Results for British Invasion

interviews

Billy Bragg

Roots, Radicals and Rockers In the 1950s, a surprising, short-lived musical craze swept across the UK: skiffle, a raw version of African-American blues and folk performed by white British youth. Folk-punk singer-songwriter Billy Bragg has written about skiffle in his new book Roots, Radicals and Rockers. This week, he sits down with producer Evan Chung to make the case for skiffle as the origin of English guitar pop and the first sign of the DIY sensibility of punk.

Skiffle emerged out of the trad jazz scene – an early New Orleans jazz revivalist movement in the UK. In the middle of their sets, the trad jazz musicians would put down their horns and pick up acoustic guitars, washboards, and upright basses to play the songs of Leadbelly, Big Bill Broonzy, and others. Skiffle hit the top of the pop charts in both the UK and the US when Lonnie Donegan released his version of Leadbelly's "Rock Island Line." Bragg argues that this was a revolutionary moment that taught British youth that anyone could play the guitar – and led to skyrocketing guitar sales. As a result, members of The Beatles, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Van Morrison, David Bowie, and even ABBA got their start in DIY skiffle groups. According to Bragg, if you want to understand everything that came after in the UK – from the British Invasion to the English folk revival to R&B to punk – you have to look at the impact that skiffle had on the emerging British teenage culture.

Go to episode 613

Ernie Isley

Few groups can claim the sustained success of The Isley Brothers, in no small part due to the contributions of our guest Ernie Isley. The Isley Brothers formed in the 1950s as a doo-wop vocal group in Cincinatti, scoring huge hits with the wedding staples "Shout" and "Twist and Shout." They managed to survive the British Invasion, assisted by the incredible playing of their young guitarist Jimi Hendrix. With the addition of two more brothers, Ernie and Marvin, the band started to branch out into funk, soul, psychedelia, rock, and disco. It's this willingness to defy categorization that's led to the Isleys' longevity – the band scored the rare feat of charting in six consecutive decades.

Ernie Isley picked up where Hendrix left off on guitar, creating an unmistakeable tone featured on hits like "That Lady" and "Summer Breeze." But his contributions as a songwriter were just as vital, including a pair of sociallly conscious anthems in 1975: "Harvest for the World" and "Fight the Power," which Ernie penned in the shower before a trip to Disneyland. The Isleys' influence continues to be heard today in the hip-hop realm. Artists from Ice Cube to Notorious B.I.G. to Kendrick Lamar have crafted iconic songs from Isley Brothers samples. The band is now being honored with a massive boxset called The RCA Victor & T-Neck Album Masters (1959-1983), and even that just scratches the surface of the Isleys' long career.

Go to episode 509
classic album dissections

Big Star Radio City

Jim and Greg celebrate the 40th anniversary of Big Star's debut album by revisiting their Classic Album Dissection of the band's first two records, #1 Record and Radio City. #1 Record might be nearing middle age, but the pop sound Big Star pioneered in the seventies is as vibrant as ever. As Jim and Greg discuss, the band changed the history of American music, without selling very many records. With a sound that combined Memphis Soul with British Invasion rock, they laid the groundwork for American“Power Pop”and influenced bands including R.E.M., Wilco and The Replacements. The original Big Star lineup included former Box Tops singer Alex Chilton, Chris Bell, Andy Hummel and Jim and Greg's guest this week, drummer Jody Stephens.

Following their discussion with Jody Stephens, Jim and Greg each discuss and play a song. Greg chooses to highlight the opening track from #1 Record called "Feel." The song was written and performed by Chris Bell. While Alex Chilton is the name most people associate with Big Star, Bell really created it. Most of his incredible work didn't see the light of day until after his death at age 26, but Greg thinks songs like“Feel,”illustrate the power of his voice and lyrics-many of which convey the problems he faced in his short life.

Jim plays a song written and performed by Alex Chilton from the second album called "September Gurls." As he discussed with Jody earlier in the show, this was a breakout song for the band and one that was immediately adored by critics and fans including The Bangles, who later covered it. Jim's not sure what the song means, but for him it's more about the mood that Chilton created. With its sweeping melodies and“pan-sexuality”it's a power pop classic.

