Rocket Bomber

As certain as Death, Taxes, and 2-day prime shipping

filed under , 23 April 2014, 11:13 by

A recent Bloomberg article revives the old Amazon sales tax debate (if we’re still debating this) so I thought I’d dig up the appropriate links and Wikipedia articles for everyone to reference again:


In 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that there was nothing inherently unconstitutional about requiring out-of-state retailers (such as mail order companies and internet retailers) to collect state and local sales taxes on orders shipped to in-state residents. The only question was whether imposing such a requirement would cross the line from an acceptable burden on interstate commerce to an unreasonable one. Technology had greatly eased the burden of collecting taxes for multiple jurisdictions, the Court noted, but concluded that Congress should make the call.

The Court’s ruling left existing policy, under which remote retailers must collect sales taxes only in states where they have a physical presence or other tangible “nexus,” unchanged. But the Court explicitly invited Congress to revisit the policy. “The underlying issue is not only one that Congress may be better qualified to resolve, but also one that Congress has the ultimate power to resolve” the Court wrote.

Today, software and related tax services have largely eliminated any remaining difficulty in calculating and remitting sales taxes for the country’s many state and local jurisdictions. Yet Congress has so far failed to extend sales tax collection to online retailers.


So, first: the argument presented by mail-order retailers against their obligation to collect the tax [22 years ago, pre-Internet, pre-online-retail, pre-Amazon] has been made irrelevant by technology.

Second, the Supreme Court took the time to point out Congress could reverse their decision at any time with simple legislation.

Most importantly, though,

“[W]hile remote sellers are not required to collect sales taxes, the tax is still owed by the individual who made the purchase. Individuals are supposed to keep track of these purchases and pay an amount equivalent to the sales tax as a “use” tax on their state tax returns. Less than 1 percent of people do, however, and the use tax is almost impossible to enforce, which effectively exempts these purchases” [emphasis mine]

And again, from another source:


Consumers who live in a state that collects sales tax are technically required to pay the tax to the state even when an Internet retailer doesn’t collect it. When consumers are required to pay tax directly to the state, it is referred to as “use” tax rather than sales tax.

The only difference between sales and use tax is which person — the seller or the buyer — pays the state. Theoretically, use taxes are just a backup plan to make sure that the state collects revenue on every taxable item that is purchased within its borders. But because collecting use tax on smaller purchases is so much trouble, states have traditionally attempted to collect a use tax only on big-ticket items that require licenses, such as cars and boats.


And from Wikipedia:

“A use tax is a type of excise tax levied in the United States by numerous state governments. It is assessed upon tangible personal property purchased by a resident of the assessing state for use, storage, or consumption in that state (not for resale), regardless of where the purchase took place. If a resident of a state makes a purchase within his home state, full sales tax is paid at the time of the transaction. The use tax applies when a resident of the assessing state purchases an item that is not subject to his home state’s sales tax. Usually, this is due to out-of-state purchases, as well as ordering items through the mail, by phone, or over the Internet from other states. The use tax is typically assessed at the same rate as the sales tax that would have been owed (if any) had the same goods been purchased in the state of residence.” [emphasis in original]

The states of Alaska, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming don’t charge income tax so a majority of the state budget has to come from other sources, like sales tax. (Alaska and New Hampshire also don’t charge a state sales tax, but I’m sure local jurisdictions within those states do.)


“In the United States, every state with a sales tax law has a use tax component in that law applying to purchases from out-of-state mail order, catalog and e-commerce vendors, a category also known as “remote sales”. As e-commerce sales have grown in recent years, noncompliance with use tax has had a growing impact on state revenues. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that uncollected use taxes on remote sales in 2003 could be as high as $20.4 billion. Uncollected use tax on remote sales was projected to run as high as $54.8 billion for 2011.” [emphasis mine]

It is not that internet purchases are “tax free” — they’re not. It’s a matter of who collects the tax. If you want to argue that internet purchases shouldn’t be taxed, well, take that up with your elected representatives — but as noted above, this went all the way to the Supreme Court and the ruling came back that tax is still owed even if it is not collected at time of purchase — in both the 1992 case, Quill Corp. v. North Dakota and the earlier 1967 case cited as precedent, National Bellas Hess v. Illinois Department of Revenue. No one was arguing that the tax was not due, only that making out-of-state companies collect the tax constituted an unfair burden (at that time, while suffering either 1967 or later 1992 technology). The tax due is not a matter of where the company headquarters is located, or which warehouse it ships from, of if there is a ‘nexus’ in your state: it’s a matter of where you, the purchaser, live.

