Just Walk on by the Dark End of the Street

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Music is something that can unite us all. Music breaks racial boundaries and defies the limitations of age. Music is complex. Music may have many genres but the basis of all music is found with an artist creating his art. Whether the artist is bleeding their emotions onto the wire receiver of the microphone, cascading the emotions of their life across the steel strings of their guitar, or even calculatingly producing beats from a MIDI keyboard; it is art that is produced. Sometimes that art is a collaboration of many artists. Sometimes our favorite song may be a cover of someone else’s work. It is also not at all shocking to imagine an artist finding notable influence from the music they hear on the radio. While they aren’t doing a cover; they are merely finding influence. You can’t really say that is is copying or even infer that they got influence from a specific place unless they admit it. The coincidence is sometimes more than a tell-tale sign when it comes to music though. The proof will be in the pudding.

I became privy to the eery similarities of some songs after listening to a song from a two disc set of Classic County songs that I had recently purchased. As I was listening to disc 2 of this collection of classic Country songs, that had everything from the Johnny Cash and Hank Williams Sr to The Statler Bros and Charlie Pride, I came across a song by Leroy Van Dyke that I had never heard before. As the song played on; I started to notice that the lyrics were extremely similar to a classic R&B song made popular by Percy Sledge that I had listened to with my Motown loving dad many times. I abruptly stopped the song before it was even over and restarted the early 60s county/pop music hit “Walk on By” by Leroy Van Dyke immediately after listening to it to hear the lyrics one more time. I immediately thought of how much it sounded like a countrified version of the “Dark End of the Street”. The song was different enough to not be a cover but the similarities are undeniable.

350px-Percy_Sledge_Alabama_Music_Hall_of_FameThe soul classic hit “The Dark End of the Street” was written in 1966 by Dan Penn and Chips Moman while in the hotel room of Hi Records founder Quinton Claunch. The story goes that he allowed the two to use his room to write the song, while they were taking a break from playing cards, as long as they allowed James Carr to record it. Which they kept their word on the deal and soul artist James Carr released the single in late 1966 and it became his trademark song. While still climbing on the Billboard charts, Percy Sledge recorded his version of the song on his 1967 album The Percy Sledge Way but the song did not have the success that Carr’s version did.

Written by Kendall Hayes, the song “Walk on By” was released by county artist Leroy walk on byVan Dyke in August 1961. The first single, and title track from his album, held the title was his most successful single and was dubbed by Billboard magazine as one of the biggest country music record in history. The single spent 37 weeks on the country chart and a record breaking 19 weeks at the number-one position. The single holding the 19-week number one position was a record held for 51 years until 2013 when Florida Georgia Line’s Cruise.

So both songs center around a two-timing man who has a girlfriend on the side that knows about his main relationship but the main girl does not. He intends to keep his relationships the way they are and does this successfully by not acknowledging his side girlfriend out in public. He knows that this will hurt her to walk by him and not be acknowledged; but they must do it this way. In “The Dark End of the Street” he tells her that “…when the daylight hour rolls around/And by chance we’re both downtown/If we should meet, just walk on by/Oh darling, please don’t cry/Tonight we’ll meet/At the dark end of the street”, while the man in “Walk on By” similarly tells her that “…(I)f I see you tomorrow on some street in town/Pardon me, if I don’t say hello (hello)/I belong to another, it wouldn’t look so good/To know someone I’m not supposed to know/Just walk on by, wait on the corner.”

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While we have established that “The Dark End of the Street” is not a cover; even the title could have came from a section of the “Walk on By” song. The man tells his secret lover to meet him “(I)n a dimly lit corner in a place outside of town” while the other meets “at the dark end of the street”. Penn himself (when asked about the song) said, “we were always wanting to come up with the best cheatin’ song. Ever.” So is it above the realm of possibility that the two of them heard an immensely popular song on the jukebox while playing poker that night and wanted to write their own version of a hit song about cheating? Am I accusing Dan Penn and Chips Moman of a blatant copy? Definitely not. Am I saying that the songs are too close to be a coincidence? Yep. Do I still love each song and respect the artists who wrote  them and recorded them? Double yep.


Images:

A Silhouette of a Guitar Player by Mkim0219 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22037897

Featured Image – “Walk on By” vinyl single image from ebay.com, user bird-cage, Fair Use.

Percy Sledge at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame by and accredited to User:Carol M. Highsmith – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9863041

1947 Wurlitzer 1080 Jukebox by Paulo Philippidis – Flickr: Jukebox – 1947 Wurlitzer model 1080, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19814620

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Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10: Voices in Rock n’ Roll

I’ve been a fan of good Rock n’ Roll music for as long as I can remember. I’ve done other top ten lists where I talked about the best guitar solos and even the greatest rock music from the 90s. I’ve thought about the concerts that I wish I could go back in time to see; but one thing that I have never really explored is how amazing and individual that the voices of some Rock n’ Roll singers are. How a new raspy sound or a male singer hitting a vibrato that no one else had done before was not only something new but something that influenced the music realm about them. So since I have your yearning to hear my selections, I present to you Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10: Voices in Rock n’ Roll.