Go to episode 365
reviews
Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm NotWhatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not available on iTunes

The Arctic Monkeys Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not

One of the albums Jim and Greg review this week made so much news that they need to discuss it at the top of the show. The British band The Arctic Monkeys broke records this week when its debut album became the fastest selling in British chart history. While neither Jim nor Greg can fully comprehend this phenomenon, they both like the record. Jim gives the album a Buy It rating, but admits that The Arctic Monkeys are not nearly as amazing as the hype might have you believe. Greg likes lead singer Alex Turner's Streets-like approach to lyrics, but doesn't think the Arctic Monkeys are a great band yet. He gives Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not a Buy It too.

The Arctic Monkeys are not the first British band to face this kind of hype. There have been a number of UK bands who achieved rave reviews and huge success but were never able to break out across the pond. A look at lists compiled by British media outlets The Guardian and NME demonstrate this point. Bands like The Jam, The Stone Roses, The Libertines, Blur and The Smiths are up there with The Beatles and The Clash in the minds and hearts of British fans and critics, yet none of these groups achieved any major fame in the States. One theory given by Jim: Americans are discerning of imports ever since the first "British Invasion." Greg points out that there was a second British invasion in the '80s, and wonders if it is the very Britishness of some of these bands that prevent American fans from identifying. Or perhaps some tastes just don't translate.

JimGreg
Go to episode 10
The Odd CoupleThe Odd Couple available on iTunes

Gnarls Barkley The Odd Couple

Next up is a review of an album that's sure to make news in 2008. Gnarls Barkley has released their highly anticipated second album The Odd Couple. This is the follow-up to 2006's successful release St. Elsewhere, which featured the hit single "Crazy." The genre-blending duo consisting of singer/songwriter Cee-Lo Green and DJ Danger Mouse went for an even darker mood on this album, and both Jim and Greg think it's a success. Jim loves the psychedelic universe Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse created-one that's part soul, part rock, part hip-hop. He admits that there are no "Crazy"-style singles, but gives The Odd Couple a big Buy It. Greg was impressed by how the two men take traditional pop genres like British invasion and Motown, and update them for the 21st century. And beneath the psychedelic swirl of sounds are great melodies and complicated lyrics. Greg seconds the Buy It rating.

JimGreg
Go to episode 122
lists

Unsung Heroes of Rock

Now it's time to hail the Unsung Heroes of Rock. The Micks and Bonos of the world may get all the acclaim, but it's often the little guy who deserves much of the credit. Jim and Greg have gone through the rock canon to honor these lesser-known musicians.

Jerome Green

Without Bo Diddley, there wouldn't be a Mick Jagger as we know it. And without Jerome Green, there wouldn't have been a Bo Diddley. His maracas helped to create Diddley's signature“shuffling freight train”sound, and his cool attitude helped to create the performers signature style — one that would be emulated by many.

Hal Blaine

Blaine is responsible for one of the most famous drum intros in rock. Just listen to "Be My Baby," by The Ronettes, and you‘ll hear how Blaine is as important to that era’s sound as producer Phil Spector was.

Ben“Bosstone”Carr

There's a history of go-go dancers in rock, but of course, they're hard to showcase on the radio. Jim thinks Ben“Bosstone”Carr deserves credit for bringing style and maniacal energy to the band.

Augie Myers

The name might have you drawing a blank, but Myers is a critical figure in rock. Greg is most impressed by how his vox continental organ managed to add a greasy, Texas sound to what was essentially another imitation British invasion band.

John Paul Jones

John Paul Jones deserves credit simply for keeping his own among the three biggest figures and egos in rock. He could pretty much play anything he got his hands on, but it was with the bass on songs like "Black Dog," that he really shone.

