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Rolling Stones: The Best Live Performances on Video

They’re baaaaack! The Rolling Stones, Rock ‘n’ Roll’s longest running major act, is hitting the road again, for the umpteenth time. The Rolling Stones North American tour of 18 shows was kicked off in New York.
Rolling-Stones-currentNow celebrating 50 years as a performing act, the Rolling Stones have played to the biggest audiences in Rock ‘n’ Roll, including a Brazil show attended by more than a million spectators. (Photo: Mark Seliger)

If you can make it, do yourself a favor and see the “Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band of All Time” while you can. But if you can’t get to the shows, here’s an overview of some of the band’s best performances on video, all of which show why this group has consistently been the most exciting live act in all of Rock music.

Song: “I’m All Right”
Year: 1964
DVD: The T.A.M.I. Show
Why It’s A Classic: James Brown and Mick Jagger compete to see who rules the stage.
The Performance: A classic Rock ‘n’ Roll movie, The T.A.M.I. Show brought together a huge number of top performers. In a moment of heated backstage drama, the Stones were chosen to close the show—a decision that didn’t please master showman James Brown, who taunted the band: “I’m gonna make you Rollin’ Stones wish you’d never left England.” Brown’s set is absolutely amazing; he later claimed he never danced faster in his life. He dances with a vengeance.
Mick-Jagger-and-James-Brown
Not-so-friendly rivals? Jagger had to figure out a way to out-perform James Brown, the greatest showman of the 1960s.

The Stones followed with five songs, finishing with this simple early rave-up. About two minutes in, Jagger settles the song down (despite the full-throttle screams of what sounds like a million teenage girls), then builds it back up, bit by bit. “I’m all right…” he sings over and over, changing the inflections and increasing the intensity each of the 15 times he sings the lyric. Finally, he’s screaming it.
Rolling-Stones-early-riot
Three songs and a riot: The crazy early days, when Rock stars had to run for their lives.

Pretty soon, Jagger’s moving his head as wildly as the maracas he’s shaking. Mayhem ensues and the crowd goes nuts. Jagger couldn’t out-dance James Brown, but he out-performed him all the same. This performance demonstrates the thrilling frenzy the band could generate live. The Stones’ early shows were all the same, according to deadpan drummer Charlie Watts: “Three songs and then a riot would break out.”

Song: “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”
Year: 1966
DVD: The Ed Sullivan Shows Starring the Rolling Stones
Why It’s A Classic: The band’s top track, back when the song was still creating a sensation.
The Performance: It’s a riff that still stops you in your tracks. The opening guitar growl that announces “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” is one of the most identifiable and iconic pieces of popular music. The breakthrough song went to Number One (the band’s first) during the boiling hot summer of 1965. It’s all here: the famous fuzz-tone guitar, the snarling attitude, the amazing lyrics—which poke fun at American advertising.
Satisfaction-single
The shot heard ’round the world. 1965′s “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” became the group’s breakthrough hit.

This February 13, 1966, performance on the hugely popular Ed Sullivan Show did more to introduce this band to American audiences than any other. You can tell the band isn’t lip-synching by guitarist Keith Richards’ harmony singing and the extreme fuzz-tone effect box he was clicking on and off with his boot for the beginning riff and the chorus. See why “Satisfaction” is still the Rolling Stones’ signature song, and why “Rolling Stone” magazine selected the song as the second-greatest Rock song of all time.

Song: “Midnight Rambler”
Year: 1972
DVD: Ladies and Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones
Why It’s A Classic: Over-the-top showmanship meets gut-bucket Blues in a brutal live version filmed during the band’s peak.
The Performance: By 1972, there was little debate about which was the best Rock ‘n’ Roll band in the world. Any doubts were steamrolled over when video footage from the Stones’ 1972 tour was collected in this 1974 film. The band is in amazing condition and this tour probably represents its peak as a touring unit. Performances like these are why people started calling the Stones the best band in Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Rolling-Stones-live-1972
By 1972, the Stones were peaking, as Ladies and Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones clearly proves.

Perennial live favorite “Midnight Rambler” is given a particularly aggressive workout, showcasing the interplay between singer Jagger and drummer Watts. This performance from Fort Worth, Texas, shows the sheer musical power that the Stones can generate, especially when they stretch out on a number, as they do on this 11-minute version, which is almost double the length of the original album cut. Seeing is believing. See it and you will believe…and you will be exhausted.

Song: “Shattered”
Year: 1978
DVD: Some Girls: Live in Texas ’78 (Bonus Feature)
Why It’s A Classic: An early Stones comeback that charted all the other comebacks still to come.
The Performance: By 1978, a lot of Rock fans were giving up on the band, which suffered some creative ups and downs during the 70s. The Stones responded by embracing the two breakout musical genres of the era…Disco and Punk. The album that addressed both styles, as well as the band’s usual roots Rock ‘n’ Roll, was called Some Girls. It remains the band’s biggest selling album and is now generally considered a modern masterpiece and perhaps the band’s final masterwork.
Rolling-Stones-live-1978
The Stones hit Saturday Night Live like a “crossfire hurricane” back in 1978.

The studio audience at Saturday Night Live was primed to see the band in action on October 7, 1978, and the Stones brought the heat. During a manic, dizzying three-song set, the band showed itself to be in fierce condition and taking no prisoners. When the Stones careen into “Shattered” (the pumping final track from Some Girls), the band uses its go-for-broke power to push the set to its logical conclusion. By the end, Jagger is hopping about wildly, like a lab monkey that’s grown addicted to mild electric shocks. This sizzling performance was proof positive that you could never count out the Rolling Stones…and you still never can.