 


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Honorable Mentions: Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Tom Waits, Mike Patton and Chester Bennington

10. Axl Rose – William Bruce Rose Jr. aka Axl Rose may have been born in Lafayette, Indiana but he is best known around the world as the controversial founder and lead singer of one of the most famous rock bands of all time: Guns N’ Roses. Guns N’ Roses burst onto the music scene with their debut album, Appetite for Destruction in 1987 and by 1988 the album had reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100. The album became the number one best-selling debut album of all time. The driving force behind their popularity was the guitar shredding abilities of Slash and the unique voice of their lead singer. Axl truly has one of the most distinctive voices in Rock music. Developing a wide range when he sang at his local church, starting when he was only five years old but it was during his high school chorus practice that he began to truly develop his unique voice. He can go from the normal bass-baritone to a high tenor with ease. If you listen to the varying differences in his vocal range in songs like “Welcome to the Jungle”, they sound completely different from those found in their song “Patience”. Rolling Stones magazine listed him as the 6th most unique singing voice of all time but he’s only at number 10 for me because there are truly so many to choose from.

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9. Bob Dylan – Without Bob Dylan, there would be no Eddie Vedder. No Kurt Cobain. No Tom Waits. No Bruce Springsteen. No vocalist with a cracking voice or bluesy howl. Bob Dylan changed things. His impact is evident. Dylan’s was as much the voice of his generation as Kurt Cobain was the voice of his. He drew a metaphorical sword upon the generations that came before. There is a reason why Dylan was the opening act before Martin Luther King, Jr made his now infamous “I have a Dream” Speech. His singing is comparative to what Marlon Brando did to acting. He was thrusted through the chicanery of the music industry and pierced the heart of the art that music truly is.

8. Kurt Cobain – People that know me, know that I am a Nirvana fan; so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Nirvana front man appeared on this list. The listing does not come by happenstance or come undeservingly. Cobain was the voice of the ignored American youth, but that voice was distinctively unique to him. He wasn’t a complex singer with elaborate vocal range. He just belted out a naturally raspy song as only he could. His voice is not like anyone else in the business and he was obviously very hard on his vocal cords. His singing, which included a lot of distortion and guttural notes, may not have been associated with ‘proper technique’ but his voice matched his personality and definitely deserved to be the ‘voice of the generation’.

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7. Robert Plant – Like many English musicians (ie The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, etc), Robert Plant was obsessed with American blues. Plant heard the music early on and after seeing Sleepy John Estes, he came to the realization that he ‘wanted that voice’. He somehow got that voice that was as powerful as it was beautiful. The unearthly howl that he unleashed as the front runner of Led Zeppelin was, as quoted by Rolling Stone’s magazine as “a bluesman crossed with a Viking diety. Singing like a girl never seemed so masculine, and countless hard-rock singers would shred their vocal cords reaching for the notes Plant gained by birthright.”

6. Layne Staley – Layne Staley had a way of grabbing your soul as he sang. With true convention of the words that he spoke, the guttural lyrics were powerfully belted but sang with true conviction. “Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan said “Layne had an amazing voice that had such a beautiful, sad, haunting quality about it. He was different because his heaviness was in that voice.”He had his own distinct voice and he knew how to use the tools that he had. He would improvise in the recording studio as evident with the stacked vocal layering he used on the album Dirt; but he was also able to transform his voice as if he was using a tremolo or a Leslie speaker on his voice. Staley didn’t imitate Jim Morrison or Rob Halford or Ozzy; his distinct voice was his soul using his vocal cords as vessel to escape.

5. Janis Joplin – The unanimously dubbed “Queen of Rock and Roll” was singing the Black Blues; and was blowing audiences away. The raw, emotionally charged Mezzo-soprano had a curiously unique coarseness to her voice. At times the throaty and guttural chest noise that crept up could extend into octaves that matched her charismatic personality. But just as charismatic as Joplin was, the vulnerable and rough around the edges rocker paved the way for countless women to join the rock revolution. She will be remembered for her unique voice as much as becoming a megastar that bloomed during the 1960s with fellow San Franciscans Jimi Hendrix, the Grateful Dead, and Santana.

4. Roy Orbison – Tom Petty is quoted as saying that Roy Orbison is “probably the greatest singer in the world.” He is adored and has influenced some of the greatest singers/artists of all time. Artists whom he toured with like Bob Dylan said that his voice was “the voice of a professional criminal;” while his singing and music influenced powerful names like Bruce Springsteen, Chris Isaak, and k.d. lang. I remember listening to Roy Orbison with my dad when I was young. I remember listening to Roy Orbison’s “Oh, Pretty Woman” and “Only the Lonely.” Just the other day my dad and I were listening to some of his favorite music while riding back from getting some food, and he said something that influenced me to write this blog entry. He said that, “Roy Orbison had a voice that no one could duplicate. He was just good.” My dad who is a man of purposeful words would make me think about all of the influential voices in Rock n’ Roll. The Roy Orbison that I hear is someone who could start out a song and take you on a journey that climbed to the highest highest and lowest lows. His voice is a symphony and is (and should be) celebrated as one of the greatest voices of rock; not just from the sixties but from all time.

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3. David Bowie – Throughout his career, David Bowie would range from a sonorous low range baritone to a powerful tenor; there is no denying that the British-accented singer brought a level of drama into every song. The Starman, Major Tom, Aladdin Sane, Ziggy Stardust…whatever persona he took on, his voice would match that persona. The theatrical and talented performer influenced many generations of popular musicians throughout many decades. His distinctive and idiosyncratic singing voice was not inefficient in creating the pop culture phenomenon that he would become; but it was merely a part of the multifaceted Spaceman.

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2. Freddie Mercury – He’s been called the most inspirational frontman of all time and whatever song that the majestic, operatic singer brought forth in his four-octave range; his voice would literally rock the rock world forever. Whether he was creating an unmatchable wall of sound on tracks like “Bohemian Rhapsody” or was slamming down the hard-rock hammer on “Ogre Battle”; he will rock you. (Pun intended.)

