Who Shot The Sheriff?

ReMastered: Who Shot the Sheriff

This is utterly fantastic.

Solters has been bugging me for weeks to watch this, but I’ve been too caught up in my life, and my streaming queue…there’s “Mrs. Maisel” and “Roma” and the Boss on Broadway, but I don’t think any of those can capture the zeitgeist, can focus my attention as much as this documentary on Bob Marley.

We’re getting to the age where there’s footage of everything. And for a while, those who were there are still alive.

Marley has become the lord of the Trustafarians more than the Rastafarians. You can have a neck tattoo, but if you’re wearing dreads you’re labeled an outcast. Maybe a harmless outcast… Probably somebody with too much money into reggae and…

That’s so far from the origin.

Marley truly came from Trenchtown. And when you see the footage of the neighborhood you’ll be horrified, it’s full of shacks. But somehow, Bob found his musical path and became a legend. But what many don’t know is embedded in those famous songs is a diary of what happened when, with Bob’s attitudes about it. After being shot, after moving to London, Bob cut “Exodus,” possibly his most famous album, and when they match the lyrics to the events, your hair stands on end.

You see there was a political tug of war in Jamaica. Between the establishment, ultimately connected to Cuba, and the insurgents.

The insurgents were supported by the CIA.

Jimmy Cliff talks about being questioned by the CIA…HE’S A MUSICIAN!

But this was the Reagan era. Maybe that’s what killed music, Reagan, who legitimized greed and put music in the back seat. Given a choice of riches and truth, many baby boomers chose riches, and the United States has never been the same. Back then, the story in D.C. was how the government was interfering all over the world, now in the Trump era, it’s about the pulling back. And the irony is a new cold war is beginning. Putin takes countries and we don’t say a word. Angering China is against our interests, they’ve got more people. As does India, where the best and the brightest used to come work in Silicon Valley, but now since immigrants are the enemy and visas are restricted, they stay home and innovate.

History is prologue and it’s usually ignored. We are sliding backwards, we are a divided country, but unlike in Jamaica, we do not have a Bob Marley to unite us.

That’s what Bob tried to do, then he was shot. That’s what this documentary is ostensibly about, who shot Bob Marley?

And there’s a bit of an answer at the end, but the journey is more important. Marley refuses to be criticized for moving uptown where the rich are, he says he’s bringing Trenchtown to the respected area, he’s not selling out.

And not only are there the two political parties, there are the Dons, that’s right, just like in the Mafia.

And the U.S. government is afraid of musicians, like Ivan played by Jimmy Cliff in “The Harder They Come.” That film played in Boston for years, today college students are infatuated with “The Avengers.”

It’s the culture I tell you. America has become cutthroat. With the haves and the have-nots. And the truth is the haves want to protect what they’ve got. Used to be only the rich Republicans, now it’s the rich Democrats, they worked hard to get where they are and they don’t want to sacrifice.

But being a musician is different. You live on your talent, you live by your wits. You need no degree, in fact a degree won’t help. You wander the world experiencing, thinking, and then you make your statement.

Bob certainly made his.

You think the Marley legend cannot get any bigger.

But then you see this “ReMastered” documentary and you see what a giant he was, how much there was behind the music.

And this is not a VH1 program to set up a tour. Marley’s been dead for decades.

But it is a visitation to what once was, when musicians were kingpins and the establishment didn’t like it. Hell, every election has some right-winger employing a classic rock song until they’re sued. You see those who wrote those songs don’t want to be ripped-off, whereas today’s artists would love to be ripped-off, as long as you pay them. They’re the children of Reagan, even if they don’t know it.

And Ronald Reagan has been portrayed as a genius saint, they don’t stop naming buildings and highways after him, if you didn’t live through that era you’d think he was Lincoln. But it’s all part of the plan, with the Federalist Society, and the negative portrayal of taxes, which are needed to pave our roads, school our kids and update our infrastructure, they say it’s all about freedom, but really it’s about chaos and bondage. And no one can rise above, the only person with total mindshare is Trump. And the news outlets adore him, they’ve never been this profitable. And challengers are not only negatively portrayed by the right, but the left too, to show the right they’re not biased, what a country!