Song: “Happy”
Year: 1991
DVD: Live: At the Max
Why It’s A Classic: Keith pushes it to the limit and demonstrates why he’s a guitar riff-master.
The Performance: Keith Richards is more than just the Stones’ primary rhythm guitarist. He’s also the co-writer of some of the greatest Rock standards of all time, an occasional vocalist and one of music’s most colorful and funniest characters—kind of a mix of a cowboy and pirate. (True: Johnny Depp based his Jack Sparrow on his friend Richards, who even played Sparrow’s father in 2007’s Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.)
Rolling-Stones-Keith-Richards
Part cowboy, part pirate…all Rocker. Keith Richards “runs the kitchen” for the mighty Stones.

“Happy” is Richards’ personal statement, and what an outlaw anthem it is: “I never kept a dollar past sunset,” he brags. “It always burned a hole in my pants.” About two minutes in he casually yells, “Let’s get out, Ronnie,” to Ron Wood (the Stones’ other guitarist), signaling that it’s time to bring the song home. Which Richards then proceeds to do, with about a minute of blistering lead guitar that demonstrates his ingenuity as one of Rock’s greatest guitar gunslingers.

Still Rolling, Still Ruling
Part of why the Rolling Stones are great is because they still reflect their earliest influences, but another part has to do with the band’s ability to sound fresh. Through its ongoing work with producer Don Was, the Rolling Stones are able to use their mastery of music production skills to keep them at the top of the music business.

Learning music production can help put you at the top of the pop charts, too. But where do you learn music production on the same tools that the pros use? Look no further than Digital Media Academy, which offers cutting-edge music camps for the digital age. DMA’s Digital Audio, Music & Beat Production camp will teach you how to create your own rhythms for Rock, Hip-Hop, Dance, Electronica, Dubstep and other types of music. Plus, campers get to develop bass lines and use MIDI keyboards to make their own tracks. Look out, Mick. The kids are gunning for you.

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posted by Phill Powell in Featured,Music Production and have No Comments

Sound City: Review

The Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah is a film festival like no other. The festival features films from all walks of life. Including rock n’ roll.
dave-grohl-sound-cityBehind the soundboard at Sound City.

Sound City marks rocker Dave Grohl’s directorial debut. In the film he documents the past four decades of music through the eyes of soundboard on which many 70s and 80s hits were recorded. It’s a melodic journey through pop music history. The classic Neve sound is featured on countless hit records by artists including Steely DanNirvanaPink FloydDire StraitsQuincy JonesGeorge ClintonChick CoreaThe Ataris.

At that time the board “lived” at Sound City, a famous recording studio formerly located in Van Nuys, California, outside of L.A. That’s where the board was when it recorded Fleetwood Mac’s 70s watershed album Rumors, as well as Nirvana’s 90s breakthrough Nevermind. Other artists who have recorded with the board include Classic Rock superstars like Elton John and Neil Young, plus more recent acts, such as Arctic Monkeys and Deathcab for Cutie.

All-Star Jam Session
Sound City is an epic documentary that gives you a unique look into the lives and careers of major artists like Bruce Springsteen, Johnny Cash, Trent Reznor and Paul McCartney. Watching Sound City is to be immersed in the evolution of Pop/Rock music all the way up through the present. Not only are these historic artists interviewed, but they also jam and record with Grohl—once again using the famous Neve analog console.

Neve-Sound-City
This rare vintage custom Neve 8078 40-channel deck was originally hand-built by Neve in 1978 for CBS Sony’s main studio in Japan. The console now resides at The Way Recording Studio in London.

Of course, Grohl is not just a chronicler of this history; he’s a significant part of it, too. He first recorded at Sound City as the drummer of the ultimate Grunge band, Nirvana, then later as the lead singer of the Foo Fighters. He witnessed the aftermath of the digital revolution and not only offers a unique look into the music industry, but also provides a stark commentary on the effects of digital media on the arts.

Make Music History Yourself
Music production has progressed pretty significantly over the past few decades. Todays artists are still focused on capturing the perfect sound. Watching Grohl pick through the historic notes in the rock n’ roll documentary Sound City is like learning Digital Audio, Music & Beat Production from inside the studio. One thing’s for certain, no matter what genre of music you’re into you should definitely check out this film.

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posted by DMA Jordan in Music Production,News Blog and have No Comments

What’s the Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band Ever? (Part 2)

And The Winner Is…
We recently undertook the task of figuring out who was the greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll of all time. The conclusion? The Rolling Stones.


The four core members of The Rolling Stones: (from left) Charlie Watts, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger and Ron Wood.

Here are five reasons the “lads from London” are the greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll band ever:

1. Endurance
July 2012 will mark the 50th anniversary of The Rolling Stones’ first gig (at London’s Marquee Club). In all likelihood, the band will commemorate the occasion with a 2013 tour. Industry analysts are already predicting that a 50th Anniversary Tour will become the most profitable music tour of all time. No other Rock ‘n’ Roll band of this stature has lasted this long. Put in perspective, The Beatles existed for only about 10 years, or just one-fifth the amount of time The Stones have been playing together. The Stones have outlasted the administrations of eight U.S. presidents.

And the band has lived through one technological advance after another; The Stones started out appearing on black-and-white television, then prospered on MTV during the 80s music-video explosion and now have taken up permanent residence online. (The Rolling Stones was also the first big act to broadcast a concert via the Internet, when a 20-minute video was “streamed” in 1994.) Many passing fads have come and gone during this time, yet The Stones remain as steady and unchanging as the Rock of Gibraltar. The group is one of the few musical acts to chart Number One albums in three separate decades—yet more proof of its enduring appeal.


