Rock and Pop songs inspired by Historical events.

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A slight deviation from my regular  history of sorts. This time I will leave the music do the talking.

Throughout the decades there have been many songs that took their inspiration from historical events, below is a list and clips of some of them.

Starting of with the one song that covers most of known history of mankind. The Rollings Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil”

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Next up the re-telling of Rasputin by Boney M. Although they took quite some poetic licenses it still broadly outlines the history of that infamous Russian.

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Martin Luther King was the inspiration for U2’s “Pride” one of U2’s best songs ever with a powerful message.

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On December 29, 1890, the massacre of Sioux warriors, women and children along Wounded Knee Creek in southwestern South Dakota marked the final chapter in the long war between the United States and the Native American tribes indigenous to the Great Plains.

It was to be known as the Wounded knee massacre.It inspired the Native American Rock band Redbone to record the protest song “We were all wounded at Wounded Knee”

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In 2010 the Chicago Metal band released the song “Never Again” it was inspired by the Holocaust and served as an indictment that the one thing that history teaches us is that it keeps repeating itself.

Even our darkest era is denied, forgotten and slowly at risk of repeating itself again. But like Disturbed I also say “NEVER AGAIN”

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Although I am not a great fan of Bob Dylan as a performing artist, there is no denying he is one of the best songwriters ever.

I could have picked so many songs from his back catalogue but decided to go with “Hurricane”

Hurricane” is a protest song by Bob Dylan co-written with Jacques Levy, about the imprisonment of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter. It compiles alleged acts of racism and profiling against Carter,[1] which Dylan describes as leading to a false trial and conviction.

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Finishing up as I started with a song that encompasses several decades of history.”We Didn’t Start the Fire” is a song by Billy Joel. Its lyrics include brief, rapid-fire allusions to more than 100 headline events between 1949, the year of Joel’s birth, and 1989,the year the song was released.

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The 1st Sony Walkman

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it is not often I do a piece on technology, in fact this is the first time and it probably will be last time, but this device has had an impact on my life.And today marks the 38th anniversary of its first release.

The transistor radio was a technological marvel that put music literally into consumers’ hands in the mid-1950s. It was cheap, it was reliable and it was portable,

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but it could never even approximate the sound quality of a record being played on a home stereo. It was, however, the only technology available to on-the-go music lovers until the Sony Corporation sparked a revolution in personal electronics with the introduction of the first personal stereo cassette player. A device as astonishing on first encounter as the cellular phone or digital camera would later be, the Sony Walkman went on sale for the very first time on July 1, 1979.

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The Sony Walkman didn’t represent a breakthrough in technology so much as it did a breakthrough in imagination. Every element of the Walkman was already in production or testing as part of some other device when Sony’s legendary chairman, Masaru Ibuka, made a special request in early 1979.

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Ibuka was a music lover who traveled frequently, and he was already in the habit of carrying one of his company’s “portable” stereo tape recorders with him on international flights. But the Sony TC-D5 was a heavy device that was in no way portable by modern standards, so Ibuka asked his then-deputy Norio Ohga if he could cobble together something better. Working with the company’s existing Pressman product—a portable, monaural tape recorder that was popular with journalists—Ohga had a playback-only stereo device rigged up in time for Ibuka’s next trans-Pacific flight.

Even though this proto-Walkman required large, earmuff-like headphones and custom-made batteries (which, of course, ran out on Ibuka midway through his flight), it impressed the Sony chairman tremendously with its sound quality and portability. Many objections were raised internally when Ibuka began his push to create a marketable version of the device, the biggest of which was conceptual: Would anyone actually buy a cassette device that was not for recording but only for playback? Ibuka’s simple response—”Don’t you think a stereo cassette player that you can listen to while walking around is a good idea?”—proved to be one of the great understatements in business history.

