No More Hinting: Madonna’s “Erotica”

Madonna Ciccone is many things to many people, but the reason she matters is that she’s fearless. After pushing boundaries throughout the 80s she took it to another level with Erotica (1992). The established coy sexuality of female pop stars went out the window and was replaced by wanton sexuality. Co-released with her explicit book, Sex, and arguably the raunchiest record launch party in history, the record ruffled some feathers, to say the least. Billboard gathers the principals on the 25th anniversary to go over how the project came together as well as the aftermath.

Madonna’s ‘Erotica’ Turns 25: An Oral History of the Most Controversial ’90s Pop Album

Billboard.com, 10.20.17

CBGB: The 70’s Home for NYC’s Dirty Rockers

CBGB is a club with a worldwide reputation, but it started out as a tiny, dirty hole in the wall furnished entirely in wood. It opened in 1973 and quickly became a favorite destination for the artsy weirdos and outcasts of New York City. Although known as a punk club, and birthplace of The Ramones, it housed a diverse mix of mix, including Patti Smith’s art rock and later the Talking Heads new wave stylings. The most commercially succcessful band was Blondie, fronted by the iconic Debbie Harry. Cuepoint put together a wonderful history of the club with numerous high-res images and a link to a CBGB-inspired music playlist.

Our Hole in the Wall: An Oral History of the CBGB Scene

Medium.com, 2.12.15

 

 

Radiohead’s Masterpiece: “OK Computer”

There have been a number of pieces recently celebrating the 20th anniversary of OK Computer, the first great post-grunge rock album. Startlingly innovative, the album represented Radiohead’s long-expected ascension to true rock icons. The album, which came at the end of four years of constant touring, is heavily influenced by that reality (or unreality) and the resulting alienation and loss of individual identity. It was recorded in Jane Seymour’s 1,000-year old English manor house, which may be haunted by Henry VIII’s illegitimate daughter (or Jane Seymour’s mother), thus providing its own unique influence on the proceedings. Rolling Stone went all out for the anniversary, including a lengthy oral history with embedded music videos for each of the album’s songs.

Radiohead’s ‘OK Computer’: An Oral History

RollingStone.com, 6.16.17

 

The Monterey Pop Festival Changes Music Forever

The Monterey Pop Festival of 1967 was the first rock music festival to gain widespread notice, and has since become known as a watershed moment in the 60’s rock history, especially for the California sound personified by the Grateful Dead, The Byrds, and Jefferson Airplane. Bands such as the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Big Brother and the Holding Company (featuring a 24-year-old Janis Joplin), and The Who quickly became huge in the States due to their performances and the resulting publicity. The bands played for free and profits went to charity, another innovation that would trickle down through the years. On the eve of the 50th anniversary concert Billboard takes a look back at music history.

The Oral History of Monterey Pop, Where Jimi Torched His Ax & Janis Became a Star: Art Garfunkel, Steve Miller, Lou Adler & More

Billboard.com, 5.26.17

 

L.A.’s Paisley Underground Music Scene

L.A.’s  punk explosion of 1977/78 faded quickly and one of the scenes to take its place was the Paisley Underground, a group of psychedelia-influenced bands in the same social circle. Originally referring to the triumvirate of the Bangles, Dream Syndicate, and Rain Parade, the term grew to encompass a wider range of bands, including ones outside L.A. Characterized by rough, droning guitars with sunshine vocals, the sound found a sizable audience in the early 80s.

The Paisley Underground: Los Angeles’s 1980s psychedelic explosion

TheGuardian.com, 5.16.13

The One and Only James Brown

If there was one thing that people agreed upon regarding James Brown it was that he could bring it. Night after night the “Hardest Working Man In Show Business” would bring the funk and show his audience a good time. Off the stage things get more complicated with contentious professional relationships and a rocky personal life. Unsurprisingly, Creative Loafing‘s oral history has lots of juice.

