Thursday, May 21, 2015

Life in the Fast Lane

In the midst of the Seventies, an exceedingly influential and successful band emerged as a top hit in

the world of rock and roll. Still renowned as one of the best bands today, the Eagles have soared beyond the limits of classic rock and reached a point that most other aspiring artists wish to achieve. The country-infused soft-rock group formed in 1971 and are still actively touring the country for their eager fans of all ages. Truthfully, the Eagles have attracted fans from various generations spanning the later decades of the twentieth century and are astonishingly known among the generations of the twenty-first. Though they experienced a period of disunity from 1980 to 1994, they have proved an essential asset to the realm of classic rock in their adherence to their unique style and deep roots.

It is clear in any of the Eagles' songs that they crafted their own sound, for they blended the sounds and vocals of western country music into the catchy tunes of classic rock in America. Much like the band named for this country (as described in an earlier post, "America's Most Beloved Highway"), the Eagles have established what has become some of America's most traditional and popular music. Since their formation as a group in 1971, they have produced a countless number of hits and popular albums. That sort of immediate success is a rare and incredulous occasion in the music industry. In fact, their first greatest hits album (ironical entitled Their Greatest Hits) featured the 'best of their love' for music throughout their surprisingly successful beginning years: 1971-1975. Included were "Take it Easy", "Witchy Woman", "Lyin' Eyes", "Already Gone", "Desperado", "One of These Nights", "Tequila Sunrise", "Take It to the Limit", "Peaceful Easy Feeling", and "Best of My Love" (all of which were part of different albums and extracted for their "hits" album). 

Though an extremely successful band with generally limited drama, the Eagles did undergo a few lineup changes. Throughout the years, founding members Don Henley, Glen Frey, Bernie Leadon, and Randy Meisner added Joe Walsh and Timothy Schmit to the crew. Today, the Eagles consists of Henley, Frey, Schmit, Walsh, and Leadon. Like our gypsies from the week before (Lindsey and Stevie of Fleetwood Mac), they originated in California, incorporating their Midwest backgrounds into their music and style. However, this band of male rockers experienced nowhere near the levels of frustration, tension, and heartbreak as those experienced with the former. 

Among the Eagles' additional hit albums between the years 1975 and 1979 (note the short amount of time that they took to produce three more number-one albums) were One of These Nights, Hotel California, and The Long Run. Hit songs included "One of These Nights", "Take It to the Limit", "After the Thrill is Gone", "Hotel California", "New Kid in Town", "Life in the Fast Lane", "The Long Run", "I Can't Tell You Why", and "Heartache Tonight". Most of the Eagles' songs pertained to love, sex, and drugs, but their calming blend of blues, country, and classic rock tones gives each of their songs a catchy and likable touch that makes most listeners reach over to the volume knob and twist right. In particular, "Hotel California" tells a story (one of the best signs of a truly great and legitimate rock song) about the members' struggles with cocaine addiction. The next time you hear this song on 105.9, try to listen to the lyrics and apply each line to cocaine addiction. You will put the pieces of the puzzle together in no time. With this as a perfect example of their ingenuity, the Eagles put time and thought into each of their songs, most of which have a personal back-story to them. 

The Eagles are known not only for their style and music, but for their history as well, as stated in the obvious of title of their documentary, "The History of the Eagles". It's available on BluRay now, and the title ironically serves as the name of their tour this summer. Indeed they will make a stop in Miami at the American Airlines Arena for yet another concert. Still rockin', the band will be here July 10. Unfortunately, I will miss yet another concert that I have on my bucket list... I'll be partying in Savannah, Georgia as the Eagles sing their hearts out in the South Florida humidity. 

Speaking of the Eagles' tours, their most famous tour is known as the "Hell Freezes Over" tour. In 1980, the year the group decided to mutually part ways, Don Henley claimed that they would play together again "when Hell freezes over", hence the name of the tour and of the next album they released together. It was the so-called "14-year vacation" from then until 1994 that the Eagles remained virtually nonexistent and stagnant, but once back on the road together, they proved just as successful and popular as they had been in the 70s. 