After a breakneck development phase of only four months, Sony engineers had a reliable product ready for market at 30,000 Yen (approximately US$150 in 1979 dollars) and available before the start of summer vacation for Japanese students—both critical targets established at the outset of development. The initial production run of 30,000 units looked to be too ambitious after one month of lackluster sales (only 3,000 were sold in July 1979). But after an innovative consumer-marketing campaign in which Sony representatives simply approached pedestrians on the streets of Tokyo and gave them a chance to listen to the Walkman, the product took off, selling out available stocks before the end of August and signaling the beginning of one of Sony’s greatest success stories.

I remember getting a Sony Sports Walkman in the mid eighties it was the top of the range technology at the time.

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No longer was I confined at home to listen to my favorite rock tunes. I got be a “rock star” anywhere I wanted. Ignore all those who laughed at me while I was playing air guitar on my way to school or town.I didn’t mind because I knew they envied me because I had a Sony Sports Walkman.

This is a tune of an album I played a lot on the Walkman. Whitesnake,album:Slide it in, Track, Love ain’t no stranger.

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The unknown originals -volume 2

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Sometimes you hear a song on the radio and you may have actually heard this song for many years,always thinking it was an original. However it often happens that these “originals” are actually copies or covers.

In this blog I will be looking at the songs in the original language, sometimes performed by the same artist.

Below are some of these real originals. Starting off with the Germans. A nation not that known for it’s musical abilities,well at least in Pop music terms. In the 80s though they came up with this new wave of German music, called “die Neue Deutsche Welle” or New German wave in English.

One of the leading bands were Nena, fronted by the lead singer Nena.

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They had a massive worldwide hit with 99 Red balloons, the original however was in German “99 Luftballons”

 

In 1988 the Munich band Münchener Freiheit, renamed for the English speaking countries to “Freiheit” had a massive  hit with the song”Keeping the dream alive” it actually became a Christmas hit even tough it had nothing to do with Christmas.

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But the original is called “So lang’ man Träume noch leben kann”

 

“It’s now or never” was one of Elvis’s biggest hits and you may be forgiven that the original was in English.

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However the original date back to the 19th century. “’O sole mio” is a globally known Neapolitan song written in 1898. Its lyrics were written by Giovanni Capurro and the music was composed by Eduardo di Capua and Alfredo Mazzucchi. Here performed by Pavarotti.

 

One of my favourite crooners is Bobby Darin.

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His version of “beyond the sea” always puts me in a nostalgic mood. It was however a cover from the French chanson “la mer” a song written by French composer, lyricist, singer and showman Charles Trenet.

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When Frank Sinatra sang ” I did it my way” he did it in more then one way.

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“My way” is a cover of the French song “Comme d’habitude” French for “As usual”) is a French song composed in 1967 by Claude François and Jacques Revaux with lyrics by Claude François and Gilles Thibaut.

 

The Irish folk band the Fureys had a worldwide hit wit “the red rose cafe” .The original Dutch version  is called “het Kleine cafe aan de haven” which translates in the little pub at the harbour. It was written,performed and composed by Pierre Kartner under his artist name Vader Abraham(no it’s not a name of a Sith lord in Star Wars?.Who also composed and performed “the Smurf song”

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As bonus I will also include the original Dutch version of the Smurf song by the aforementioned Vader Abraham

The Eurovision song contest

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Tonight is the first semi finals of the annual circus called the Eurovision Song contest. I have to be honest though, I do like it. It basically goes against everything I like,music wise, the whole bizarre circus and the politics behind it I do find entertaining.

In case you are in doubt it is political you only have to look at last year’s winner. Ukraine;Jamala-1944.

Let’s just look at the history of probably the biggest Television event in the world.

The history of the Eurovision Song Contest began with an idea of Sergio Pugliese, of the Italian television RAI, and then approved by Marcel Bezençon of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU).

The contest was based on the Italian Sanremo Music Festival and was designed to test the limits of live television broadcast technology.

.The first contest took place on 24 May 1956, where seven nations participated.  It was won by Lys Assia for Switzerland, with the song refrain.