The five-decade writing partnership between Jagger and Richards has created some of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s most durable songs. The pair produces music under the name “The Glimmer Twins.”

2. You Can’t Get Them Out of Your Head
Tune in to any Classic Rock channel and you’ll hear reason after reason why The Stones are our top pick. The group’s signature tunes (and there are many) include “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” “Brown Sugar,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Honky Tonk Women,” “Start Me Up,” “Paint It, Black,” “Wild Horses,” “Get Off My Cloud,” “Street Fighting Man,” “Tumbling Dice,” “Ruby Tuesday,” “Gimme Shelter,” “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” “19th Nervous Breakdown,” “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” “Angie,” “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It),” “Miss You,” “Shattered” and the list rolls on and on.

Aside from its long string of hit singles (which includes nine Number One smashes), the group has racked up an amazing number of album sales. Among the 24 studio albums, 12 live albums and various compilation albums, The Stones have amassed worldwide sales topping 200 million albums. Beyond that, starting with “Sticky Fingers,” the group had eight straight albums hold the Number One spot on the U.S. charts.

3. The Live Performances
The Stones’ last tour is now considered the highest-grossing tour of all time, earning $558 million. During this tour alone, some 4.6 million fans caught one of the band’s 147 shows. Calculating the total number of people who have seen The Rolling Stones in concert over the decades is probably impossible, but some estimates have claimed the band has played between 2,000 and 2,500 total full-scale concerts, which excludes television appearances and similar gigs. (Another way to think about that total is one show per night, every night…for almost seven straight years.)

In addition, The Stones played the single biggest concert ever, when its February 2006 concert on the Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) was attended by an estimated 1.5 million people. At this point, it’s safe to assume that The Rolling Stones have played Rock ‘n’ Roll music live to more human beings than any other group ever. And each and every audience member has gotten their money’s worth.


The cover of The Stones’ sprawling 1972 epic “Exile on Main Street,” which “The ‘Rolling Stone’ Album Guide” called “the best double album in rock & roll history.”

4. Artistic Achievement
Judging artistic achievement can be tricky, because it’s partly a subjective exercise. Nonetheless, over time a critical consensus is reached about the worth of certain works of art. And among Rock ‘n’ Roll acts, no other outfit can match The Stones for musical masterpieces—not even The Beatles, whose classic works really consist of five albums (“Rubber Soul” (‘65), “Revolver” (‘66), “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (‘67), “The Beatles” which is usually called “The White Album” (‘68) and “Abbey Road” (‘69)).

Meanwhile, The Rolling Stones have made no fewer than eight albums which are now considered undisputed Rock ‘n’ Roll masterpieces: “The Rolling Stones, Now!” (‘65), “Aftermath” (‘66), “Beggars Banquet” (‘68), “Let it Bleed” (‘69), “Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!” (‘70), “Sticky Fingers” (‘71), “Exile on Main Street” (’72) and “Some Girls” (‘78). The Stones’ five-year period between 1968 and 1972 is considered one of the greatest creative streaks Rock ‘n’ Roll music has ever seen.

5. Consistent Personnel
No major older band still retains its original line-up, but The Stones come close. Three of the original five members (lead vocalist Mick Jagger, rhythm guitar genius Keith Richards and master drummer Charlie Watts) are still active. Even the band’s replacement members have been around for a long time.

Guitarist Ron Wood, for example, has been playing with the group since the mid-70s—more than 35 years. Even “newcomer” bassist Darryl Jones, who replaced original member Bill Wyman, has been with the band for nearly 20 years. Only two members of the group ever officially quit, and Richards has repeatedly stated that The Rolling Stones is a lifetime gig. (“The only way out of this band is in a box,” he once quipped.)


Secret Weapon: Drummer Charlie Watts, seen here on stage and behind plexiglass screens containing that show’s set list.

Keepers of the Flame
Although The Rolling Stones have assimilated other forms of music into its overall sound, at its core the band has remained faithful to its Blues-steeped influences. (The band was named after a song by Blues legend Muddy Waters, as was Dylan’s classic “Like a Rolling Stone” and the magazine “Rolling Stone.”) Even now, whenever he travels, Keith Richards carries Chuck Berry’s entire body of music with him—so obsessed is he with the great early rocker. And like the great Blues artists, The Rolling Stones have always planned to carry on playing their unique style of music even into their senior years. Back in 1972, an interviewer asked Mick Jagger if he could see imagine himself still belting out “Satisfaction” on stage in his sixties. “Yeah, easily” replied Jagger, without hesitating for a single second. And on they roll.

The Debate Rages On
Music lovers root for their favorite bands like sports fans supporting their preferred team. Emotions can run high, because music is precious to nearly everybody. No wonder so many young people want to learn music production and join the recording industry.

What do you think is the greatest band of all time? Oh yeah? Well maybe you’d like to step outside and settle this thing once and for all…

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posted by Phill Powell in Music Production,News Blog and have No Comments

What’s the Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band Ever? (Part 1)

It’s the type of debate everyone has an opinion on – and might even lead to a nosebleed for those really passionate about the subject. Still the question remains: What’s the greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll band ever?


The Rolling Stones 2006 concert “The Bigger Bang Tour,” the most profitable music tour ever.

Before we answer the question, let’s first define the terms:

Hey, We’re Talking Rock ‘n’ Roll Here!
Don’t be fooled: Rock ‘n’ Roll music is not the same thing as Rock, which is an umbrella term that covers many musical sub-genres. On the other hand, Rock ‘n’ Roll refers to the “original recipe” that occurred when Rhythm & Blues was first mixed with Country. To be precise, Rock ‘n’ Roll is typically 12-bar Chicago Blues, but accelerated and amplified through electric instruments.