As a side note, I purposely saved the Eagles for the last blog post. This band is, as I mentioned with Fleetwood Mac, on Marlowe's Top Five Classic Rock Bands list. I have been listening to their music since I was born, and their music never fails to fill me with love, happiness, and wonder. I sincerely hope that those of you who are actually reading this have taken something from these posts, and I would be even more thrilled to know that I sparked some kind of interest in you for classic rock. In my eyes (they're not lyin'), the Eagles are the epitome of classic rock, and it amazes me that they continue to please audiences worldwide while selling thousands of dollars worth of concert tickets and merchandise. 

Live Eagles performance of "Hotel California" (1976)

To discover more about the legacy of the Eagles, high-tail it to their website.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Breaking the Chain

Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Christine McVie, Stevie Nicks, and Lindsey Buckingham: all terribly talented yet terribly tumultuous. Onstage, the dazzling quintet of musicians and performers enrapture their audience, a seemingly perfectly knitted tapestry living the classic rock band dream. But backstage, behind closed doors, and beneath the thin curtain of disillusion, they unraveled into a mess of loose strings that began to fray into a disarray of calamity. 

This barely cohesive team, known as Fleetwood Mac, stayed together with the weakest glue and never completely fell apart. Plagued by mishandled relationships and frustrations, the band underwent fourteen lineup changes since the original lineup was coordinated by Mick Fleetwood in 1967. With the adoption of John McVie came the addition of his wife, Christine McVie, in 1970. Though Bob Welch remained a loyal member of Fleetwood Mac for the majority of their amateur days, in 1974 Lindsey Buckingham and his girlfriend Stevie Nicks joined, and with the exception of a couple brief break-offs, played with them into the present. Succumbed by the glorious life of a rock star, the group of friends fell victim to heavy partying and a tangle of relationships. Once unhinged from the spotlight attention onstage, they became increasingly disconnected from reality. Love affairs between Nicks and Buckingham, the McVies, and Fleetwood and Nicks became a messy knot of confusion and pain, causing distress between them all and ultimately forcing them apart. Though they reassembled into the most common lineup that the world of classic rock recognizes today, their affairs behind closed curtains were disloyal and ugly. Despite these mishaps, Fleetwood Mac became one of the most esteemed classic rock bands of the 70s and 80s, making it to the top hits list for songs featured in nearly all of their albums. 

Below is a list of Fleetwood Mac's most popular albums and their hit songs:
Rumours (1977): "You Make Loving Fun", "Go Your Own Way", "Dreams", "Don't Stop", "Never Going Back Again", "The Chain", "Gold Dust Woman"
Fleetwood Mac (1975): "Rhiannon", "Over My Head", "Say You Love Me", "Monday Morning", "Landslide" (a beautiful song)
Tusk (1979): "Sara", "Tusk"
Mirage (1982): "Gypsy", "Hold Me"
Tango in the Night (1987): "Tango in the Night", "Little Lies", "Seven Wonders", "Big Love"

Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, lovers and performers
As for Fleetwood Mac's style, it is evident from the variety of their songs that they experimented with different styles (and succeeded), including blues forms in their younger years and pop forms as they transitioned into the 80s. Combined, they created some of the greatest hit songs known to classic rock that appealed to a wide range of ears. Today, they continue to tour with the core lineup. As a matter of fact, Fleetwood Mac was just recently in Miami at the American Airlines Arena for their "On With the Show" tour on March 21. 

Aside from musical styles and techniques, Fleetwood Mac crafted a unique visual style as well. As seen in their album covers and elaborate music videos, Fleetwood Mac loved playing dress-up. Rooted in the seventies, they adopted the hippie-style clothing and hairstyles that many other artists of the time were featuring, including the natural and down-to-earth look of blue jeans, vests, skirts, and flowing, patterned blouses. As they rounded the corner into the eighties, their style blended into the makeup-obsessed media - particularly with Stevie Nicks - yet they stayed true to their calm, mellow style and relaxed ambiance. Stevie's long, flowing, fitted dresses and southern Gothic look have become her trademark. 

Stevie Nicks
Stevie Nicks
Personally speaking, Fleetwood Mac is among my top five favorite classic rock bands. Their music is truly legendary and beautiful to listen to. It's true that virtually all of their albums include great music, all of which include a variety of songs ranging from pumped and upbeat to mellow and mystic, focusing on vocals and instrumental. Frustratingly, though they were just here, Fleetwood Mac is on my bucket list of concerts to attend (along with Queen, as mentioned in last week's post), and each of their songs cause an involuntary desire to sing along to the catchy lyrics and tunes. In reality, it's amazing that this group in particular stayed together for so long while battling romantic complications and managing to produce great-quality albums with top-hit songs. Fleetwood Mac was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998. 

