Musings On Music History: In Which Otis Hits, Van Halen Rocks, and Sid Is Released

01.27: “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay” became Otis Redding’s one and only #1 hit, entering the charts on this day in 1968, just a little over a month-and-a-half after he died in a plane crash at the age of 26 (which still blows our mind and makes us sad). Now, get ready for some learnin’, kids. Otis actually wrote the bulk of the song while he was staying on a houseboat – in a bay! Richardson Bay to be exact, in-between the beautiful California towns of Sausalito and Strawberry (sounds like a ’70s disco duo). The song departed from Otis’ deep soul style, flirting with more pop sensibilities, inspired and influenced by The Beatles, allowing his writing partner, Steve Cooper, to pen more personal lyrics. Before Otis’ death, they’d planned on recording the last verse, for which lyrics still needed to be written, but which is held now and forever in place with that insanely awesome whistle solo, and adding a horn section or backup vocals by The Staple Singers. These things, of course, never happened. Those plans ended in a cold lake in Wisconsin, two days after the song’s recording. This is one of those things that just make us sit up and reflect on not only the nature and frailty of life, but also the beauty of which life is capable, the amazing ability of people to produce lasting art and have that art affect generations. This is Otis. This is his legacy. If “Dock Of The Bay” is your in, then you should take it because to explore Otis’ catalog is to explore the history and vitality of not only soul music, but music itself.

01.28: Tying back in to Mr. Van Halen’s b-day two days ago, this day in 1984 saw Van Halen’s 1984 hit the album charts for an impressive run of rock popularity, churning out hits such as “Jump,” “Panama,” and “Hot For Teacher,” which itself spawned one of the best videos ever to impress impressionable young men everywhere (it doesn’t hurt that the song absolutely shreds). Quite a week for the then-recently-turned-27-Eddie and the rest of the guys. 1984 turned out to be one of their most popular albums, both critically and commercially, yet also turned out to be the last recorded with Diamond David Lee Roth. Every album after this one held the Van Halen moniker, but we consider them to be either easy listening palatable (the Van Hagar years) or just complete crap (check out the Gary Cherone years, if you don’t believe us). Though they’ve redeemed themselves recently with the reunion tours and the announcement of a new album with Diamond Dave, nothing can ever be as good as the good ‘ol days, but that’s how it should be. There’s no going back, guys, but there will always be the fond memories and fuzzy feelings. And the “Hot For Teacher” video. [more]

01.28: Before and after the American Music Awards on this day in 1985, a group of Super Friends gathered at the Hall of Justice to discuss what they needed to do to combat the evil Legion of Doom, and its evil influence upon third world countries. Ha! Fooled you! There’s no such thing as the American Music Awards. Alright, enough messing around. On this day in 1985, a heretofore unheard of supergroup got together for one night and one night only to record one of the schmaltziest songs ever to accomplish the contradictory task of melting our brains (not in a good way) and helping out starving children in Africa, specifically Ethiopia. “We Are The World” eventually hit #1 and raised, along with the adjoining Hands Across America (remember that? No? Ask your parents) event, over $100 million for people in need in Africa and in our own country. We remember very awkwardly slow-dancing to “We Are The World” at a dance in junior high, remember seeing it ad nauseum on MTV, and wish that its chorus weren’t burned into our brains until the day we die, but we are glad for the good it did and for the people it helped. One question to ask yourself, though, as you watch the video, is what the hell is Dan Aykroyd doing there? Yeah, we can’t figure it out, either. Come on, there’s Tina Tuner, Michael Jackson, Ray Charles, Willie Nelson, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Steve Perry, and such a plethora of mid-’80s superstars that we do a triple double take when Aykroyd shows up (sandwiched in-between Lindsey Buckingham and Harry Belafonte). Yes, Ghostbusters was insanely popular at the time, but, by that logic, Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson shoulda been there, too, singing for the kids. Come on, at least get Ray Parker, Jr. in there. Well, we guess Aykroyd was one of the Blues Brothers, but, really, all he did was provide a little baritone to John Belushi’s spastic stylings. We know that’s way off topic, but it’s one of those things that bounces through our head, so we just needed to release it. Thanks for listening and you should watch the “We Are The World” video right now (Aykroyd is at 4:18). You won’t regret it. Unless you don’t like having that chorus ring through your skull for the next week.

