Friday, January 29, 2010

Weekend Listomania (Special Golden Throats Audio/Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental nocturnal emissions specialist Fah Lo Suee and I will be taking an exploratory meeting with George Swine, CEO of EnormoCorp Industries [R-Manchuria]. Something to do with a forthcoming senatorial campaign I may be contemplating now that the Supreme Court has decided that money talks (I would be the bullshit walks part, obviously).

In any event, further posting by moi will have to be sporadic for a day or two.

In the meantime, then, here's a hopefully fun little project for us all:

Post-Elvis Pop/Rock Singer or Group Who Most Influenced (For Good or Ill) the Art of Pop/Rock Singing!!!

No arbitrary rules here whatsoever. (I should also add that my song selections do not necessarily represent the singer or group's most influential work. They're just things I like, or that perhaps immediately sprung to mind.)

And my totally top of my head Top Seven is:

7. Bob Dylan -- Percy's Song




Believe it or not, there are still people who think Dylan couldn't sing. Heh heh. I usually play the studio version of this for those folks, but for some reason I can't find it on my computer at the moment, so this very nice live version will have to suffice. In any case, Dylan's phrasing and charmingly nasal tones have influenced countless singer/songwriters over the years, few of whom would have likely been granted artistic license without his example.

6. The Rolling Stones (Mick Jagger)-- Good Times, Bad Times




Snotty white boy sings the blues and quite convincingly -- this despite the fact that he doesn't really sound all that black, although everybody thinks he does at the time. An amazing accomplishment, when you think of it, and the template for decades of snotty white boy vocalists who probably never even heard of Muddy Waters.

5. Vanilla Fudge -- You Keep Me Hanging On



If truth be told, it wasn't the faux classical instrumental overkill that made The Fudge influential (that stuff is as dead as the papal penis, actually). No, it was their vocal approach. The notion, in rock, that you can simulate soul with pompous Italianate pseudo-operatic yoweling begins here, and legions of bad bands and singers -- mostly from Long Island, for some reason -- have made that appalling innovation part of their gestalt.

4. David Bowie -- Young Americans



The aforementioned pompous Italianate pseudo-operatic yoweling overlaid with an affectless Anthony Newley impression. Influential? Essentially, every unbearable singer out of England between 1971 and the late 80s -- Bryan Ferry, Martin Fry of ABC, The Thompson Twins, that clown in Spandau Ballet -- copped their vocal shtick from Bowie. Hey, thanks for nothing, Dave.

3. Patti LaBelle -- Over the Rainbow



Over-souling: A vocal style in which the singer throws throws some poor song onto the floor, writhing in pain and gasping for breath, and then wrestles it into submission until it simply expires. The late great Jerry Wexler, of Atlantic Records, named it, but it was Patti LaBelle who brought it to the mainstream, and just about every successful r&b singer, male or female, emulates it at the moment. I should add, of course, that Patti's 1985 "Over the Rainbow," as heard above, would be considered a laughable model of subtlety and restraint by most contemporary artistes of the American Idol school.

2. The Doobie Brothers (Michael McDonald) -- What a Fool Believes



Okay, there's no real name for what McDonald does, but it's a style in which the singer's beard does all the work, and for a period in the 80s, it was the dominant male vocal sound of pop music worldwide.

And the numero uno most influential post-Elvis vocalist actually turns out to be...

1. Cher -- Believe



Well, Cher via the dreaded AutoTune. I'm guessing the list of irredeemably crappy hit records featuring robo-vocals in the wake of 100-percent-recycled-plastic-life-form Cher's "Believe" now numbers in the thousands. In any case, the single most insufferable pop music trend of the last decade plus.

Alrighty, then -- what would your choices be?

[Shameless blogwhore: My parallel Cinema Listomania -- theme: best or worst movie adaptation of a stage play, drama or musical -- is now up over at Box Office. As always, if you could find it in your heart to go over there and post a comment, I might be able to con management into upping my already wildly overgenerous freelance fee. Thanks!!!]

38 comments:

Michael said...

- Van The Man Morrison
(Bruce, Elvis C, Graham Parker, etc)

- Patti Smith
(Dylan's vocal female equivalent. No patti, no PJ Harvey, no defranco, etc)

Peter said...

Definitely Van, and Richard Manuel, too.

Definitely Aretha, Definitely Ray Charles. I'm going to cut and paste "Definitely" from now on.

I always felt that the Michael McDonald style of singing from your collarbone was invented, or at least done best, by Lowell George ten years earlier.

Definitely the Beatles for their use of contrapuntal harmonies. Without them no Mamas 'n' Papas.

And who invented the Metal style of indecipherable glottal screaming? It's become the defining element of the style.

Marsupial said...

Essentially, every unbearable singer out of England between 1971 and the late 80s -- Bryan Ferry...