Kinda like Jamaica.

Used to be art came from unrest.

But that was before tax cuts eviscerated school music programs, before intellectuals pooh-poohed the popular and the poor did whatever their handlers told them to. We’re all in our own silos, believing we’re right.

What we need is a leader, someone not in it for personal gain, just an arbiter speaking the truth.

Like Bob Marley.

P.S. You might want to watch this with the subtitles on.

Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats Live In Vail

They’re the antidote.

You’re standing there thinking it’s 1969, that it’s all about bands and being able to play and…

Then you realize it’s pop and hip-hop that dominate the media, and you wonder…WHAT IS GOING ON?

We’re still adjusting to the internet era, we’re still adjusting to streaming, all the focus is on record companies when the truth is music lives in performance, at venues that draw people for the experience.

This show was not about selfies, but bonding with the act, with the music, a show with nothing on hard drive and no beats and synthesizers and you wonder…WHAT IS GOING ON?

First and foremost, Nathaniel Rateliff is a musician. I’m not sure we can categorize the rest of the hit parade as such. Performers, yes. Brands, yes, but musicians?

Musicians know how to play. First and foremost they’re about the music, not the penumbra, all the things that come with fame that have nothing to do with what goes into your ears.

But Nathaniel Rateliff had no fame, not for a very long time. He kicked around Denver making folkish records wondering when his ship would come in. It didn’t.

And when Chris Tetzeli moved to Denver and exited Red Light Rateliff took him to lunch, would Chris manage him?

No band ever made it without a great manager.

Then again, it’s hard to get one interested. Because of the opportunity cost. Rateliff was ready to give up, but Chris said yes and there was a U-turn to R&B/soul with the Night Sweats, and suddenly the agglomeration was a household name.

No, that’s patently untrue.

They almost left “S.O.B.” off the album, believing it was too obvious, but the truth is you can never underestimate the power of a hit. And this hit led to a shot on Fallon that got traction on YouTube and suddenly, the band could play clubs.

The phenoms, the pop stars can go directly to arenas, but the lifers have to slug it out, build it fan by fan on the road. And the truth is, despite the TV appearances and the AAA radio action, that’s where the band’s career has been built, on the road, via word of mouth.

It used to be different, you used to go to the gig to be set free, to let the music open your mind, set your soul afire, leave this crazy world behind. Now it’s about saying you were there, hearing canned tunes that remind you of what you heard online. Whereas the music of Rateliff, et al, breathes, it’s alive itself, the band is just a vehicle.

And it is a band.

The first thing insiders would say is…TOO MANY PLAYERS! Do you really need a horn section? But it’s the full band sound that puts the show over the top, it’s not a freight train mowing you down, but a fire on the mountain that you just cannot ignore, that draws you to it.

Most shows are a waste of time unless you know the material beforehand. But with Rateliff’s show, the roots resonate, this is music that is part of the firmament, American bedrock, it lifts you higher, it makes you feel good.

So the band did 200 shows a year. Band members doubled-up in budget hotel rooms. There was a minor salary. It was all done in an effort to make it. Do you know how hard it is to make it? Once you’re there, anybody can steer the ship, but getting there?

Then there was the festival circuit. Playing late enough in the day to gain mindshare, to reach 5000+ people. Opening at a festival is a fool’s errand. Being on the second stage at five or six can pour gasoline on your career, if you deliver.

Meanwhile, they kept working and more tickets were sold.

To the point where shows sell out. To the point where the buildings keep getting bigger and bigger.

And the band members… They’re lifers. Most from the Denver area. These aren’t the usual suspects who moved to the coasts and took every opportunity, rather they’re a group of friends who stuck together until they found the right formula. And believe me, there were hard times, it was not smooth sailing. If you’re looking to give it a few years before graduate school, music is not for you.