As the Contest progressed, the rules grew increasingly complex and participation levels rose to pass forty nations at the end of the 20th century. As more countries came on board over subsequent decades and technology advanced, the EBU attempted to keep up with national and international trends.

Ireland won the contest 7 times, followed by Sweden 6 times.France, Luxembourg, United Kingdom 5 times and the Netherlands 4 times.

Of the 7 times Ireland won it, 3 times were by Johnny Logan.

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Twice as a performer and in 1992 as the composer with the song Why me? sung by Linda Martin.

Ireland also had one of the most bizarre contestants, a Turkey called Dustin. It was really as a protest against the geographical bloc voting which became evident at the end of the 1990’s and early 21st century,after the introduction of tele-voting and the removal of the jury votes.

 

Finland who mostly got 0 points or at the most just a few points was the surprise winner in 2006 with a Heavy Metal band called Lordi. Although many people complaint about this, it does show the diversity of popular music on display at the Eurovision.

 

In general the winners do not enjoy too much success or longevity in the music industry, however there were 2 acts that were able to build a career on the back of their wins at the Eurovision

In 1988 Canadian born Celine Dion entered the contest for Switzerland with the song “Ne partez pas sans moi” she became a global mega star afterwards.

The band that really is associated with the Song contest is of course ABBA, in 1974 they won with their song Waterloo, this catapulted their career into the stratosphere. Their fame was at par with bands like Queen, the Beatles and the Rolling stones.

 

Going back to the diversity of the Eurovision in 1998 and in 2014 the contest was won by transgender/sexual  contestsants, 1998 Dana International for Israel with the song”Diva” and 2014 Conchita Wurst for Austria with the song “Rise like a Phoenix”

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In 2009 the contest was won by Norway’s Alexander Rybak with his self-penned “Fairytale”, which received a record-breaking 387 points out of 492, at the time the highest total score in the history of the contest.

Finishing up with the song that won the last time for the Netherlands. In 1975 Teach In won the contest with the song”Ding A Dong” (hey it was the seventies)

Nearer my God to thee-And the band played on.

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105 years ago today as the Titanic was sinking,band leader Wallace Hartley decided to stay on the ship together with his fellow musicians.

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Why I don’t really know but I think it was to give that glimmer of hope to those who were facing their last minutes before their mortal coils would give up.What is even more amazing is the fact that the piece of music they played was “Nearer my God to thee” these are the heroes who are often forgotten.

After the Titanic hit an iceberg and began to sink, Hartley and his fellow band members started playing music to help keep the passengers calm as the crew loaded the lifeboats. Many of the survivors said that he and the band continued to play until the very end. None of the band members survived the sinking, and the story of them playing to the end became a popular legend. One survivor who clambered aboard ‘Collapsible A’ claimed to have seen Hartley and his band standing on the boat deck, near the entrance to the grand staircase, near the base of the second funnel. He went on to say that he saw three of them washed off while the other five held on to the railing on top the Grand Staircase’s deckhouse, only to be dragged down with the bow, as Hartley exclaimed, “Gentlemen, I bid you farewell!” A newspaper at the time reported “the part played by the orchestra on board the Titanic in her last dreadful moments will rank among the noblest in the annals of heroism at sea.”

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Many of the survivors said that Hartley and the band continued to play until the very end. One second class passenger said:

“Many brave things were done that night, but none were more brave than those done by men playing minute after minute as the ship settled quietly lower and lower in the sea. The music they played served alike as their own immortal requiem and their right to be recalled on the scrolls of undying fame”

This is my salute to those who kept faith until the last moment.

The Music that shaped my life-Part 1

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Music has always played an important and pivotal role in my life. At times it was my comforter,companion,friend,guide and inspiration.

This is just a short journey through my musical life. Eclectic and interesting.

Starting off with the King.

