blues and rock stylistic traits, and not many of the quasi-classical flourishes that were so prevalent in 1980s metal guitar playing. Check out "Murder in the Skies" for some especially choice playing from that album.

I only got into his playing with Thin Lizzy later, and like many, especially dig his playing on the title track from their album, Black Rose, which has some of the best Celtic-inspired guitar lines adapted to heavy metal that you'll ever hear.

The UK paper The Guardian has a really good, detailed obituary about the guitarist.