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  1. Elvis Presley – A lot of people have great singing voices; but you venture into another realm entirely when you can create an aura around you when you start to sing. It doesn’t matter to me if Elvis wasn’t the first person to sing “Hound Dog” (or even if Big Mama Thorton’s version is truly better); its about who Elvis was. It’s about the fact that Elvis’s voice drew you in to whatever song. He painted an emotional picture with the words that he sang. From the fun Rockabilly stylings of “Jailhouse Rock” to the brutally honest emotion in “In the Ghetto”; Elvis’s voice could vary from a high and low baritone to that of a high B tenor. He was a true musical prodigy whose influence cannot be denied. I truly don’t think the Rock n’ Roll world will ever see anyone like him ever again. As a matter of fact, the world will never see anyone like him ever again.

Images:

Tom Waits Concert by ntoper – https://www.flickr.com/photos/ntoper/2708045977/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6010162

Bob Dylan in Rotterdam, Netherlands, June 1978 by and attributed to Chris Hakkens – https://www.flickr.com/photos/chris_hakkens/5109976116/in/set-72157625228594192/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15981881

Robert Plant playing live at the Palace Theatre, Manchester, on Sunday the 31st of October 2010 by and attributed to Phil King – Flickr: Robert Plant, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14698440

“Ziggy Stardust” during the Ziggy Stardust Tour (1972 or 1973) by and attributed to Rik Walton – https://www.flickr.com/photos/rikwalton/2259388449/ http://www.rikwalton.com, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9523995

Featured Image – Freddie Mercury in New Haven, CT at a WPLR Show credited to Carl Lender. FreddieMercurySinging21978.jpg: CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7798754

Elvis promotional photo for Jailhouse Rock, 1957 attributed to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc. Reproduction Number: LC-USZ6-2067Location: NYWTS — BIOG – The Library of Congress retrieved 3d02067r.jpg from Jailhouse Rock., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=727693

 

Top Cat’s Top 10: Live Versions of Songs

The concert going experience has and always will be amazing; but sometimes concertgoers get to experience something truly special. Whether its a band’s most popular song or just a special night; sometimes the live performance of a song surpass the album’s released version. Thankfully in our modern day and age, the unlucky ones that were not there to experience them live are sometimes blessed to have the performance recorded. I have put together a list of what I think are the top 10 live versions of songs that surpass their original version in all ways. I hope that this list can be a way to cause your uncompromising opinion on these songs to be altered. Please take the time to listen to both versions of the song (hint hint I suggest looking them up on YouTube); and then you be the judge. With that being said here are Top Cat’s Top 10: Live Versions of Songs.


Honorable Mentions: Nine Inch Nail’s “Terrible Lie” from Live: And All That Could Have Been and Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive” Live in Moscow, 1989

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10. Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed” from 1976’s Wings Over America.

The Wings Over America triple album was released in December of 1976 and it hit number 1 on the US Billboard chart and number 8 on the UK chart. McCartney’s sound engineer listed to 800 hours of tape and selected the five best performances of each song from the 30-song set list. McCartney then chose and mixed the final set of recordings (most of them were from the infamous June 23rd, 1976 concert at The Forum in Los Angeles.

9. Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band’s “Turn the Page” from 1976’s ‘Live’ Bullet album.

The ‘Live’ Bullet album is credited as one of the motivating forces behind Seger’s mainstream popularity and since this album was recorded as the arena that in its heyday was the most important rock concert venue just pushed Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band to the top. When you hear “Turn the Page” on rock and classic rock radio, 9 times out of 10, it will be this perennial version.

8. Nirvana’s “All Apologies” from MTV Unplugged in New York album.

You will see a few selections on this list from MTV’s Unplugged series; but Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged album is definitely the most famous of the series. I remember watching the MTV Unplugged performance in December of 1993. I was at the zenith of my Nirvana love and I just remember sitting in front of the TV on my parent’s couch in awe. Fans had heard rumors that Cobain had just gotten out of rehab and he was suffering from drug withdrawal during the performance. The stage looked like a funeral as it was decorated with stargazer lilies, black candles and an overall dark stage. The album debuted number one on the Billboard 200 chart but was released after Kurt’s ‘suicide’. The 5x platinum certified album is by far one of the most beautiful live performances of all time and their live performance of “All Apologies” is better than the In Utero version.

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7. Johnny Cash, “Folsom Prison Blues,” from 1968’s At Folsom Prison album.

Johnny Cash. Those words ring immortal in the realms of music and pop culture history but it was his infamous At Folsom Prison album that pushed Cash back into the national spotlight. He had recently gotten his drug abuse problems and personal issues under control, and was trying to turn his career around after having limited commercial successful fora number of years. Despite not receiving much support from Columbia records, his version of “Folsom Prison Blues” went on to become a top 40 hit and was his first number one since 1964’s “Understand Your Man”. Luckily the album revitalized Cash’s career; but we the fans are truly the lucky ones because we were left with a truly amazing track that surpasses the original version tenfold.

6. Alice in Chain’s “Nutshell” from Unplugged.

The other MTV Unplugged song that graces our list is from another infamous Seattle band: Alice in Chains. The certified platinum album debuted at number three on the Billboard 200. The all-acoustic set on April 10, 1996 concert was Alice in Chains first concert in over two and a half years. If you were not one of the lucky concert-goers at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Majestic Theatre that day; you pay close attention to the accompanied DVD of the concert that was certified gold by the RIAA and find a Sharpie inscribed phrase on Mike Inez’s bass. Inscribed was the phrase ‘Friends don’t let friends get Friends haircuts…” and was meant to be a jab at the members of Metallica (who had just controversially cut their hair before the release of their Load album) who were in the audience. The jab was laughed off and Inez and drummer Sean Kinney paid tribute to Metallica by playing the intro to “Enter Sandman” before Jerry Cantrell played the intro to “Battery” later in the set.

