Tag Archives: New York City

Exclusive Q&A With New York Songwriter Edward Rogers

British-born, New York-bred songwriter Edward Rogers has announced the release of his fourth solo album, Porcelain, on November 8, 2011 with the premiere of the title track and a new video.  Early last week, Blurt Online premiered the title track on their site ( http://blurt-online.com/news/view/5401/).  The new video is for another track off Porcelain, “The Biba Crowd”, and set to footage from Jean Luc-Godard’s 1964 film Band of Outsiders (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LoSSUSH_T4o).  “The Biba Crowd” will also be featured on the free November CD from the UK’s Word Magazine.

Rogers, who has been extremely prolific, began his career playing drums in several garage bands.  When a subway accident in October 1985 left him without his right arm and right leg below the knee, he turned to songwriting and found that he enjoyed singing and writing more rewarding than playing drums.  In addition to his four solo albums, Rogers has also released two with Bedsit Poets, a folk/Brit-inspired trio whose name was given to them by The Zombies’ Colin Blunstone.  He has played extensively in New York, Los Angeles, London, Canada, and along the East Coast both solo and with Bedsit Poets.

 I recently caught with Rogers, who discussed his new album, working with Roger McGuinn, and influences such as David Bowie and Ray Davies.  

 

Music has been such a dominant force in your life – you turned to songwriting after your accident.  Do you still find it as powerful and encouraging now as you did then?

 Both listening to and writing music are two of the most fulfilling ways to spend my time. I think since the accident, I’ve become much more aware of how precious life is, and this encourages me to spend more time on writing. There’s an amazing feeling when you write a song, finish it and feel that it’s good. I still love to hear new music of all types, currently The Horrors, Noel Gallagher, Laura Marling, the new Glen Campbell, as well as going back and rediscovering classics from the past and vibing to the sounds of old T.Rex, Martin Newall, Sandy Shaw.

 Though you had been doing songwriting for a long time – why did you suddenly decide to delve into a solo career in 2004? Was this something that you been thinking to do for a long time?

 I always saw myself as a member of a group, but when I met up with singer-songwriter, George Usher, he encouraged me and generously devoted his time to helping me discover my own songwriting potential. So writing and recording my first two solo albums were a learning process for me, with George as a great musical partner and mentor. I had the luxury of having a lot of my musical heroes join me on those records, such as Roger McGuinn, Colin Blunstone & Rod Argent and Marty Willson-Piper, just to name a few.

You also have released two albums with the Bedsit Poets – what’s your role in that group and how does it differ from your solo work?

 I started Bedsit Poets as a way of working on a collaborative project with Amanda Thorpe. Our British backgrounds and sense of humor were very similar. We later added Mac Randall. I was the driving force in the group and one of the principle songwriters. We had a lovely time together, releasing two albums with a third set of demos, but there came a shelf life and we just took different directions. Bedsit Poets (who got their name from Colin Blunstone) still remains one of my favorite musical projects. That group enabled me to learn harmony singing and opened me up to another type of songwriting, mainly British acoustic, folk-pop.

 “Porcelain” recalls the albums you grew up with as a kid.  My first thought was that many sounded like a lost-Kinks songs.  Where they a major inspiration?  

 Funny you picked up on that. My last album, “Sparkle Lane”, was definitely intended to be a nod to  (The Kink’s) Village Green Preservation Society/Arthur from being a kid growing up in Birmingham, England to arriving in the U.S. of A., whereas Porcelain is a more guitar-driven, forceful album, with a few soft diamonds, reminiscent to me of the music I listened to during the period of 1972-1975. This album is actually more influenced by writers like Ian Hunter, John Cale and Kevin Ayers, so you are not far off the track. Ray Davies is obviously a major influence on my work.

 You’ve been busy over the past decade, releasing several albums.  Porcelain seems to culminate everything you’ve done so far.  Would you agree that is a fair assessment?  

That’s very perceptive. Each of my solo albums has been a learning process, trying to move myself forward. With this album, I feel I have finally reached a new level and something I’m going to have to work hard to match next time through, but I’ve got about 20 new songs waiting to be demoed. I think a large part of the difference comes with the musicians who were kind enough to play on Porcelain and also give their creative input. You really can’t go wrong when you have people like Don Piper producing, James Mastro, Don Fleming, Pete Kennedy, Sal Maida, Konrad Meissner, Ira Elliot and Joe McGinty and many other friends giving their time and support.

You’re British-born but currently live in New York City.  Your music seems to pick the cool vibe of New York with the sonic textures of England. Does that combination come naturally to you?