Additionally, Stevie Nicks would become a very successful solo artist after a breakup in the 80s. She plays with Fleetwood Mac today, but she did produce alone for some time, singing hits such as "Edge of Seventeen", "Leather and Lace", "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around", "Stand Back", and "Rooms on Fire". Just for clarification, Stevie Nicks is a lead vocalist while Christine McVie is a pianist and background vocalist... they are both blonde, so I wanted to make sure you all could distinguish the difference. :)

Fleetwood Mac Mirage tour (1982) - full concert

Fleetwood Mac Rhiannon - live performance

Here's a nice little journalism tie-in... an article about the band with a play words in the header; Rumours was the name of one of their most famous albums.

Stevie Nicks
Left to Right: Lindsey Buckingham, Christine McVie, John McVie, Mick Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks

As always, if you would like to read more about Fleetwood Mac, their current tours, and view their merchandise, fly on over to their website.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Killer Queen

Of all the ultimate bands of classic rock, these guys pass the test. Loud, rambunctious, eccentric, and all-around fun, these 'Killer Queens' are one of the most iconic bands in all of classic rock history and recognized worldwide.

Once again, London has produced some of the most talented musicians the world of classic rock has seen. At the turn of the decade in 1970, artists Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor, and John Deacon clashed to create the eccentric and unique band known as Queen. Combining hard rock, glamour rock, and electrifying vocal harmonies in each of their songs - most of which are widely known and highly praised - Queen captivated audiences inside and outside of their mother country during only the first ten years of playing together. One of their first international concerts was played in Brazil, where they officially established themselves as the musically and vocally gifted group that they are recognized as today. 

Most intriguing, however, is Queen's unique style and performance geared towards their audiences. In any picture of the band, the quartet will be found wearing eclectic, attention-grabbing clothes and styling bold hairdos that reflect their crafty blend of pop, rock, and vocal sounds that are incorporated into their songs. Queen's never-before-seen theatrical performances and presentation set them apart from the rest. 

Among their most famous songs, all of which I adore and have a blast singing along to, include "Bohemian Rhapsody" (1975), "We Are the Champions" (1977), "We Will Rock You" (1977), "Fat Bottomed Girls" (1978), "Under Pressure" ft. David Bowie (1982), "Another One Bites the Dust" (1980), "Somebody to Love" (1976), "I Want to Break Free" (1984), "Bicycle Race" (1978), "You're My Best Friend" (1975), "Killer Queen" (1974), "Radio Gaga" (1984), "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" (1980), "Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy" (1976), and "It's a Hard Life" (1984). Although I've listed more than a dozen of their hit songs, I honestly believe that they all deserve recognition because of their impact on entertainment in both the United States and England. In movies, "Bohemian Rhapsody" is often featured. In front of the cameras, the Muppets perform  a spoof of "Under Pressure". In commercials, "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" highlights what's not to love about a product. In fact, amid my many cherished memories at college football games spent at The Orange Bowl, I can recall sitting on the plastic orange seats, stamping my feet and clapping my hands to the irresistible beat of "We Will Rock You" (or We Will Rock 'U', as perceived by the Canes); the British performers' occult vocals would ring out into the stands and vibrate through the concrete bleachers facing the field. Queen's punch-in-the-gut intensity and ear-drawing music continues to be a hit at sporting events. 

Unlike many of the bands discussed earlier in this blog, Queen managed to maintain their lineup for the two decades that they played together. Moreover, the band's theatrical creativity can be seen seen in something as simple as their album titles, such as A Night at the Opera (1975) and hit song "The Show Must Go On" (1991, Innuendo). Ironically, 1991 was also the year that lead singer Freddie Mercury passed away as a victim of AIDS. Nonetheless, the remaining members finished off yet another album, Made in Heaven, in 1995, marking the end of their significant and dynamic career. In addition to creating a new blend of rock that appealed to the masses, Queen succeeded so far as to perform in South America on numerous occasions and to serve as invited guests at grand events and venues. They were finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.

