Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Madonna and Lady Gaga Argue Over Songs They Didn't Create On Their Own

Madonna and Lady Gaga
Does the Lady Gaga song Born This Way sound like Madonna’s song Express Yourself?  Yes, it certainly does.  Should Madonna take credit for creating a song that Lady Gaga copied? No, she should not. In my opinion neither performer truly created either song.  Once again, I find it baffling that two entertainers are arguing over songs that were written and produced factory style, with multiple songwriters and producers cobbling together a sound that was then presented to said “artists.” In an interview that aired on ABC news today, Gaga took things one step further and claimed that she was simply working off of a “disco chord progression that has been around for fifty years.”
Let’s skip past the fact that disco has not been around for fifty years, and go right to the heart of the matter.  Neither entertainer should lay exclusive claim to the songs that have created this fake controversy.  These two songs were written by no less than six people.  Listed as “co-producers” of the song Born This Way is Lady Gaga, Fernando Garibay, Jeppe Laursen and DJ White Shadow. Stephen Bray and Madonna take credit for the creation of Express Yourself. Bray and Madonna worked together on some early projects that failed to gain traction. Bray played drums in their rock band named Breakfast Club, and then went on to help work on her third album titled True Blue, well after she was molded into the look and style now known world-wide.

Madonna and Gaga Co-Write Their Own Music 
In an earlier post, I touched upon the fact that it’s a rare thing when pop stars write their own songs.  Things are no different in the genre of disco or dance music.  When record labels invest millions of dollars on a sound and look for an artist of this type, rarely do they trust that artist to come up with the next hit song.  I will give Gaga credit for the fact that she was once a songwriter for other artists, just like Sheryl Crow was a backing and guide vocalist for other stars.  What most people don’t know is that Madonna came to New York City around 1977 with just three songs that she had created on her own.  These three songs were played by DJ’s at dance clubs, and eventually pushed Madonna into the local spotlight.
Fast forward to 1981, and Madonna still didn’t have enough of her own material for her first full length album.  It took the work of other songwriters and producers to cobble together enough music to make her self titled album. Of the twelve albums Madonna has co-created, I can find only one song that she is credited for writing on her own.  It’s titled Shoo Bee Doo. As for Lady Gaga, once again I would challenge anyone to reply to this post with a song that she is credited for creating on her own. Her first hit song titled Just Dance was co-written by Red One, Akon, and Gaga.  Stefani Germanotta and Nadir Khayat are listed as writers of her second hit song Poker Face.  So let’s stop this nonsense about who was the original creator of the song in question. By my count, six people wrote two songs that sound very similar.  

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Punk Rock Would Be Nothing Without Robert Moog

Robert Moog Prog Rock
Did you know that Robert Moog was helping create new generations of synthesizers as late as 2004? He never saw the release of the MIDI capable “Little Phatty”, but he had a hand in its creation. Where would “Prog” Rock be without Robert Moog? He wasn’t the only person inventing great electronic keyboards, but he was certainly the most famous. Just ask Rick Wakeman. He would agree with me.

From Moog’s early days at the Bronx School of Science, he had a feeling that he could do more with electronic equipment than simply make machines for the engineering field. Twelve years after his last day in high school (and two college degrees later,) Moog came out with the ADSR envelope generator. That was one of the first synthesizer modules that could be controlled with the use of a keyboard.

Moog can also be credited with bringing the Theremin to the masses. He didn’t invent the instrument, but was founder of the first company to mass produce it. The Theremin has been around for 93 years. If you have ever watched an old science fiction movie, you have probably heard one in action. Some find Theremins to be very annoying, sound wise. They look very simple to play. Holding your hand within range of the loop antenna, and moving it about (your hand,) will generate a sound. It’s a one-note instrument.

Progressive Rock and Moog

Moog helped to launch the “progressive” rock movement. His modular synthesizers were put to use by artists such as Keith Emerson, John Cage and many others. Prior to the Moog, keyboard players spent most of their time playing piano, organ, and similar instruments. The band Yes would be nothing without the Minimoog. It might be a stretch, but punk rock music might not have gained a foothold if it weren’t for the Moog. As rock music had become so over the top, it inspired a generation of musicians to break down that sound. Thank you Mr. Moog for creating an instrument that inspired more than one genre of music.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Carl Palmer and His Five Thousand Pound Steel Drum Set

Carl Palmer Steel Drum Set
In his time, Carl Palmer was considered to be one of the best drummers in rock music.  He came from a musical family, and has incredibly fast hands. His style is over the top when it comes to prog, but I would say that when he explores other styles of music he’s got bit of a jazz edge.  He’s not the best double bass player in the world, but in his day he did impress. He’s still going strong, still playing a pretty massive kit, but do you remember the stainless steel monster he played back in the day?   

His sponsor was British Steel.  The kit was to be made of stainless steel, with pretty cool etchings all over the shells.  In comparison to all of his other kits, it didn’t look massive.  There were eight rack toms a single bass drum, and one floor tom.  Then why did this drum set weigh 2.5 tons?  Because Carl asked for half inch thick shells.  He had two gongs, a large bell, tubular bells, and a pair of tympanis.  I estimate that my drum kit, (single bass drum, two floors, and three rack toms,) weighs almost 400lbs.  Imagine what the ELP roadies went through.  The drum risers needed to be reinforced; the bass drum took two men to move.  The cost of hauling the kit all over the world was something that the band did not take into account.  If you think about it, all the gear for a four piece rock band, humans included, is probably one third the weight of Carl’s drum kit.
As Carl says in later interviews, “It was the 1970’s. Excess was the norm.”  If you take into account what the entire band was doing at the time, it was par for the course. ELP took a lot of flak for being such an over the top band, when it comes to production. If you compare a modern pop superstar’s show to the “Works I” ELP tour, the old prog rockers look tame in comparison. It’s rumored that Ringo Star purchased Carl’s steel kit, and it sits in storage somewhere.  

I had the chance to see Carl play at Shank Hall.  He took the time to come out from behind the drum set and explain a little bit about each song before playing it.  He had a pair of young men playing bass and guitar on that tour.  They performed ELP instrumentals.  It was almost like having Carl in your living room.