 You really have been listening! Again, very perceptive. That’s exactly the vibe I was looking for during the making of Porcelain. Sonically, the music is New York City and lyrically, it combines experiences I’ve had in the last 18 months. Yes, I’ve lived in NYC most of my life but my roots are still in England. If you listen to “Porcelain” the sax solo was definitely an attempt to channel the energy of Roxy Music’s Andy Mackay’s sax solo from “Virginia Plain.”

 “Tears Left in the Bottle” is such a beautiful song.  Is that an autobiographical song?

 Thankfully, the song is not written about myself, but about several really good friends of mine who have bottomed out and have had to fight the battle to get their lives back in order. It seems the environment surrounding music and the creative process often gives license to indulge whenever and as much as you can or can’t handle. There’s even a mythical element to that indulgence. Look at all the people we’ve lost at the age of 27, most recently Amy Winehouse.

 “Silent Singer” is a great way to the end the album. It’s got one of your best vocals and melodies contrasted with a biting guitar line.  How did that song come about?  It sounds like a David Bowie song.  

This song is really special to me as it was inspired by my late Dad, who I lost last October. As he was fighting for his life with lung cancer, he kept telling me about the singer who was taking him to a bar at night. And, he could hear the songs in his head. That’s what inspired the demo, with very soft vocals. Again, I must credit the producer, Don Piper, and musician Don Fleming for transitioning the song into a “Spiritualized”-like ending to the album. Thanks for your musical reference to David Bowie, another major influence.

“Porcelain” comes out in November. How are you going to celebrate its release?  Any plans after that?  

I just booked a record release show at the new Cutting Room in NYC on November 17th with all the musicians on the album. Before that, I’m going over to London in October to do some promotion (the album comes out there in January). For the New York show, Syd Straw, who did some backing vocals, will be on the bill, as will my producer Don Piper with a don piper situation. After that, depending on how the album is received, we will continue to play live dates. I would love to get this band to play in Europe, as well as the United States! Always have to have the aspirations and dreams to make the reality happen. Thanks for listening to the record. For those of you reading this, give it a spin. Cheers.

http://www.edwardrogersmusic.com/

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Songs About America: “Coney Island Baby” – Lou Reed

 

Bono once claimed that Lou Reed was the James Joyce of New York City.  While that might be a bit of hyperbole the former Velvet Underground leader is synonymous with New York City.

Breaking musical and social barriers, Reed showed the dark under belly of the city. Much like Joyce did with Dublin in Ulysses.  Theirs was the version of a city that not everyone got to see, or even cared to acknowledge.  But like it or not, they captured the spirit of their surroundings in descriptive detail.

Reed’s songs were with drugs and sexual deviants.  Sometimes the characters did both activities at the same time.  If the lyrics weren’t shocking enough for the late 60s, crowd there was the music.  The Velvets provided a mountain of noise and attack that has rarely been equaled.  By the time Reed went solo in the early 70s, the music was toned down slightly, perhaps in an attempt to invite a wider audience into the party.  “Take a walk on the wide side,” He encouraged the listeners. There will be things that will blow your mind, but craziness never sounded so fun.

So it must have come as a shock to hear Reed take off his mask, and reflect with a rare sense of sincerity with 1976’s Coney Island Baby.

The song itself tells the story of Reed’s teenage years in Long Island.  The song sums up teenage confusion.  Which is the right path?  Is it Acceptance by peers or following one’s own path?  It’s clear which road Reed ultimately took, but “Coney Island Baby” makes it’s clear that, at least initially the choice wasn’t easy.

His admission of “wanting to play football for the coach” makes this clear.  For many, football is the ultimate form of acceptance in high school.  Not many things are more American than Football.  It’s a sport filled with acceptance, popularity, and brotherhood.   It’s a far cry from commands to “taste the whip”.

The song begins slowly with tasteful guitars and Reed’s soft voice.  Even if you don’t believe the story about Reed wanting to play football, it’s very affective.  As the song moves along, the dream of being on a team is shattered – “All your two-bit friends have gone and ripped you off,” He laments. “They’re talking behind your back.”

The song reaches its emotional climax mid-way through.  A group of singers appear in the background, offering a heartfelt harmony as Reed announces, “the glory of love, might see you through.”

Coney Island Baby is the type of song Lou Reed could write. There’s a sense of youthful innocence lost, and the trials of growing up.  It’s full of heartbreak and hope.  Ultimately this life isn’t meant for Reed. When he describes the city “as something like a circus or a sewer”, you know he’s found his true calling.

