Rocket Bomber - linking to other people's stuff

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.

The Real Story is better than the Movie, and it was a pretty good movie

I’m not sure exactly where or why I came across Almost Famous again this week — the click trail on that one has to be convoluted, because for the most part I was researching bland mass-consumption European Pop of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s.

Having happened upon the movie again, though, it seemed like an excellent topic for an extended YouTube excursion, especially with the Academy Awards tie-in:

Cameron Crowe accepts the Oscar® for “Almost Famous”

The moment we all remember is the solo-slow-clapper of music videos, Tiny Dancer

Cameron Crowe interview (ignore the French subtitles)

The great thing about “Almost Famous” is that it’s based on a true story, which you might have heard once or twice a dozen years ago and then promptly forgot. The band ‘Stillwater’ in the movie is a fictionalized composite, I’m sure, or at least will always be presented as such for legal reasons, but the band I think Crowe used as his primary inspiration when writing the script has to be the Allman Brothers. Here, read the article yourself, from the December 6, 1973 issue of Rolling Stone, The Allman Brothers Story

Allman Brothers Band – Live- 2-11-70 Fillmore East (audio only) (1hr11min)

Allman Brothers – Live – 9-23-70 Fillmore East (33.8min)

Since the point of the exercise is to feature some great music documentaries, here’s the great music documentary: History of Southern Rock (1hr4min)

If you only have enough time to watch one video, I’d make it that last one.

How to Build a Better Block

filed under , 27 February 2014, 11:34 by

It is with some sadness that I relate the ‘death’ of an online video: previously hosted on Vimeo by The Municipal Art Society of New York (where there is still some great video), I regret to inform you that The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces – The Street Corner from William H. Whyte (author and pioneering urbanist) was taken down following a copyright claim.

Ordinarily, it wouldn’t matter (even to a ‘fan’ like me) but I had embedded the video in a past blog post and used it to illustrate several arguments on how people actually use public space.

Fortunately, I was able to track down a pair of YouTube videos that, while lacking the charm of Whyte’s 1980 film, managed to communicate the same points. I very rarely edit six-month-old posts—heck, I’m hard-pressed to do more than fix typos—but the “Lifestyle Destination” post is one of my longer essays (and one that still gets incoming traffic off of Google) so I felt it needed the addition-slash-correction.

Since you’re not necessarily going back and reading my archives, though, I thought the new videos might be worthwhile to pull into a post of their own:

George C. Stoney’s How to Live in a City (1964), “architectural critic Eugene Ruskin guides us through unique locales which illustrate the fine line between organic and sterile urban spaces. It all depends on a place’s ability to attract and sustain, even if only momentarily, a sense of community.” (18.3min)

George Morris, The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, Market Square (12.2min)

I only used those two to plug the gap — but why stop there? This may come as a shock for those who think YouTube is only a resource for skit comedy, cat videos, and music*, but at this point everything is on YouTube — well, everything except 1980’s The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces – The Street Corner by William H. Whyte. And Game of Thrones.

While I was on the urban-studies-kick, here are some other short films, presentations, and documentaries I found:

Urban Design for Successful Cities: Alexandros Washburn, September 2012 TEDx talk (25.4min)

How To Build a Better Block: TEDxOU – Jason Roberts, January 2012 TEDxOU talk (18.2min)

- great title. you might have noticed, I stole it.

A City Is (Not) A Tree: New Models of Urban Space, Gino Zucchi, April 2013 (1hr57min)

Sustainable Urbanism: Urban Design with Nature – Douglas Farr, 2009 (1hr20min)

* Isn’t it amazing that the most popular and widespread ‘digital music service’ is actually YouTube, and it’s free? I know because I spend *hours* on YouTube looking for music – it’s like a research tool — strike that, it *is* a research tool, as this post and others of mine capably prove.

Donald Fagan, Jazz Piano

filed under , 27 February 2014, 10:50 by

This “Sunday Morning Music Docs” mini-feature (Yes, I know it’s Thursday, but I’m playing a bit of catch-up here) was posted to my twitter a few weeks back — it’s not a long, multiple-video slogfest with commentary like the last two outings I reblogged here for your enjoyment, but it is 126 minutes of shop talk and piano jazz featuring Donald Fagan (of Steely Dan).

