Delta blues is one of the earliest styles of blues music, thus one of the earliest styles of modern music.The importance of the genre is beyond perception as it heavily influenced blues, jazz, rock n’ roll, and it determined music as we know it today. The mix features music by all the great Delta blues musicians including Robert Johnson, Son House, and Big Bill Broonzy. This my friends, is the beginning of it all.
i. Crossroad Blues - Robert Johnson || ii. Preachin’ Blues - Son House || iii. I Be’s Troubled - Muddy Waters || iv. Milk Cow Blues - Sleepy John Estes || v. Baby, Please Don’t Go - Big Joe Williams || vi. Where Did you Sleep Last Night? - Leadbelly || vii. Down the Dirt Road Blues - Charley Patton || viii. Fixin’ to Die Blues - Bukka White || ix. Big Bill Blues - Big Bill Broonzy || x. Future Blues - Willie Brown || xi. Southern Can is Mine - Blind Willie McTell || xii. Dark was the Night, Cold was the Ground - Blind Willie Johnson || xiii. Falling Down Blues - Furry Lewis || xiv. Cool Drink of Water Blues - Tommy Johnson || xv. Matchbox Blues - Blind Lemon Jefferson
8tracks playlist by Alvy Singer image: photo of Mississippi John Hurt (c. 1950s-1960s)
haven't shared a playlist in a minute, so here's what I've been listening to:
The Abigals: Always
Allah-Las: Catamaran, Catalina
Angel Olsen: White Fire, Lights Out, Unfucktheworld, All Right Now, Only With You, May As Well, Endless Road, The Waiting, Free, Tiniest Seed
Billie Holiday: All of Me, Billie’s Blues, I’ll Be Seeing You, Crazy He Calls Me
The Black Keys: I’ll Be Your Man
Blind Willie McTell: Little Delia, Come On Around To My House Mama
Bo Diddley: Pretty Thing
Bob Dylan: Went To See The Gypsy, Pretty Saro, Folsom Prison Blues, Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat, She Belongs To Me (The Cutting Edge version), It’s All Over Now Baby Blue, Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues, She’s Your Lover Now, Absolutely Sweet Marie, One More Cup Of Coffee, Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right, Corrina Corrina, Girl From The North Country, The Times They Are A-Changin’
Bobby “Blue” Bland: I Pity The Fool
Clear Plastic Masks: Baby Come On, When The Nighttime Comes
The Coasters: Poison Ivy
Cotton Jones: Blood Red Sentimental Blues
David Bowie & Queen: Under Pressure
Dead Ghosts: Summer With Phil, You Don’t Belong, It’s Up To You, Waste My Time, Anything For You, I Will Be Gone, When It Comes To You, She Likes It, I Want You To Know, What To Do, James Brown, I Want Your Love
The Doors: Universal Mind, Gloria, Who Scared Me, Rock Me, The Woman Is A Devil, Back Door Man, The End, The Changeling, Love Her Madly, Been Down So Long, Cars Hiss By My Window, Crawling King Snake, The WASP, Riders On The Storm, Roadhouse Blues, Queen Of The Highway, Touch Me, Wild Child, Love Me Two Times, Hello I Love You, My Wild Love, Five To One
Elmore James: Dust My Broom
Etta James: I Just Want To Make Love To You, Stormy Weather, I’d Rather Go Blind
First Aid Kit: Emmylou, Ghost Town, When I Grow Up, The Lion’s Roar, In The Hearts Of Men, To A Poet, My Silver Lining, Stay Gold, Wolf, Wills Of The River, I Found A Way, Shattered & Hollow, A Long Time Ago
The Frights: Uncoiled
The Growlers: Sunset Girl, Hoopity Hip, Old 8 Legs, Empty Bones, Swamp Stomp, Red Tide, Old Cold River, Wet Dreams, Heehaw Stomp, Barnacle Beat, Tijuana, Acid Rain, Dull Boy, Rare Hearts, Dogheart ll, Tell It How It Is, Humdrum Blues, Nobody Owns You, Ego Of Man, Drinkin’ The Juice Blues, People Don’t Change Blues, Someday, Naked Kids, One Million Lovers, Pet Shop Eyes, Beach Rats, Living In A Memory, Derka Blues, Ancient Mirrors, Modern Bummers Blues, No Trees In The Desert, Red Tide (original), Freedom Children, California
Hornet Leg: We’re So Ugly
Howlin’ Wolf: Smokestack Lightnin’, Evil (Is Going On), Rockin’ Daddy, Shake For Me, Howlin’ Wolf Boogie
Jack White: I’m Shakin’