“Coney Island Baby” isn’t strictly about America.  But is an American tale.  The line between acceptance and self-worth can sometimes be blurred.  And for many in the 1960s, New York was one of the few places were those who were not considered to be “normal” could find like-minded individuals.  Like those who came to New York from oppression overseas, New York offered a sense of security and possibility to those who chose to follow a different path than the mainstream.  After struggling through his teenage years, it would be Lou Reed would bring this world into the mainstream.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Music Books I’ve Been Reading

Patti Smith Just Kids

Besides her own version of “Gloria” and “Because the Night“, prior to reading Just Kids I knew little about Patti Smith.  I knew she was a punk icon, and that’s about as far as my knowledge of her went.  Around December I saw that she had won the National Book Award for Just Kids.  Having just finished the book a few weeks ago, it is more than justified.  It’s a moving portrait of a young woman on the cusp of fame finding her voice and her inspiration.  As influential as her records are in the rock and roll canon, it’s art in general that moved her – whether it be Rimbaugh, The Beats, or Dylan.  And at the center of it all is her relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.  Sometimes they were lovers, but most of the time they were kindred spirits who not only saw art as a way of life, but also salvation.  Smith’s prose is breathtaking, gorgeous, and always enlightening.  After reading Just Kids, I’ve started to really dig into more of her stuff, but the book also made it clear that even if Smith wasn’t famous as a singer, she would still be known in the art world for something.  For her, rock and roll just happened to be her the medium she used.

The Hardest Working Man: How James Brown Saved The Soul of America – James Sullivan

The Hardest Working Man tells the story behind James Brown’s famous April 5th 1968  Boston Show and Telecast.  I’ve been a fan of Brown’s music for a while, but listening to his music some 45 years later, it’s almost impossible to understand how big his impact on music, popular culture, and Black America really was.  Sullivan does a good job of bringing all three parts together and make a compelling book.  It’s really interesting to read about the relationship that Brown had with Civil Rights Activists, and his own thoughts on the subject.   According to the book, the telecast nearly didn’t happen.  The Mayor’s Office of Boston had already arranged the film crew to be there, leaving Brown in a predicament where he could potentially be sued for video infringement if the show was broadcast.  Last minute phone calls were made, and as history shows, Brown ended up giving one of the most important concerts ever.   I suspect that Brown isn’t rapped most sampled artist just because his music is amazing, but also because of his impact on African American culture.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Shane Gamble Show at the Living Room

Tonight I’m in NYC with Shane Gamble for his show at the Living Room.  

More pictures and recap tomorrow.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

5 Songs About New York

I’m in the middle of Patti Smith’s fantastic memoir Just Kids which recounts her early years in New York City with Robert Mapplethorpe.  I’ve compiled a mix of songs about New York as a soundtrack while reading it.  Here’s a few of the songs I picked.

Leonard Cohen – “Chelsea Hotel #2”

It seems like every artist that lived in New York during the 1960s resided in the Chelsea Hotel for a period.   With its sparse guitar and Cohen’s naked lyrics – “giving me head in the unmade bed” –  present a heartbreaking portrait of his affair with Janis Joplin.  She tells him that she prefers more handsome man, but she’d make an exception for him.   “We are ugly but we have the music” seems to represent not just Cohen and Joplin, but rather all of the artists that lived there.  For many artists the Chelsea was a mecca for artists looking for their muse.

The Clash – “Koka Kola”

At first, “Koka Kola” might seem like the weakest song on London Calling.  It’s short and concise.  But in under 2 minutes, Strummer manages to attack stock brokers, advertisements, and businessmen’s love for cocaine and party-girls.  “The money can be made if you really want some more,” Strummer muses.  London Calling was released in the December 1979, so in its own way “Koka Kola” could be seen a song that foreshadows what some saw as a decade of corporate greed.

U2 – “The Hands That Built America”

U2 has written several songs about New York.  Some are great (“City of Blinding Lights”) some are not (“New York”).   “The Hands That Built America” falls into the “forgotten” bin.  Written for Martin Scorcese’s under-rated “Gangs of New York”, the song recalls the trials of immigrants and how they shaped the US and specifically New York.  The bridge contains some operatic singing from Bono – a theme he would explore on “Sometime You Can’t Make It On Your Own” a few years later.  The final verse contains references 9/11 – “it’s early fall, innocence dragged across a yellow line”.  One of U2’s best songs in the past decade.