The emphasis in Rock ‘n’ Roll is on the beat and that important sense of rhythm is exactly what separates it from Rock music. Put another way, the main musician in Rock is the electric guitarist. The primary player in Rock ‘n’ Roll had better be the drummer…or you should get your money back immediately (because the band probably sucks).

Groups vs. Performers
While we’re defining terms, we should be specific about the type of musical outfit. Remember, we’re talking about Rock ‘n’ Roll bands—not solo performers. A band is a specific type of musical unit, and one that depends on the personalities and interaction of its members. Granted, Elvis Presley almost always had an ace band supporting his vocals, but he’s known as a solo performer. So, for our purposes, we won’t be considering individual performers. (Sorry, Elvis, Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, etc.)


Sure, The Beatles were fantastic…but some of the band’s music is more Pop than Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Why Not <INSERT NAME OF YOUR FAVORITE BAND HERE> Instead?
If our original question had been “What is the favorite all-time Rock band?” the answer would be simple: The Beatles, which has been embraced by each successive generation of music fans since the 60s and which has sold more albums than any other musical act, according to industry estimates. But that wasn’t our question.

We want to pinpoint the greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll band of all time. And while The Beatles started out playing Rock ‘n’ Roll music, as its career progressed, the band routinely ventured away from Rock ‘n’ Roll and into other sounds (some of them quite experimental). It’s probably more accurate to consider The Beatles the greatest Pop-Rock band of all time, because its sound almost always had a soft melodic edge. Similarly, if we were selecting the greatest Rock band of all time, we might choose a group whose sound carried more sheer electric power, like The Who or Led Zeppelin.

The Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band Ever 
Okay, enough discussion. The greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll band ever is…ta-daaa!…The Rolling Stones.


The original line-up of “The Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band Ever,” circa 1965: (front row) Mick Jagger, Brian Jones; (middle) Bill Wyman; (back row) Charlie Watts, Keith (Captain Jack Sparrow’s father) Richards.

The Debate Rages On
Music lovers root for their favorite bands like sports fans supporting their preferred team. Emotions can run high, because music is precious to nearly everybody. No wonder so many young people want to learn music production and join the recording industry.

What do you think is the greatest band of all time? Stick around for Part Two of our series – we lay out the evidence that proves our claim: The Rolling Stones is the greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll band of all time.

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posted by Phill Powell in Music Production,News Blog and have No Comments

Greatest Music Videos of All Time

Using music and video together as a medium to tell a story can be a very powerful tool for communicating a message. Today filmmakers and musicians add Hollywood visual effects and other fancy tricks to make music videos have impact, but the pioneers of the format used their imaginations to push music videos to all new heights:

Artist: Bob Dylan
Song: “Subterranean Homesick Blues” (1965/1967)

Bob Dylan, the Voice of His Generation, trying not to look bored in the groundbreaking music video for “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” (The bearded guy to the left is poet Allen Ginsberg, author of the Beat classic “Howl.”)

How It Changed Music Videos: It was the first modern music video built around an artistic concept. The primitive black-and-white film was made to promote the song – the video was initially created for the 1967 D.A. Pennebaker documentary “Don’t Look Back,” which shadowed Dylan as he toured England during 1965.

It’s a pretty simple idea really, but one that has struck a chord with several generations of rock audiences. A guy stands in an alley holding a stack of cue cards. The audio from a rambunctious folk rock song starts to blast, each line of which is a non-stop barrage of hipster verbiage (example: “Johnny’s in the basement mixing up the medicine/I’m on the pavement thinking about the government”).

As the video progresses, the guy in it, rock poet Bob Dylan, drops each cue card after its corresponding piece of lyric has been sung in the audio. Dylan does not sing or perform the song. In fact, he shows no particular emotion, except mild irritation and boredom. When he runs out of cue cards, he just walks out of the camera frame, leaving puzzled audiences to try and figure out what it all meant.

Artist: Michael Jackson
Song: “Thriller” (1984)

With Quincy Jones-produced rhythms and Michael Jackson as a zombie, “Thriller” proved to be a genuine media event.

How It Changed Music Videos: By 1984, MTV had taken over control of the music industry; at this point, a new album or single had to have a top-notch video. Michael Jackson took the challenge and ran with it, making this first single song video epic from what would become the decade’s biggest album.

Jackson brought on film director John Landis to oversee the project. Landis was already a Hollywood power-player, having directed “National Lampoon’s Animal House,” “Trading Places,” “The Blues Brothers,” and “An American Werewolf in London” before tackling “Thriller.” For the video he was given a half-million dollar budget.

Jackson made multiple music videos to promote several tracks, but the “Thriller” music video was more than just a regular video, adding eight minutes of additional narrative to the song’s six-minute length. Thematically, “Thriller” was a G-rated creep show with a disco beat and which featured a vocal cameo by Hollywood horror legend Vincent Price.

The video was so popular that MTV was eventually airing the 14-minute video twice per hour. Jackson was hailed as a creative genius for his own remarkable dancing, as well as arranging the zombie choreography.

The video helped propel sales of the “Thriller” album to 110 million units worldwide, making it the best-selling album of all time. Never again would either Jackson or the music video be so big.

Artist: Nirvana
Song: “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (1991)

Grunge started here…with deliberately low production standards.

How It Changed Music Videos: As the 80s progressed, video production techniques improved. Inspired by the massive success of “Thriller,” the trend toward lavishly produced videos continued. But not every musical act wanted to create an ultra-slick music video. Enter Seattle’s Nirvana in the early 90s, with a Punk-like desire to avoid seeming to be “corporate.”

