“Yes”: Three Great Songs from the “90125” Album

Rick Beato offers a fascinating analysis of the Yes song, “Roundabout,” at his Youtube channel, Everything Music. His deconstruction showcases the incredible virtuosity and musicianship of the English progressive rock band’s members, including the late bassist Chris Squire and vocalist Jon Anderson. We also get a sense that Yes didn’t just write catchy songs, but rather, extended, symphonic, works of art, filled with innovative electronic processing techniques such as “backwards piano” and double tracked vocals. Amazingly, the musical adventure which …

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The Buggles and Laurie Spiegel: Art Meets Technology, Circa 1979

Nostalgia for the past and anticipation for the future, with its promise of both excitement and peril…These are themes which seem to sum up New Years. They are also the themes which underlie the classic rock song, Video Killed the Radio Star, by the British New wave band, The Buggles. Released as a single in September, 1979 as the disco era was fading rapidly into the Synth-pop sounds of the 80s, the song’s lyric suggests a sense …

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Tom Petty on Songwriting

What is the source of a musical idea? How is a hit song born? In this 2016 interview, rock musician and songwriter Tom Petty describes how the idea for Free Fallin’, the opening hit track of the 1989 album Full Moon Fever, came in a sudden, unexpected flash. Petty passed away on Monday at the age of 66. Jeff Lynne and I were sitting around with the idea of writing a song and I was playing the …

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Remembering Steely Dan’s Walter Becker

Walter Becker, the songwriter, guitarist, bassist, and record producer, passed away on Sunday. He was 67. Becker is best known as the co-founder of the band Steely Dan, active between 1972 and 1981 and again from 1993 on. He played guitar and bass and co-wrote songs along with the group’s lead singer and keyboardist, Donald Fagen. Steely Dan’s music is a unique blend of jazz and rock. Filled with ear-catching harmonic sophistication, it …

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“No Surprises”: Christopher O’Riley Covers Radiohead

No Surprises, from the British alternative rock band Radiohead’s 1997 album OK Computer, has been described as “a lullaby of despair.” Its sweet, sensuous melody, laced with the delicate sounds of glockenspiel, meets lyrics infused with helpless desolation. The result is something which feels numbly detached. Recorded in a single take, the song pays vague homage to the Beach Boys classic, Wouldn’t it Be Nice. According to Radiohead singer-songwriter Thom Yorke, That childlike guitar sound set the mood for the whole …

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10 Musical Adaptations of “God Save the Queen”

On Monday, Britain celebrated Queen Elizabeth II’s Sapphire Jubilee, marking her 65 years on the throne. At 90, Her Majesty is the world’s longest-reigning monarch. The milestone reminded me of the nearly 140 composers who have created musical adaptations of God Save the Queen, an ancient melody that may have originated in plainchant long before it was attributed to the English composer and organ-builder John Bull in 1619. Here are ten of the most …

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Beginnings: Exploring the Music of “Chicago”

In celebration of the New Year, here is Beginnings from the 1969 debut album of the rock band, Chicago. You might associate Chicago with 1980s ballads like You’re The Inspiration, produced during Peter Cetera’s tenure as lead singer. (That song, written by Cetera and David Foster, offers a fascinating study in continuous modulations built on third relationships). But for most of its history, Chicago has been rooted in a much different, uniquely jazz-inspired sound. From its inception, Chicago was a rock band built …

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