02.01: This day in 2004 is a day that will go down in infamy, as the day our fragile puritanical psyche was forever scarred, as the day our collective innocence was brutally taken from us, as the day Justin Timberlake helped Janet Jackson thrust her breast upon an unsuspecting world during the Super Bowl halftime show. Oh, our eyes! They’re burning! Not boobies! How will we explain this to our children? We won’t, of course. We’ll keep them innocent and unready for the world. We’ll just make sure to punish those who let this happen, those who broadcast this, those who might possibly think about broadcasting things we deem unfit for public consumption, whether it is or not, whether the public agrees with us or not, because no one should think about boobies when they’re watching football and no one should be subjected to Janet Jackson’s (Miss Jackson’s, if your nasty) breast. We mean, just look at it. Who would want to see that thing? It’s a symbol of the moral corruption of American culture, of the lengths to which we’ve let television and sports fall and fail, and of everything that is wrong with our society. Or it’s just a breast! That’s it. Nothing else. Yeah, we can’t continue with the charade anymore, people. Sorry to make you think we’d gone all holier-than-thou on you, but we just had to prove a point. How did this “event” cause such an uproar in America? What’s the big deal? We still don’t get it. How do we celebrate, with football (which we love, BTW), humanity’s inherent violence, but repress our inherent sexual nature, without which you would not be here reading this amazing post? This does not make sense to us or ever will. We wish there was a show that was on 24-7 just showing images of Janet Jackson’s boob and amazing football plays. It’d be like ESPN with boobs. Wow, don’t steal that. It was our idea first. Thank you, Janet and Justin, for revealing the absurdity and hypocrisy of American culture. That rocked and, after Prince’s stupendous and awesomely awesome halftime show, will never be topped. Thanks for the memories, Miss Jackson.

02.01: C.C. DeVille announced to anyone who would listen, on this day in 2000, that he was leaving Poison due to lack of support for his other project, Samantha 7, which, as we all know, eventually went on to sell millions and millions and millions of albums, overshadowing everything Poison had accomplished, showing Bret Michaels who the smart one was in that band. Seriously, we didn’t even know that Poison and/or C.C. still toured/recorded/lived at the turn of the millennium. We thought grunge and its plaid-clad ilk stomped L.A. hair metal back into the trash heap from whence it emerged in the early ’80s. Guess not. We all know, or maybe not, that Bret has found a new life on the hair metal “oldies” circuit, along with this bandmates in Poison, and as the host of one of the best shows in the world, Rock Of Love, in which he searches for the truest love of his life by filtering through the entirety of America’s stripper population, but we bet C.C. wished he’d stuck around a little longer. Maybe he could’ve helped Bret in his search. Or maybe he could’ve helped Bret explain to us, the masses who endured their audio assault in the ’80s, the definition, exactly, of an “unskinny bop.”

02.02: After serving three months for assault and celebrating his release from Riker’s Island, with a small group of friends, Sid Vicious, former bassist of the seminal and recently-dissolved Sex Pistols, died from a heroin overdose on this day in 1979. Horribly and sadly ironic, Sid was also celebrating being clean and sober for three months, as he’d cleaned up while in prison. His mom, of all people, had some heroin delivered to the apartment and Sid, being Sid and being an addict, partook in the offerings. Now that’s how you celebrate sobriety! So, Sid shot up, had some fun, got more heroin (which was supposedly later found to be 99% pure), shot up some more, violently convulsed due to the overdose, was revived by his girlfriend, went to bed like nothing had happened, and quietly died in his sleep. The coroner explained that if someone who has overdosed sleeps shortly thereafter, their heart rate slows to a crawl due to the double-whammy of the heart’s natural nighttime slowing and the heroin’s doping effect on the heart. A very sad, ignominious end to a life embraced so fully.

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