The Mid-Week Beat: Here’s to the Singer-Songwriters!

Bob_Dylan_All_Along_the_Watchtower_single_coverOn this day, in 1967, Bob Dylan recorded “All Along the Watchtower” during a three-hour recording session at Columbia Recording Studios in Nashville, Tennessee. Dylan would perform ‘Watchtower’ live more than any of his other compositions in the 45 years since its release. It would be covered by countless artists in a variety of genres, most famously by Jimi Hendrix for his 1968 Electric Ladyland release.

Other artists who have covered the song include the Dave Matthews Band, U2, Neil Young, The Grateful Dead, Pearl Jam, Eric Clapton, Supetramp, Van Morrison, Paul Weller, T.S.O.L., Bobby Womack and countless others.

While Dylan may be widely praised as a singer/songwriter, with countless artists covering his songs, he is just one in a long line of troubadours that have braved stages armed with little more than their words and an acoustic guitar. In Dylan’s day, singers that wrote their own tunes were relatively rare in popular music. Most pop singers sang other people’s songs or, occasionally, co-wrote their own songs.

What separates the “singer/songwriter” from other musicans is that they often provide the sole accompaniment to an entire composition, typically using only a guitar or piano and the compositions are written primarily as a solo vehicle. While in Dylan’s day, singer/songwriters were largely associated with the folk tradition, Dylan influenced many in the rock community to follow a similar path. As a result, singer/songwriters became a powerful force in popular music in the late 1960s and early 1970s with the success of artists like Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits, Paul Simon, Randy Newman, James Taylor and countless others.
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Mid-Week Beat: Power Pop

tumblr_static_bomp---1978---issue-_18-march-1978---complete-1Do you love hook-laden, guitar-driven pop music with a slightly hard edge? Do you get tingly every time you hear Cheap Trick’s “I Want You to Want Me?” Do you miss the days of un-pretentious rock and roll, when rock wasn’t driven by “concepts” and “explorations?” Well, you may not have known it, but you are a fan of Power Pop!

Power Pop’s heyday is largely considered to have ran from the early 70’s to the mid 80’s with bands like Cheap Trick, Big Star, The Raspberries, The Nerves, The Records, The Romantics and The Knack being its most well-known progenitors. These bands drew influences from the early records by The Beatles, The Byrds, The Who, The Kinks and The Beach Boys, as well as from 60s-era girl groups, doo-wop, “bubblegum” and garage bands. While the genre often ran parallel or even intermingled with genres like glam, punk, new wave, pub rock, mod-revival and college rock, its distinctive characteristics were simple, catchy songs with economical arrangements, crisp vocal harmonies and, most importantly, prominent guitar riffs. The music lacked pretension and, almost always, possessed an underlying sweetness and simplicity, something that often drew criticism from the rock press at the time.


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