Ringo Starr

Onto a man who was easily the least important member of a very important band. Or so you might think. Jim says he'll fight anyone who underplays his drumming. He was never a show-off, allowing the vocals and guitars to shine when they needed to. But when there was an opportunity to come to the center, Starr accepted the challenge. Jim's been trying to master the drumming in "Rain" since he was a kid.

James Jamerson

The Motown band members weren't even given credits on most of the songs they played on, but the reason you“move your butt”to most of those songs is because of James Jamerson. He not only played rhythm, but bass melodies, injecting a whole new style into rock.

Malcolm Young

With his knickers and beanie, everyone recognizes younger brother Angus. But, it was Malcom who gave AC/DC their signature riffs. And one of their best, and one of the best in all of rock music according to Greg, is "Highway to Hell."

Go to episode 112
news

Music News

Taylor Swift dominated 2014 with her album 1989, selling 3.6 million copies and narrowly beating out Disney's Frozen for the top spot. With only four records achieving platinum status, not even Queen Bey made the cut this year. 2014 also saw a change in how consumers listened to music, as streaming increased 54% and vinyl sales were at their highest since 1991.

Just when people thought they "forgot about Dre", it turns out he was the highest paid musician of 2014 according to Forbes. Dr. Dre made $620 million before taxes, which can be attributed to his success with Beats headphones and collaboration with Apple. In second place is Beyoncé. Rounding out the top five are boomer acts The Eagles, Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen.

For the first time in UK chart history, the ten best-selling albums of the year were British acts. Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith, Coldplay and One Direction all held prominent places on the list, perhaps signaling that there is another British invasion on the way.

vx2 Sony is reintroducing the Walkman to give music enthusiasts a new old obsession. This Walkman has 128 GB of memory and 60 hours of battery life, and the device is competing with Neil Young's Pono, another high-fidelity music player. Young says his device does not do anything but play music and argues that is what it all should be about.

Go to episode 476

Music News

First up in the news is a discussion of Wal-Mart's plan to cut prices dramatically. The number one music retailer has announced a five-tier plan that would bring some titles down to as low as $5. Labels are not responding positively, but as Greg explains, they don't really have an option other than to cooperate-Wal-Mart dominates the music retail industry. Jim is in favor of such low prices, but notes that the plan could be disastrous to independent stores.

Also making news is PitchforkMedia.com. The music website has been the prevailing force in indie music criticism and discourse since it debuted 12 years ago. Now they are going one step further to offer Pitchfork.TV, a website dedicated to offering“original mini-documentaries, secret rooftop and basement sessions, full concerts, exclusive interviews, and the most carefully curated selection of music videos online.”Greg is intrigued by this MTV-like idea, but Jim is concerned about conflict of interest. With an annual concert, deals with video game manufacturers and now its own video“channel,”Pitchfork is moving further away from music journalism and closer to an empire on par with Rolling Stone.

Mike Smith, lead singer of The Dave Clark Five died last week at the age of 64. Greg thinks the British invasion band is one of the most underrated of its time. The group had 15 top 20 hits in a two-year span and also appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show 18 times. While The Dave Clark Five is named after the drummer, Mike Smith was central to the band's songwriting and sound. To honor him, Jim and Greg play the 1964 tune "Bits and Pieces."

Go to episode 119

Music News

Donnasummer Last week Disco queen Donna Summer died at age 63. Jim and Greg talk about her gospel and musical theater roots and her contributions to pop music. People relegate Summer to the disco ghetto, but really she spanned many genres and didn't stop working after the 1970's. Her work with Giorgio Moroder also greatly contributed to the development of electronic music.

robingibb Only days after Summer's passing, we learned of the death of Bee Gees founder Robin Gibb. The 62-year-old had been battling cancer for some time. But before you say,“Groan…the Bee Gees,”know that the trio sold 200 million records worldwide, and not all of them copies of Saturday Night Fever. Their music from that 1977 movie defined the disco movement for many people, but the Bee Gees had hits in five different decades. And they thought of themselves more as blue-eyed soul singers. To honor Gibb, Greg highlights one of their tracks from the British Invasion period called "Every Christian Lion Hearted Man Will Show You."

Go to episode 339