5. Metallica’s “Bleeding Me” from S&M.

Since we’re mentioning Metallica, now would be a good time to list a song from one of my favorite albums of all time. Metallica recorded a live album with The San Francisco Symphony (conducted by Michael Kamen) and it is just about as amazing as you can imagine. The idea had been floating around since (the time of Metallica’s second bass guitarist Cliff Burton) the early 1980s; due to Cliff Burton’s love of classical music (specifically Johann Sebastian Bach) and by influence of Deep Purple’s 1969 Concerto for Group and Orchestra album. The classical styling of Bach influenced the instrumental parts and melodic characteristics of some of Metallica’s greatest songs. The concert itself is amazing but when they performed the already emotional “Bleeding Me” from Metallica’s 1996 Load album…I literally cried the first time that I heard it.

4. Janes Addiction’s “Jane Says” from Kettle Whistle live/out-take compilation album.

Janes Addiction was one of the first alternative rock bands to gain both mainstream media attention and commercial success in the United States in the early 1990s. But in the late 1980s, Janes Addition was on tour and opening for Iggy Pop and The Ramones before headlining clubs and theaters themselves near the end of the 90s. They were riddled with break-ups, cursed by lead-singer Perry Farrell’s drug addition and the band’s members not being able to stand each other (mostly because Farrell’s admittance to being an “intolerable narcissist who can’t get along with anyone”); the band’s ‘initial’ farewell tour in 1991 launched the first Lollapalooza tour, which has since become a perennial alternative rock festival. Despite splitting and going their separate ways for a short while, they briefly reunited in 1997, with Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers (who replaced Eric Avery on bass) to tour and record their new/live/out-take compilation album Kettle Whistle. It is on this album that, in my opinion (and many others) is not only the bands best song but the best version of their song (being featured on both their debut self titled album in 1987 and a similar version on their follow-up album, Nothing’s Shocking): “Jane Says”. The Kettle Whistle version was beautifully redone and features steel drums and vocal arrangements that were not present on the cut from the self-titled album.

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3. Bob Marley and the Wailers’s “No Woman, No Cry” from 1975’s Live! album.

The now infamous Bob Marley song was originally released on their 1974 studio album Natty Dread; but it was the live version from the 1975 album Live! almost which is definitely the most well known. The concert’s recording took place at the Lyceum Theatre in London on July 19th, 1975 as part of their Natty Dread Tour. The popular song was even ranked 37th on the Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list. The performance remains as Marley’s most famous performance and is not just one of my favorite live songs but definitely one of my favorite songs of all time.

2. Fleetwood Mac, “Landslide,” from 1997’s The Dance.

I remember the night very well. Fleetwood Mac’s The Dance Concert was airing on MTV. The group had not released an album together in a decade but we were still fans. Upon the album’s release, it debuted at No 1 on the Billboard 200 and stayed in the top 40 for more than seven months. It sold a million copies within the first eight weeks, and became the fifth best-selling live album of all time in the United States. The show was a profusion of their greatest hits and included a stripped down yet vehement version of “Landslide” which vastly flies above the already amazing original version.

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1. Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” from the Pulse DVD.

Legendary rock group known as Pink Floyd is known for amazing shows but the 2006 DVD release of their concert that was performed on October 20, 1994 at the infamous Earls Court in London was and still is amazing. The 1995 album and DVD which appeared years later showcases a concert from their 1994 The Division Bell Tour. The concert showcased an overabundant arrangement of their greatest hits. One particular song from this concert was a single from their 1979 double album The Wall; and has been ranked one of the greatest songs of all time by Rolling Stones magazine and featured in many lists as having one of the greatest guitar solos of all time. The 1980/81 tour for The Wall album featured larger than life sets which included a giant wall constructed across the stage during performances to match the larger than life songs that they would perform. The 1994 tour was similar in spectacle and specifically the concert in Earl’s Court in London.  The Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre is located in Earl’s Court which is a district in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in central London. The Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre was one of the country’s largest indoor arenas and was one of the most popular concert venues in the country until it closed in 2014. The Exhibition Centre has since been demolished to make room for shopping centers and high rise, luxury apartments; concert-goers gasped again at the truly amazing spectacle on that faithful night in 1994. As David Gilmour’s beautiful guitar solo rang through the exhibition center, a massive disco ball-like orb slowly descended from the tall ceiling. Lights shown brightly on the reflective surfaces and beams of light danced around the space. As the amazingness of the guitar solo and accompanying musicians fall upon your ears that is matched by the pageantry of the show going on around you; the hair on the back of your neck stands up and tears begin to well up in your eyes. The song itself is one of my favorite songs and is always amazing live; but this specific performance could possibly be the best version that I have ever heard.


Images:

Paul and Linda McCartney 1973 image by and attributed to Wikipedia user I, Corwin, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2334509

Folsom Prison Blues Single image by and attributed to Daniel Hartwig from New Haven, CT, USA – cash_0009Uploaded by Huggorm, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8151226

Bob Marley live in concert in Dalymont Park on 6 July 1980 photo by and accredited to Eddie Mallin – https://secure.flickr.com/photos/dubpics/5619960763/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10847018

Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre photo by and attributed to Phillip Perry, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13591952

 

Eeny Meenie Miny Moe

Portrait_of_Terence_from_Vaticana,_Vat._latTerence the Roman playwright (born in 195 AD), in his work Phormio, coined a new phrase: “auribus teneo lupum”. The phrase is translated as “holding a wolf by the ears” and is much like the more commonly known phrase ‘holding a tiger by the tail’. The two phrases evoke the image of man or beast managing or coping with something that is normally too difficult to accomplish. Like…holding a wolf by the ears or holding a tiger by the tail. The image presented by this extended metaphor is so ridiculous of an idea that you can not imagine something like that in reality; but the phrase is so common that someone must have done it at one time or another.