Jimi Hendrix: Foxey Lady, Voodoo Child
Jivviden: Misplaced, Dead On The Vine, Better Now, Peripheral Complications, Always Bleeding, Love (At 70mph), Head Honcho, Scrawny Hipster Blues, Lame Snake Dream, It’s All Fine
John Lee Hooker: Hastings Street Boogie, Boom Boom
Johnny Cash: Further On Up The Road, Folsom Prison Blues, Ring Of Fire, Come Along And Ride This Train, I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry, One Piece At A Time, I Feel Better All Over, She Used To Love Me A Lot
Julie London: Cry Me A River
The Kinks: Long Tall Shorty, I’m A Hog For You Baby
La Luz: T.V. Dream, Easy Baby, What Good Am I?, Sunstroke, Phantom Feelings, Call Me In The Day, I Can’t Speak, True Love Knows
Lantern: The Conjurer
Lightnin’ Hopkins: Bring Me My Shotgun
Little Walter: My Babe
Little Willie John: Need Your Love So Bad, I’m Shakin
Lou Reed: Walk On The Wild Side
Mac Demarco: My Kind Of Woman, Cooking Up Something Good, Robson Girl, Baby’s Wearing Blue Jeans, Salad Days, Blue Boy, Treat Her Better, Let My Baby Stay, Brother
Mountain Man: Animal Tracks, White Heron, Soft Skin, Loon Song, Honey Bee
Muddy Waters: Got My Mojo Workin’
Nancy Sinatra: Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)
Night Beats: Love Ain’t Strange (Everything Else Is), Sonic Boom, Outta Mind, As You Want
Nina Simone: Feeling Good, Do I Move You?
Patsy Cline: Walkin’ After Midnight, I Fall To Pieces
Ramblin’ Jack Elliot: Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain
Ray Charles: Come Rain Or Come Shine, A Fool For You, I’ve Got A Woman, What’d I Say
Robert Johnson: Cross Road Blues
The Rolling Stones: Beast of Burden
Sacagawea And The Hunters: Escalation
Sam Cooke: Bring It On Home To Me
The Seeds: Can’t Seem To Make You Mine
Shannon And The Clams: Ozma, How Long, It’s Too Late, Gone By The Dawn, Corvette
Taj Mahal: Leaving Trunk
The Tallest Man On Earth: It Will Follow The Rain, Steal Tomorrow, Walk The Line, Fields Of Our Home, Singers, Beginners, Dark Bird Is Home, I Won’t Be Found, Pistol Dreams, The Gardener, Into The Stream, This Wind, The Dreamer, To Just Grow Away, 1904, Bright Lanterns, Wind And Walls, You’re Going Back, Thousand Ways, A Lion’s Heart, The Wild Hunt, Burden Of Tomorrow, Troubles Will Be Gone, The Drying Of The Lawns, King Of Spain, Love Is All, Thousand Ways, I Want You (Bob Dylan cover)
The Velvet Underground: Oh! Sweet Nothing, Sweet Jane
Ready? I’m gonna go through my iPod and give you a LIST of good shit (which means it will be alphabetical. Listen up others who ask this question literally everyday. Ignore what you’ve listened to already…
Hate to Say They Told You So: Garage Rock Revival in the Early 2000s
For about three years in the early 2000s, there was a lot of talk in the mainstream music press about a garage rock revival centered around four bands with prominent hits at the time: The Strokes, The White Stripes, The Vines, and The Hives. The cover of Rolling Stone for the September 2002 issue said “ROCK IS BACK!” in big bold letters while SPIN and NME talked about a “new rock revolution.” NME even called The Strokes the “saviours of rock ‘n’ roll” (though, to be fair, NME seems to find at least one band a year to saddle with that particular job). While each of these bands–and the gaggle of second-tier acts that followed them–had at least one internationally charting song and did seem to share an affinity for the visceral, simplistic pleasures of rock music, there was a sense that this 'revolution’ was an invention of the music press, that they’d seized on hype and made kings out of cavemen because the music these bands were producing stood in clear opposition to the tired, bloated post-grunge and nu-metal that was dominating rock radio. You might even call it the last big, hyperbolic moment these older publications had before the Pitchfork-led internet became the definitive new engine of attention with the next wave of ascendant indie bands.
