Musings On Music History: In Which We Celebrate The Arrivals of Kurt, Brad, and George

02.20: Kurt Cobain. That’s it. Kurt Cobain. Born on this day in 1967. The face of “grunge.” The man. The myth. The legend. If you weren’t there or weren’t paying attention at the time or were too old or too young to care, grunge came like a tornado, destroying the ’80s L.A. hair metal scene (Poison, L.A. Guns, Ratt, etc.) in a single pass, showing the L.A. poseurs for the rock wannabes they really were, their music for the insipidness it belched out on a regular basis. Cobain’s band, Nirvana , tore out of Seattle, along with Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Temple Of The Dog, Mudhoney, Screaming Trees, and Alice In Chains, in 1991, taking the music world to task, ruling rock radio for a few short years, showing the world what’s up. Actually, all the Seattle bands really wanted to do was make music, to channel their creative energies into something meaningful to themselves and a few other people. That the entire country got what they were doing attests not only to their prescience, but to the universality, at the time, of what they were doing. Namely, as in Cobain’s music, melding elements of luscious ’60s pop with punk with alternative rock, writing lyrics based on his life, his hard and disassociated life, his disenfranchised “Generation-X” attitude, and, generally, just being genuine. This isn’t to say that all Seattle music espoused this thinking or that every “grunge” band adhered to anything even remotely like this definition, but the label stuck to many bands that couldn’t make it past the times and is still heavily associated with Seattle. That Cobain took his own life just two months after his 27th birthday, following years of depression and heroin addiction, doesn’t take away what he did for music, giving us a bevy of incredible and heartfelt songs with his band Nirvana, such as the iconic “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” the aching “All Apologies,” and the incredible “Come As You Are,” and spearheading the foray of intelligent, alternative, and heady rock into the mainstream. Happy birthday, Kurt. We miss ya, kid. [more]

02.22: On this day in 1968, one Mr. Brad Nowell joined this world, a scant twenty years before he would form one of the most popular, and remembered, bands of the ’90s, the gloriously catchy and beautifully derivative Sublime. That Sublime gathered influences from punk, funk, hardcore, dub, reggae, hip-hop, and ska didn’t, however, detract from their sound, but, instead, added layer upon layer to their grooves, helping them stand out from the pack of SoCal bands barreling into the national scene (No Doubt, Offspring, Green Day). Brad wasn’t the most gifted lyricist, by any stetch of the imagination, but he was sincere and passionate about his influences and his own songs. He knew when to hit the accelerator and when to hit the breaks, when to get a pit going and when to get the dirty hippies dancing. Two self-released albums, 40 Oz. To Freedom and Robbin The Hood, and a relentless tour schedule, including a spot on the inaugural Warped Tour, helped land the band their first major label disc, on MCA. Unfortunately, Brad wouldn’t live to see its release, as he overdosed on herion in a San Fran hotel room two months before it was set to hit stores. What an album and what a waste. That eponymous album, Sublime, is still remembered fondly to this day by those who knew it back in the day, still being discovered by a new group of kids and music lovers today. From the rolling “What I Got” to the laid-back “Santeria” to the furious surf-punk of “Paddle Out“, Sublime showcased a band that’d practiced relentlessly and found their groove, that was confident in who they were and what they wanted to do. It sucks that Brad couldn’t enjoy that success. The album has sold 5 million albums to date, but that doesn’t bring Brad back. We know he would’ve done even more amazing things in the ensuing years, but there’s really no use speculatin’ and getting depressed. We just want to celebrate his life and, today, his birthday. Happy birthday, Brad! We miss you, kid.

02.25: George Harrison, “the quiet Beatle,” let it be known, on this day in 1943, with his first breaths, that he was here and he was ready to rock. As lead guitar for, inarguably, the biggest and one of the best rock bands of all time, Harrison is responsible for some of the greatest licks ever to be put on record. Though his work with the Beatles was generally overshadowed by the melodies and rhythms of John and Paul’s songwriting and instrumentation, George still managed to come out of the band with some genuinely amazing songs for his resume, including “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” Something,” and “Taxman.” After the breakup of the greatest band of all time, Harrison released a number of solo albums and became the first member of the post-Beatles to hit the top of the charts, with the Phil Spector-produced All Things Must Pass, which included “My Sweet Lord,” a truly beautiful song. Harrison also organized what has been called the very first charity rock festival when he put together The Concert For Bangladesh, which went on to influence events such as Live Aid and Farm Aid. In the ’80s, George joined a little supergroup known as The Traveling Wilburys. The band consisted of Harrison, Roy Orbison, Jeff Lynne, Bob Dylan, and Tom Petty. Holy moly! Can you say, “Awesome!”? We could then and we can now. We woulda loved to have been a fly on the wall in Dylan’s garage when they recorded that first song (yeah, they actually recorded in a garage). Harrison died from throat cancer in November of 2001. Today, we celebrate his birth and his life. We can’t wait to go home and put on The Beatles Revolver, open a beer, sit on the porch, and let the music wash over us. We miss ya, George. Happy birthday.

02.26: A day of mourning, we were all cursed today in 1954, as the birth of an abomination heralded the coming of dark days, when Michael Bolton clawed his way into this world, ready to assault our collective ears with the schmaltz he passes off as music, ready to take something as beautiful as “(Sitting On) The Dock Of The Bay” and turn it into an unlistenable pile. (We hate to link to that video, but you have to hear it for yourself. It’s awful, especially when compared to Otis’ version, which is simply incredible.) Seriously, why would someone do that?! It makes us cry and curl up, fetal-like, in a corner, racked with sickening convulsions. It makes us angry that so many people don’t know, because of the undeserved popularity of Bolton’s version, that the amazing Otis Redding wrote and recorded the song way back in 1967. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, if Otis were alive, he’d totally kick Bolton’s butt. We envision him doing it today, on Bolton’s b-day, singing the birthday song as he did it, and then topping off the butt kicking with the awesome whistle part from “Dock Of The Bay.” It would be glorious and is the only thing that can bring a smile to our face on this sad, depressing day.

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