The phrase is so common that a very similar wording is used in a child’s nursery rhyme. Remember the cute little counting rhyme that has existed since the 1800s where one kid goes around the room and other kids are ‘counted out’ or ‘chosen’ by a random process of elimination? That’s right I’m referring to “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe”. This children’s rhyme can be spelled in many different ways and has existed in various forms in many different languages. Though the origin is not exactly known and has even been quite controversial due to racist slurs found in the rhyme (I won’t be getting into that). The most common version that most Americans are familiar with is:

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe
Catch a tiger by the toe.
If he hollers, let him go,
Eeny, meeny, miny, moe.

Though there have been many variations throughout the last 200 years such as replacing tiger with similar nouns like ‘piggy’ or ‘tigger’ (I’m hoping that you can see where the racial slur would have been inserted without me having to discuss it); while the action verb hollers has been replaced with variations like ‘wiggles’ or ‘screams’. Along with the many variations, the phrase or references to it has popped up in many places throughout Pop Culture. My favorite author Salman Rushdie named his leading character and his three sisters Ina, Minnie, Mynah, and Moor; while one of my favorite albums by one of my favorite bands Radiohead released their 1997 album OK Computer on vinyl, the band eeny meeny miny moechose to use ‘eeny meeny miny moe’ instead of letters and numbers (Side A, B, C, D or any numerical variation) to designate the sides of the 2 record LP.  There have even also been many instances in cartoons, comic books, video games, books and movies in which the ‘Eeny meeny’ song was sang by a character making a choice. Sometimes the song was sang for comic effect or sometimes added a creepy effect to someone making the decision of whom they should kill. I don’t think that anyone could forget Negan’s now infamous execution scene in the season six finale of The Walking Dead. Or even even how the rhyme was used in movies like Natural Born Killers and Pulp Fiction.

Whether found in a movie, sang by a child on a playground with her friends, or even used as the name of a building that houses mostly high end stores in Japan’s Fukuoka Hakata ward; there is no loophole to escape the influence that the children’s rhyme has had on Pop Culture anymore than we can deny the comparison between a phrase found in this classic children’s rhyme ‘catch a tiger by the toe’ and the similarly worded phrases of ‘holding a tiger by the tail’ and Terence’s ‘holding a wolf by the ears’. It makes you wonder if we as a human race yearn to control these violent animals; but realize the audaciousness of what would be a truly deathly desire.

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Images:

Alleged portrait of Terence, from Codex Vaticanus Latnus 3868 by Unknown – File: Vaticana, Vat. lat. 3868 (2r).jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18960421

The Walking Dead Series 7 premiere poster owned and accredited to AMC, Fair Use, http://www.amc.com/shows/the-walking-dead

Pulp Fiction Eenie Meenie gif accredited to Giphy, http:/giphy.com/gifs/chris-christie-w0y3J0QY3ZEU8

Featured Image – Department store Eeny Meeny Miny Mo in Fukuoka City, Japan image By Pontafon – Photo created by Pontafon, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7510118

Why do Rock Stars hate brown M&Ms?

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1993 brought a lot of things that are now forever ingrained into the Pop Culture landscape. Millions journey to and get engaged at the top of the Empire State Building because of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan’s rom com hit “Sleepless in Seattle”. ‘The Truth was finally out there’ when The X-Files first aired or how about Bill Murray’s continuously looping “Groundhog Day”. Jurassic Park beat E.T. to become the highest-grossing film at that time. Nirvana was a musical guest on Saturday Night Live’s fall season premiere which was hosted by Charles Barkley. Shall I go on? No? I didn’t think so but while we’re hinting around at the cultural influence that Saturday Night Live had during the 90s; and the fact that the powerhouse pushed out Pop Culture hits in 1993…like the sequel to Wayne’s World. Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar returned to the big screen in 1993. “Party on Wayne.” “Party on Garth.” We found them filming their public-access television show inside of an abandoned factory building in Aurora, Illinois but after an Aerosmith concert, Wayne’s life is forever changed. Jim Morrison and a weird naked Indian comes to Wayne in a dream and tells them to organize a major music festival. He instructs them that they must hire and find his former roadie, Del Preston. Del Preston was a roadie for some of the biggest names in the Rock n Roll business and he tells them a story about Ozzy in which he says:

So there I am, in Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon, at about 3 o’clock in the morning, looking for one thousand brown M&Ms to fill a brandy glass, or Ozzy wouldn’t go on stage that night. So, Jeff Beck pops his head ’round the door, and mentions there’s a little sweets shop on the edge of town. So – we go. And – it’s closed. So there’s me, and Keith Moon, and David Crosby, breaking into that little sweets shop, eh. Well, instead of a guard dog, they’ve got this bloody great big Bengal tiger. I managed to take out the tiger with a can of mace, but the shop owner and his son… that’s a different story altogether. I had to beat them to death with their own shoes. Nasty business, really. But, sure enough, I got the M&Ms, and Ozzy went on stage and did a great show.

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David Crosby and a Bengal tiger? Ozzy requesting a 1000 brown M&Ms in a brandi glass? Seems ridiculous right? I always was intrigued by this story because I had always heard of the elaborate demands that bands make before they’ll go on stage but there is no way that something like this could be true. Right? Well the story might not be as far fetched as it would seem.