When you buy a book from a bookstore, or buy your groceries, or liquor, or a new couch, or a car: sales taxes get collected at the register (as listed on your receipt). Retailers send a check to local and state governments monthly, and the sales tax revenue is an important part of what keeps your local municipalities running: it would be very hard to make payroll (for say, firefighters and police officers, and to be fair, also the really awful people at the DMV – but they deserve a paycheck too) without this stream of income. Even if everyone dutifully paid the Use Tax on internet purchases (a big if) without sales tax revenues trickling in over the course of the year, your city or county would have to borrow the money to make payroll, and then wait until April (or later) to pay those loans back, incurring interest and fees that eat into already small budgets.

“In states that have the tax, households reduced their spending on Amazon by about 10 percent compared to those in states that don’t have the levy. For online purchases of more than $300, sales fell by 24 percent” – Bloomberg, citing a recent study by researchers at Ohio State University

…Well, I think that’s all we need to know about why Amazon spends millions to fight State governments attempting to collect the tax.

Eventually, Amazon *will* collect sales taxes — even if it takes an Act of Congress and a Supreme Court decision, it’s coming. But it’s also certainly to Amazon’s advantage to put off that date for as long as they possibly can.

I wonder if the historical model I should be researching is RCA, not Pocket Books?

filed under , 20 April 2014, 14:40 by

“Thinking of ebooks and printed books as comparable is like assuming that anything conveyed by means of the written word is a poem; plays, novels, stories, film scripts, letters, shopping lists and text messages exist too. Publishers have got to stop thinking of their digital products as ‘books’, and start imagining more expansive ways of communicating information. Until then, the digital revolution hasn’t even begun.”

‘The ebook revolution hasn’t even begun’ : Gaby Wood, 30 March 2014, The Telegraph


I wonder if the historical model I should be researching is RCA, not Pocket Books? The argument could be made that the Consolidated Amazon Book Cheetah™ currently thinning the fat, slow publisher herd have more in common with General Electric of the 1910s and 1920s than with cheap pocket paperbacks that appeared in 1939. GE built the devices (RCA radios) while simultaneously developing the content and networks (NBC Red and Blue) that drove demand. The later success of television rode piggyback on the real revolution that had taken place decades earlier.

Don't Stop... Be-lieee-vin'...

filed under , 2 April 2014, 18:48 by

This is another in-fill post, as the links and embeds below were shared on my Twitter ages ago (…it was January) but I was reminded of very important PBS documentary because—like two of the videos I linked to on Sunday—the video is not on YouTube, not for free, anyway.

Wikipedia Wisdom:

“In the summer of 2007, Journey began searching for a new lead singer. After Jonathan Cain and Neal Schon found videos of Jeremey Hunsicker performing with his Journey tribute band Frontiers on YouTube, they made a last minute decision to fly across the country to Charlotte, North Carolina to watch Hunsicker perform. After the show, Schon and Cain approached Hunsicker and invited him to fly out to California and audition for the position as lead vocalist for Journey. Hunsicker rehearsed with the band and they wrote songs together for the band’s upcoming album Revelation. Ultimately things did not work out between Journey and Hunsicker. Although he did not become the new singer for the band Hunsicker did receive credit for helping to write the song ‘Never Walk Away’ which was the leading track on the album Revelation.