So when the first Grunge band of note got ready to produce a music video for the breakout hit from its powerhouse album Nevermind, it had definite ideas about what it wanted. For its director, the band selected first-timer Samuel Bayer…specifically because he didn’t have much experience. Kurt Cobain (accurately) assumed Bayer would be technically inept and the resulting footage would have a raw, undisciplined quality.

The song became a major Alternative anthem and the music video a smashing success. Nirvana won numerous MTV Music Awards in 1992 and the Guinness Book of Records considers the video the most played music video on MTV Europe. In 2001, VH1 named it the fourth-greatest music video of all time.

Artist: Beastie Boys
Song: “Sabotage” (1994)

“Sabotage,” a loud and abrasive triumph of threat-screaming rage, was paired with the hilarious visual concept of the opening credits of a (fake) 70s police show.

How It Changed Music Videos: Part cop-show homage, part rock/rap blaster, the Beastie Boys’ greatest video was 100 percent pure fun.

The Beastie Boys were always highly creative when it came to making music videos. But the group’s signature music-video moment was directed by genius director Spike Jonze, who took a one-chord shouter from the “Ill Communication” album and turned it into music-video gold.

An instant classic upon release, the “Sabotage” music video was nominated in five different categories at the 1994 MTV Music Awards, yet took home no awards. However, fifteen years later, when the new category of “Best Video (That Should Have Won a Moonman)” was introduced, the very first recipient was “Sabotage.”

Artist: Johnny Cash
Song: “Hurt” (2003)

“Hurt” is a song about reaching conclusions and sifting through all of what has come before.

How It Changed Music Videos: Plenty of “serious” music videos have attempted to make a statement, but none more powerful than this stark goodbye from the Man in Black. Nobody expected the most powerful music video of its year to feature the great Johnny Cash, then working in his sixth decade as a recording artist. But then, nobody had expected Cash to make one of the biggest musical comebacks of all time during the 90s, suddenly becoming wildly popular with fans young enough to be his grandchildren.

For the music video, director Mark Romanek used extensive footage and photographs from throughout Cash’s life, which were contrasted with footage of the 71-year-old man. Cash was weak and facing a range of health problems at the time.

The combination of music and visual images made the “Hurt” video one of the most powerful music-video experiences ever. The video received the 2004 Grammy for Best Short Form Music Video and was listed as CMT’s top video for 2003 as well as the Number One greatest country music video for the following year.

In July 2011 New Music Express named it the best video of all time. Sadly, Cash himself didn’t get to see the video’s massive success; the Man in Black passed away seven months after the video was produced.

Make Your Own Landmark Videos
Music videos represent a perfect intersection between two wonderful art forms – but bringing the two together requires talent to create a quality video. It takes training, too, and learning how to make a music video is the perfect place to start. If you want to learn music & video production you need hands-on training in digital audio, music and beat production, and filmmaking skills, too. Once you have a good grasp of those things, you can take your idea and turn it into an award-winning and groundbreaking music video.

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posted by Phill Powell in Digital Music Production,Music Production,News Blog and have No Comments

Music Legends: The Beastie Boys

It seems like only yesterday that the music world first turned on to three dudes from New York City. But ever since they exploded onto the scene, the Beastie Boys have defied all expectations.


Elder statesmen of Hip Hop: the men called Beastie.  From left: Mike D (Michael Diamond), King Ad-Rock (Adam Horovitz) and MCA (Adam Yauch). 

Has it been 25 years already? Originally considered a novelty act, the Beastie Boys have endured and grown musically. Now the men known as MCA (aka Adam Yauch), Mike D (Michael Diamond) and King Ad-Rock (Adam Horovitz) are respected elder statesmen of the Hip Hop movement. Recently inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, the Boys have accumulated total sales exceeding 20 million albums and have carved out a lasting musical legacy.

At the beginning, they were just three white guys trying to make rap music – and have fun. The band originally had two other members and the Beastie Boys played primarily Punk Rock, or some variation of it. But they were in New York right at the time when Rap started taking off and they eventually channeled their inner MCs.

In celebration of their recent Hall of Fame triumph, we thought we’d sift through a quarter-century of Beastie madness and salute a handful of their top tracks:

Track: “Cooky Puss”
Album: Some Old Bulls*&% (1983)
Why You Should Listen: In the beginning, there was the turntable. And it was funny. At least it was how the Beasties used it in their ’83 breakthrough single, “Cooky Puss,” a series of prank phone calls overlaid on a Hip Hop beat and mixed with plenty of turntable scratching.

It’s difficult to decide which is more amusing—the goofy sounds of a Steve Martin comedy album being slowed down and stretched on the turntable or the comical rudeness the Beasties display when phoning a local Carvel Ice Cream shop. At first, the Carvel worker mistakenly assumes that the caller wants to order a Cooky Puss ice cream cake. Instead, the Beasties act as if the cake were a real person. “Yo, I said I’m calling you, babeee!” Mike D tells the unlucky worker. “Yo man, Cooky Puss there? I want to speak to Cooky Puss!” (The Carvel worker then hangs up, prompting a hilariously unprintable response from Mike D.)


The early Beastie Boys yukking it up, not long after emerging from the New York club scene with “Cooky Puss.”

Now collected on 1994’s Some Old Bulls*&%, “Cooky Puss” first appeared on an EP with three other songs. As fate would have it, a British Airways TV commercial used a piece of one of the other numbers (“Beastie Revolution”). In what may have been the first lawsuit based on illegal sampling of music, the Beasties successfully sued the airline for $40,000. That sum provided the seed money for the Beastie Boys to rent an apartment in New York’s Chinatown district, where they dug in and worked on mastering the rhythms of Rap and the nuances of Hip Hop. Meanwhile, the group released a series of 12-inch singles which stoked their following within the New York club scene. The Beastie Boys were on their way. And within just a couple of years, they would be world famous.


