Totally Solid Dudes Vol.2

You may not know him, but Hal Blaine is a definitive solid dude.

I had the fortune of learning about Hal Blaine when I had a revelation in class. It was in Composition III that I was assigned (yet again) to write and record a Tango song. For those who may not be entirely familiar with Tangos, it is a form of dance music that originated in Argentina in the 19th century and is loosely based on African drumming, presumably acquired from the large populations of African slaves that inhabitied the country at the time. It is based entirely on a distinct rhythm, which is either in 2/4 or 4/4 and contains accents on the 2, 3, and 4th beats.

An example of a traditional Argentinian Tango (pay attention to the drums):

Now, I asked to myself (as all Epic Mailers do) regarding my idea of Tango music at the time, "Is this sweet?"

The answer was a resounding, "not really."

However, the beauty of Tango music, and all music in general is that it can transcend practice and genre and can be mutated and borrowed into any form of aural expression.

Further investigation showed that Tango isn't even really a distinct type of music, as it has been interpreted all over the world, but is really only defined by that particular rhythm.
So, now regarding Hal Blaine and my revelation:
As time goes on, I am more and more taken with the classic popular rock and soul songwriting of the late 1950s into the 1960s. What draws me to this era is the appreciation and drive the artists had for majestic production. Even today, listeners marvel at the massive work and perfectionism put into this time; strings were everywhere, multiple guitars were strummed, background choirs cooed, etc. There was an epic (!) quality to it all. Everything had to be huge. Lyrics were direct, simple, and timeless. Every song was performed as if it were the single. Sure, there was a formula, but what a formula it was!

Of course, when anyone thinks of this time, among others, one of the big names that always comes to mind is the great, drug-addled, and violent, Phil Spector.

Spector (a solid dude in and of himself, but you know that) pioneered his "wall of sound" into songs that were often number 1s on the pop charts for the majority of the 60s. He influenced many artists including Brian Wilson (who arguably could not have conceived Pet Sounds without him) and the collective of Motown song-machines that inhabitied Hitsville, U.S.A.

It was during the production of one of Spector's earlier hits that not only sent a ripple through popular music, but was the cause of my revelation.

A young studio drummer, Hal Blaine, was in on the session for the Ronettes "Be My Baby" when he sat down and was ordered to come up with a drum intro and beat to the song. Whether intentional or not, Blaine began to play a slowed version of the Tango beat. It all came together. Thanks to Spector's production, this drum opening established a new big beat. Spector had a new trick up his sleeve.

With this Blaine/Spector combo, the duo went ahead and defined this sound with other groups, including The Righteous Brothers. "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling," is one of the most gigantic songs of popular music, a staple of radio since it's inception. Any aging baby-boomer female will tell you that this stuff was crack for them in the day. With the Blane/Spector hookup, several groups of deep voiced crooning dudes defined a new style of dreamy, shimmering rock music, based on stately harmonies, sadness, and sharp clothing. Those reverbed drums shook the foundations and took pop music into to the next level, arguably paving the way for the psychedelic walls of sound that would follow several years later.

Let's not forget The Walker Brothers, the wayyy sweeter modish British crooners who owned the British pop charts in the mid-60s and were rumored to be more knee-deep in horny, long-haired, trimmed-bang femme fatales than the Rolling Stones. You know you want those jackets.

Along with Spector, Blaine helped establish what he called "The Wrecking Crew." They were a group of studio musicians that basically went pop crazy, playing on so many important American records in the 60s.

Blaine bashed skins on the following recordings, just a small part of his discography (I shit you not):

Elvis Presley- "Return To Sender"
Roy Orbison- "Oh, Pretty Woman"
The Association- "Windy"
The Byrds- "Mr. Tambourine Man"
Barry McGuire- "Eve of Destruction"
Frank Sinatra- "Strangers In The Night"
Simon and Garfunkel- "Mrs. Robinson"
Beach Boys- "Good Vibrations"
Nancy Sinatra- "These Boots Are Made For Walkin"
The Mamas and The Papas- "Monday Monday"

You get the idea.

The Wrecking Crew's big beats and dreamy production later went on to influence many later artists. We all know this:

Also, Bat For Lashes made this, a totally sweet vid.

Anyway, Blaine basically rocked the fuck out, and in the process paved the way for music that takes it to the next level, from cheesy balladry to drugged out shoegaze and creeper pop. Solid bro.

One day you will look back
you knew it all along
what makes sense at the present
in the future will seem wrong
and amidst all of this regret
just close in on my face
and you'll know then

Mp3: Eddie Charlton- "You'll Know Then"



you gotta turn up the fuzz. bro

Andy said...

Points for including that creepy-as-shit bat for lashes video. Also sweet song. Did you knock Duncker's socks off?

Coaltrain said...

epic post, bra. that bat for lashes
video is sweet in all the ways donnie darko wasn't -- mainly by not having enuf BMX bike jumpz.

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