It might not seem like it to most of us, but 2007 may go down as the year rock music started heading back to the forefront and from the most unlikely of sources – the stalwarts of the genre itself. Has anyone in rock ever been both so prolific and so superb during an equivalent span as the four artists/bands we’ve featured here? Their meteoric rise not only caused bands & artists that would’ve otherwise been ignored to get more attention; it also changed forever the ears of the listening public; bending music fans toward something new & unique. Whatever force inspired these boys has remained strong throughout their releases over the years – and a new album from them is still an event that’s meant to be talked about, so that’s exactly why we’re here. From humble beginnings, their careers continue to soar.
THE TRAVELING WILBURYS
The Traveling Wilburys influence on rock music and world culture was and remains immense. Under the stewardship of ex Beatle George Harrison– rock n roll maestros Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty & Jeff Lynne got together to create a unique sound that’s influenced generations of artists - from U2, The Goo Dolls, Green Day & right up to Maroon 5 today. Although their time in the limelight was brief; their records sell almost as well now as they did in the group's brief eminence. With the super group’s complete studio output collected in one place - latest album The Traveling Wilburys Collection is more than enough reason for us to roll out the red carpet for the band.
The Backstory - The first super group in rock n roll history was undoubtedly The Million Dollar Quartet – the name given to the Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis impromptu session at Sun Studios one night in 1956. Surely one would think that it's impossible to picture a supergroup with a stronger pedigree than that -yet, there never was a bigger group in rock n roll history than the Traveling Wilburys. There was George Harrison of the Beatles, 50’s rock n roll legend Roy Orbison (whom Elvis used to cite as his favourite singer!), folksinger Bob Dylan (poet & prophet to millions), 70’s guitar legend Jeff Lynne (who was the leader of 70’s hit makers Electric Light Orchestra) and of course singer Tom Petty, the man who Bruce Springsteen called ‘the Heart’ of American rock n roll.
The Traveling Wilburys Collection: The New Release In 2007 – The group is back in the news again & for all the right reasons. With the 20th anniversary of the band’s first release approaching, interest in their music has never been higher. Due to legal disagreements between the remaining Wilburys and the family of Roy Orbison, the albums were taken out of print and were unavailable in stores for over a decade. Now with all matters resolved, the two much-treasured albums have been remastered and been re-released into a greatest hits set called The Traveling Wilburys Collection. Complete with four bonus tracks and a DVD of the sessions & their five video clips – the set surprised everyone when it debuted straight at number one in the UK Charts in June. Currently riding high on the US charts as well, the 3 CD/DVD package is also the number one download on Apple's iTunes. It’s amazing, when you look back at it, that even though two of its key members are dead, the band is still rocking and rolling after all these years. If you’ve never really been a fan of theirs, now’s the time to become one.
Given the sheer volume and varying quality of his recorded output, it's not easy to overlook the fact that Paul McCartney is one of the greatest musicians of the last century. Rock & pop music disciples have always elevated Macca to an altogether higher plane - he’s been the subject of an enormous number of books, TV movies, academic conference papers and has inspired more web pages on the internet than almost anyone in the world. Now close to sixty six, he continues recording and performing with the energy of a man half his age as new album Memory Almost Full showcases.
Memory Almost Full: The New Release In 2007: Clearly we’ve become aware of the void in modern music, of knowing that something that used to be there, is now gone. Like a surprise visit from an old friend, McCartney’s latest release Memory Almost Full is a modest masterpiece that nods to that past while reaffirming his skills as a pop craftsman. As first single Dance Tonight proves, he can still make you want to roll down the windows, crank up the stereo, and roll – its little wonder that Memory Almost Full debuted at no#3 on the US charts. On the occasion of the new album; the ex-Beatle sat down for an interview & let his heart do the talking:
There seems to be a major revival at the moment of your post Beatles output. Modern Top 40 bands like the Scissor Sisters are citing the Wings and early McCartney stuff as their biggest influences. That must come across as a surprise?
McCartney - (Laughs) It’s only a pity because at the time we didn’t know about it, we didn’t realise that we’d get noticed in the future, and I think because we were so in the shadows of the Beatles, it was always a bit ‘oh, is what we’re doing ok?’ So it’s very gratifying now to see the people revisiting it, and I was talking to Bono and he was saying you know, so many people are really checking out Wings. I meet a lot of young kids who are into not only Wings but my solo stuff…. and they’re interested in the stuff that nobody knows….which is good cause I did a lot of that….a lot of kind of experimental stuff…. so some of that’s coming to the fore now, and that’s good.
Memory Almost Full is an interesting title. What’s that all about?