The inspiration for the Beasties’ first success: Carvel’s “Cooky Puss” ice cream cake.

Track: “Fight for Your Right” (To Party!!!)
Album: Licensed to Ill (1986)
Why You Should Listen: The cover illustration shows the back half of a sleek Beastie Boys jet; the back-cover illustration shows the front half—with the plane crashed right into the side of a mountain. Such humor pervades Licensed to Ill, the first Beastie Boys album and the very first Rap album to shoot to the Number One slot on the Billboard charts (where it remained for five weeks). Furthermore, the album got positive acclaim, even from publications like Rolling Stone, which titled its review, “Three Idiots Create a Masterpiece.”

What made Licensed worthy of becoming the best selling Rap album of the 1980s? For starters, it was brilliantly assembled by Rick Rubin, who is now acknowledged as one of the music industry’s greatest producers. It was also successful in part because people didn’t quite know what to make of it. (Was it a serious Rap album? Was it a novelty comedy record? And why was there Heavy Metal guitar and drums on some numbers?) Furthermore, there was a racial aspect that surrounded the Beastie’s success. At the time, there really were no commercially successful white rappers, although Licensed would inspire legions of white kids to pick up a mic and get their MC on. (One of them was a 14-year-old from Detroit named Marshall Mathers, aka Eminem.)


When Licensed to Ill exploded with sales of 5 million albums, the Beastie Boys became a headlining act.

Aside from great production and an intriguing mix that seems to change its sound with each track, Licensed had attitude—massive, unyielding tons of attitude. And nowhere was that ‘tude louder and prouder than in the classic rock ‘n’ roll anthem, “Fight for Your Right.” Promoted through a hilarious MTV video, “Fight for Your Right” is about a teenager’s defiance of social restrictions and parental authority.

Upon its release the song was already being compared to great previous statements of teenage angst such as Kiss’s “Rock and Roll All Night,” Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” and Cheap Trick’s “Surrender.” Before Licensed, the Beasties had already toured with big acts like Madonna, Run DMC and LL Cool J. After Licensed sold 5 million copies, the Beasties returned to the road as headliners.

In the scandalous tour that followed, there were lawsuits and arrests. At one unhinged 1987 performance in Liverpool, England (the Beatles’ home town), the crowd went completely nuts and a riot ensued…only 10 minutes into the show. The Beastie Boys were now officially a phenomenon.

Track: “B-Boy Bouillabaisse”
Album: Paul’s Boutique (1989)
Why You Should Listen: The term sophomore slump is used in the music business to illustrate what happens to many recording artists who are lucky enough to strike gold with their first album. What do they then do for a follow-up? Few understood this dilemma better than the Beastie Boys. Sure, the group had made a big splash with Licensed to Ill, but was there anything else they could do? The answer would come with 1989’s Paul’s Boutique, one of the strongest and strangest albums that any branch of popular music has ever produced.

Tired of their label (DefJam) and unsure of their next move, the Beasties relocated to Los Angeles in 1988 and hooked up with the Dust Brothers production team. Together they spent 16 months crafting Paul’s Boutique. Now considered one of the touchstones of Rap (as well as a production masterpiece in the same league as The Beach Boy’s Pet Sounds and The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band), Paul’s Boutique was initially considered a failure, largely because it only rose to Number 14 on the Billboard album charts.

The album contained a couple of moderately successful singles (“Hey Ladies” and “Shake Your Rump”), but nothing like its predecessor. And few listeners knew what to make of it, considering that its densely layered sound was like nothing else that existed anywhere in commercial music. And it was a song cycle that contained few (if any) breaks between the tracks, which made it even more difficult to follow along and know which song you were listening to at any point.


One of the most iconic images in Rap music: the cover shot of 1989′s masterpiece, Paul’s Boutique. As you can see, it was a real clothing store in Brooklyn. (The album even contained a brief radio spot for the boutique.)

A wonderland of cultural references, Paul’s Boutique seemed to draw inspiration and samples from everywhere…Rap songs, Rock music, TV shows, movies, whatever…and contained samples from more than one hundred songs (most of which were cleared for use by their copyright holders, to the tune of approximately $250,000). And because it’s the odd Rap album indeed that includes a sample from Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” Paul’s Boutique remains a piece of music that requires numerous repeat listenings in order to untangle all the lyrics and pop references.

Its odd sonic touches remain endearing, such as the brief hillbilly hayride that opens Side 2 (“5-Piece Chicken Dinner”) and the starting seconds of “3-Minute Rule,” when we clearly hear the unmistakable back-and-forth clip-clop of a ping-pong match.

The album closes with “B-Boy Bouillabaise,” a conjoined 12-minute suite of 9 mini-songs which itself contains 24 individual samples. Among the album’s tracks, this may be the best overview of Paul’s Boutique. Like the album, it’s crammed with pop references and showcases the band’s intense creativity and artistic ambition. Before Paul’s Boutique, many considered the Beastie Boys a fluke. Afterward, most critics were in awe of a musical group that could capture a sound this wild and dense. The Beastie Boys were now artists…and Paul’s Boutique would eventually be understood as the group’s magnum opus.