James Brown: Soul Brother No. 1 (1933-2006)

CreativeLoafing.com, 1.10.07

Soundgarden’s “Superunkown”

Soundgarden formed in 1984 and Superunknown was their fourth studio release. They knew what they were doing and they knew they were ready to go big. Superunkown would deliver with such 90’s rock classics as “Black Hole Sun,” “Spoonman,” and “Fell on Black Days.” Spin collects anecdotes about the volatile creation and effect of this grunge masterpiece.

Get Yourself Control: The Oral History of Soundgarden’s ‘Superunknown’

Spin.com, 6.5.14

 

Dubstep’s Uniquely Long Reign

Dubstep arose out of the ashes of garage and jungle in London around the turn of the century. Still going strong in many clubs around the world, it has enjoyed a uniquely long reign in a genre where subgenres come and go in a flash. What is dubstep? Frenetically paced bass-driven dance beats with liberal overdubbing. Vice chronicles the rise of dubstep out of working-class Croydon, a London suburb.

The VICE Oral History of Dubstep

Vice.com, 6.23.15

 

Aaliyah: A Visionary Artist Gone Too Soon

Aaliyah was a wildly talented young lady that already had a varied and successful career at the time of her untimely death in a plane crash at age 22. Primarily known as a progressive R & B singer she had just released her third album, all of which went double platinum. Known for her unique style combining sweet and sexy she was about to start a fashion line. She also starred in the movie Romeo Must Die (2000). The Fader talked to a collection of folks close to her, including producer Missy Elliott, for a touching remembrance of a unique soul and talent.

Aaliyah: Angel So Fly

TheFader.com, 8.25.11

The Birth of Outlaw Country

Up through the 1960s Nashville had a stranglehold on country music and they enforced conformity with a headmaster’s zeal. The musical and cultural revolution finally hit country in the early 70s and it didn’t happen in Nashville, it happened in Austin, Texas. Although this progressive offshoot was eventually subsumed by Nashville labels, the work of Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Steve Earle (among others) never lost its edge or its loving embrace of the outlaw. Texas Monthly provides an in-depth review of the lifecycle of this popular branch of country music.

That 70’s Show

TexasMonthly.com, 1.21.13

The Weeknd Blows Up: “Beauty Behind The Madness”

The Weeknd organically grew his fanbase through mixtapes and YouTube releases, ultimately compiled in the platinum-selling Trilogy (2012). But his major-label debut, Beauty Behind the Madness, turned him into an international superstar with its easy synthesis of soul, rhythm and blues, and rock.  The behind-the-scenes crew included some of Tesfaye’s musical buddies but also experienced L.A. producers Stephen Moccio, Ali Payami, Danny Schofield, and Max Martin. Here is the creation story of the Grammy-nominated album.

The Oral History Of The Weeknd’s Beauty Behind The Madness

Grammy.com, 2.8.16

 

Jazz June: Underrated Kinetic Emo Jams

The Jazz June formed at Kutztown University in the mid-90s and surfed the undercurrent of the emo boom, never quite breaking big despite a loyal following and kinetic songs with complicated structures. In addition to a solid punk-rock upbringing the band consciously tried to expand their horizons by listening to free-form jazz greats like John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and Dave Brubeck. They tried to bring that structural complexity to a punk-rock/emo aesthetic and the result was songs with alot more going on than their contemporaries. Noisey catches up with the boys for retrospective.

The Possibilities Are Endless: An Oral History of the Jazz June

Noisey.Vice.com, 5.14.14

Deep Ellum: The Heart of the Dallas Music Scene

Deep Ellum has a long but tumultuous history as the heart of the North Texas music scene. The small neighborhood just east of downtown Dallas first made a name musically in the early 20th century as a blues mecca, hosting the likes of Robert Johnson, Lead Belly, and T-Bone Walker. After a long derelict period the scene rebounded in the early 90s with alt-rock bands like the Toadies, Old 97s and Funland leading the way. After a brief downturn at the turn of the century the scene rebounded again with storied clubs like Trees and City Tavern reopening to host a musically diverse group of bands including Polyphonic Spree, Erykah Badu, and Sarah Jaffe.