Meanwhile, most people are unaware of the act. That’s 2018. No one has complete mindshare, not Kanye, not Taylor Swift. Sure, people see their names bandied about, but they don’t know the music. Kendrick Lamar? Sure, he’s got rabid fans, but I’d wager more people in America have never heard his music than have.

And the record business sits by idly thinking it’s triumphing.

But it’s not.

Take baby boomers to a Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats show and they’d be instantly converted, they’d have to go again and again. And sure, the band has that AAA action, but most people don’t bother listening to that format, it’s a backwater. Oldsters just keep on listening to the same old stuff, because no one serves up stuff that they’d like. They sample the hits and they’re turned off.

Nathaniel Rateliff is the future.

Despite income inequality, despite the prominence of beats, despite the hype machine, there are still people playing real instruments, not giving up because this is the only thing that gets them off.

And the funny thing is it gets the audience off too.

Meanwhile, we’re inundated with mechanized drivel, you can be assaulted by sound, or you can be enticed.

Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats draw you in. It’s like having a V8. They were hiding in plain sight, but you didn’t know.

Or maybe you did, but most people don’t.

This is the kind of act that should be playing the Super Bowl. One where the spectacle is the music itself. Where production is irrelevant, where it’s about the humanity contained in the glorious sound.

Maybe there’s a way out of this place.

Because lord knows we’ve been in a bad way, with no breakthrough sound since the millennium. Everyone playing to younger and younger kids. What does a fifteen year old have to say?

But Nathaniel Rateliff is forty, with a lot of wear and tear, a lot of miles, and that’s what informs his sound, there’s wisdom, not calculation.

Maybe he can lead us back to the garden.

Def Leppard Deserves It

If rock critics are so smart, why is Kraftwerk not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? They don’t come more influential than the German synth act, and if you’ve ever been to one of their shows, it’s mesmerizing, even a non-fan would be wowed.

But there’s a long history of critics being clueless. They use their outsider status to feel good about themselves, nerds outside the social circle, the only way they feel good is by excoriating your taste and trumpeting theirs. That’s why the Rock Hall is such a wank. There’s all this b.s. about influence and political correctness when the truth is rock is a steamy, sexy affair and if you don’t know this, you’ve probably never been laid, but if you go to a Def Leppard show you’ll see all the women you wish you had.

But you didn’t.

These women who let go, who were not too uptight to go with the flow while you were home with your punk records decrying their taste.

Hmm…

Scenesters knew of Def Leppard, they had a tiny bit of traction, and then…

“Photograph” positively EXPLODED out of the radio.

You were driving your car and your mind was suddenly centered on this exquisite sound coming out of the speakers, a mash-up of rock, metal and surf…HOW DID THEY DO THIS?

Of course Mutt Lange deserves credit. And while we’re giving it, how about Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis for Janet Jackson?

Talk to Cliff and Peter. They thought AC/DC was gonna exit Contemporary Communications along with them. But it was not to be. They got Def Leppard, not even the Scorpions, and when put together with Mutt there was suddenly hysteria, the managers woke up to an exploding answering machine, back when that was a thing, everybody gets excited about a hit, everybody wants a piece of a hit. And that’s what they got, Def Leppard was all over MTV, and unlike the scribes, they were cute and attractive and viewers were drawn to them and…

The album was too good to believe.

Of course it started with “Photograph.”

But then they created rock of ages with “Rock Of Ages,” with its nonsense intro and then the reference to Neil Young and then the essence of rock, the beat, listen and you can see heads bobbing in the audience.

What do you want, what do you want?
I want rock ‘n roll
Long live rock and roll

It was a pile driver with melody. No one had quite done it this way before, not successfully anyway, blending headbanging with melody, with incredible changes and choruses.

We got the power, we got the glory

We were burnin’ with the feeling. Suddenly everybody had to own “Pyromania,” you burned out the tape in your car, played the album at home at parties…

Because it set you free.