Track: “So What’cha Want”
Album: Check Your Head (1992)
Why You Should Listen: It’s important to remember that the Beasties started out as a Punk/Thrash band before sliding into Rap and Hip Hop. After Paul’s Boutique stiffed, the group was looking for a new direction—so it went backwards. For their next album the band members returned to their roots and started playing their own instruments again…with Mike D pummeling the drums, MCA mastering the bass and Ad-Rock attacking the lead guitar (as he had done in an earlier band named “The Young and the Useless”). Is there a Grunge influence to Check Your Head? Quite possibly, given that this same period saw the meteoric rise of bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam. And the playing has a rough edge that was common to Grunge.


By the time the Beasties recorded Check Your Head, the group was playing its own instruments, as it had when just starting out.

Of course, it’s still a Beastie Boys album and that means plenty of Rap along with lots of Rock. The album’s biggest and best single, “So What’cha Want,” seems more like a traditional bragging Rap, wherein the Rapper calls out the weakness of other MCs. Mighty MCA wastes no time putting all chumps in their place: “Well, I’m as cool as a cucumber in a bowl of hot sauce/You’ve got the rhyme and reason but no cause/So if you’re hot to trot, you think you’re slicker than grease/I got news for you crews, you’ll be sucking like a leech.”

Track: “Sabotage”
Album: Ill Communication (1994)
Why You Should Listen: Check Your Head provided the rough blueprint for the Beasties’ next album. Like its predecessor, Ill Communication was part Rap and part Rock, along with a few novelty bits and a couple of instrumentals. And although Check Your Head had broken into the Top Ten, by the time Ill Communication dropped in 1994, the group had amassed a sizeable following—enough for the new album to enter the Billboard Hot 200 chart at Number One. And when ticket sales began for the following year’s tour, few were surprised to find that tickets sold out within only a few minutes.


The action-packed music video for “Sabotage” replicated the opening of a 1970s cop show.

While Ill Communication was well-executed with numerous memorable songs (e.g., “Sure Shot,” “Heart Attack Man”), the album’s stand-out track was a three-minute howl of rage called “Sabotage.” Built around a savage one-chord guitar riff invented in the 70s by Rock wild man Ted Nugent, “Sabotage” is Hard Rock with a Rap lyric. By this point, the Beastie Boys had become so free with their allusions that they weren’t afraid to mention a once-famous Jazz drummer who was known as much for his explosive temper as his skill (“But make no mistake and switch up my channel/I’m Buddy Rich when I fly off the handle”). Of course, few members of the Beasties’ audience would have had any idea who Buddy Rich was…but that’s part of the point with the Beastie Boys. They don’t pander to their audience and never really have.

The Beats Go On…
This past summer, the Beastie Boys returned with the long-anticipated Hot Sauce Committee Part Two album. Despite a cancer scare that had temporarily sidelined Adam Yauch, the group came back strong with another wily mix of sounds that leans more toward the group’s Hip Hop heritage (as did 1998’s Hello Nasty). And through tracks such as “Too Many Rappers (Not Enough MCs),” “Here’s a Little Something For Ya,” and “Don’t Play No Game That I Can’t Win,” the group proved conclusively that despite more than 25 years as a performing and recording unit, the world hasn’t heard the last from the Beastie Boys. Not too bad a legacy for three punks from New York.


From bratty punks to respected studio masters, the Beastie Boys have defied time and expectations.

Making Beats Like the Beasties
The Beastie Boys have long been able to come up with fresh and complex beats, and use those rhythm tracks in interesting ways. Today music production is an elemental part of all forms of mass communication and is used in everything from TV commercials to the latest chart-topping album. If you’re still wanting to learn how to make your own beats and take you rightful place among the next generation of musicians and music producers, why not start now? Music production is a multi-million dollar industry, and music production summer camps like the one sponsored by The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus can get you on your way.

The Music Legends series pays tributes to influential artists, music personalities and styles of music. If you have an artist or type of music you’d like us to showcase, let us know via the comments.

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posted by Phill Powell in Music Production,News Blog and have No Comments

Music Legends: Dick Clark

It was the place to be and he made it all happen. For 47 years, pop music’s television home was “American Bandstand” and the gentleman who hosted the long-running program was Dick Clark, who passed away yesterday at the age of 82.


Often called “America’s oldest teenager,” Clark was still in his twenties when he first took “American Bandstand” to a national audience.

Clark was many things besides the cheerful, unflappable host of “Bandstand.” A one-man media empire, Clark worked as if he were single-handedly trying to create enough programs to fill an entire network. He concepted and hosted game shows such as “The $10,000 Pyramid,” (which eventually morphed into “The $100,000 Pyramid”) and award shows like the “American Music Awards,” not to mention “Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve,” which became an essential component of holiday festivities. He wasn’t into learning music production, but he dabbled in film production and appeared on camera in a couple of theatrical roles.


A one-man production dynamo, Clark also founded the American Music Awards, several of which were won by his friend, Michael Jackson. Clark had first introduced the nation to The Jackson Five on “Bandstand” in 1970.

But Clark will always be most closely associated with “Bandstand,” which at first was just another televised teenage dance party broadcast from a Philadelphia TV station. (At that time, most American cities large enough to have a television station had some type of similar program.) Clark’s triumph was to convince the ABC network to carry “Bandstand” as part of its national line-up. By 1957, the program was being run coast-to-coast and well on its way to becoming a national institution.


This was how “Bandstand” first looked. Constant dancing and interviews with the teen dancers. One popular feature: Rate-A-Record. (Sample interview response: “It had a good beat and it was easy to dance to. I give it an 85.”)

Stars on 45
Who appeared on “American Bandstand”? A better question is who didn’t. Pop icons such as Michael Jackson, Madonna, The Beach Boys, Prince, Chuck Berry, The Bee Gees, Stevie Wonder, KISS and James Brown all made the scene.

