MCA R.I.P.

Street artists around the world have been throwing up tributes to Adam Yauch, the late Beastie Boys MC, filmmaker and activist.

Rolling Stone posts a few of them here.

I took the shot below on 1st Street off 1st Avenue. It’s by Danielle Mastrion. More about the Centre-Fuge Art Project here.

Blondie cover Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love,” 1979

To continue the tribute…

Here’s a 7-minute live version of “I Feel Love.” Chris Stein’s guitar lines sound like he’s about to segue into “Black Magic Woman” or maybe “Riders On The Storm.” And Debbie Harry totally nails it.

Happy Birthday David Byrne

And on a more upbeat note: David Byrne turned 60 on Monday. I like the pose with the chef’s knife; very Psycho Killer. Best wishes, dude!

Donna Summer 1948 – 2012

I just heard that Donna Summer has died, at age 63, after a battle with cancer.

She was known as a disco diva. But you could just as rightly call her an r&b, pop, or experimental-music singer. I write about what was arguably her greatest recording in Love Goes To Buildings On Fire

On May 13, 1977, Casablanca released Donna Summer’s I Remember Yesterday. A concept album about musical evolution, it ends with a song that is ostensibly the future: “I Feel Love.” She cooed, “Love To Love You Baby” style, over a chugging track made up entirely of synth beats and arpeggiated chord washes, a yin to Kraftwerk’s yang. New York DJs loved it instantly. As unprecedented as “Trans Europe Express,” it became just as essential, an electronic dance music template. Blondie covered it live, faithfully, with Chris Stein adding Santana-style guitar licks. In Berlin, Brian Eno rushed into the studio where he and David Bowie were working on Heroes with a fresh copy of the record, raving that it would change the sound of club music “for the next 15 years” (Eno was fond of grand statements). One can imagine the record spinning while the two Philip Glass fans listened to its hypnotic repetitions, the sonic possibilities blooming in their minds like flowers in a stop-motion film.

Above, she performs “I Feel Love” on The Midnight Special television show in 1977. RIP.

Grateful Dead: Ithaca, NY, 5/8/77 – the band’s greatest live show ever?

As The New York Times has documented, some have made that claim.

As far as I can tell from bootlegs I’ve heard, the show — which took place 35 years ago today — comes close. But my judgement might be colored by sentimentality. As I wrote in Love Goes To Buildings On Fire, I missed that particular concert:

In March the Voice ran a cover story titled “Why We Hate The Subways,” and everyone had their own tales. Me, I’d been mugged on trains a few times, twice at knifepoint, coming home from Manhattan shows alone at night. But the worst was in May, when I was stuck on a broken-down E train for an hour en route to Port Authority to meet a girl I was cross-eyed crushed-out on. She had tickets to see the Grateful Dead five hours north that night, at Cornell University’s Barton Hall. When I finally arrived, the girl and the bus, the last of the day, were gone. At the time, I was more upset about missing the girl. But in time, via magnetic tape, Barton Hall 5/8/77 would enter Dead lore as arguably the single greatest show the band ever played.

Fucking subway.

You can stream an excellent recording of the show I missed here.

Springsteen plays “The Weight”

In memory of Levon Helm…

The crowd sing-along is pretty remarkable. And it’s a surprisingly good fit for Bruce lyrically, doncha think?

The shows have been so moving on this tour, to judge from the one I saw in Albany, New York; the reviews; and the video clips. I feel really fortunate that Springsteen decided to keep touring with the E Street band after the death of Clarence Clemons.

By the way, here a piece I did for NPR about Levon Helm, who was a neighbor of mine here in the Mid-Hudson Valley. He will be missed. It’s been a rough year.