They weren’t FFFF…FOOLIN’!

Metal acts were pissed, these also-ran pretty boys ran away with their audience. The music still had elements of darkness, but they resonated with a broad audience.

It was definitely not too late for love.

But then it was four years till the follow-up.

Too long according to conventional wisdom.

We all knew the story, the car accident, the false start, we didn’t believe the band could survive the trauma.

And unlike “Pyromania,” “Hysteria” did not explode out of the box, it wasn’t until the fourth single, “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” that the victory lap was complete, that people realized Def Leppard was not only back, but they were bigger than ever, and that they’d captured the ears of listeners everywhere, this was a people’s band, and that’s what the critics hate.

And the first track that I liked was “Animal.” You know how you buy a long-anticipated album and play it over and over again until it reveals itself to you?

It happens track by track, your favorite constantly shifts.

Then came the majestic closer, “Love And Affection.”

And, of course, “Armageddon It” and “Love Bites” and “Rocket.”

But the cut that ultimately got under my skin, that never lets go, that I hear in my brain all the time, is the title track, “Hysteria.”

I’ve gotta know tonight
If you’re alone tonight
Can’t stop this feeling
Can’t stop this fire

Come on, you’ve been there, oftentimes without a condom. It’s physical, you cannot fight the urge.

And it’s the groove of the track, like building to orgasm.

You’re no longer flaccid, the blood is flowing, you’re erect.

Even better, it’s reciprocal, you’re not alone doing the hand jive.

WHAT MORE COULD YOU ASK FOR?

It’s such a magical mysteria.

Suddenly the stories were legion, of what happened under the boards at Def Leppard shows. Unlike the rappers they didn’t have to brag about it, the magic was irresistible, the women came to them.

And maybe that era is past. Maybe Me-Too has eviscerated it.

Then again, the members of Def Leppard were not dripping hot wax upon women (girls?) like the denizens of the Continental Riot House.

Then again, Led Zeppelin was deplored by these same critics. Pretty boy Plant. Bombastic Bonham. Taking himself too seriously Page. Forgotten Jones. They were blues imitators, they were rip-off artists, and suddenly they climbed the stairway to stardom and were selling out stadiums and no naysayer wanted to admit they were wrong.

But the little boys understood.

And the little girls understood Def Leppard, and therefore the act wasn’t taken seriously.

And this is not a guilty pleasure, this is a band hitting it out of the park again and again.

And speaking of parks, that’s where they play, BASEBALL STADIUMS!

While the has-beens inducted into the Hall of Fame sit home with their trophies telling tales of the old days.

And isn’t this the core of rock and roll?

A feeling between the legs.

A letting go of the world.

Awash in the glorious sound.

Only in this case, Def Leppard did it wrong. Instead of being seen as outsiders undeserving of attention, everybody glommed on to them, both boys and girls.

But still, they got no respect.

They weren’t even nominated previously.

They weren’t taken seriously.

But when given a chance, the fans overwhelmingly voted them in.

Isn’t that what we keep hearing, that it’s all about the fans?

Hell, if you let the audience vote, Bryan Adams would be in too. How many hits does it take? Or is the fewer you’ve got a badge of honor. Just because he makes it look easy he should be excluded?

Then again, the Rock Hall is a joke, always has been, after they inducted the no-brainers they’ve been conflicted, to the point where everybody now deserves to be in.

Except for the popular who satiated fans, the bedrock of rock and roll.

‘Cause it’s a miracle Def Leppard got voted in.

But one thing’s for sure, they light that fire every night, there’s hysteria in the audience.

AND ISN’T THAT WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT?

Todd Rundgren-Why He Belongs In The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Todd Rundgren

“Open My Eyes”
Nazz

The Rolling Stones taught us the opening track on an album must be a killer, it must take you on a roller coaster ride, it must leave the station and never relent. “Open My Eyes” fits the bill.