“In December 2007, Journey hired Filipino singer Arnel Pineda of the cover band The Zoo after Neal Schon saw him on YouTube singing covers of Journey songs. Their next album, Revelation, debuted at No.5 on the Billboard charts, selling more than 196,000 units in its first two weeks and staying in the top 20 for 6 weeks. Journey also found success on billboard’s adult contemporary chart where the single ‘After All These Years’ spent over 23 weeks, peaking at number 9. Receipts from the 2008 tour made Journey one of the top grossing concert tours of the year, bringing in over $35,000,000. On December 18, 2008, Revelation was certified platinum by RIAA. The band’s second album with Pineda, Eclipse, was released on May 24, 2011, and debuted at No.13 on the Billboard 200 chart. In November, 2011, Journey released their second greatest hits compilation titled Journey: Greatest Hits: Volume 2 which features songs picked by former frontman Steve Perry.

“Although Pineda was not the first foreign national to become a member of Journey (former drummer Aynsley Dunbar is British), nor even the first non-white (former bass player Randy Jackson is black), the transition resulted in what Marin Independent Journal writer Paul Liberatore called ‘an undercurrent of racism among some Journey fans.’ Keyboardist Jonathan Cain responded to such sentiments: ‘We’ve become a world band. We’re international now. We’re not about one color.’

“In 2012 the TriBeCa Film Festival premiered a Documentary titled Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey, directed by Ramona A. Diaz. The documentary tells the story of how Journey found lead singer, Arnel Pineda, and follows the band on the road for a year.”


see also: clip 1 | clip 2 | clip 3

The actual film is not on YouTube (except as a rental/purchase) but I’m sure you can find the links to your retailer-slash-internet-overlord-of-choice so I won’t bother — what is on YouTube is the filmmaker Q&A that followed the screening at the TriBeCa Film Festival [in two parts] and the band’s appearances on CBS Sunday Morning:

Motown, Stax, and Muscle Shoals

filed under , 30 March 2014, 18:50 by

The Southern sound of Sixties R&B became the template for both 1970s Funk *and* Southern Rock; Muscle Shoals famously hosted the Rolling Stones in 1969, punctuating a decades-long trans-Atlantic conversation that saw Delta Blues becoming Seventies Rock ‘n’ Roll: not just the Stones, but Led Zeppelin, The Yardbirds, Cream, Jethro Tull (yes, even with the flute), The Animals, and way-way beyond. Led Zeppelin informed Heavy Metal; the three chords of the blues, G-C-D, are the only three chords punk rockers know.

It all ties together. The sound of the American south became Jazz, Blues, and Rock. Jazz became Funk. Blues by way of Gospel became R&B — R&B and Funk both informed Hip Hop. Rock became Punk, and New Wave, and Metal — but the roots are still there. I previously linked to ‘southern rock’ as a by-the-way reference on another music post; but Southern rock isn’t a separate thing, necessarily: “calling it Southern Rock is like calling it Rock Rock; Rock is Southern”. Elvis is a country star, a gospel singer, and an early cross-over R&B artist — what Elvis isn’t is Rock, as we now understand it, and yet: who is “The King” of Rock?

I find it amazing that both the Swampers of Muscle Shoals and Booker T and the MGs at Stax were racially integrated bands — in the Sixties, in the American South — because the music was more important then, and no one can hear what color you are through the radio.

By 1976, the Southern Soul Sound experienced a revival that skirts self-parody, and while I love me some Blues Brothers (both the albums and the movie) (movie, singular, as there was only the 1980 film and you can’t convince me otherwise) and the music is awesome, ‘Blues Brothers’ as a concept, as heart-felt as it is, is still an appropriation of black music by white artists. Color shouldn’t matter, doesn’t matter I guess, but now I find it interesting that ‘soul’ music didn’t find currency in the suburbs until it was fronted by a pair of white comedians.

For some clueless teen in the 1990s, the sound of Memphis became “chicago” blues and they only know the classic tracks from the 80s cover version. This is fantastic if it is the minting of a new fan and the start of a much longer, lifetime love combined with research and digging for the old tracks, but kind of tragic if the purchase of a single 1980 soundtrack CD is where the music ends.

Learning about Stax, Motown, and Muscle Shoals is as important as knowing about the Beatles, if you ask me — maybe more important, when you realize how many tracks on the early Beatles CDs were covers.