There’s a lumbering-dinosaur quality to the early ’00s garage rock revival. You have these old, long-standing publications that, by this time, were losing a lot of their cultural cache with American youth, praising bands that were wallowing unapologetically in classic styles of rock. All the 'savior’ talk was predicated on the idea that these retro bands were bringing the fun, sexy, cool, stylish, pop elements back to guitar music, or rather a version of them that had been forgotten in the self-serious wake of grunge. There was also a historic surge of creative, forward-thinking R&B sweeping the pop charts around this time, so it wasn’t that surprising for a simultaneous back-looking trend to emerge. It’s easy to see how kids (white teenage boys in my experience) got excited about this stuff. As fads go, it was pretty perfect for its 15 minutes in the sun. The real heyday was in 2002, when all the press coverage happened and the four biggest bands all had their biggest hits. The moment had passed by ’04. Jet’s lame, shallow, stupid single “Are You Gonna Be My Girl,” a straight Iggy Pop “Lust for Life” clone, was the biggest nail in the coffin for most people who cared about this stuff (and this was in a genre where you could get away with being stupid and shallow if you were cool enough!). There was a sister 'revival’ happening in those years that was all about new-wave/post-punk/dance-rock styles, starting with Interpol, The Rapture, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs but going into The Killers, Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party, et al. For a minute, though, the big garage rock revival bands were commodities of cool, getting radio play, press attention, and enjoying their youthful rock star moments.
The Strokes were the first and the biggest. They were prep school chums who got together in the late 90s and started gigging around the Lower East Side, taking a lot of cues from bands that had made that part of New York a musical hotbed in the 70s. Press bios always compared them to The Velvet Underground, mostly because of the Lou Reed-esque mid-range filters they put on Julian Casablancas’ voice, I think. They really sounded much more like Television, especially on Is This It, but talking about the VU was a better way to position them within the cool NYC rock continuum because everyone knows you’re supposed to love and revere the Velvets. The Strokes were absolutely doused in hype. As I mentioned above, British music rags went nuts for them, and when “Last Nite” became a hit on both sides of the Atlantic, the band blew up. It helped that they were all terminally hip, stylish, and disaffected, with greasy hair, ratty sneakers, leather jackets, and dangling cigarettes. I personally love their first two albums (and can’t argue with Is This It being considered the most important rock record of the 2000s), but it’s hard to escape the sense that what The Strokes really brought to the table–the thing that made them valuable figureheads of this fad–was their ineffable cool. Even in their heyday, there were so many easy ways to criticize them. You could point out how they were phony rich kids, musically derivative, sonically deceitful (making a cruddy-sounding album with non-cruddy means), lazily nostalgic, preening, self-involved (read the lyrics), fashion victims, hype beneficiaries, etc. and until about 2003 when their second album, Room on Fire, wasn’t as big a hit, all of it just seemed to roll off their backs. That’s a huge, important thing to understand about what this cultural moment meant. In many ways, it was a recognition of the power of cool, of how nothing else about a band really has to matter if they have that certain, slippery, magical aura. It never lasts, though, and The Strokes took a pretty big nose dive with a difficult, over-macho third album that nearly tanked their career. Even so, they were basically the biggest rock band of the decade.