No. No, no, no. I would go as far as saying that, at certain points, especially in the late-70s to Mid-80s, Bowie was influenced by Bryan Ferry. Bowie changes his "style," or whatever you want to call it, every several years. Ferry slowly evolved (?) from Glam/Art to Lounge Singer. Good lounge singer, but still...

dave™© said...

...an affectless Anthony Newley impression.

Ha! I don't know why I never thought of that! Especially since I do a mean Newley myself (a pretty good Paul Williams, too)...

Anonymous said...

I didn't watch it but my wife tells me every r&b singer on the Haitian Disaster special from last week "over-souled to the point my wife (who donated) had to tune away from these over the top performances.

ROTP(lumber)

steve simels said...

Actually, my problem with the Haiti telethon was Dave Matthews.

I listened to his atonal groaning and all I could think of was "Haven't the Haitian people suffered enough?"

Sal Nunziato said...

"That clown from Spandau Ballet"

hahahahhaa!

David said...

"That clown from Spandau Ballet"...I
Wasn't that the working title for Jerry Lewis's "The Day the Clown Cried"?
Here's my terrible trio: Eddie Vedder begat a decade of slow-rumble, splenetic purge-style singers, while a decade earlier your beloved Morrissey taught a generation how to moan operatically. In between, Stephen Malkmus made a virtue of half-heartedness, and legions followed.

steve simels said...

David said...
"That clown from Spandau Ballet"...I
Wasn't that the working title for Jerry Lewis's "The Day the Clown Cried"?



Heh heh.
:-)

Anonymous said...

I blame Jimbo Morrison for all the emoting baritone rockers that have followed in his leather-strewn path. That includes
Scott Stapp and the guy in Nickelback and all the dudes in between.

Likewise, I hold Robert Plant accountable for all the subsequent shriekers.

TMink said...

OK, I do not know who came first, but there was that brush with baritones back in the day: Crash Test Dummies, Sisters Of Mercy, and Morphine. I actually like the last two.

No Lou Reed means no Ric Ocasek. Both would be a loss.

No Madonna, no Brit. You do the math.

No Neil Young, no America. I have a soft spot in my heart for America despite my shame.

No Robert Plant, no Ann Wilson.

I had never heard the term oversouling, but I have had my eardrums assaulted by the style. I always called it "too many notes."

steve simels said...

I think James Hetfield of Metallica deserves a shout out for introducing growling into the mainstream of popular music.

Noam Sane said...

The world truly is melisma-laden; I tend to blame Whitney Houston but I'm sure it stretches back.

John Lydon for sure, his latest disciples being Jack Black and the guy from the Arctic Monkeys.

Who invented that annoying Cookie Monster-vocal thing that the kids are into these days?

Anonymous said...

the word you're searching for is "melisma." my favorite practitioner is Todd Rundgren because, well, it's Todd.

for influential - leonard cohen or, more recently, mark e. smith.

Ken J said...

"That clown from Spandau Ballet"...

I assume you have see Modern Family's Spandau Ballet dig

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eos0AuSqrU8

steve simels said...

Oh dear god, that's priceless. Thanks...
:-)

NYMary said...

I have nothing much to add here, except that you guys are cracking my shit up.

The Kenosha Kid said...

No love for Ian Curtis?

Brooklyn Girl said...

No Madonna, no Brit. You do the math.

Like that would be a loss?

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure Kate Bush inspired many imitators, but even one would be far too many.

For a short time several years back there seemed to be a bit of fascination with some dreck I heard referred to as "performance art". I remember hearing Laurie Anderson on the radio once or twice. God help us all if that were to ever catch on.

And then there's Yoko Ono...

steve simels said...

What -- no love for Otis Redding?

C'mon, the absolute blueprint for soul singing....

TMink said...

Another person who can get away with oversouling is Aaron Neville. It is not too many notes when he does it.

I am really glad that there is one Laurie Anderson, but I would be distraught if there were two. "Oh look, another Laurie Anderson clone."

BG, we do math the same way when it comes to Madonna and Brit. I do listen to Vogue and Express Yourself on occasion, but the rest of it kind of offends me. I can listen to the 5,6,7,8's for relatively long periods, but Madonna outwears her welcome after two specific songs for me.

Trey

steve simels said...

No Robert Plant, no Ann Wilson.

I'm sure David Coverdale is relieved...
:-)

rurritable said...

Harry Nilsson might have been more influential if more people could even begin to hit those occasional insanely high notes.
Jane Siberry could have taught people a couple of things, too.

Faze said...

I date the origin of R&B melisma to 1973 and Stevie Wonder's "Superstition". He adds a just little ornament at the end of a few words and lines, and the effect is of a piece with the rest of that magnificent song. Of course, as these things go in R&B, whatever works gets massively copied very quickly, and by the late 1980s, R&B singing was becoming unlistenable.