If you didn’t already know, YouTube sells and rents video now. So there are two documentaries that get teased on YouTube (I think the rest of the world calls them ‘trailers’, I call it a tease) but Google has been quite thorough in making sure the whole video isn’t on YouTube in these cases. [also, while I’m sure this is likely related-and-or-directly-tied-into Google Play on some level, the buy links on YouTube direct you to your Google Wallet account — or to set one up if you don’t have one — so YouTube is a stand-alone store. It’s not just about the ad revenue anymore.]

These two excellent documentaries are recommended:

Standing in the Shadows of Motown, 2002 [imdb], features interviews, classic tracks, and a 40-year-reunion live performance by the Funk Brothers; “Over a fourteen year period they were the heartbeat on every hit from Motown’s Detroit era. By the end of their phenomenal run, this unheralded group of musicians had played on more number ones hits than the Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones, Elvis and the Beatles combined”


Muscle Shoals, 2013 [imdb] — I hate to sound like a broken record, but once again: many, many classic tracks and also interviews with the artist who recorded there, from Aretha Franklin and Jimmy Cliff to Mick Jagger, Alicia Keys, and Bono. “Overcoming crushing poverty and staggering tragedies, he brought black and white together in Alabama’s cauldron of racial hostility to create music for the generations while giving birth to the ‘Muscle Shoals Sound’ and ‘The Swampers’.”


If you’d care to make a purchase through YouTube, you’ll find the links I’m sure. Each is also available on DVD.


There is a third excellent documentary, about Memphis-based Stax Records — and this one *is* available on YouTube (in parts), either through an unintentional oversight of Google’s or (much more likely) just because video piracy is so easy — needless to say, you can also purchase the DVD (search for “Respect Yourself: The Stax Records Story, 2007”) and if you like the music, there are a number of CDs and box sets (a two-disc 50th anniversary collection was also released in 2007; I also recommend “Top of the Stax”) available for collectors and aficionados.

The Story Of Stax Records (part 1)

I won’t embed it all here; I trust you know what to do with a hyperlink: part 2 : part 3 : part 4 : part 5 : part 6 : part 7 : part 8

Wattstax 1972 [imdb]

"What sort of show was it, for people that didn't go?"

filed under , 28 March 2014, 00:59 by

[aside, before we get into it: After overdosing on the 1960s last week, and revisiting this Peter Gabriel interview, I’m thinking I might need to do a write-up or five of The Old Grey Whistle Test]
[extended aside: I’ll likely also revisit WOMAD in some later post]

“What sort of show was it, for the people that didn’t go? Was it a Genesis show, or a Peter Gabriel show…”

↑ Peter Gabriel interview ( on the Old Grey Whistle Test, 1982. ‘Last Saturday’ as referenced in the interview was 2 October 1982, a one-off Genesis reunion concert billed in some places as Six of the Best.

This is a pre-MTV-Sledgehammer Gabriel, but also a post-Genesis Gabriel. It is also an interview post-WOMAD, a 1982 experiment that might be called a failure. The interview above covers this—and partly glosses over it—but the really interesting bit is that Gabriel’s former band mates (burned? just 7 years prior when Gabriel left the group) set any animosity (real or imagined) aside, played a benefit-concert-to-pay-for-the-benefit-concert and basically, pulled Pete’s nuts out of the fire. This not only ensured the future of WOMAD as a travelling tour and institution, but also meant Gabriel could continue in his course as a solo artist without the albatross of crippling debt and the lingering miasma of failure.

— The Music Biz (such as it was) was amazing for its leaps-of-faith and constant innovation, supporting new acts, though of course the flipside of that is the near-instant revocation of trust and support as soon as you are old, busted, or done. (…until the near-inevitable comeback tour, of course, but that takes time.)

Here is a moment, in an 1982 interview, 5 whole minutes long, where we get a glimpse of a whole career arc.

Gabriel dodged a bullet, though of course that was likely helped by the fact that his 4th solo album had already been recorded and released (“Security”, Sept. 1982) and ‘Shock the Monkey’ — the closest thing to a hit single he’d have* — was Security’s solid B-side intro.