Simon & Garfunkel – “The Boxer”

I could probably write a whole post on this song – which remains one of all time favorite songs.  Largely known for its chorus, “The Boxer” contains some of Simon’s best lyrics, a first person account of struggling to find his way in New York.  There’s also some pretty fantastic guitar picking courtesy of Fred Carter, Jr. Urban legend had suggested that the song is an attack on Bob Dylan, however Simon said that the song is mostly an autobiographical account.  If you’ve ever heard Dylan’s version released on Self Portrait – it’s one of the worst things ever put to record.

John Lennon – “New York City”

One of Lennon’s best “rockers” from his solo career.  With its fast-paced lyrics recalling tales of wandering around New York, in some ways its similar to “The Ballad of John and Yoko”, except less serious.  There’s also hilarious lyrics as well: “the pope smokes dope everyday”, and “up comes a preacher man singing, ‘God’s a red-herring in drag.'”.  Lennon seems pretty animated throughout the song and sums up his feeling about the city at the end with: “New York City – what a bad-ass city!”

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Top 20 Concerts (Part 3)

The countdown continues!

10. R.E.M. (June 2008, Merriweather Post Pavilion – Columbia MD)

R.E.M. probably should be higher on this list, since I absolutely adore them.  The first time I saw them in 1995, I was 13 and it was one of the highlights of my youth.  While they’ve played regularly around the DC/Baltimore area, it took me 13 years to see them again because I had very little interest in seeing songs from Up, Reveal and Around the Sun played live.  With Accelerate and with the band digging through the vaults it was time to go see R.E.M. again.

I saw this show with the largest group of people I’ve gone to a concert with – a total of 8 people.  Almost everybody in my group with the exception of my girlfriend who thought that it was funny that a music snob would like R.E.M. – though she changed her mind after the show) was a die-hard old fan.  For about half of the show, my brother  and I traded gasps and triumphant shouts with each old song that was played.  We also frantically sent texts to my other older brother who lives in Boston, and probably would have loved the show.

As for the music, Michael Stipe still remains one of rock’s best vocalists.  R.E.M.’s current drummer, while not quite as vital to the group as Bill Berry added an extra punch to the older songs that wasn’t there previously.  And as for Peter Buck, he may not be a flashy guitarist but there’s nothing like those jangling riffs he lays down.

9. Bob Dylan/Willie Nelson (August 2009, Aberdeen Stadium – Aberdeen, MD)

Bob Dylan

Willie Nelson

Bob Dylan should probably be higher on this list as well, as any reader of this blog knows, Dylan is my favorite musical artist.  Your view of seeing Dylan live really depends on how you view should play their songs.  Should they play the hits?  Should the songs be recognizable?  If the answer to this question is yes, then seeing Bob Dylan live might not be for you.  Dylan is always searching, always one step ahead – and his concerts reflect that.  No one Dylan show is the same.

Willie Nelson on the other hand, plays everything you would want to hear plus more including some choice Hank Williams cover.  It might be the dope, but Nelson clearly enjoys his job, and that love rubs off on the audience.

8. Little Richard/Al Green/BB King (August 2007, Pier 6 Pavilion – Baltimore MD)

Little Richard

Al Green

BB King

Is there a better collection of artists for a show on a late summer night?  I think not.  Each of these legends provide the perfect soundtrack for a warm night.  Al Green can still make the women over 50 swoon, Little Richard (with the exception of Jerry Lee Lewis) practically invented rock theatrics, and is every bit as cooky as he was in the 1950s.  And no living person can conjure old the ghost of the Delta blues like BB King.  What really impressed me about this show, was how tight and professional these musicians and their bands were.  There was very little room for improvisation – every note was calculated and perfected.  Yet, it still had a certain magic.  Even though you knew that each one of them played pretty much the exact same show the show before, you got the sense that they were playing it specifically for you.

7. Bruce Springsteen – (August 2008 Hershey Stadium – Hershey PA)

Jimmy Fallon recently said that Bruce Springsteen invented the rock concert.  While that may not be entirely accurate, Springsteen has continued to revolutionize what a stadium concert can be.  The only rule that Springsteen seems to adhere to is that the show must be an epic event.  Springsteen has also described the E-Street Band as the “world’s best bar band”.  Perhaps a bit of hyperbole, but is there any major band out there that can play “Summertime Blues”, John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom”, Them’s “Gloria” and their own original songs in the same show?  There were several times I thought the show was going to end, but Springsteen kept pointing to signs in the audience and nodding to the band to give it a try.  After 3 plus hours, he kept going and even the band was hoping he didn’t notice another request.

