ROCK NEWS TODAY
ROCK NEWS TODAY
Relive Joe Cocker’s Iconic Performance At Woodstock
On August 17th, 1969, amid the now-legendary Woodstock Music & Art Fair, English bluesman Joe Cocker delivered one of the most storied performances in the history of rock and roll. The gravelly-voiced singer was a relatively new name at the time but was rapidly garnering an impassioned fan base as he started playing bigger shows.
While his performances predominantly featured covers of other artists’ material, it was the all-consuming physical and emotional passion with which he reimagined them that made him a star. In the words of rock and roll historian and Indiana University music studies professor Dr. Glenn Glass, Cocker “became the music,” solving the enduring question of “what is a frontman without a guitar supposed to do with himself?” With ferocious, spasmodic movements, shuddering and writhing like a man possessed, Cocker “was just transported somewhere else.”
Following an opening pair of Traffic covers performed without Cocker’s vocals by his backing outfit, The Grease Band, Cocker emerged to lead them through Bob Dylan‘s “Dear Landlord” and the set’s sole original song, “Something’s Coming On”. Honeybus‘s “Do I Still Figure In Your Life?”
followed, before Cocker led yet another reimagined cover of a Traffic tune, “Feelin’ Alright”, which would go on to be one of the most beloved tools in his repertoire. Another Dylan tune, “Just Like A Woman”, was next, and The Coasters‘ “Let’s Go Get Stoned” came in close behind it.
A cover of Ray Charles‘ “I Don’t Need No Doctor” was similarly reinvigorated by Cocker’s unhinged emotion and showmanship before yet another Bob Dylan cover, “I Shall Be Released”, brought the set to its final minutes.
If you’re reading this and you’re unfamiliar with Cocker’s work and legacy, it may seem strange that such an acclaimed show was composed virtually entirely of covers. At the time, and in the years that followed, Cocker’ would deal with his fair share of critics who believe he made a career from passing off the musical and stylistic ideas of other artists—particularly Black artists—as his own. Ray Charles himself even spoke out against Cocker for these reasons.
But the essence of Cocker’s enduring legacy, the true merit of his artistic vision, is perhaps best described by the Woodstock set’s final song: a totally revamped, fiercely emotional rendition of The Beatles‘ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band hit “With A Little Help From My Friends”. Cocker and his band’s performance of the song was utterly magnetic, transforming the already incredible song into a gospel-flavored soulful spectacle and painting Joe as its mad maestro.
Cocker’s recorded version of the song went on to hit #1 on the UK charts, was used as the theme song for the hit TV show The Wonder Years, and has generally entered the American cultural lexicon as a powerhouse in its own right. Joe Cocker’s Woodstock set helped vault him to stardom, and his enthralling rendition of “With A Little Help From My Friends” still remains after his death as the centerpiece of his lasting legacy.
Frank Zappa’s Cover Of “Whipping Post” Will Blow You Away
In 1984, Frank Zappa released a studio version of the Allman Brothers Band ‘s classic “Whipping Post” as the closing track on his album Them or Us.
He would occasionally include the Southern blues-rock ballad on his live setlists—an atypical move for the anti-hippie musical visionary—but the story of the song’s origin in his repertoire is characteristically organic and mischievous.
AEROSMITH'S BRAD WHITFORD TALKS MUSICAL BEGINNINGS
ibson has released the latest episode in their series, “The Collection”. A message follows:
“If we were to ask you to name one of your favorite US rock bands from the last 50 years, odds are Aerosmith would be at the top of your list. The band has earned over twenty top 40 singles, 4 Grammys, and an induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.
Guitarist Brad Whitford has been there since the beginning and has some pretty cool Toys In The Attic to show for it. Join host Mark Agnesi as he talks musical beginnings, inspiration, and of course, guitars with Brad in this episode of The Collection.”
The Grateful Dead Debuted “New Speedway Boogie” 53 Years Ago Today
The late 1960s and early 1970s were prime for the Grateful Dead, as the band wrestled through the country’s political turmoil with their unique brand of performances. The Dead’s psychedelic-inspired journeys incorporated countless elements of the musical spectrum tied directly to the counterculture movement.
One directly topical song they produced was “New Speedway Boogie”, a shuffling blues number penned by Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia. Though the song would ultimately appear on the Workingman’s Dead album in early 1970, it made its live debut on December 20th, 1969, at The Fillmore West in San Francisco, CA.
According to Hunter, the song was written as a direct response to a popular article by famed San Francisco music critic Ralph J. Gleason published just after the tragedy of Altamont. The free concert was held outside San Francisco at the Altamont Raceway Park and organized by The Rolling Stones with help from the Grateful Dead, but quickly fell apart due to poor planning and led to the murder of 18-year-old Meredith Hunter at the hands of the Hells Angels. Gleason, like many both then and now, saw the tragedy as the end of the counterculture movement.
“New Speedway Boogie” opens with the line “Please don’t dominate the rap, Jack, if you’ve got nothing new to say,” which Hunter said referred to Gleason. In the aftermath of Altamont, many fingers began placing the blame on the Grateful Dead since San Francisco was their home turf and they did advocate for the Hells Angels to provide security considering their early history of employing the outlaw motor club at concerts. Hunter said of the lyrics,
Jack was [writer] Ralph J. Gleason, and why are you laying all this blame on us? It was badly conceived to move that thing from Golden Gate Park. We were going to do the show for free there, and then suddenly after the Rolling Stones were involved, San Francisco said no, so we went to Altamont. Had to do it. Now is it our fault or is it the San Francisco city council’s fault that that went down? Who’s to say, you know, so in time we may understand. That’s what the song says, and in time we may not understand.
Altamont occurred on December 6th, 1969, and the song was debuted just two weeks later in San Francisco.
Interestingly enough, “New Speedway” was only played on a handful of occasions in 1969 and 1970, before ultimately being shelved until 1991. You can hear that fateful debut version played 53 years ago today,