Lesson 6 – From Art Rock, Led Zeppelin, and Heavy Metal, to the Avant-Garde, Pink Floyd, the Velvet Underground, and Punk Rock.
Reading: Rock and Roll: A Social History, Chapters 15, 16, 17, & 18
Students are encouraged to repeat the listening examples in the Listening Links for Lesson 6 page as necessary. It would be counterproductive to listen to this great music only once.
Lesson 6 Questions
You may want to open another browser to access the Listening Links page, for you will need to answer several of these questions while listening to the music.
1. Listen to and describe the following three songs by The Yardbirds:
“Louise” a John Lee Hooker composition; this performance features Keith Relf singing and playing blues harmonica, and Eric Clapton on electric guitar (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
2. From your reading, viewing, and listening, who were the significant lead guitarists to come through The Yardbirds? What is the connection between The Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin?
3. As you listen to Eric Clapton play with the band called Cream (one many bands Eric has been a major contributor to), compare and contrast the following songs. Friedlander’s discussion of the musical characteristics present in the famous Cream song, Sunshine of Your Love are common to many of their other songs as well. Listen and list those that you recognize in each of these three examples:
c) White Room
4. What does Friedlander have to say about the guitar playing of Jimmy Page? What future genre did his playing style help “lay the foundation” for?
5. List musical characteristics present in the following three recordings of music by Led Zeppelin:
a) The Lemon Song
b) Whole Lotta Love
c) Communication Breakdown
Notice the tremendous influence of the blues in their music. The music is louder, more intense, at times, almost raw. This truly is “rock which had not been dissipated by a softening of its integral nature—of its Afro-American, blues centered character.” Listen especially for the combination of Jimmy Page’s blues guitar playing and Robert Plant’s exceptional blues vocal stylings. There are moments when I directly hear Janis Joplin, and Big Mama Thornton in his vocal timbres.
Friedlander states, “the music beyond the advent of Led Zeppelin fell into two categories—hard rock/heavy metal and art rock.”
About Art Rock—”Arguments that rock could be improved by the absorption of Brahmsian piano technique or entire pieces composed by Mussorgsky, misunderstood its archetypal role as a revolt against colonial mentality—as a purgative which, like Artaud’s theater, had as its purpose the elimination of European chauvinism.” (Nathan Rubin “Rock and Roll: Art and Anti Art”, 217)
Rubin is correct. Rock did not “improve” thanks to groups such as The Moody Blues and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer (nor was that their purpose)—it branched out, taking the very music that represented “Western cultural superiority”, and fused it with rock and roll.
6. Explore the list below of Art Rock or Progressive Rock bands. Select three different bands to listen and respond to from the single songs and full album selections below. You may elect to respond to the single tracks or to entire albums. Be sure to list characteristics you notice on your particular recording that Friedlander presents in his discussion of Art Rock. Please list any other characteristics you hear that are not outlined by him. This music is fun to explore and offers a variety of characteristics–Enjoy!
g) Jethro Tull – “Living In The Past” a wonderful song from 1969 – featuring Ian Anderson on flute and vocals–one of the few songs in Rock History in 5/4 time (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
i) Procol Harum – “A Whiter Shade of Pale” – from 1967. This is perhaps one of the most beautiful songs in the history of Rock and Roll. The melody is totally influenced by the music of Johann Sebastian Bach–as evidenced in Matthew Fischer’s playing on the Hammond M-102 electric organ. This beautiful melody is coupled with a vocal line sung by pianist Gary Brooker. (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
n) Electric Light Orchestra – “Fire On High” a truly satisfying musical exploration of everything from pop sensibilities, classical choir and strings, to musique concrete–from the 1975 album “Face The Music”–enjoy! (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
Nathan Rubin states, “To retain the intensity Presley had generated simply by sneering and singing the country blues, rock during the seventies was obliged to turn assaultiveness up to the max. The result was called Heavy Metal.”
7. List the characteristics (as detailed in Friedlander) of Heavy Metal music.
8. Listen and write a response to “Battery” by the powerful California band, Metallica. List any of the Heavy Metal characteristics you notice in this song.
The staggering array of heavy metal (or metal inspired) bands, all contain heavy metal characteristics such as simple guitar riffs, shrieking vocals, and exploding guitar chords—yet many of the following metal bands have a distinctive sound all their own.
9. Select two different artists/bands from the list below. This question may be satisfied by comparing just two songs—one from each of your selected heavy metal bands. Describe the music you selected. Are there any musical characteristics that these two different artists/bands seem to have in common? Conversely, what characteristics do you notice that seem to distinguish each band from the other? Do you hear any aspects on your particular recordings that Friedlander outlined in his chapter? If yes, please list. Also, please list any other characteristics you hear that are not outlined by him.
f) Iron Maiden – “Wasted Years” originally from the 1986 album “Somewhere In Time” Iron Maiden even had their own band mascot–a tall wild looking caricature of a rotting corpse named Eddie! (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
m) Iron Butterfly – “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” from 1968, all 17 plus minutes! (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
10. According to Friedlander, “many mainstream critics described heavy metal music as artistically impoverished, vacant, and deviant.” Do you agree or disagree? Why?
“We take objects with one function and give them another” – Pete Townshend
Avant-Garde composer, John Cage took his ideas from Zen Buddhism, and from Henry Cowell who used clusters of pitches on the piano, playing it with his fists and/or forearm. He stroked the strings inside the piano, producing a ghost-like sound. Cage expanded Cowell’s ideas by placing pieces of paper, rubber and metal between the piano strings to establish a whole new spectrum of timbres (in much the same way as Hendrix’s novel approach to the electric guitar). Of equal importance is Cage’s belief in total acceptance—there could be neither right or wrong solutions in an art created totally by chance.