*Solsbury Hill, 1977 and Games without Frontiers, 1980 not withstanding.

WOMAD was and is an amazing contribution to collective culture – though anyone who’d been listening to Pete through his solo career would hardly be surprised. Here, have some more YouTube:

Peter Gabriel on The South Bank Show, The Making of Security (1983) (49min)

Sources, process, equipment, inspirations — and kindly note his use of both drum machines and looping way back in the early 80s. Listening to Gabriel cite Jung is a special bonus.


I’m a prog rock fan, so while I love solo Peter Gabriel, and can understand the enthusiasm for 80s Genesis (even if I don’t share it) I have to say that early Genesis is the shit, on a short list that also includes Pink Floyd and The Moody Blues.

Inside Genesis 1970 – 1975 (57min)

Pretentious? Yes. Over the top, theatrical? Yes.

More theatre than music? well, that’s a hard one… YouTube evidence (live performance, for the most part) differs from studio albums. Alice Cooper was doing the same thing at the same time (and doing it better). Genesis, for all their musical chops, lacked energy — the Punks in England could be seen as a direct challenge to progs like Genesis — but like the later Punk Rock, Genesis was also challenging the music establishment and their audience.

Genesis: A History (1991) (1hr29min)

Some see extended solos and baroque arrangements as useless musical excess; from the other side, these long ‘jam band’ sets are a response to decades of 3 minute pop singles, and a return to music — and this puts Genesis, The Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, ELP, and ELO all on the same team.


Pete, man, he’s done quite a bit.

He always seems to be on the fringes, but his impact is oversized for his output — WOMAD pre-dates Live Aid by 3 years Grammy-winning Graceland by 4. The drum machines and loops of ’82s Security seem years too early when compared to the rest of British New Wave – by 1986, So became not only an instant classic, it gave us the soundtrack to the defining GenX moment. And yet, in interviews, he always combines the bravura and bravado of the musical genius (that he is) with a healthy dose of self-deprecation and humor (often, humor at his own expense) as well as grounded context.

Peter Gabriel talks about WOMAD “A Bunch of Idealistic Amateurs” (7min)

DNA: The Evolution of the Songs from ‘So’ (8min)

Peter Gabriel: “Back to Front”, Talks at Google (43min)

1977: still and all, maybe his most accessible hit.

1982: and five years later, following the success of Sledgehammer (‘86), I remember this video in rotation on MTV

1989: Say Anything

** for those following along on twitter, a sub-set of these videos was initially shared on Sunday, 16 March 2014 as part of the usual weekly nonsense; it just took a while for me to actually get around to a write-up.

New York Times reports 17-year-old "news"

filed under , 27 March 2014, 17:47 by

“Rising rents in Manhattan have forced out many retailers, from pizza joints to flower shops. But the rapidly escalating cost of doing business there is also driving out bookstores, threatening the city’s sense of self as the center of the literary universe, the home of the publishing industry and a place that lures and nurtures authors and avid readers.”
Literary City, Bookstore Desert: Surging Rents Force Booksellers From Manhattan : Julie Bosman, 25 March 2014, New York Times

…this sounded really familiar to me for some reason. Oh, right:

“The B. Dalton on Fifth stayed open for close to two decades, until 1997. At that point the chain was owned by Barnes & Noble — and the hubbub wasn’t about new big boxes forcing out bookstores, but about rising rents in New York forcing some of the big boxes to close.”
Rocket Bomber, 24 February 2009

…and the B. Dalton on fifth, that I made note of five years ago?

“After 36 years of business, the Doubleday Book Shop on Fifth Avenue, a cerebral antidote to Tiffany’s glitter and Bergdorf’s finery, is shutting its doors at the end of the month. It will be the seventh bookstore to close on the avenue since the early 1980’s, signaling the end of midtown Manhattan’s strolling boulevard for book lovers.”
Another Fifth Ave. Bookshop Is Felled by High Rents : Lisa W. Foederaro, 17 June 1997 …that was seventeen years ago, as reported in some local rag, which one was it again? oh, yeah: the New York Times.