Not everyone’s cup of tea (or slug of whiskey) but for those who like this sort of thing: well, we like this sort of thing -

Donald Fagen Concepts For Jazz/Rock Piano

Steely Dan & Marian McPartland – Piano Jazz (audio only)

Post-instrument Music

filed under , 23 February 2014, 11:45 by

[This batch features creative personalities & modern music, so fair warning: occasional bits of NSFW language are lurking in the links ahead. Don’t play YouTube videos at work.]

Once upon a time, I was a snob — still am in some ways, about some things — but the starting point for today’s excursion is the bias I used to have for “real” music, over electronics and sampling.

From the age of seven, I studied music. I wasn’t all that serious about it, and I wasn’t overjoyed about practicing, but I took lessons for 4 years until I was old enough for the school’s band program, and then I was a band geek for 14 years (yes, that includes 5 years of college). I play saxophone (I started on violin, but that’s a different story) and from jr. high on I played in jazz band and started a parallel ‘education’ by listening to the original versions of the swing hits and jazz standards we were murdering in class. Once you start digging, Jazz is deep – and Jazz also didn’t stop in 1958 or 1962 or whatever, it kept going (and keeps going). Jazz left the small smoky clubs, went back to the dance floor, responded to the rock-music-thing, picked up some R&B, and became Funk.

You can argue with me on that one, I guess, but it’s true. Free doctoral thesis here kids: Listen to anything with a horn line, and that music is a direct descendant of 30s swing – the instrumentation is the same, the only thing that changed was the definition of ‘popular dance music’.

Anyway – I was a musician, and kinda proud of it even though I’d never be a professional, and I like the output of other musicians. I listened to a lot of Soul, and Funk, and when some of the first Hip Hop albums came out, with the scratching and snipped-bits and ‘recycling’ and I thought, “Hell, there are a lot of session musicians out there, why don’t they hire some already? It can’t be that hard to get some guys into the studio for an hour to lay down some tracks to rap over.”

I was so wrong about the music, and where it was coming from. I feel so white.


In the 30s, there wasn’t recorded music in clubs, they needed live music. So you could pick up a cheap horn in a pawn shop and get some gigs (no matter how bad you were) and learn on the job and if you were good enough, you could eke out a living.

In the 50s and 60s, you could pick up a cheap guitar in a pawn shop, learn 4 chords and fool around, maybe fool around with friends in your garage and form a band and try playing the tracks you heard on the radio.

Imagine being so poor you can’t afford a guitar. Imagine living in a highrise or brownstone and not having a garage to practice in. Imagine living in a neighborhood so poor your schools don’t have music programs, and in 80s Reagan America where no one gives a flip about how poor your schools are. Imagine loving music and not having an outlet for it.

All you have is excellent taste, a huge stack of your parents’ 60s soul and 70s funk records, and a turntable. You become a DJ, spinning the old tracks of other people — because the clubs still need ‘live’ music even if they don’t need the big band anymore. And then, over time, and with the introduction of the crossfader — we see the invention of a new ‘musical’ instrument.

Even if you’re biased for ‘real’ music from ‘real’ instruments and see Hip Hop as derivative, merely recycling the best bits of older, ‘better’ music — the best bits of the music are still there and if you open your ears and listen you’ll find the art in the transformation. If you go see a live DJ, there’s no mistaking that what these musicians are doing on the turntables is a performance.

Add in some new electronic tools and digital sampling technology to automate some of the ‘loops’ and now we can really stack and rock it: Two turntables and a drum machine become a freakin’ orchestra. Layering tracks in a studio or on a laptop may be more like composing music, as opposed to playing it, but there’s no denying the music part.

I used to be a snob. I came back around. Enough of me talking about me, though: Let’s check out the music.


I’m going to ramp you into this slowly

Early, 1988 Documentary about Sampling (8.6min) – YouTube source is apparently Aussie TV, but I hear Kurt Loder so we can be pretty sure this was originally produced for MTV News and might predate ’88 by a year or two:

If there is such a thing as ‘Sampling 101’ the first class of the course is on the Amen Break, “the world’s most important 6-sec drum loop” (18min)

A short track (3.5min), Eclectic Method’s Brief History of Sampling, with plenty more examples — inputs and outputs from several decades and genres

Still up for more?