“Hello It’s Me”
Nazz

Am I the only person who prefers this non-Todd vocal original, much quieter and more meaningful? It wasn’t a national hit back then, it’s just that Nazz was on SGC Records and didn’t have a chance.

“She’s Goin’ Down”
Nazz

Unknown except for acolytes, this five minute track is a tear, with a drum break to boot!

“Yankee Lady”
Jesse Winchester

Todd was the engineer. Jesse was a draft dodger moved to Canada who had impact with his initial LP and gradually lost traction to the point where most people have no idea who he is anymore. But if you play this…

Yankee lady so good to me
Yankee lady just a memory

Pull this up on Spotify, you’ll be stunned how immediate it sounds, like it was yanked from the countryside nearly fifty years later with no sign of wear. If more acoustic music sounded this clear and human, the sound could come back

“The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show”
The Band

Todd engineered “Stage Fright.”

My favorite Band album is the second, self-titled LP. The sound of the first doesn’t work for me, as great as the tracks are. “Stage Fright” is less dark than what came before, but it’s much more clear. I told my mother to send the second to me at college, she sent the third, I know it by heart.

“We Gotta Get You A Woman”
Runt/Todd Rundgren

Multiple iterations, on the world’s lamest label, Todd’s initial solo LP had no chance. But somehow this cut emerged and was a hit in certain markets, but not in others.

Written for Paul Fishkin, the lyrics remain true. My friend John texted them to me just the other day, he’s looking.

Meanwhile, this was the first inkling that Todd could write commercial pop hits seemingly without effort. If only today’s pop acts studied his catalog, they’d know melody and changes (and production!) are the key to hits.

“A Long Time, A Long Way To Go”
Todd Rundgren

“The Ballad of Todd Rundgren” is a hidden gem, it’s my favorite LP of Todd’s. Into the dumper immediately, it was nearly unavailable, I bought a cut-out version, and fell instantly in love. This is my favorite song on the LP, intimate and then overblown, a cross between teen and adult “A Long Time, A Long Way To Go” is a gem, in the same league as Split Enz’s “Message To My Girl.” If you’re a hopeless romantic, this is your track.

“Long Flowing Robe”
Todd Rundgren

The opening track from “Ballad,” it too hews to the Stones doctrine, it leaves the gate like a racehorse. And the nuances are so exquisite, that drum hit, the background vocals…

Friday night, nothing much to do but hang around

College in the seventies.

“The Range War”
Todd Rundgren

Romeo & Juliet via the Hatfields and McCoys, Todd took the country genre and mixed it with pop and rock, and opined on life better than the recognized hit writers.

And “Pittsburgh”… Platitudes don’t resonate as much as specifics.

“Perfection”
Badfinger

The second best song on “Straight Up,” the message resonates, as does the production, done by Todd.

“Baby Blue
Badfinger

More well-known than “Perfection,” also produced by Todd.

“Something/Anything”
Todd Rundgren

The double album masterpiece from ’72 that contains the hit version of “Hello It’s Me” and so much more.

It opens with the Stones policy “I Saw The Light.” But even better is “It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference,” the sound is magical, but so are the words. And the trifecta is completed by “Wolfman Jack,” with the Wolfman himself included, if you don’t get up and move when you listen to “Wolfman Jack” you have no legs.

“Black Maria”… The third side opener, what a burner.

Unlike the first three sides, the fourth is done with a band, it’s not Todd only, and “Dust In The Wind” triumphs with the additional singers and players, it’s a veritable “Mad Dogs & Englishmen.”

Then there’s the humorous “Piss Aaron” and the ode to venereal disease “You Left Me Sore” and I could argue that Todd belongs in the R&RHOF based solely on “Something/Anything.”