This show gets the nomination for the strangest crowd I’ve ever been a part of. The outdoor stadium made it look like a carnival came to town complete with funnel cake stands and jousting (ok maybe I’m making the last part up.)  I also got into an argument with some dude in the bathroom during the main-set who was extremely pissed because Springsteen wasn’t playing the hits in favor of tracks “no one gives a shit about”.  The guy was wrong on both accounts – “The Promised Land”, “Badlands”, and “Prove it All Night” were all played in the main-set.  Second, I think there are many Springsteen fans who would be excited to hear “Reason to Believe”, “Part Man, Part Monkey” and “Because the Night”.

6. Tom Waits (June 2008 – Knoxville Tennessee)

Living in the Baltimore/DC area makes it easy to see many good shows.  When Tom Waits toured in 2008 for the first time in years, he decided to ignore the major markets and place in more obscure areas like the show I attended, which was in Knoxville, Tennessee.  It’s by far the farthest I have ever traveled for a show.

As for the show itself, it was part a Vaudeville show, and part story-time with Tom Waits.  Waits is famous for his onstage banter, and he failed to disappoint in this regard telling tales – which may or may not have been true.  Musically, most of the show relied on a slow pre-rock jazzy crawl especially on such songs as “Way Down in the Hole”.  “Innocent When You Dream” became a lullaby with audience participation, and “Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis” received a strong ovation.

I probably would rank this show a lot higher if I knew as much of Tom Waits catalogue then as I do now.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

5 Great Pogues Songs

Since Winter is officially here, and the Holiday has come and gone – it’s time to listen to the Pogues.  I rank them among my 10 favorite artists, but I don’t really listen to them outside of this season.  To me, The Pogues are one of the most criminally under-rated artists – and it’s a fucking shame that they get overshadowed by bands like Dropkick Murphys, when they practically invented the genre of Irish/punk.  So here are my top 5 favorite Pogues’ songs.  (I’m sure that some people I know will say I left out tons of great songs, but so be it.)

“The Sunnyside of the Street”

The best use of Spider Stacey’s tin-whistle by far.  Shane MacGowan mumbles his way through the lyrics.  The title would suggest that it is a song about redemption, but MacGowan’s claim that he “will not be reconstructed” near the end, make it clear that he’s enjoying his life as a libertine, and the sunnyside of the street is his steadfast defiance.

“The Body of an American”

For the un-intitiated, this would be the song I would play them.  It’s got all of the best elements of a Pogues song.  It starts off as a ballad, but quickly builds into the trademark mix of traditional Irish music played by a bunch of punks.  It also contains some of Shane MacGowan’s best lyrics (which is saying a lot considering he is one of rock’s best lyricists) about an American whose body is taken back to Ireland for a wake.  The song was given a new life on The Wire, when the song was used for policemen wakes.

“Boys From the County Hell”

The Pogues have a lot of angry songs, but “Boys From the County Hell” is among the angriest.  If “Sunnyside of the Street” finds MacGowan being defiant, in “Boys From the County Hell” he’s just violent.  He and his gang take care of his “bastard” landlord by grabbing “his fucking balls”.  He’s so drunk that he can’t recall whether it actually happened or not, but all he knows is that he doesn’t didn’t have a penny.  Throughout the song you’re left wondering what makes him so pissed until MacGowan reveals that, “me daddy was a blue shirt, my mother  madam, my brother earned his medals at mei lei in Vietnam”.

“Bottle of Smoke ”

Probably the Pogues’ best fast song.  It’s all about betting on a horse named after a bong – what else could a horse named Bottle of Smoke be named after?  It also have James Fearnley’s best use of the accordion – it practically drives the song.  Never has betting on a horse sounded so glorious and fun.  When MacGowan screams in jubilee during the bridges, you wonder if the tale about betting on the horse and winning is actually true.

“Thousands Are Sailing”

The only song on here not written by MacGowan, and perhaps the Pogues’ most heartbreaking song.  A devastating song about Irish immigration, it spans different decades – from the late 1880s until to the present day.  Those who died on the long-trip across the Atlantic Ocean to Ellis Island are not forgotten as “their ghosts still haunt the waves”.  I was recently lectured by a friend of mine for thinking that the hats tipped to Mr. Cohan was Leonard Cohen, instead of George M. Cohan.  But they’re in Times Square, and Leonard Cohen is associated with New York City so it made sense to me.

6 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized