Elster's World

Friday, December 16, 2005

Echoes (Or Grandfathers of Music Part II)

Long and tedious. I know. But a labor of love for me so sorry.

I grew up in a household not particularly big on music. Dad didn't really have much interest beyond some classical stuff (and later chassidish niggunim type stuff), but whatever interest he had could certainly not be deemed "hard core". Mom grew up listening to The Beatlles and all, but music wasn't really her thing. Sis wasn't much of a help in this department either. So I was left to tread the lonely path to music on my own.

I had very little in the ways of guidance; not a Gandalf or Yoda in sight for me. So I had to pick and chose my own way. I started with FM radio, listening to stations like WPLJ and Z100 (sorry, I simply didn't know any better) and falling in love with 80's icons such as Billy Joel and the immortal Howard Jones.

In high school, things took a turn for the better. A friend introduced me to The Beatles and I spent my formative years with the true grandfathers of rock and roll. One summer in camp, someone lent me Led Zeppelin IV, the so-called untitled album, and I was introdced to Stairway to Heaven and Battle of Evermore (a must listen to for any Lord of the Rings fans out there).

When I was in tenth grade, my parents bought me a mega stereo for my room. It had a turn-table, dual tape decks, AM/FM radio and, best of all, my first cd player. Oh good times. I bought Simon and Garfunkle's Greatest Hits at a flea market (my first cd) and then begged my parents to spend the 70 plus dollars for the newly released Led Zeppelin boxed set (more on this in the Zeppelin Post). To this day, I have no idea why they paid this immense fortune for 4 discs but thank you mom and dad, you guys still rock.

Once hooked, I made frequent trips to the library to peruse its cd collections. It was there that my eyes stunbled across Wish You Were here, by Pink Floyd. The cover art was so cool. 2 people shaking hands on an empty street. Oh, and one of them happened to be on fire.

Now this could have been a disaster. It was, after all, my first Floyd. It easily could have been Piper at the Gates of Dawn or Saucerfull of Secrets that I took out for seven days. These earliest of works were done during Floyd's psychedelic phase. Which is good if you like that kinda stuff, I guess. Many people consider these albums works of inspired genius. I just think they have really cool titles.

See, Floyd started out under the control of Roger Waters and Syd Barret. In the early stages, Barret was the creative guy and he was into the whole psychedelic scene. He was also into the whole heroin scene and by 1968 he was partially insane. He would phase out at concerts and became completely unreliable. The band brought on Dave Gilmore just to play guitar when Barret phased out. Shortly thereafter, barret was dumped from the band and spent some time in an insane asylum. Good times all around.

But I digress. The reason I love Floyd is their diversity. People talk about how U2 is so amazing because they were able to re-invent themselves so many times. While I agree that is true, they were nowhere near as re-inventive as Floyd. After their beginings, the band put out a number of albums you probably never heard of (More, Ummaguma, Atom Heart Mother, Relics, Meddle and Obscured By Clouds) which contain some of the finest music you've ever heard. The albums generally have one extremely long song (going over 20 minutes in some cases) and then a bunch of regular length songs.

It was these long songs that really sets Floyd apart. They play almost like classical pieces. There is a short introduction, followed by the "main theme" followed by tangents, and then everything coming back together at the end. Examples are Atom Heart Mother (from Atom heart Mother) and Echoes (from Meddle). Also are these not famous gems - Wots Uh the Deal (which could be the lyrics to someone pining for the Beis Hamikdash, though obviously they are not meant to be) from Obscured by Clouds, If from Atom Heart Mother (just a touching song) and Fat Old Sun off of Atom Heart Mother (the greatest ode to summer I've ever heard).

After this, the band shifted again and really hit its stride. As Roger Waters gained complete control of the band, they started in with more theme related albums. What followed is an absolute murderer's row of albums (most of which you have heard of): Dark Side of the Moon (someone falling into madness), Wish You Were Here (featuring the hauntingly beautiful Shine On You Crazy Diamond, a half hour ode to Syd Barret), Animals (only 5 songs long breaks down the world into three types of people: Dogs - the killers, Pigs (three different kinds) - the rich people and Sheep - the followers), The Wall (the ultimate tale of someone's descent into madness and perhaps the greatest rock opera ever made) and The Final Cut (requiem for the post war dream - or how the world fell into the toilet after WWII).

After The Final Cut, Roger Waters (who at this point was writng all the music, causing major animosity within the band) left Pink Floyd to follow a solo career. The group put out a few albums after his departure but they were uninspired.

So there you have it. We have touched on The Beatles and Pink Floyd. All that's left is the Greatest Rock and Roll Band of All Time - the mighty Zeppelin - to be lovingly covered another time.

Shabbat Shalom and good weekend to all.


  • Elster, this rocks! I think your true calling is music journalism. Please do not stop with Zepellin. I want to read your take on all the greats and even the lesser lights. I could read this kind of stuff for hours on end....

    By Blogger MC Aryeh, at 10:39 AM  

  • Journalism eh? There's something I haven't thought of. Great, another career contemplation that won't go anywhere.....

    By Blogger Elster, at 12:45 PM  

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