11. Listen to the excerpt from the John Cage composition “Indeterminacy”. What did you think of it? What is your response? For this writer, listening to Cage always makes me consider the following question—What is music?
12. Musique concrete is the process of taking ambient sound events (tires screeching, birds chirping, factory noise, a door closing, etc.) and using them as compositional materials in electronic music or used as effects in other musics. The English art rock band Pink Floyd took its name from blues guitarists Pink Anderson and Floyd Council, both from Georgia. Like The Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd was concerned with audio technology and introduced something known as the Azimuth—a specific type of sound system that rotated their sound in a 360 degree circle. This resulted in making their live concert music ambient. On their 1969 album titled, Ummagumma, each band member did a piece on their own. This music featured minor keyed or atonal music (music without a home key or tonal center) and included avant-garde devices such as Musique concrete—one hears footsteps, voices, and birds.
Listen to side one of Pink Floyd’s classic 1972 album, Dark Side of the Moon—engineered by Alan Parsons and recorded at EMI Abbey Road Studios, London. What musical devices are prominent here? List them.
a) Speak To Me – (Nick Mason)
b) Breathe – (Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Richard Wright)
c) On The Run – (Gilmour & Waters)
d) Time – (Mason, Waters, Wright, Gilmour)
e) The Great Gig In The Sky – (Wright)
“While (Jimmy) Page lit black candles in search of supernatural favors, other(s) found transcendence in more down-to-earth ways: they put on dresses. The wearing of glitter makeup and girls’ clothing by male rock stars (and the glitter/glam movement it produced) told the world it could discard gender roles that had been in place through the whole of civilization. Glitter/Glam taking its cue from artists as far back as Little Richard, of course, had been producing it since puberty, the theatrics and music of Alice Cooper (Vincent Furnier), Elton John (Reginald Dwight), and David Bowie, (David Robert Jones) represent a leap beyond mere cross-dressing.” – Nathan Rubin
13. Listen and describe what you hear in the two following two compositions by the most theatrical, David Bowie. Provide an overview of his career highlighting specific characteristics about him and his approach to this form of rock and roll.
a) Space Oddity
b) Suffragette City
14. Elton John has a wonderful command of melody. His music coupled with Bernie Taupin’s lyrics ranks among some of the finest post-Beatles pop/rock to date. He is an accomplished pianist, vocalist, and showman. Known for wearing outrageous costumes during his excellent live shows, Elton never lets his audience go unsatisfied. His large and loyal following have provided him with a most prosperous career. What do you hear (lyric content and delivery style, use/application of specific instruments, specific genres of music recognized or influencing his music etc.) in each of these songs by Elton John?
a) Your Song
c) Funeral For A Friend
“A critics’ poll taken a decade and a half later named The Velvet Underground and Nico as the eighth best album in rock history.” The New Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll states that “in the age of flower power they (The Velvet Underground) spoke in no uncertain terms of social alienation, sexual deviancy, drug addiction, violence, and hopelessness—the songs evoked the exhilaration and destructiveness of modern urban life.” (Romamowski/George-Warren/Pareles, 1044)
15. Listen to and describe what you hear in the following music of The Velvet Underground. Identify the characteristics you hear that “open the door (anticipate) to glitter, punk, and heavy metal.”
b) Venus In Furs
16. What instrument did The Velvet Underground’s John Cale play?
17. Briefly list the contributions and influence of Lou Reed to the Velvet’s sound. Notice the obvious influence of Bob Dylan in Reed’s vocal approach.
18. Outline the way(s) that Iggy Stooge/Pop, the New York Dolls, Television, Patti Smith, and the Ramones serve as prototypes to punk.
19. Listen to and describe the following three songs by The Ramones:
a) Teenage Lobotomy
b) Do You Wanna Dance
c) I Wanna Be Well
20. What external (non-musical) influences were combining to shape the advent and specific characteristics of Punk Rock music?
21. Look up and provide the definition of the word nihilism. How does this word and its meaning relate to the music of the seminal Punk Rock band The Sex Pistols?
22. Based on your reading in Friedlander and your own rapidly growing skills in musical analysis, listen, compare, and contrast the music of the Sex Pistols and The Clash:
a) London Calling – The Clash
London Calling – The Clash video (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
b) God Save the Queen – The Sex Pistols
God Save The Queen – The Sex Pistols video (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
c) Anarchy in the U.K. – The Sex Pistols
23. The Dead Kennedys, featuring vocalist Jello Biafra, were the major Punk Rock band from the United States. Their music dealt with topics ranging from U.S. imperialism, and fascism, to slams against the moral majority and suburbia. They were from San Francisco, CA. Listen to one of the following Dead Kennedys albums listed below and describe the characteristics, influences, instruments, and vocal styles on the album you have selected.
b1) In God We Trust, Inc. – (Side 1 of the original album) from 1981 (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
b2) In God We Trust, Inc. – (Side 2 of the original album) from 198 (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
c2) Plastic Surgery Disasters – (Tracks 7-9) from 1982 (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
24. Describe the ways that Punk Bands communicated with their audience. View and describe the videos of The Circle Jerks Live from 1981 and 7 Seconds from 1984. Be sure to include how the audience/musician barrier was severed.
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