“When we first started playing we were like, ‘What’s going to be the new kind of cool music? I wonder if anything cool could still come out?’ We wanted to see if we could find out.“ - Julian Casablancas in NME
"I heard a rumour that no one actually comes to our shows and that we only exist in magazines.” - Nick Valensi in The Face
The White Stripes were a close second. In the early days, prior to their '04 transition to 'misunderstood classic rock troubadour’ territory, Jack White still seemed willing to engage pop culture on young, enthusiastic terms. They were shrouded in pettifogging back then, with questions about Jack and Meg’s 'brother’/'sister,’ husband/wife, divorcee status, rigid but playful peppermint candy color scheme, lack of a bass player, and eye-popping Michel Gondry video. Presentation was just as important to The White Stripes as it was to The Strokes, but The White Stripes placed their extra-musical accouterments much further up front back then. To hear the band tell it, the point was to dodge media attention and deflect it back to their music. But anyone who’s been clocking pop music for more than six months knows a gimmick when they see one, and if all The White Stripes’ press-ready baggage was an attempt at getting people to let the music speak for itself, then it was surely one of the stupidest and most misguided attempts to do so in pop history. The strange thing was the more you understood them and their music, the more you realized how deeply rooted they were in very stodgy, stubborn notions about authentic rock 'n’ roll. They had the fortune of being from Detroit–Motown’s headquarters and a notorious breeding ground for grimy garage punk bands–but Jack White was also obsessed with the blues, with guys like Robert Johnson and Blind Willie McTell and Charlie Patton. He would say the same things that rock stars have been saying for decades about how 'real’ and 'soulful’ this old blues music was and how modern pop was too fake and plastic. Their third album, White Blood Cells, came out in '01 and ended up being something of a transitional record for them, even though it was arguably their best. “Fell in Love With a Girl” was a big hit that reveled in cheap, plastic, puppy-love fun. The video was all stop-motion Lego: how much more 'plastic’ can you get? If The Strokes made a career out of cool, The White Stripes made a career out of contradictions. After 2003, with the release of Elephant and the soccer stadium-conquering “Seven Nation Army,” Jack and Meg left garage rock and fad/pop culture behind, retreating into a kind of heady formalism, and would never really sound like they were having fun ever again.
“The last twenty years have been filled with digital, technological crap that’s taken the soul out of music. The technological metronome of the United States is obsessed with progress, so now you have all these gearheads who want to lay down three thousand tracks in their living room. That wasn’t the point.” - Jack White in SPIN
When Rolling Stone emblazoned their Sept. '02 issue with “ROCK IS BACK,” it was for a cover story on Sydney, Australia’s The Vines. They were by far the biggest victims of music press hype and, critically, the most divisive of the big standard-bearing bands. That’s saying something, too, since reviews from the time for the other three were at near-universal levels of acclaim. There was something about The Vines that suggested over-calculation and, ultimately, a pose. Lead singer Craig Nicholls’ dad was an accountant for Sony Music in Australia, but beyond undoubtedly advantageous connections, their upbeat rock songs hinged on a faked Kurt Cobain scream and their mellower 'pop’ songs were blatant Beatles homages. They had terrible lyrics—way too many “Yeah!"s and "Come On!"s–which, again: this was a genre where you could have awful lyrics if you sold the package well enough. Nicholls was presented as an erratic, unstable, unpredictable, substance-abusing wreck. In the late '00s, after being charged with assault, it was revealed that he actually has Asperger syndrome, but at the time everybody talked about him as a tortured, rebellious inheritor of Cobain’s junkie milieu. Like some of the Britpop bands of the mid-90s whose mantle these garage bands took up, there’s a sense that The Vines were a little too obvious in their 'real rock’ posturing to be taken so seriously. As blatant a set of critic-baiting influences as The Velvet Underground or The Cramps were for The Strokes and The White Stripes, there’s something about having The Beatles and Nirvana as your only two reference points that crosses a line. It’s tough to talk about artistry with this whole movement because, really, the artistic depth of most of these bands is up for questioning, but to my ears The Vines brought far less musical personality to the table than the other groups of this era. They could check off a long list of cliche rock star prerequisites–which is maybe another reason Capitol invested so much and plugged them so hard–but I think by now even their supporters know they didn’t earn the attention they got by playing music.