An Oral History of the Dallas Music Scene

DallasObserver.com, 10.13.11

Kurt Cobain’s Last Days

Nirvana, the band that put the stake through the heart of mindless 80’s rock, had a relatively brief and mercurial career. Much of this was due to the troubled and mercurial Kurt Cobain, a true punk rocker who was not cut out to be a rock star. Esquire got rights to reprint the last chapter of a book-length oral history of Nirvana, and the last chapter covers the band’s last chapter and Cobain’s last days.

Inside the Final Days of Nirvana

Esquire.com, 3.6.15

Toronto’s Caribana: The Largest Carnival Festival in North America

Toronto’s Caribana Festival has had its share of twists and turns since being founded in 1967 in honor of Canada’s centenary. It became a celebrated annual event on Canada’s long Civic Holiday weekend, eventually bringing an estimated $438M into the region each year. Its more recent history is a bit more murky as the route changed from the downtown University Avenue to Lakeshore Boulevard in 1991, the original founders were pushed out in 2006 due to perceived mismanagement, and an admittance fee was introduced for the first time in 2013. Noisey chronicles the storied past of the festival, the uncertain present, and gets ideas on how it could reclaim its former glory.

The Love or the Money: An Oral History of Toronto’s Caribana

Noisey.Vice.com, 5.26.15

The Honk! Street Music Festival Goes Global

Street-music festivals, where fun-loving bands jam amongst the people, have exploded in popularity in recent years, and alot of it has to do with the The Honk! Festival of Activist Street Bands in Boston. One part New Orleans second line, one part hippie jam fest, one part street party, the concept looks good on paper! The first festival succeeded spectacularly in 2006 and has since spread like wildfire to Austin, Seattle, Rio, Detroit, NYC, and Australia. WBUR in Boston details the origins.

An Oral History: How The Honk Music Fest Began Here And Spread Around The World

WBUR.org, 10.11.14

The Alabama Shakes Break Out With “Sound & Color”

Electric modern soul masters Alabama Shakes exploded onto the national music scene in 2012 with their debut Boys & Girls, and fearless frontwoman Brittany Howard took the group to the next level with 2015’s Grammy-nominated record Sound & Color. The wonderfully down-to-earth band made themselves at home in the recording studio with southern feasts and de-stressing coloring books. All of it leaves one wondering what the musically adventurous group will do next…

The Oral History Of Alabama Shakes’ Sound & Color

Grammy.com, 2.8.16

“Ultimate Breaks & Beats”: Foundational Funky Samples

Ultimate Breaks & Beats is a series of 25 vinyl albums launched in 1986 that has since been endlessly mined for funky samples by the varied likes of Kanye, Bowie, Skrillex, Mariah Carey and Public Enemy. Cuepoint has put together a remarkable profile not just of UBB’s wide-ranging influence (with audio evidence) but also the history of sampling itself.

Ultimate Breaks & Beats: An Oral History

Medium.com, 5.13.15

 

D’Angelo: The Man, The Myth, The Legend

D’Angelo announced himself as a gifted R & B musician with 1995’s Brown Sugar but it was 2000’s Voodoo that put him in the stratosphere. Created at NYC’s Electric Ladyland during a stirring rebirth of that famous studio, Voodoo effortlessly combined funk, soul, hip-hop and more in a Grammy-award winning achievement. He had the music world in the palm of his hand. And then he disappeared. It would take 14 years of rumors and breaks before he delivered 2014’s Black Messiah, which Rolling Stone called an experimental soul masterpiece. Noisey profiles D’Angelo with help from his associates, including Questlove and DJ Premier.

Untitled (An Oral History of D’Angelo)

Noisey.Vice.com, 10.6.14

“Phat Beach”: The Gold Standard for Hip-Hop Beach Movies

Producer Cleveland O’Neal approached film school student Doug Elfin (Entourage) about a movie Elflin originally thought was called Fat Bitch. Once Elfin figured out what was happening, he revised the script with O’Neal and directed the low-budget independent film about some broke boys at the beach, looking for love, and hilariously winning a beach volleyball competition on a whim. Its playful street vibe won over viewers of a certain age and can still be found in early morning showings on basic cable. Complex looks back.

The Oral History of ‘Phat Beach’

Complex.com, 8.3.16