“‘You just have to walk down Fifth Avenue to see what New York has become — it’s become an outlet mall for rich people,’ said Esther Newberg, a literary agent, adding that she had just received an email from a Random House editor noting that the company was able to print books quickly because it owns its own printing plant. ‘Why don’t they own their own bookstore?’”
Bosman, op. cit.

Barnes & Noble could stand to own a little real estate, too: I mean, why negotiate rents, why not own the building? Of course, they did own a building, but they closed that bookstore in January.

I find it hard to cry for Manhattan. I feel sorry for some New Yorkers but it seems like the Powers That Be are rebuilding that borough into exactly what they want, a gated community and theme park for the rich …and apparently, also a collection of neighborhoods without bookstores.

Perhaps this should instead be a wake-up call for every publisher who still maintains an office in Manhattan: is it really worth the rent? I mean, when you can’t walk down the street to see your product for sale in a store window, is New York really the “book capital” of the US anymore?

“What I say is, a town isn’t a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it’s got a bookstore it knows it’s not fooling a soul.”
― Neil Gaiman, American Gods

Because so many 50th Anniversary specials will be coming up: Getting a handle on the 1960s

the tl;dr – Just go watch Forever Young: How Rock n Roll Grew Up on YouTube (it’s an hour) and then come back if you want to see and hear a little more

Even though I set up a YouTube playlist for this batch, this is much more of a ‘choose your own adventure’ set of documentaries — and quite a bit is only tangential to the music. There is no need to watch all of the videos, and I fully encourage you to check out the whole list (reading this post to the end) before you start clicking on any of the embeds or links. You can easily pick a 2 hour or 3 hour block and save the rest for a rainy day when nothing good is on TV.


When we’re talking about the 1960s, it can be difficult (even for historians) to separate the times from the music. Even after an 8 hour slog through the 60s (mostly by way of the BBC – thanks, Auntie Beeb!) I found myself chasing loose ends on Wikipedia and attempting to digest the whole so I could go back to just enjoying the music again. The 1960s bring a lot of baggage, especially the way the decade has been mythologized in the 40 to 50 years since.

The revolution didn’t start in the 1960s — the hippies’ grandmothers were the first, in the era of flappers, speakeasies, and Jazz (free thesis there, for you grad students). And the music (while fantastic) wasn’t a revolution either: The early Beatles were covering Motown and Chuck Berry; The Rolling Stones played the blues and R&B. [note, note]

The music didn’t magically spring into being in the summer of 1960 when the first of the baby boomers turned 14, the threads (and in many cases, also the musicians) came from the generation before. The music was more evolutionary than revolutionary*, though I appreciate the process and love the eventual outcomes: by the late 60s, we see Lennon/McCartney come into their own as songsmiths, and scores of bands that were inspired by the Beatles, Stones, et al. would go on to record many of my favorite rock albums of the 70s. (It would be negligent as well to ignore the parallel line of Folk music and the singer-songwriters that followed Woodie Guthrie and Pete Seeger; Dylan was playing in Greenwich Village at the same time the Beatles were playing the Cavern Club in Liverpool and taking jaunts to Hamburg.)

(* The music revolution began on 16 May 1966)

What did change by the 1960s? The new media of Television played a role – and the huge record companies that didn’t even exist until the 50s (the LP was introduced in 1948, the 45 in 1949, the transistor radio in 1954) – and a record number of teenagers (“teenager” as a concept comes from the early 1940s) – the weight and long hangover of the Depression and War finally lifted – and the corrupting influence of the almighty dollar (and pound sterling) as consumer culture firmly took root.

Socially? A large youth bulge poisoned by decades of huffing leaded gasoline exhaust (especially in the cities) is likely enough to explain the revolutionaries. I don’t mean to hand-wave away the 60s: when faced with a collective and international insanity, maybe the only response is a little insanity of one’s own. I also don’t mean to discount the real social change that took place, starting in 1955** and continuing throughout the 60s, but the answer to these large-scale problems needed large scale solutions — solutions often precipitated by protest — but the protests are not the solution. After the (inevitable?) crackdown turns the sit-ins into riots, both sides have lost.

