Producer Jeff Bhasker faced a daunting task several months ago. After having worked with Kanye West and winning Grammy Awards for producing Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk,” and Fun.’s 2012 album “Some Nights,” he had to decide whether to take on a new project: the debut solo album of One Direction member Harry Styles.
“I’d just had a baby, and I was kind of like, ‘Eh, I don’t know if I’ll jump into this,‘” Bhasker tells Variety. He agreed to have Styles come over to “just talk,” and proceeded to put him through the Bhasker home sniff test. “My dog tends to bite people, and he was kind of scoping Harry out,” Bhasker explains. Styles “did this move — like a little shoot the gun with his finger, and my dog walked over and started licking his finger. That’s when I was, like, ‘This guy has something special.'”
Once music came into the mix, Bhasker was sold. “He started playing references of what he wanted to do, which sounded like a cool rock band. I got it, and could see where if we pulled this off, it would be one of the coolest things ever. But he needed a buddy who plays guitar like he’s Keith Richards.” The insinuation being: Styles is the Mick Jagger in this scenario.
Adds Bhasker: “I’m so proud of the album itself, and also of Harry for being so brave, and committing 100%, and writing the kind of vulnerable lyrics that he wrote, and not pandering to what people thought he would do. People have no idea that this is what Harry Styles is like. Just like I didn’t know. He’s obviously very famous and beloved, but people don’t know the depths of what an amazing personality and artist he is.”
Variety spoke with Bhasker about the recording of “Harry Styles” ahead of the album’s May 12 release:
On this day in music history: August 9, 1969 - “Hot Fun In The Summertime” by Sly & The Family Stone is released. Written and produced by Sly Stone, it is the San Francisco, CA based band’s seventh single release (on Epic Records). The single is issued just one week before the bands’ legendary performance at Woodstock. The stand alone single is initially mixed and released in mono only. When it is included on the bands greatest hits compilation in October of 1970, a fake re-channelled stereo mix of the song is prepared from the mono single master, rather than remixing it from the 16-track multi-track tape. In 1973 when CBS Records releases a quadraphonic stereo version “Sly & The Family Stone’s Greatest Hits”, the song is remixed in 4-channel stereo. This remains the only real stereo mix available until the early 90’s when it is finally receives a standard two-channel stereo mix. The new stereo remix makes its first appearance on the compilation CD “Rock Artifacts V. 1” in 1991. It later appears on “The Essential Sly & The Family Stone” in 2003 and the remastered CD reissue of “Sly & The Family Stone Greatest Hits” in 2003. “Hot Fun In The Summertime” peaks at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, and #3 on the R&B singles chart on October 18, 1969.
On this day in music history: April 19, 1974 - “Big Fun”, the thirty eighth studio album by Miles Davis is released. Produced by Teo Macero, it is recorded at Columbia Studios B & E in New York City from November 19, 28, 1969, February 6, 1970, March 3, 1970 and June 12, 1972. The original double album consists four side long tracks, and are previously unreleased recordings from the “Bitches Brew” and “On The Corner” sessions. Though largely ignored on its original release, it is later sampled by artists such as The Notorious B.I.G., Mobb Deep, and Brand Nubian. First released on CD in 1987 through CBS Records’ Special Products division, it is remastered and reissued on 2000, in an expanded edition that adds four more tracks. “Big Fun” peaks at number one hundred seventy nine on the Billboard Top 200.
I promise I’m capable of talking about things other than funky reverb, but not until I let you know about this AMAZING update, or should I say, fun fact that blew my mind earlier this afternoon.
I doubt you’d nerd out as much as I did about the fact that many well known actors were bona fide hip hop musicians in the 60s and 70s. They would either sample established beats or harmonies and arrange them differently, they’d cover popular songs, or create completely new music out of their discoveries and experiments. Imagining a suave, perfectly coifed, James Bond looking gentleman in a recording studio playing around with instruments, acoustics, and arrangements of popular music from that era just seems strange, and almost comical to me. I guess it makes sense to not build up a person’s name or previous personas for the sake of the music – Leonard freaking Nimoy released an easy listening album as Dr. Spock in the late 60s (oops, bad example, but you get the idea :P) – but, upon learning that this man
Who, coincidentally, is the same person as this man
“Ducky,” the cute but whip smart medical examiner from NCIS had also released a tiny, not quite LP but not full album of music, I actually lost my shit. Like spit out my drink and laugh-cried for a minute.
David McCallum’s his name, being a Renaissance Man is his game. Besides being a memorable TV, film, and stage actor from the 60s onward, McCallum is also a successful and influential musician. Along with legendary composer/arranger/Ren Man himself David Axelrod, McCallum released a whole bunch of instrumental work that you’d be hell bent to not hear on a regular basis, even today. Check out this track. The first few seconds represent one of the most recognizable openings and samples in all of recorded hip hop history. Here’s looking at you, Snoop, Dre, and other beaterific beat makers. Some of their most dank tracks are thanks to Ducky’s pounding and floaty take on the music of his day.
I’d recommend an album, but it wouldn’t do any justice to this kind of discovery to be quite honest. I’d listen to the entirety of Axelrod’s discography from roughly 1966-1970 onward to get a feel for this (as I did this week lol). I know, not a huge departure from the Ohio Players from a few days back, (by that I mean I’d listen to this indefinitely, though I’m just discovering this myself!), but I couldn’t pass this up. Happy listening and sampling!
“I love to dance. It started when the band where in Berlin. Also one of the most fun things to do on a tour, was finding an awesome club, usually with Fighting Fintan Fitzgerald and Anton Corbijn who also likes to get down on the dancefloor.”