Well all know that rock concerts have come a long way since the Beatles were Beatles_Metropolitan_Stadium_ticket_1965performing in hockey rinks and dance halls. The bigger the band got…the bigger the venue got. Along side the band growing, was the growing list of demands that the bands would require of promotors. No longer did they just ask for a few bottles of Pepsi and some clean towels…oh no. The larger the crowds, the more money that there was to be made. The rock stars could command higher dividends, and also make sure that their luxurious accommodations would be satisfied by the promotors. Bands and performers started to make frivolous demands of promotors just because they could. Example: In college I worked for UNCW and at one of our on campus concerts; Hootie and the Blowfish refused to perform unless we had a specific beer for them….so away we flew to the grocery store to buy their specific brand of beer. Another example is the true story that inspired Del Preston’s M&M story from Wayne’s World 2.

VAN_HALEN_2008The most notorious band provision contract was that of Rock n Roll legends Van Halen. No one can deny that Van Halen ruled the world throughout the 80s and 90s and are still filling arenas to this day; but what’s up with the M&Ms? The band requests included the surface that the stage would be built on all the way to the snacks that they wanted in their dressing room. Potato Chips with assorted dips, nuts, pretzels, Twelve Reese’s Peanut Butter cups, assorted Dannon Yogurts, and a bowl of M&Ms with all of the brown M&Ms taken out were just a few of the items listed. Wait a minute….no brown M&Ms? \Supposedly the presence of even one single brown M&M in a bowl of M&Ms was sufficient enough to cause the band to break legal bindings with the venue and peremptorily cancel a scheduled appearance without notice. Sometimes finding one brown M&M would cause the band to proceed with the full onslaught of destruction to the dressing room. Since it has been confirmed that this contract clause was real (due to a copy of the contract rider from Van Halen’s 1982 world tour has confirmed it); what in the world did Van Halen have against brown M&Ms?

The now legendary ‘no brown M&M clause’ was not included in the contract for a gastro-influenced reason. It provided a simple way of determining whether the technical stipulations of the contract had been thoroughly read and complied with. Van Halen lead singer David Lee Roth explained in his autobiography that when they began touring that they were rolling up to venues with a convoy of eighteen-wheeler trucks, full of gear and the venue would not have bays for them to unload their equipment. Or the steel girders of the stage would sink into the floor due to the weight or the doors weren’t wide enough to even bring in the stage gear. A contract rider is a huge document that sometimes the punch list of items were not followed through by the facility. Roth says that, “…if I saw a IMG_3254brown M&M in that bowl….guaranteed you’re going to arrive at a technical error. They didn’t read the contract. Guaranteed you’d run into a problem Sometimes it would threaten to just destroy the whole show. Something like, literally life-threatening.” So if part of the stage was not structurally sound due to the venue not fully reading the contract then the results could be devastating. So if they saw brown M&Ms that meant that they would have to do a complete line-check of the entire production to prevent damage to equipment or to prevent potential harm to crew, band or concert attendees. Sure the M&M stipulation got a little out of hand when Roth did $12,000 worth of damage to a dressing room while the production equipment did about $80,000 worth of damage to the floor of the Colorado University basketball court. So of course news outlets and MTV thought that a story of a drugged Rock n Roll band doing $95,000 worth of damage to a University because of the lead singer’s distaste for brown M&Ms sounded better than said university not following the protocols of a contract thusly resulting in damage to their new basketball court.



Images:
Garth’s Merthmobile photo by and attributed to Thomas R Machnitzki (thomas@machnitzki.com) – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19551735
Beatles ticket by and attributed to Unknown – http://www.rarebeatles.com/photopg7/mn82165.htm, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16847200
Van Halen image by and accredited to GHOSTRIDER2112 – Flickr (http://www.flickr.com/photos/ghostrider2112/2523049277/), CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15278712

Time Machine Time: Top 10 Concerts

I have always been proud of my eclectic musical taste and the live performances that I have been blessed to see over the years is the proof in the pudding.  I’ve seen everyone from Metallica to B.B. King to the Celtic Women to the Wu Tang Clan to Big & Rich. To me, the live concert experience is like none other and therefore there are regretfully many concerts or live performances that I was not able to see (mostly because they happened before I was born or where in a different country). So if the Doctor just happened to visit me or Doc Brown and Marty McFly loaned me the Delorean there are many things that I would love to do or see. A big part of that list would be to go back and see certain human events like the Wright Brothers flying for the first time, to see Jesus perform miracles, to walk with Ghandi, or to hear the wisdom of the Buddha. Among the list of amazing human feats that I would love to see many things. How awesome would it be to see the Muhammad Ali vs George Foreman “Rumble in the Jungle” fight; see Gladiators fight in the Flavian Ampitheatre (aka the Roman Colosseum); or to have been one of the 93,173 attendees in the Pontiac Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan back on March 29th, 1987 when Hulk Hogan body slammed Andre the Giant and when ‘The Macho Man’ Randy Savage and Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat had one of the greatest wrestling matches of all time.

But…we’re here for music. SO with that being said, here a joint blog representing both the Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10 and Time Machine TimeConcerts (representing the Top 10 concerts that I would love to be able to go back in time to see).



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Honorable Mention: Rammstein – Parkbuhne Wuhlheide, Berlin (1998) – Despite their participation in the ever popular Family Values tour (with Korn, Limp Bizkit, etc) in 1998, the solo European tour in 1998 was Rammstein’s finest. The music paired with the wild pyrotechnics must have been a site to behold.

