Thursday, June 22, 2006
Celebrating the LP
Chicago station keeps vinyl dreams alive
Not everyone has the advantage of living in a city like Chicago, which means not everyone has the advantage of multiple radio stations. Here in Chicago, we have WDRV, or "the Drive." With a name like "the Drive" you might expect Top 40, but WDRV actually plays a strange blend of "oldies" and "classic rock." Some people may ask what the differece is - Herman's Hermits is oldies, Steppenwolf is classic rock.
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But it's not the format that makes WDRV unique - there are several Chicago stations that play classic rock and oldies. What does make the Drive special is its DJs have an unrepentant love of the LP.
For those of you too young to remember, before CDs (yes, there was a time when CDs didn't exist!) the best way to enjoy music was the 12" vinyl LP. As I, like many my age continue to hold on to our outdated LPs, I realize how antiquated they've become in just twenty years. A colleague of mine once told me a story how he was listening to some LPs with his 10 year-old nephew. When the nephew heard a song he really liked he asked my friend, "How do you rewind it?"
The Drive and its staff know the LP is now obsolete, and of course they use modern CDs and mp3s for their format. But every once in a while, like today, the DJs are allowed to bring in LPs from their own personal stash and play full album sides. In some sense it makes a DJ's job easier - just plop down a record and relax for the next twenty minutes. On the other hand, it gives air play to a lot of songs that usually don't get it, and listeners a chance to hear more than the same old hits.
Yes you can still hear the occasional pop and hiss, but today, that's some of the lure of the old LPs, especially in the digitalized and sanitized world of modern music. Many audiophiles contest that music is still best heard on its original format, that the Beatles' and Rolling Stones old music loses something on CD. My ear is not trained well enough to notice the differences, but I still enjoy pulling out my old wax records every now and then. There's something more intimate about the old LP. Perhaps it's a bit of nostalgia too.
If you too have a soft spot for the LP and you are lucky enough to have a station like the Drive where you live, support it, and keep the vinyl dreams alive. Long live the LP.
Wednesday, June 7, 2006
Goodbye, Billy Preston
“Let It Be” session man dies at age 59
One of Rock's greatest keyboardists and session men, Billy Preston, died yesterday at age 59. While Preston played with many famous artists on some of Rock's biggest albums, even having a decent solo career with hits like, "Nothing from Nothing" and "You Are So Beautiful," Preston will always be linked to his most famous gig as side musician for the Beatles during their "Let It Be" sessions and movie.
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Preston has been credited by the Beatles as the person who made "Let It Be" not only possible, but actually enjoyable. At that point in their career, the Beatles could barely stand being in the same room together, let alone play together. Yet somehow, bringing in Preston helped the band gel once more and create some of the best music of their later career. That's Preston doing the famous keyboard solo in "Get Back" and the soulful organ of "Don't Let Me Down." So grateful were the Beatles for Preston's presence, they made him one of the first artists they signed to their fledging Apple records label.
Preston also has the prestigious place in Rock history to be one of the few musicians to have recorded with both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.
Though he continued to work both as a session musician and solo artist during the 70's and 80's, drug addiction ultimately destroyed his career. He came back in the 90's and continued to work all the way up to this year, appearing on both the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Neil Diamond's latest releases. Preston died from complications from a kidney transplant earlier this year.
Ironically I happened to be listening to Let It Be just after I learned of Preston's death, purely by accident. I can't imagine the album without his presence - he has left a permanent mark on the Rock world.
Another Spin is a reworking of an older music column of the Partial Observer, written by my alter-ego, "Dr. Spin."
In Dr. Spin's column I often addressed reader's musical questions, whereas Another Spin will be entirely my thoughts and observations on Rock music and popular music in general, occasionally reviewing albums that I think are worth noting and artists who I feel have been overlooked in the past. Of course, as with any other blog, people can still leave comments. I love to know if you agree or disagree with me."