essay Archive

A Guilty-pleasure Look Back at The Jerky Boys

Americans of a certain age will remember the phenomenon of the prank phone call. In the pre-cell phone era, everyone had either a landline or no phone at all, and unless one paid extra to the phone company (and in those days there was only one phone company), your number was published in a thick

Don’t Ever Change: The Beatles’ ‘Live at the BBC’ at 25

The Beatles’ final album, Let it Be, was released in May 1970. With the exception of the 1977 LP The Beatles Live at the Hollywood Bowl and two same-named but different records titled Rarities in 1978, there would be no release of previously-unheard Beatles music until the middle of the 1990s. That wasn’t the plan.

The Church: Further, Deeper, Infinity

This essay appeared previously in NewCity. The Church debuted with Of Skin and Heart (known worldwide as The Church) in 1981. The Australian foursome never fit neatly into the then-thriving new wave movement; while guitarist Marty Willson-Piper’s jangling guitars bore some sonic connection with the American West Coast’s so-called “Paisley Underground” movement, the band’s moody,

Brian Wilson: Do It Again

The standard take on Brian Wilson is also the most accurate one. It can be neatly divided into two parts. First part: The man is a genius. There’s simply no denying that Wilson is a force of nature; his command of the recording studio-as-instrument is almost beyond compare, which itself is fascinating in light of

Hiss Golden Messenger: Deeply Personal Yet Inviting

The music of Hiss Golden Messenger illustrates the point that the distance is not as great as one might think between folk music and other musical forms. Formed in North Carolina in 2007, Hiss Golden Messenger has long been more of a collective – with various temporary members coming and going – more than a

Jimmy Herring: Knocking Down Genre Boundaries

Jimmy Herring is a hero to the jam-band community. But the guitarist’s gifts extend well beyond appealing to the noodle-dancing crowd; an in-demand collaborator, he’s worked with acclaimed jazz fusion artists including Billy Cobham and John McLaughlin as well. Herring got his start in fusion; his formal studies include Berklee College of Music; he graduated

Gang of Four: The Gang’s Still Here

Rising out of the tail-end of the late 1970s Great Britain music scene (thus earning the “postpunk” label), Gang of Four combined dub reggae and punk, with funk undercurrents. The Leeds quartet provocatively named themselves after the cadre of Chinese Communist Party officials who wielded power in the 1960s. And while Gang of Four have

Adam Ant: What Do He Do?

MTV (younger readers note: that used to stand for Music Television) seemed custom made for an artist such as Adam Ant. The British music personality born Stuart Goddard had just the right mix of visual impact and musical appeal to thrive in the early 1980s MTV era. His band Adam and the Ants was, in

The Mekons: Rock ‘n Roll

Influential critic and rock journalist Lester Bangs once described the Mekons as “the most revolutionary group in the history of rock ‘n’ roll.” Hyperbole aside, Bangs had a point. Formed during Britain’s first wave of punk rock, Mekons are today the only group left standing. They’re endured by resolutely doing things their own way, and

Brian Auger: To Oblivion and Beyond

Among the most rock-oriented of soul jazz musicians (as well as perhaps the jazziest of all rockers) Brian Auger is a musician of legendary talent and taste. Even though his primary instrument is the Hammond organ – followed by electric piano – most listeners first heard Auger on harpsichord; that’s him playing the memorable keyboard