"There’s so much good music that’s happening now, and we’re glad to be a part of it, with bands like The Stokes and The White Stripes. I don’t think it’s a movement. It’s just real rock music.” ~ Craig Nicholls in Rolling Stone
I’ve been avoiding the word 'rockism’ thus far because it’s been so overused and numbingly debated in the last ten years, but it does help us understand a set of ideas that were propping this garage rock revival up and making it out to be 'more’ than it was. Kelefa Sanneh’s famous 2004 New York Times piece on rockism frames it in terms of “idolizing the authentic old legend (or underground hero) while mocking the latest pop star; lionizing punk while barely tolerating disco; loving the live show and hating the music video; extolling the growling performer while hating the lip-syncher.” These garage rock revival bands weren’t actually ‘rockists’, they were pop stars in rockist clothing. They were flashy and ambitious, conspicuous and perfectly tousled, and were never cooler than in their own music videos. But it’s sort of impossible for a retro rock fad to operate outside the notions that define older rock for so many people, at least on the surface. Either by a quirk of history, a changing of the pop guard, or honest to goodness cultural evolution, time has stymied and struck down the firebrand rhetoric of bands and journalists alike. Was rock 'n’ roll ever a thing to be saved in the first place? And did The Strokes accomplish anything close to that? Is Craig Nicholls the Kurt Cobain of the 00’s? Will the analog blues legacy of The White Stripes outlast the digital ones of, say, Usher or Beyonce? No, no, hahaha no, and probably not.
It wasn’t a movement, it was a moment. The history of pop music is replete with such moments, each with its own looks, musical styles, and cultural impacts. We call them fads, but there’s a lot of condescension built into that term, as if anything with a shelf life of only a few years, months, or minutes wasn’t worth enjoying and exploring fully. My guess is that the hard part for a lot of people who loved these bands isn’t accepting that it was a fad instead of a revolution, but accepting that there’s nothing wrong with fads. From punk rock to grunge, rave, boy bands, and all the way to today’s EDM, the culture of pop music is founded in large part on the quick churn of ideas. Chris Ott, in an episode of his Shallow Rewards video series chronicling the career of Richard Gotteherer and The Strangeloves, talks about the period in the early-to-mid 60s just before The Beatles came out with Rubber Soul, when pop music was treated more as stagecraft than art that needed to be 'authentic’–“a whole grab-bag of images and ideas.” When you hear about The Strangeloves hiding their identities behind stories of sheep-breeding and silly animal print costumes, or see Paul Revere & The Raiders dressed up in Revolutionary War regalia and galloping in place as they sang, you can start to see why gimmicks like The White Stripes’ color scheme or The Strokes’ NYC punk fashion pedigree are such important parts of the experience. You can start to see how fundamentally built-in they are, and to realize how pop music as stagecraft has never truly gone away. It lurks behind even the most willfully unshowmanlike acts.
It’s on this level that I would argue The Hives were the most honest and historically consistent of the big garage rock revival bands. Starting as a regular old punk band in Fagersta, Sweden but transitioning to an ultra lean, angular, even mechanical garage sound, they took on a kind of all-encompassing level of gimmickry and stage-personhood. They had nicknames that landed somewhere between those of old bluesmen and comic book villains—Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist, Nicholaus Arson, Vigilante Carlstroem, Dr. Matt Destruction, and Chris Dangerous—and they dressed in matching black and white outfits both onstage and off. The songwriting and production on all their albums is credited to a mysterious ‘Randy Fitzsimmons’, who they also say discovered and manages them (I believe that’s supposed to be him obscured in shadow and literally stopping time with the movement of his hand in the above video for “Hate to Say I Told You So”). Combine this invented producer-svengali business with their brash stage antics, goofy videos, and Almqvist’s arrogant Mick Jagger pouting, and you get a glossy, winking, modern rendition of pop-rock from the mid-60s. It rings truer precisely because it takes in the full breadth of the pop world in which garage rock first arose and transposes it into modernity. The Hives didn’t have to make ‘real’ rock because they knew there was never any such thing, and they didn’t have to worry about maintaining their elusive cool because it was all a bunch of put-ons anyway. Most importantly, they had a sense of humor about everything they did, managing to be fun, sexy, cool, and stylish all while putting no stock in whether any of this mattered in the slightest. They’re still at it, too. They keep putting out albums that sound basically the same, wearing the same black and white suits, and strutting around the top bills of the European festival circuit as if their moment had never passed. As the other standard-bearers for the early-00s garage rock revival fold under the weight of unsustainable stardom (The Strokes), bloated ego (The White Stripes), and not living up to the hype (The Vines), it turns out the band with the most classically pop M.O. was the most equipped to keep their own fad going.
“We never wanted to be the next Nirvana. We wanted to be the Hives. Things only happen once. Elvis showed up once, Nirvana showed up once. The Hives showed up once.” ~ Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist in SPIN