McCartney - The album title came after I had finished everything. For me, that’s when they normally come, with the exception of maybe Sgt. Peppers, otherwise I don’t think I have ever made an album with The Beatles, Wings or solo where I have thought of a title and a concept first. I was looking for something that would sum the whole thing up and ‘Memory Almost Full’ came to mind. It’s a phrase that seemed to embrace modern life; in modern life our brains can get a bit overloaded. I realized I had also seen it come up on my phone a few times. When I started bouncing the idea round with some friends they nearly all got different meanings out of it, but they all said they loved it. So the feedback helped solidify the title…
…So you ran with it?
McCartney - To me, what I like about a title is that it’s not very specific. For instance with the Beatles and Abbey Road, we had another title, it was going to be called Everest or Mount Everest or something, which I think would have been a pretty crumby title, and I think we weren’t really happy with it but it was a working title. It was something to do with the cigarettes the engineer smoked, he kept smoking these cigarettes called Everest and we thought ‘hmm that’s a good title’…
The disclaimer goes: “Anyone that’s looking slightly normal, is not allowed in and we advise anyone who’s pregnant or who is suffering from a nervous disposition not to attend. And the Ozzy organisation takes no responsibility for your mental health after this show.” In the words of the Prince of &^%$#@! Darkness himself…
The sixties were known for the want for love, peace, joy, and Satan. While the rest of the world was stuck in battle over wars, four kids from Birmingham decided they wanted to make a statement about Satan. Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward started out as Earth, a hard rock and blues rock band, singing tunes akin to Cliff Richard And The Shadows, and the Beatles. But a freak incident in 1969 led to a change in the band’s sound and character.
The band’s sound came quite by accident, it was more of an observation and a need to be heard than a creative turn the band took. The band noticed the hordes of people exiting a movie hall where a horror movie was playing, and Butler realised that people pay a lot of money to see something scary. Ergo, the band changed its sound, creating a dark ominous tone. The movie’s name was Black Sabbath.
Still Rocking in 2007
Six years after his last album of studio material (2001’s Down To Earth), Ozzy Osbourne returns with a new album, touching on topics of greed, war and deception. The album’s called Black Rain and it is a concept that Ozzy came up with: “I was watching… I like to watch the news channels. I like to watch the documentary channels. And I got this ~ somebody gave me a DVD of when we dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima. And after it blew up and killed everybody like that, it carbon ~ it [vapourised] some people, but it carbonised other people, not unlike charcoal and when the bomb ~ it sucked all these things up in a cloud, and it rained black rain, but they thought it was just regular rain there. And there were people catching it on their tongues and it kind of stuck on my head. I go, wow, I hope we never see black rain, you know?”
Flashbacks don’t work well. Locking yourself in a room, putting on your old records from the 80s doesn’t work; it’s still dated and just worth memories. Rock is alive and well, and it’s in the very capable hands of Velvet Revolver.
At some point in the late 80s to early 90s, you could not get better than Guns N’ Roses (GNR). The world hadn’t attained Nirvana yet, and the glam-hard-rock efforts of bands like GNR were all the rage.
GNR was conceived somewhere in the middle of the 80s, a disco decade for most. Metallica had just been born, but they hadn’t achieved commercial success yet. So the hard rock genre was open to contenders, and GNR proved champion amongst them. The teaming up of Axl Rose, Slash, Izzy Stradlin, Duff McKagan and Steven Adler was the best thing to happen to hard rock in the 80s and 90s, and their first album release proved as much. Nobody knew what ‘too much Appetite For Destruction’ meant. There was something raw and dangerous about the band, two traits that have stuck through to today.
Still Rocking in 2007
Weiland says of the album: “There was a title, Libertad. It was an idea, that idea was liberty, eternal search for freedom. I think these are both, very interesting times and very dark times. It’s hard not to be influenced by these times. And I think that artists are inspired by their surroundings, what’s happening around you, what’s happening around all of us.”
“I didn’t have any expectations as to where it was going to go, it just naturally happened,” says Slash. Weiland seconds that, “The album took on a life of its own. Everybody got really bold in their own personal journey, as far as the level of songwriting, their style of playing, choices of chording.”
Libertad picks up perfectly from where Contraband left off. It is being hailed as the perfect follow-up, and VR are being hailed as the band responsible for orchestrating the comeback of hard rock. “The band had a really great time in the studio, we were all there, all the time. A lot of the stuff was performed really off-the-cuff, in a sort of live manner; it was done very rock and roll, we kept a lot of the original guitars and the original vocals. And the vibe in the studio, when working with Brendan O’Brien was very musical; it led itself into a lot of musical expression, spontaneity.”
You can read the rest of our special feature Rock Veterans in the August 2007 issue of The Record Music Magazine available at your local newsagent.
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