** depending on how you define it; we could argue the 60s began in 1918 with Gandhi.

There is no way to concisely describe any decade and it is folly to try; at best we can fall back on stereotypes and cliché as a sort of universally-understood shorthand for a decade — at worst, we bury the history and real meaning of the times under stereotypes and clichés.


I’m sure this is why the documentary playlist inflated to 8 hours — because there is no easy way to summarize the 60s.

For folks who are much more interested in the Music, I’d stick to watching the first and last videos — the time commitment is only a couple of hours and these two are music documentaries, not documentaries that cover the history that was tied into the music.

The YouTube playlist for the documentaries (in this order):×04aSYCoW10pQ6xc93v

Born To Be Wild – The Golden Age of American Rock | 1960s

(the video above is the first of three parts: if you want to finish that story check out the 1970s and 1980s chapters as well. Each is about an hour.)

“The 60s, The Beatles Decade” from the BBC. Each of the 5 episodes is 45 minutes.

The 60s, The Beatles Decade – Episode 1: Teenage Rebels

The 60s, The Beatles Decade – Episode 2: Sex, Spies and Rock and Roll

The 60s, The Beatles Decade – Episode 3: Swinging Britain

The 60s, The Beatles Decade – Episode 4: Street Fighting Years

The 60s, The Beatles Decade – Episode 5: The Party Is Over

Counterpoint, also from the BBC
Why I Hate The Sixties (59min)
Embedding is disabled on this one, so you’ll have to click the link to watch it on YouTube:

The Sixties – The Years That Shaped a Generation (2hrs)
This video can and likely will be taken down at some point for blatant copyright infringement; the DVD rip that was uploaded even includes the piracy warning. Until such time as it disappears: enjoy. To be fair to PBS, I won’t embed the video here.

Last one — and as I noted at the top of the post, if you only have time for one this might be the most accessible (and will only tie up one hour of your day).
Forever Young: How Rock n Roll Grew Up (BBC) (59min)

Jazz is a performance art.

To me, there is no more faithful “documentary” of music than the live performance. I love the behind-the-scenes stuff, too — and the interviews, people who love music talking about music — but the actual concerts? There is nothing like a live show. If you stop and consider classics like The Last Waltz or Stop Making Sense, the strength of these feature-length, film documentaries is that they point the camera at the stage and don’t look away. The concert is the document.

While the category I file these posts under for the blog is ‘music documentaries’, the draft folder I use is actually titled “Sunday Long” — long clips to share with friends on twitter, which includes both the excellent behind-the-scenes documentaries and also these concerts.


The first video (that led to the search for the others included below) was either James Carter or Medeski, Martin, & Wood. I can’t recall now (6 weeks later) (yes, I have a pretty big buffer for these posts) which of the two I bookmarked first. Each was a pretty solid clip, but there wasn’t quite enough there to hang a whole post on. When I later tripped over the Ray Brown Trio, then I knew I was onto something. I started to assemble a Jazz Fest — not an all-time best-of or top-ten, because honestly I wouldn’t know where to start — but instead a batch of contrasting and complementary live performances that’d fill a whole-day-long playlist and scratch a jazz itch.

If that sounds as good to you as it did to me: all the clips below are in a YouTube playlist — you can have it play in a background tab all day today.

While obviously there are many great jazz albums out there (and we’re all richer for that) jazz is a performance art, meant to be seen and heard live. There is skill is mixing an album, too, don’t get me wrong, and there are many fine albums that one could say were assembled in studio, the whole becoming more than just the sum of each player’s part. The producer is part of the creative process, in addition to the band — if there was a band, and it wasn’t just session musicians working for scale, along with machines, samples, and loops. Good music is good music, regardless of how it was made — the old Duke Ellington quote applies, “If it sounds good, then it is good.”

Much more so than nearly any other form of music, though, Jazz is often a conversation, a form defined in part by improvisation. Not that taking a solo and going off the chart is new — organists have been doing so since at least Bach’s time, and the highlight and one defining characteristic of the concerto is the cadenza — but pipe organ improvisation is almost always the organ in solo performance, and for a concerto cadenza the orchestra gets out of the way, often literally sitting with their instruments in their laps.

