The Queen is dead. Aretha Franklin, born in Detroit 76 years ago, and destined to be acknowledged as ‘The Queen Of Soul’ following her late-‘60s breakthrough, was the daughter of minister C.L. Franklin, developing her vocal prowess in the church, before embarking on a secular career in 1960, when she was 18.
The recent Childish Gambino video to ‘This Is America’ provided a genuine cultural moment, reminding us of the long-standing tradition of the protest song, and how well-chosen words (combined with imagery in this case) can pierce us on a deeper level.
Tom Wolfe, the famous American author and journalist, died yesterday, aged 88. He wrote the countercultural classic, ‘The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test’, published in 1968, which documented the exploits of Ken Kesey’s Californian LSD evangelists, The Merry Pranksters, who played a leading role in the emergence of the psychedelic era during the 1960s – their ‘Acid Test’ gatherings, originally at Kesey’s La Honda farm, unleashing psychedelic light shows, whilst providing the launchpad for the band The Grateful Dead.
Otis Redding is my favourite singer of all. I became addicted to his records in the late ‘60s – my brother and sister had already brought a number of these into the house including ‘Mr Pitiful’, ‘I’ve Been Loving You Too Long’, ‘I Can’t Turn You Loose’, ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’, ‘Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)’, ‘Day Tripper’, ‘Shake’, ‘Tramp’ (with Carla Thomas), ‘Respect’, ‘Try A Little Tenderness’, ‘Hard To Handle’, ‘Amen’ and, of course, ‘(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay’.
50 years ago today an album was released that took pop music, something previously regarded as disposable, into the realm of art, whilst helping enable a vital generation of young people to throw off the shackles and express themselves in ever-ambitious ways – ‘Sgt.Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ soundtracked the fabled ‘summer of love’, which had spilled out into an unsuspecting world via the US West Coast, its psychedelic epicentre being San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood, where the original hippies had gathered and pondered the meaning of it all, adopting a lateral LSD-laced stance on life that would be a defining feature of the decade.
On April Fools’ Day our record label, Super Weird Substance, is hosting its most ambitious event to date – a 14 hour long Happening that takes over The Florrie, a stunning Grade II Victorian community heritage venue in Liverpool.
I wanted to do something to mark the 50th anniversary of 1967 – a truly magical, myth-laden, musical year when so much changed, separating old from new and leading to a seismic cultural shift, especially via the recording industry – artists becoming increasingly ambitious, with pop music no longer regarded as throwaway fodder for the kids, but the great artistic statement of the age.
It was half a century ago today that one of the great albums of the pop era, ‘Revolver’ by The Beatles, was released. It was the 7th Beatles album and their 7th UK #1 (all of The Beatles’ studio albums topped the UK chart). It generally places highly on critic’s best album of all-time lists.
The fourth edition of my ‘Discotheque Archives’ series for DJ Mag is now online, featuring more landmarks in pre-Rave club culture:
North London born A&R man and record producer of The Beatles, George Martin, died yesterday aged 90.