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10. Bob Marley – Kingston, Jamaica (April 22, 1978) – After the Smile Jamaica concert; Bob and his band, the Wailers, exiled themselves in London for about a year. They wrote an album while in England and rightfully so named it Exodus. During their exodus in London, the turmoil in Jamaica was dying down and to prove that they needed Marley to come back to help unify the country; rival gang leaders flew to London to convince Marley to come back. He flew back and put on a free concert in Kingston. The beautiful music, paired with the political unification that Marley brought by bringing together both rival gang members, as well as the opposing governmental factions earned him a United Nations’ Peace Medal. What a completely amazing concert that that must have been.

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9. Fleetwood Mac – Nashville Municipal Auditorium (5/21/1977) – The radio poured out the hits of Fleetwood Mac during the Summer of 1977. The Rumours world tour which took place in two parts went on for almost a year and a half. The tour celebrated the release of the band’s eleventh album (of the same name). The band went everywhere: from all over North America to Europe, their native UK, Japan and Oceania. I have always been a Fleetwood Mac fan after hearing the albums when I was a kid. I was not lucky enough to see them in their prime and the performance at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium would have been a fantastic place to catch the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees at their prime.

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8. Beethoven – Theater an der Wien, Vienna (April 1803) – Before he went def, Beethoven had been appointed composer in residence at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna in the early 1800s. In the spring of 1803 Beethoven led the Symphony in a concert where the audience heard the First and Second Symphony, the Third Piano Concerto, and the oratorio Christ on the Mount of Olives. To be able to experience some of Beethoven’s greatest works, live from the man himself…would be more than I could bear. Tears would definitely flow.

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7. Led Zeppelin – Madison Square Garden, New York (July 27-29, 1973) – Led Zeppelin performed three-sold out shows at Madison Square Gardens to close out their 1973 North American tour. The filming of these live performances were filmed for a motion picture that was released in 1976. The on-stage theatrics, as described by Jimmy Page, were as far as they could make them and they most definitely took the audiences experience into account. The set-list consisted of songs that will go down as some of the greatest rock songs of all time. Years later, ‘the songs remain the same’ and the DVD allows us to experience, but I would count it an immense blessing to have been able to experience this spectacle in person.

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6. Jimi Hendrix – Woodstock, Bethel, New York (August 18, 1969) – I would have braved the mud and the 400,000 potentially drugged out hippies to witness (who is in my opinion) one of the greatest performers of all time at the infamous festival. The Woodstock Festival is listed as one of the 50 moments that Changed the History of Rock and Roll and with Jimi Hendrix joining a lineup including Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Joan Baez, Santana, the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, The Who, and many others…who could imagine that it wouldn’t. Hendrix’s now infamous “Star Spangled Banner” performance was just a drop in the bucket compared to the over 60 minute set. I could definitely have dealt with the 3 days of peace and music as long as I got to hear Jimi Hendrix.

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5. Metallica – Tushino Airfield, Moscow, Russia (Sept 28, 1991) – Despite seeing Metallica multiple times already, I regretfully have missed some amazing performances that I think could have been more epic than the concerts that I was blessed enough to witness. One specific concert was a specific concert on September 28th, 1991 in Moscow. The Monsters of Rock Festival was one of the biggest concerts in the history of the world. The attendance during the Metallica show was slated to have ranged anywhere from 500,000 to almost 2 million fans. This could easily be one of the most epic live performances of all time and to feel the feedback from over a million people would have just been breathtaking.

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4. Queen – Wembley Stadium (11/07/1986) – As many of the concerts from this list, the moments were saved by releasing the video via VHS/DVD. In December of 1990, Queen at Wembley was produced and the DVD version has gone platinum five times in the US alone. Audience members have stated that the energy in the crowd was breathtaking and we as viewers of the DVD since then can attest that Freddie Mercury and Queen presented us with one of the best live performances ever.


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3. Metallica with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra – Berkley Community Theatre (April 21-22, 1999) – Yes, I know what you’re thinking; “gosh Chris, two Metallica concerts on your top 10 list of concerts that you would go back in time to see?” The answer is unequivocally, yes! Metallica is my favorite musical group/band and I most definitely would want to see these two events. I have seen the DVD but was unable to fly to San Francisco in 1999 to experience this concert in person. Back in 1999, Metallica was trying to find themselves after so many years of being together. They were/are the biggest rock/heavy metal band of all time and taking a cue from their late guitarist Cliff Burton, intertwined classical music and heavy metal to bring about something truly magical. Taking clues from Deep Purple’s 1969 Concerto for Group and Orchestra (in which Deep Purple performed with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra), did a concert with the additional symphonic accompaniment of Michael Kamen and the San Francisco Symphony orchestra (hence the name of the album: Metallica: S&M). I am not afraid to admit that when I first watched the DVD of the concert, that I wept during the performances of “Bleeding Me” and “- Human”. These two songs, along with the 19 other tracks, brought a total of over 2 hours of complete melodic perfection.


 

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2. Nirvana – Sony Music Studios, New York City (November 19, 1993) – The American Grunge band Nirvana changed music forever. Some people view it as a bad thing, and some people view it as something that set a pace for music. On December 16, 1993, I was viewed to the TV and it dared not be turned from MTV. As part of the infamous MTV Unplugged series, Nirvana performed an acoustic performance where they covered their lesser-known material and cover versions of many of their favorite bands. The album, which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, was certified 5x platinum in the US by 1997. The performance won a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album and posthumously it is Nirvana’s most successful album. The performance of many of the songs have gained notoriety throughout the years. The song “Where did you sleep last night?” (which was arranged by blues musician Lead Belly) is regarded by many as one of the greatest live performances of all time; whereas Nirvana’s rendition of David Bowie’s classic “The Man who sold the world” (specifically Kurt’s playing) is listed by MTV and Rolling Stones as one of the greatest acoustic performances of all time (despite his use of foot pedals and an amp). To have been one of the select fans that got to witness this concert first hand would have been an amazing adventure to behold.