My pet vocal villain has always been David Byrne. As with all bad influencers, it wasn't so much that he himself did the herky-jerky talk singing thing. It was his imitators who drove it into the ground.

I've always loved Percy's Song in Dylan's version and especially by Fairport Convention. As a storysong, it's strange and unconvincing; the narrator doesn't really make a very strong case for the unfortunate friend; the judge's anger seems disproportionate; and the nine-minute length doesn't seem justified by the anti-climactic ending. But man, it just works, and Dylan seems to feel every word of it.

Noam Sane said...

David Byrne

I always thought he copped that style from that Pere Ubu dude.

Chicken? Egg? You may ask yourself, "How do I cook this?"

The Phantom Creep said...

Otis Redding?






Crickets.......
:-)

Brooklyn Girl said...

I have to assume Aretha was a huge influence, only because it was hilarious to watch Celine Dion try to out-sing her on a divas' TV special a few years ago. EPIC FAIL.

Was Frankie Valli's falsetto a groundbreaker?

steve simels said...

Kind of a freak one of a kind thing, I'd say.

Although there were groups that tried to sound like the Four Seasons.

The Tremeloes covered "Silence is Golden," if memory serves...

Brooklyn Girl said...

Otis Redding was one of a kind, imho ...

Were the Walker Brothers influenced by the Righteous Brothers? If for no other reason that none of them were brothers? :-)

Libby Spencer said...

I always feel a little dumb to be adding anything in the company of you musicologists but thinking that Janis Joplin led the way for white girls singing the blues.

And Jimi Hendrix spawned the psychedelic guitar riffs. Trying to remember if he was the first to destroy a guitar on stage. If not, whoever did spawned the big stage effects movement that I think of as having, in a way, eventually led to Sid Vicious and punk. And didn't Sid also lead the safety pin as body jewelry craze?

Brooklyn Girl said...

Pete Townshend destroyed guitars before Hendrix did.

From wiki:

In the mid 1960s, guitarist Pete Townshend of The Who was the first guitar-smashing rock artist. Rolling Stone magazine included his smashing of a Rickenbacker guitar at the Railway Hotel in September 196 in their list of the "50 Moments That Changed the History of Rock & Roll". A student of Gustav Metzger, Townshend saw his guitar smashing as a kind of auto-destructive art.

Keith Moon, The Who's drummer, was also known for destroying his drum set. The most spectacular episode of this occurred during The Who's debut on U.S. television on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in 1967. Moon overloaded his bass drum with explosive charges which were detonated during the finale of the song, "My Generation." The explosion caused guest Bette Davis to faint, set Pete Townshend's hair on fire and, according to legend, contributed to his later partial deafness and tinnitus. Moon was also injured in the explosion when shrapnel from the cymbals cut his arm. VH1 later placed this event in the top ten of their list of the 100 Greatest Rock and Roll Moments on Television.

Jeff Beck, then a member of the Yardbirds, reluctantly destroyed a guitar in the 1966 film Blowup after being told to emulate The Who by director Michelangelo Antonioni. Jimi Hendrix is also famous for destroying his guitars and amps. He famously burned two guitars at three shows, most notably the Monterey Pop Festival. Jimi's and The Who's habit of smashing their instruments led to a confrontation backstage at Monterey, over who would go on first.

Libby Spencer said...

That's so funny. I came back because I just remembered it was the Who who started the guitar smashing thing.

Also agree that Otis was one of a kind.

And thinking about the psychedelic phase, some may argue it was the Grateful Dead, but I think Jefferson Airplane started drug band music. You do have to give the Dead credit though for keeping the genre alive for so many years.

The Kenosha Kid said...

Jeff Beck, then a member of the Yardbirds, reluctantly destroyed a guitar in the 1966 film Blowup after being told to emulate The Who by director Michelangelo Antonioni.

It was Jimmy Page, no?

Peter said...

Libby's right about Janis Joplin, although many times over the years I've thought, "Were is Janis now that we really need her?"

If you're talking male falsetto singing from the early '60s you have to mention Lou Christie. Was he before the 4 Seasons?

There's a record from a few years later called "I love you more today than yesterday" where it sounds like the guy is really hurting himself to hit those notes.

Brooklyn Girl said...

It was Jimmy Page, no?

No. Definitely Beck.

Brooklyn Girl said...

If you're talking male falsetto singing from the early '60s you have to mention Lou Christie. Was he before the 4 Seasons?

No, definitely after.

Brooklyn Girl said...

Beck smashing the guitar in "Blow Up".

Actually one of the best scenes in the movie ... the audience is completely wooden until Beck throws the neck of the guitar into the crowd ... then they all go berserk.