Scratch, “A feature-length documentary film about hip-hop DJing, otherwise known as turntablism. From the South Bronx in the 1970s to San Francisco now, the world’s best scratchers, beat-diggers, party-rockers, and producers wax poetic on beats, breaks, battles, and the infinite possibilities of vinyl.” (1hr28min) — it’s the longest documentary in this post but if you only have time to watch one, watch this one:

The skills of the DJ are more than just scratching, something that gets glossed in the Scratch doc; it actually starts with beatmatching, syncing two tracks (adjusting speeds/tempos and matching bar patterns) so one can be played seamlessly into another, or in the case of a mashup, one played over another (which, with skill, can be done live — the mashup was born in the dance club, not on YouTube).

Quick Beatmatching – DJing For Dummies (5min)

The Scratch doc led me to a new appreciation for what the DJs and turntables can do, and the amount of work, preparation, and music education required — oh, it’s not about reading music anymore, you have to know the music. Following a few more links, I found a YouTube show called Crate Diggers — the folks from Fuse get a DJ, get them talking about the music, get them talking about the records, and follow them around inside their vinyl collection.

I couldn’t pick just one. Have five:

Evidence (12min)

DJ Babu (12min)

DJ Toomp (13min)

RJD2 (17.5min)

DJ Jazzy Jay (15min)

Thanks for reading. Hope you liked. One more video to play us out — Eclectic Method again — this track is called Cultural Funking Overload

Not sure about some of the casting choices in this Firefly reboot

filed under , 19 February 2014, 15:27 by

Still not sick of this joke yet.

Eventually, someone with access to sources will do an official mashup of these two – well, I take that back: after 8 seconds I found a way to download the Marvel trailer, and even I could do a simple mashup given YouTube’s built in video editing tools, but then I’d have the Disney Evil Empire breathing down my neck for posting an unauthorized trailer. So no.

Edit: OK, so I went ahead and did it anyway:

original post follows, because like I said: I expect this mashup to be short-lived on YouTube

Until someone else does it, we just have to double up:
[for best result, I recommend muting or turning the volume way down on the Marvel trailer]

YouTube Doubler

Have a link to share :

Average words for average people

filed under , 18 February 2014, 12:09 by

“And I advised them to consolidate their brands into a single web shop. Because when you sell average products for average people, it’s practically impossible to achieve any usable conversion rates for each brand on their own, but combined you can create scale.”

“Note: The opposite of this, of course, is to be a niche channel from the start, during which you use your uniqueness to make people feel special, which in turn allows you to connect and leverage your market. But you can’t do this with without cool products.”

Thomas Baekdal (whom you all should be reading anyway) said this as part of a much larger discussion of how digital adoption (and the lack thereof by older folks) is creating a generation gap — Not a new point, mind you, but Baekdal expresses it well and we all need a reminder anyway. If you spend all your time online, sometimes you forget that even though Grandma is on Facebook she uses the web, and technology generally in a way that is very different. Grandpa uses his iPhone to make phone calls (can you imagine) and there’s the old saw about how neither of them can program the VCR, which is kinda true but also a joke made obsolescent by things like Tivo-style DVRs and Netflix.

…which is all beside the point – or at least the point I’d like to make.

The reason I pulled those 4 sentences out of Baekdal’s article and presented them out of context is because I think he’s saying something important about writing, too.

Book authors and bloggers need to think about what the product is, and who’s “buying” (literally buying or just reading). “Average products for average people” describes many, many blogs on the internet, no matter what the subject or focus is. What we write about can be the most amazing thing you guys, really the best but the writing itself is merely average. Informational. Journalistically bland, short because it needs to be short and not boring, but boring in its own way because too much style-for-its-own-sake obscures the meaning and makes your blog unreadable.

“And I advised them to consolidate their brands into a single web shop. Because when you sell average products for average people, it’s practically impossible to achieve any usable conversion rates for each brand on their own, but combined you can create scale.”

I think this is why we see blogs staffing up and why someone ever thought “platisher” was a term that had to be coined. [aside: No. – longer aside: A so called platisher is just another publisher, though one that is smarter about how readers read and prefer to interact with their content. The blogging platform is nice but has as much to do the with bones-and-bolts of writing and publishing as glossy magazine paper.]

The new publishing companies that are attempting to settle in the unpopulated space between blog and magazine are consolidating brands and voices to produce usable scale.

Keep that in mind. Now go read Baekdal’s post, “The Generational Divide” because I know you passed over the link the first time. Good, thought provoking stuff there.

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