A really solid small jazz group, a bass-piano-drums trio for example, might feature all three musicians improvising or otherwise riffing on the chart — not just a feature performer taking a single solo but the whole song, spontaneously generated, live. This can be hard to listen to; some fans of jazz aren’t really fans of 50s bebop for this reason, and later mutations like “smooth jazz” chuck this idea right out the window. But for many bebop is the real jazz, or at least the one branch of modern jazz that has to be confronted and digested, if not accepted.

I’m not a purist – I like a lot of different forms, from ragtime to funk. If you pushed me into a corner, I’d pick the post-war 1940s sound as my favorite, but I also love the stuff coming out of the late 60s and early 70s, as “hard bop” combined the stronger rhythmic feel of R&B with free-rolling bebop and eventually got real funky. Kenny G can go die in a fire.


That’s it for the lecture: lets get down to some music.

[btw – if you get 20 minutes into a set and go, “woah, that’s too weird for me” – just skip ahead 5 minutes. Odds are good the band’ll be back on track. Or just skip on to the next video in the playlist. I won’t be offended. heck, I won’t even know. Not all jazz is the same, and even if you like some of it, not everything will be to your taste. That’s cool, and you learned something, so it’s good all ‘round]

Ray Brown Trio + James Morrison – Umbria Jazz 1993 (53min)

James Carter Organ Trio – Montreux Jazz Festival 2012 (55min)

Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood – Estival Jazz Lugano 2007 (1hr16min)

Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers – Sanremo, Italy 1963 (50min)
[if you want to skip the musician introductions in Italian, cue the video to 4:30]

Chucho Valdes & The Afro-Cuban Messengers – Jazz à Vienne Live 2010 (1hr56min)

Soft Machine & Allan Holdsworth – Montreux Jazz Festival 1974 (58min)

Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, & The Giants Of Jazz – Copenhagen 1971 (54min)

Miles Davis – Montreux Jazz Festival 1986 (1hr49min)
- By 1986, the “Miles Davis Quintet” was at least an octet, and Davis had long since gone electric (for his backing band) and his style was jazz fusion (and funky). Definitely a different Miles than the one you might be familiar with.

Miles Davis & Quincy Jones – Montreux Jazz Festival 1991 (55min)
…when Miles came back to Montreaux in 1991, he was also back to playing more classic material — a return to the songs and his sound from the 1950s. He died less than 3 months later; a recording of the concert performance was released posthumously as his final album.

"By the way, which one's Pink?"

Behind Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here (59min)

…Lots of interviews, and covering the recording, the circumstances, the pressure, and even the cover art. Wish You Were Here was both a follow-up to the classic Dark Side of the Moon, and also a postcard of sorts (that’s the title of the album, after all) to former band member Syd Barrett, who had left the band in 1968 amid creative disputes and who also became seriously withdrawn from the world-at-large by 1974.

I personally think Wish You Were Here is very much the equal to Dark Side, and in fact (when given a preference) I usually listen to the two albums back-to-back.

This feature comes to us via TYWKIWDBI (“Things You Wouldn’t Know If We Didn’t Blog Intermittently”, a lovely little corner of the internet) — — do yourself a favor and add Tai-wiki-widbee to your bookmarks or rss feeds.

For those looking for more Floyd after watching the documentary, iTunes awaits, or your local record store if you have one (I need to add more of Floyd’s early, Syd Barrett stuff to my personal collection, and was hard pressed not to drop $50 on this right away) but there is also this largely-unknown gem, Dub Side of the Moon.

“Dub Side of the Moon is a dub reggae tribute to the Pink Floyd album, The Dark Side of the Moon, co-produced by Easy Star All-Stars founder’s Michael G (Michael Goldwasser) and Ticklah (Victor Axelrod).”

The YouTube poster is not the rights holder, and has a lot of balls posting the album in full, so if the video gets taken down at some later date we all know why – but enjoy it for now and consider buying that album, too.

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