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No one who loves music can say that they don’t like Elvis so it was no different for me.Without divulging too much of my personal life, suffice to say my childhood could have been better. It was in Elvis’s music I often found solace. Although I did enjoy his edgier early stuff ,it were his ballads that spoke to me and especially this one:

It was also Elvis that got me interested in Rock N Roll. Which leads me nicely to the firs woman in my life. Joan Jett.

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Well she wasn’t really the first woman in my life I had a mother and sisters, but Joan was the first woman that got my musical juices flowing so to speak.

It was 1982 and the world was rocked in to submission by a German girl singing about a bit of love, in the bore fest called the  Eurovision songcontest.

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If it hadn’t been for Joan Jett and the Blackhearts I may have actually started listening to Nicole and God only knows what might have happened.I can safely say it was “I love Rock ‘N’ Roll that saved my soul from eternal damnation. It was also the song that triggered my long lasting love affair with Hard Rock.

1982 was also the year a relatively unknown band was approached by an Italian American to write a song for a boxing movie, actually the 3rd instalment of the franchise.

The movie of course was Rocky III, the band Survivor.But rather then talking about Eye of the Tiger I am taking you back a few years.

In 1980 Survivor had released their first self titled album.

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The reason why I am discussing this album is because it was given to me as a gift by a friend of my brother. He knew I had recently bought the aforementioned album”Eye of the Tiger” and he knew I liked the band. As a random act of kindness he ordered Survivor’s 1st album for me. This was before online ordering so he had to physically send the order over to Virgin Records in London to get it delivered to my home in the Netherlands.To this day this album is still one of my favourites. This is the best track on the album.

I have always been a big fan off concept albums. Jeff Wayne’s musical version of the War of the Wotlds is just the pinnacle of art combined with music, Often when there is nothing on TV (which is a lot) I put on the album just to drift away in memories, because lets face it music is a time machine.

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However it was the Seattle based  Queensryche who in 1988  released the best concept album of all time Well at least in my opinion and I am a bit biased because I am a massive fan.

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Queensryche had released another great album before “Operation Mindcrime” called “Rage for Order” and I didn’t think they’d be able to improve on that, but boy was I wrong.

This concludes the first 2 decades of my musical life, but I will come back in part 2 with some 80s blues music, yes I do mean Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Deutschland 1980’s-the Music.

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I know what you are thinking “Didn’t he already do a piece on Deutschland ’83?” and you’d be right , but this blog is not about that show nor its follow up “Deutschland ’86”.

This piece is about the music in Germany in the 80’s. It always fascinated me that for this relatively short period of time the German music industry basically turned itself on its head. It went from the folky Schlager music to the NDW(Neue Deutsche Welle) German new wave and punk music,complemented with some rock acts.

Well at least for West Germany, East Germany was a different story altogether.

Below are some examples of that weird musical era in Germany. I do apologize for the first 2 songs but in order to get a feel for the paradox and to have a balance I felt compelled to put them in here.You can fast forward if you  so please.(I did)

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The situation in the East

“Sonderzug nach Pankow” (Special Train to Pankow) is a song by the German rock singer Udo Lindenberg, released as a single on 2 February 1983.

It was a reaction to the refusal by the East German government to allow the West German singer perform a concert in East Germany .The text of this approximately three minutes long song is aimed  directly to East German leader Erich Honecker.

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The melody is based on the 1941 swing classic “Chattanooga Choo Choo” by Glenn Miller. It did eventually did lead to Udo Lindenberg being granted to do 1 concert in East Germany on 25 October 1983. The concert was part of the “Rock für den Frieden”(Rock for Peace) festival.

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German Rock

These guys must have listened to Led Zeppelin a lot.

Finishing up with the band that no one talks about anymore ,Milli Vanilli. Ironically the lip syncing scandal they were involved in has more or less become the standard in the Music industry nowadays.