1986: Queen performs at Wembley Stadium in London, England

As a side-note, every single one of Queen's songs ignites a burning desire in me to see them in concert, solely because their style and music is so much fun to watch and listen. Though no longer a complete set, Queen continues to make appearances sparsely around the world. Oddly enough, Queen and Adam Lambert will perform together in none other than South America soon, which shows the band's continued interest in the art of live performances.

To delve deeper into the Queen's castle, check out their website.

Friday, May 1, 2015

At Clapton Crossroads

At the crossroads of legendary rock music, blues, and guitar expertise stands Eric Clapton.

Known for his outstanding abilities to make his fingers create magic across the six strings of a guitar, Clapton is a rock and roll legend who used his own unique style to win the ears of his fans. Born in Britain to a sixteen-year-old mother, his grandparents raised him in a musical environment, as his grandmother played the piano and Eric easily developed a passion for music and songwriting. Though a lazy student who was kicked out of school on numerous occasions for his irresponsible behavior, he pursued a musical career nonetheless, enrolling at Kingston College of Art in London. There, he strengthened his love for the guitar and discovered the blues and electric guitars. Among his most idolized musician role-models were B.B. King and Muddy Waters. 

Clapton joined his first band, The Roosters, in 1963 at a young 17 years old, but the experience was short-lived. After only a few months of playing with the band, Clapton left, and soon joined another band by the name of Casey Jones and the Engineers. They, too, did not hit it off with Clapton. That same year, the yet to be discovered guitarist accepted an invitation from The Yardbirds, the band that essentially made him famous. Finally able to showcase his talents to the world, Clapton served as the band's guitarist until 1965, when he left, once again, due to frustrations with the band's pop-sounding music. He continued to stay true to his blues roots, however. Alongside Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker, Clapton reignited his career with the band Cream in 1966, where he was able to express the blues sounds that he loved. 

Though able to release several hit songs such as those featured in albums Fresh Cream and Wheels on Fire, he broke up with Cream as well and formed Blind Faith. Eric, Steve Winwood, Ginger Baker, and Rick Grech played together long enough to produce one album and to perform on one tour before disintegrating. Then, in 1970, Clapton joined the band that most know him best for: Derek and the Dominos. It was with these musicians that he released the album Layla...and Other Assorted Love Songs featuring "Layla", the song about his crush: Pattie Boyd. At the time of its release, Pattie Boyd was married to George Harrison; however, Boyd ended up divorcing Harrison and marrying Clapton in 1979. Ten years later, after witnessing the birth of two children fathered by Clapton but not her own, Boyd divorced him.

Despite its popularity today as a classic Clapton hit, the Layla album sunk as a commercial opportunity, and he bailed on this band as well. It wasn't until 1973, at London's Rainbow Theatre with the help of The Who's Pete Townshend, that Clapton reintroduced himself to the fans of rock and roll. Establishing himself as a deep vocalist and outstanding blues rock guitarist, he began his career as a solo artist.

Some of Clapton's famous works include "Wonderful Tonight" (one of my personally favorite songs) and "Cocaine", both part of his album Slowhand - a nickname he earned with the bands he played with - released in 1977. He then released one of his most well-known albums, Crossroads, in 1988. In 1991, one of the most beloved and widely accepted as one of the most beautiful songs ever written by Clapton was released: "Tears in Heaven". Emotionally disturbed and sorrowed, Clapton wrote this about the death of his young son, Conor, when he crawled out of a 49-story high window due to lack of supervision on the housekeeper's part. He was 4 years old.

Battling with drug and alcohol addiction throughout his entire life, Clapton established the Crossroads Centre in 1998, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility. In interviews, Clapton claimed that the death of his son was one of his motivations to become completely sober. In 2000, the star was inducted by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member and guitarist of The Yardbirds, Cream, and as a solo artist. Just two years later, he married Melie McEnery, his last and most stable marriage. Together, they had three kids, and Clapton claimed this time in his life to be the most enjoyable due to his cleansed body and new family. He released his autobiography in 2008.

Eric Clapton continues to tour today around the world, and is vastly considered as the greatest guitar hero of all time. In the rhythms, lyrics, and styles incorporated in his songs, one can easily find the unique sound of Clapton and the life he lived beneath it all.

Eric Clapton's "Layla"

For more information about Eric Clapton's life, music, tours, fan club, and other topics, visit his website here.

Eric Clapton and Pattie Boyd