And as pop music evolved through the years, “Bandstand” worked to keep up with all the changes. When Motown began to dominate pop charts in the 60s, acts like Marvin Gaye and The Supremes appeared on the show. As the 70s Disco craze grew, artists such as Donna Summer and K.C. & The Sunshine Band were showcased. When Punk gave way to New Wave, “Bandstand” remained hip enough to feature emerging bands like Blondie and DEVO.

During the 80s, “Bandstand” brought national exposure to the first generation of Rap artists (including Run-D.M.C., Beastie Boys and LL Cool J.), as well as to classic Rock bands of the day (e.g., Talking Heads, R.E.M.). And while it’s true that the program tended to focus on pop music’s softer sounds, the show did plenty to introduce audiences to hard Rock. If not, why would rockers like Aerosmith, The Doors and Steely Dan have bothered to appear?


By the 80s, music had changed plenty. Here Clark interviews Run-D.M.C., one of the first Rap acts to make it big.

“American Bandstand” finally left the airwaves in 1989, but that didn’t stop Clark from staying busy. Neither did a traumatic 2004 stroke that partially impaired his ability to speak. Clark remained the host of his New Year’s Eve show, although he finally shared hosting responsibilities with “American Idol’s” Ryan Seacrest.


Dick Clark bravely continued to host “Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve” after a serious stroke partially slurred his speech.

Clark (who was born in Bronxville, New York) was thrice married and had three grown children—not to mention an extended family of millions of television viewers who both liked and respected him. At the end of each broadcast of “American Bandstand,” Dick Clark would stand at his podium, always smiling and impeccably dressed in suit and tie, while dancing teenagers continued to whirl around him. He’d invite us back next week, say “So long” and always give a casual salute.

Right back at ya, Mr. Clark… 

The Music Legends series pays tributes to influential artists (in this case, music personalities) and styles of music. If you have an artist or type of music you’d like us to showcase, let us know via the comments.

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posted by Phill Powell in Music Production,News Blog and have No Comments

How Did They Create the Tupac Hologram?

When the late Tupac Shakur rose from the grave (and appeared onstage) last weekend at the Coachella Music Festival in California, his virtual self sent shockwaves through the entertainment industry. It was the first time a deceased pop star entertained a crowd on such a grand scale – but based on the reaction, it won’t be the last.


Rapper Snoop Dogg (L) and a “hologram” of the late rapper Tupac Shakur (R) perform at Coachella.

Bringing Tupac Back to Life
At his peak, Tupac Shakur was one of the best-selling artists in the world, having sold more than 100 million albums worldwide. The rapper was cut down in his prime, dying from gunshot wounds on September 13, 1996. To bring the rapper back to life, music producer and Coachella performer Dr. Dre partnered with James Cameron’s Digital Domain, San Diego’s AV Concepts and U.K.-based Musion Systems to create a unique Tupac performance – just for Coachella.

Ed Ulbrich, chief creative officer at Digital Domain, said “This is just the beginning. Dre has a massive vision for this.” In fact, The Wall Street Journal reported that the “hologram Tupac” may be going on tour. Neither Dr. Dre or the companies he hired to help bring Tupac back to life are commenting about a tour or how they pulled off the performance.

Insiders have said the visual effect is the same as the effect that makes the ghost appear in Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion and the Tower of Terror. Called “Pepper’s Ghost,” the image is basically projected onto a piece of glass, or in the case of Tupac, a mylar sheet 30-by-13 feet across. So in reality, it’s a 2D image and not a 3D hologram.


Disney Resorts’ Tower of Terror attraction uses the same effect as the Tupac “hologram.” (The Walt Disney Company)

The custom screen, designed by AV Concepts, was lowered onto the stage seconds before his performance. And because it’s clear, other performers (like Dre and Snoop Dog) were able to get up close and personal with the virtual performer.


How it worked: The illusion is almost identical to those seen in theme parks. (International Business Times)

But there’s more to Tupac’s Coachella performance than just digging up archival footage and projecting it on a mylar screen. Tupac’s two-song performance was a year in the making; the performer is actually a computer-generated image.

To create it, Digital Domain used motion capture and computers to create the likeness. “This is not (Tupac) performing at some point. This is a completely original, exclusive performance only for Coachella and that audience,” Ed Ulbrich, chief creative officer at Digital Domain told Bloomberg News.

Digital Domain copied his mannerisms, tone of voice and even his tattoos. Tupac’s performance marks a new era in entertainment. Think for a second about a show that re-imagines The Beatles, or Elvis, years after they actually toured…


Madonna virtually performs with The Gorillaz at the 2006 Grammys. 

Famous Virtual Performers
The holographic Tupac Shakur that performed at Coachella wasn’t the first holographic performer. In fact, holographic performers have been entertaining people since the 1860s. The Pepper’s Ghost effect was first used in an 1862 performance of Charles Dickens’ novella “The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain,” at the Royal Polytechnic Institute in London. Here are a few more recent ones:

Hatsune Miku:
A blue-haired Japanese pop star whose animated 3D manga likeness has been performing to packed arenas since 2010.

Hatsune Miku is an anime hologram that has been performing in Japan since 2010.

Madonna performing with The Gorillaz:
During their 2006 Grammy Awards performance Madonna and the Gorillaz performed as holograms.

Creating the Next Virtual Pop Star
Learning music and beats production can put you on a fast track to becoming a hit maker. But as Digital Domain has vividly demonstrated, the next music star may be a virtual one formed completely out of visual effects. Tupac’s Coachella performance, the buzz and reaction are sure to make other performers (or their estates) consider a virtual performances.

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posted by Vince Matthews in Music Production,News Blog and have No Comments