Monday, August 23, 2010

When the Walls Came Down

Michael Been of The Call -- writer and singer of the best goddamned political protest record in rock history -- died on Thursday at the Pukkelpop Music Festival in Kiewit, Belgium. Been collapsed from a heart attack while running sound for his son's band, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. He was 60 years old.

I don't think there are any Russians
And there ain't no Yanks
Only corporate criminals
Playing with tanks!
I should add that I have long felt the above video of "When the Walls Came Down" should be on just about anybody's short list of Most Exciting Rock Videos Ever Made. And yes, that's really Garth Hudson off to the side doing his inimitable Mad Professor act on various keyboards; his brilliant instrumental flourishes actually lift the song to a whole other level.


Edward said...

Really? More political than The Clash, or even Phil Ochs?

Sound like Talking Heads meet, I dunno, Bauhaus.

I'm pretty sure I saw these guys in LA in the very early 80's. Your mentioning Garth Hudson brought it to mind because he was playing with them (or whatever band I did see).

Anyway, dead at 60 with a heart attack, sad.

Word verification: Cocomen [which would be a good name for a band].

Blue Ash Fan said...

I'm with you, Steve. That last verse which you included in the post is one of the most daring statements ever made in a political rocker. I remember hearing that as a young man and having a damn epiphany.

And yet, Don Henley lives. There is no god.

Edward, my word verification was "surghtly." Must be an adverb. Use it in a sentence.

Anonymous said...

only predated by 2 years by The Sound's Missiles. 4 years by Shot by Both Sides.

TMink said...

The Call were a wonderful band. And it cheers me that they were a wonderful band who worked their spirituality into their music in a seemless fashion. God bless you Michael Been, you sure blessed me. At times when I was going through a bad divorce and worried I would lose my daughter, The Call helped me keep on. My daughter lives half time with me, and some day I will thank Michael Been.


steve simels said...

I realize I may have been a tad hyperbolic here -- who, me? -- but I'm actually kind of serious about how great I think this record/video is.

And yes, as much as I love The Clash, a lot of their overtly political stuff is, as they say in the acting biz, a little too on the nose.

This one just works on every level, I think, and I think its particularly cool that the singalong chorus, which once heard is lodged in your brain forver, doesn't appear till practically the end of the song.

Anonymous said...

Translator's "Sleeping Snakes" is another great political song from this moment.

billy b said...

Great band, my friend

great song.

billy b said...

Man, that's a hell of a riff.

The organ sounds like Garth.

Noam Sane said...

I'll admit that this one got lost for me in the early 80s gated-snare glut. I remember it coming on MTV fairly regularly for a while, but then so did Big Country. It all sounded the same by that point.

That said, very thoughtful, and Garth is a treasure of course. What he plays almost sorta fits, and I love it.

Definitely deserving of a post, Steve, I appreciate you bringing it back out into the light.

Karatist Preacher said...

I did not know that Garth Hudson played with these guys.

TMink said...

I was watching the Last Waltz a couple of weeks ago and Garth was just tearning up the keyboard, it seemed he was playing leads with either or both hands, this wild, circus like stuff that careened as if it were almost out of control or free jazz, then it would come back to a more comfortable place, but it was exciting in its drama and execution.


steve simels said...

Garth Hudson = Charles Ives.

Seriously. Listen to the last movement of Ives second symphony.

Anonymous said...

Well hell, Mr. Been left way too soon. If you have a moment to read/listen to an interview with him do so, he was one of the 'better angels' amongst us with a rockers heart and an ear for a tune that caught my attention at a young age.

Where are the Michael Beens of today?

Anonymous said...

too bad Garth can't get any of the scoots owed him by Robbie "I Look More Like Shemp Howard Every Year" Robertson. The true talent never gets the dough they're due.

I'm just learning that Been was in Chicago bands Aorta and Lovecraft (late version of HP Lovecraft)