“Just One Victory”
Todd Rundgren

A kitchen sink production that begins with angelic voices and then goes to Mars, this is an unheralded masterpiece. I could go on about “Hungry For Love” and “Zen Archer” and the Motown medley, but “A Wizard/A True Star” was too adventurous for most. Rundgren played the Neil Young card, who famously gave his audience “Time Fades Away” after “Harvest,” only the hard core stayed on.

“Personality Crisis”
New York Dolls

Overhyped, they’d be completely forgotten if it were not for Todd’s production on their debut LP.

And them came…

“We’re An American Band”
Grand Funk

One of the most hated bands on the planet, I’ll admit to liking “Closer To Home (I’m Your Captain),” but if you owned a Grand Funk LP, it was evidence you had no taste until…

FM was killing AM. But automobiles had not caught up, AM ruled in cars, 8-tracks were just beginning their infiltration and therefore, “We’re An American Band” was a hit of the type seen no longer. Everybody knew it! And it’s a classic. Great lyrics, but without Todd Rundgren’s production it would be an also-ran at best.

“The Loco-Motion”
Grand Funk

Another hit, albeit a cover. I bought the original Little Eva single, this is a bit sacrilegious, but it was great to hear it again.

“A Dream Goes On Forever”
Todd Rundgren

From the double LP in a single LP jacket as a result of the paper crisis of ’74, this is nearly as good as “A Long Time, A Long Way To Go.”

One of my personal favorites on “Todd” is “Heavy Metal Kids,” which you might immediately skip over, but who can’t smile at the lyrics:

Go on and poison all the water, use up all the air
Blow your stupid heads off, see if I could care

“Real Man”
Todd Rundgren

Todd could do anything, pop, metal and now he went prog, with synths, and with one of his best vocals, put “Real Man” over the top! He’s angelic and then throaty and the key line in the chorus sneaks up on you…”there’s a real man.”

“It’s All Too Much”
Steve Hillage

From his second LP, “L.” I bought this, a trancey take that has you nodding your head in alignment whether you’re stoned or not. Also check out the opener, a cover of Donovan’s “Hurdy Gurdy Man,” all produced by Todd.

“Love Is The Answer”
Utopia

Suddenly Todd had a band and was a prog rocker, he’d left the pop sound which made his solo name for experimentation, yet at the end of this third Utopia LP is a gem that England Dan & John Ford Coley took to the Top Ten.

And when you feel afraid, love one another
When you’ve lost your way, love one another
When you’re all alone, love one another
When you’re far from home, love one another
When you’re down and out, love one another
All your hope’s run out, love one another
When you need a friend, love one another
When you’re near the end, love
We got to love, we got to love one another

A message as relevant and more important than it was back in ’77.

“Bat Out Of Hell”

The fifth best-selling album of all time. With the inimitable Phil Rizzuto included in “Paradise By The Dashboard Light.” Steve Popovich died chasing Sony for royalties and proper credit on this album, maybe Todd was smart to cash out his interest.

“Can We Still Be Friends”
Todd Rundgren

Just when we were convinced he’d left his pop-rock roots behind, Todd dropped “The Hermit of Mink Hollow,” proving he could do it whenever he wanted to.

“Love My Way”
The Psychedelic Furs

Their most famous track, produced by Todd.

“Dear God”
XTC

Andy Partridge had nothing good to say about Todd, that’s actually an understatement, as a result Todd aired his feelings and now Andy has come around, but once again, Todd produced one of the most remembered albums by an act with a long career.

Of course I left stuff out!

I know Todd produced the Tubes and Cheap Trick, as well as Hall & Oates and Bad Religion, but I’m focusing on his most successful, artistically and sometimes commercially, work.

And, of course, Todd is still recording and taking chances. He did an EDM tour, he refuses to play his hits, he’s got more talent in his pinky than most members of the Hall of Fame, yet…

He is ignored.

At least he was finally nominated.

But time is passing him by. There are younger voters, and it’s turned into recognition of influence and hits and if your work is singular yet artistically triumphant that does not seem to matter.

Wankers, I tell you.

But for those who know, they believe…

Todd is God.