 

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  1.  Pink Floyd – Earl’s Court Exhibition Hall, London (June 17, 1981) – Pink Floyd puts on an amazing show. The lights, the theatrics, the larger than life stage show, and the extra nuances that make them great are only shadows on the wall behind the amazing performers that they are. The Wall is one of my favorite albums of all time and to be able to hear David Gilmour’s “Comfortably Numb” guitar solo in person could quite possibly be one of the closest things to perfection that you can find. There isn’t much to say, except….a Pink Floyd live experience would be just that….a truly awesome experience. The Wall was not a traditional traveling tour. It was a complete theatrical experience. The experience is more than just music and emotion….it was a spectacle.


Images: Featured Image: Pink Floyd 1973 Retouched photo by and accredited to TimDuncanderivative work: Mr. Frank (talk) – PinkFloyd1973.jpg, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10703646
Fleetwood Mac Trade ad for Rumours by and accredited to Warner Bros. Records – Billboard, page 86, 25 Jun 1977, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29477518
Beethoven in his home painting by and accredited to Carl Schloesser – http://fi.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuva:Beethovenhome.JPG
Engel by Rammstein image accredited to http://www.flickr.com/photos/closeto94/ – http://www.flickr.com/photos/closeto94/6932258453/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22797146
James Hetfield concert image by and accredited to wonker from London, United Kingdom – James Hetfield, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41529767
Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant image by and attributed to Dina Regine – http://www.flickr.com/photos/divadivadina/465006384/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8022602
Jimi Hendrix’s Guitar Strap photo by Sam Howzit – CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44052647
Queen’s Freddie Mercury image by and attributed to Carl Lender, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5904129
James Hetfield image by and attributed to I, Flowkey, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2427494
Nirvana Unplugged logo attributed to http://theriveranswers.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/nirvana-unplugged_in_new_york.jpg
Pink Floyd “The Wall” logo by and attributed to pink floyd – http://www.seeklogo.com/files/P/Pink_Floyd_The_Wall-vector-logo-15898F56FA-seeklogo.com.zip, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38936704

Stairway to Heaven

322px-Jimmy_Page_earlyMy older cousin was in a heavy metal band that opened for a lot of big named bands in the 80s and 90s. I remember when he would come home from being on tour in his Porsche 911; we would all sit in his bedroom and ask him to play his guitar for us. He would sit on his oversized Peavey amp with his legs crossed at the knee; his long brown hair cascading down onto a cut off Guns N Roses t-shirt while his boney fingers flowed across the strings of his white Fender guitar. It was from him that I fell in love with rock music but he wasn’t my only musical influence. I grew up surrounded by all forms of music.

I lived in a house with a Motown loving father and I remember the nights, laying on his bed with him while we listened to The Temptations and The Four Tops. I also remember riding with mother to garage sales and flea markets; along our way, who despite being a renowned Southern Gospel singer, she made sure that I was introduced to Elvis, the Righteous Brothers, and Simon & Garfunkel. I spent my summer days with my grandparents and my grandpa introduced me to Country Western greats like George Jones and Merle Haggard; along with concreting a passion for Bluegrass music.

Agulha_record_playerMy grandpa had a wooden rocking chair with a green cushion and a big Record player console in the back bedroom of his house. I would spend most rainy days or lazy afternoons sitting in that rocking chair listening to old records. I would listen to his classic George Jones, Buck Owens or bluegrass albums but occasionally I would bring some of my records from home. I would bring my favorite rock albums and play them quietly on his vintage machine, while rhythmically rocking in the cushioned wooden rocking chair. I went through a period of time in my childhood where I was obsessed with Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin (an obsession that has carried itself into my adulthood) and I would listen to my Led Zeppelin IV album at my grandfather’s house on that old vintage germany_atl10103_bdmachine. I remember one time in particular when I was listening to Stairway to Heaven and my ‘Papa’, as we called him, came in and asked, “What in the world are you listening to?” Not sure how he would respond, I told him that I was listening to a song called “Stairway to Heaven”, so he sat down on the bed that sat at the other end of the room and asked me what the song was about. I explained the premise of the song and being the religious man he was says, “well thats not really how going to Heaven works but it does sound like a nice song.” He smiled at me and walked away.

640px-BEOGRAM_1202_(19218616158)I think about him every time I hear that song now-a-days. Despite the amazing singing and playing ability of the members of Led Zeppelin, I am reminded of the sweet disposition of my grandpa and despite his disapproval of the type of music that I listened to, he always supported and loved my individuality. I wish for that day that my Stairway to Heaven comes, so that I can see that sweet man once again.


Featured Image:

The Led Zeppelin LZ 129 Hindenburg catching fire on May 6, 1937 at Lakehurst Naval Air Station in New Jersey image by Gus Pasquerella – http://www.lakehurst.navy.mil/nlweb/images/1213d.gif, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=632191

Jimmy Page with Led Zeppelin by and accredited to Dina Regine – http://www.flickr.com/photos/divadivadina/465006376/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8005350

Aguhla Record Player image by and licensed under the Creative Commons Attibution 2.0 Generic License, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52890

Led Zeppelin IV album cover image by and accredited to Atlantic Records, http://www.ledzeppelin.com/photos/memorabilia/45s-7-sleeves?page=1

Full resolution macro shot of vinyl record image by and accredited to Project-128 – BEOGRAM 1202, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46688419