21st Century Rock Anthems

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This is probably one of my more difficult articled to compile. After having watched a documentary on the BBC on great American Rock anthems where they basically finished with ‘Smells like Teen spirit’ by Nirvana. I found it hard to think of any anthems that came after that iconic rock track.But I think I came up with a few.

Below are some essential 21st Century Rock Anthems, at least in my opinion.

Green Day-American Idiot

 

Arcade Fire-Wake Up

 

Queens of the Stone Age-No One Knows

 

Elbow-Grounds for Divorce

 

Rammstein-Ich Will

 

Cold Play-Fix you

Linkin Park-Somewhere I belong

 

Finishing up with one of my all time favourites, from the brilliant Swedish/Danish crime drama the Bridge -Bron/Broen.

The Choir of Young believers-Hollow Talk

 

Pinkpop: the death of an institute.

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PinkPop is the oldest and longest running annual dedicated pop and rock music festival in the world.

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It started in 1970 in the former mining town of Geleen in the south east of the Netherlands. It stayed there until 1986. In 1987 it moved north a bit to Baarlo and since 1988 it has been held in the town of Landgraaf.

This year though it has decided to commit artistic and musical suicide by announcing that the 2017 headliner will be Justin Bieber.

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It is sad to see this legendary institution which originated in my home town taking its own life.

Let’s just have a look back at some of the legendary bands who performed there in the past.

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RIP Pinkpop, it was good while it lasted.

 

Famous bands that changed their names.

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Starting off with probably the best known band from the low countries”Golden Earring”. Their name change was very subtle, they were formed in 1961 as the “Golden Earrings” they dropped the S in 1969.

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The next name change is a bit less subtle but still subtle enough “the Cranberries” started off as “the Cranberry Saw Us” in 1989. When their male lead singer left and was later replaced with the one and only Dolores O’Riordon history was made as Limerick’s biggest ever Rock act.

1957,Liverpool a group of teenagers called themselves “the Quarry men” after they had tried names like ‘The Blackjacks, Johnny and the Moondogs, Japage 3’ However this skiffle band eventually became known as “the Beatles”. You may have heard of them.

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Continuing on a Dutch theme with Van Halen. Eddie and Alex Van Halen formed their first band with three other boys, calling themselves The Broken Combs, performing at lunchtime at Hamilton Elementary School in Pasadena, whereEddie Van Halen was in the fourth grade. Eddie Van Halen would later say that this was when he first felt the desire to become a professional musician.In 1972, The Van Halens formed another band, originally called “Genesis.” The name was changed to “Mammoth” when they became aware of the English progressive rock band of the same name. Mammoth consisted of Eddie Van Halen on guitar and lead vocals, his brother Alex on drums and bass guitarist Mark Stone. Mammoth had no P.A. system of their own, so they rented one from David Lee Roth,a service for which he charged by the night. Eddie Van Halen became frustrated with singing lead vocals, and decided they could save money by adding Roth to the band.Michael Anthony later replaced Mark Stone on the bass guitar. The band opted to change its name because Roth suggested that the last name of the two brothers “sounded cool.”

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U2 Ireland’s biggest band. I can hear you say “What’s the Hype?” and you’d be correct. What is the Hype? That would be U2. The Hype started off as a 5 piece band. The Edge’s older brother,Dik Evans, used to be part of the band. After he left the band was renamed U2.

Even though they were called V2 on the posters for their first gig in the UK. About 6 people showed up.

This is the Dublin 4 in my hometown ‘Geleen’ in 1981.

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Led Zeppelin were not always called Led Zeppelin, in fact the had several incarnations.The first one being “the Yardbirds”. The band that included 3 of the world’s best guitarists ever. Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and the man musicians refer to as “God” Eric Clapton. Jimmy Page was actually the bassist.

In 1968 the Yardbirds played their last gig and “the New Yardbirds” were born with Robert Plant on vocals.However the name ‘the New Yardbirds’ didn’t stick, it went down like a lead balloon or even a Led Zeppelin.