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 Post subject: Life Question #5 - Stark
PostPosted: Fri Nov 18, 2011 1:22 pm 
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Pg. 58. Then, “Since my baby left me”—it was just the sound. It was the last trigger. That was the first rock and roll I heard. It was a totally different way of delivering a song, a totally different sound, stripped down, burnt, no bulls**t, no violins and ladies’ choruses and schmaltz, totally different. It was bare, right to the roots that you had a feeling were there but hadn’t yet heard. I’ve got to take my hat off to Elvis for that. The silence is your canvas, that’s your frame, that’s what you work on; don’t try and deafen it out. That’s what “Heartbreak Hotel” did to me. It was the first time I’d heard something so stark. Then I had to go back to what this cat had done before. Luckily I caught his name. The Radio Luxembourg signal came back in. “That was Elvis Presley, with ‘Heartbreak Hotel.’”

Watch the video below. Why do you think Keith calls this sound “bare” and “stark?”




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 Post subject: Re: Life Question #5 - Stark
PostPosted: Fri Nov 18, 2011 1:29 pm 
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I assume like he says its just the voice and a few instruments no fancy orchestrations or backing vocals.


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 Post subject: Re: Life Question #5 - Stark
PostPosted: Fri Nov 18, 2011 3:38 pm 
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I agree with GG's answer. I also think it had something to do with the qualities of Elvis's voice. That kind of minimal instrumentation could work only if the voice was strong and full of emotion. Perhaps there was a raw quality to Elvis's singing that inspired him as well.


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 Post subject: Re: Life Question #5 - Stark
PostPosted: Fri Nov 18, 2011 4:50 pm 
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It has a strong background musical beat; but the voice carries the song. Reminds me of the Della Reese music from that period.



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 Post subject: Re: Life Question #5 - Stark
PostPosted: Fri Nov 18, 2011 5:21 pm 
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My disadvantage here is I remember hearing the song first at about 6 or so years old, when I didn't have any musical sense, no way to organize something heard as completely different or new. My early songs were stuff like " Flying Purple People Eater" which was decidedly more fun to shriek with your friends, and then lots of what I call "Italiante" stuff: Volare etc. which I knew was adult, and somehow associated by me with lipstick, high heels, perfume and babysitters. You go figure.

Elvis, on the other hand, is forever welded to the teenage girl who lived next door and wore one of those poodle skirts and saddle shoes, with her hair in a short ponytail. I don't remember her name but I knew that her adults didn't know exactly what to think of what she was becoming and my adults were glad they didn't have to deal with it. It is funny the vibes kids pick up.



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 Post subject: Re: Life Question #5 - Stark
PostPosted: Fri Nov 18, 2011 6:06 pm 
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nebraska wrote:
I agree with GG's answer. I also think it had something to do with the qualities of Elvis's voice. That kind of minimal instrumentation could work only if the voice was strong and full of emotion. Perhaps there was a raw quality to Elvis's singing that inspired him as well.

Yes, I'd agree with that too raw, strong and full of emotion.


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 Post subject: Re: Life Question #5 - Stark
PostPosted: Fri Nov 18, 2011 7:44 pm 
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Compared to a lot of popular music of the time, which was often heavily orchestrated, Heartbreak Hotel has an enormous amount of "empty space" in it. There just isn't a lot of multi-layered harmony, and each of the musical lines can be easily picked out, because often there's only one thing going on at a time.
Keith later in the book talks about wondering how the Stones could sound like Robert Johnson - he was only one guy, and they were a band - and he comes to the realisation that it is all part of an evolutionary process. All of the great blues guys listened to players like Johnson, and they made that sound their own. I think the starkness he refers to has to do with minimalist authenticity - no cover-up, a kind of "playing without a net", from the heart.


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 Post subject: Re: Life Question #5 - Stark
PostPosted: Fri Nov 18, 2011 11:29 pm 
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Buster, yes, that’s it – empty space (the empty space is the lack of instruments). I was trying to figure out how to express it. So you did it for me. And there is not a lot of guitar or drums, which seems weird to me, since Keith is all about guitar and he seems to be in awe of Charlie Watts.

Firefly, Elvis was before my time. I was one at the time that the song came out. And I didn’t start getting into American Bandstand until I was about 4. Looking back on it now, I’m surprised my parents let me watch it. I think it was maybe mom who did, when dad wasn’t around. And I have just realized that I will wipe out a question if I go any further into this.

But back to Elvis, I never was into him and haven’t really listened very carefully to his songs….until now. In fact, I don’t think I have spent much time analyzing music before. It’s rather fun. And having taken the time to listen to it now I can very much see what Keith is talking about, and I have a better appreciation for it.

And I find it very cool that Elvis was able to strike a chord with so many with his minimalistic recordings.



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 Post subject: Re: Life Question #5 - Stark
PostPosted: Sat Nov 19, 2011 4:14 am 
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Drums are the engine of a band. But it was Scotty Moore that Keith admired most as a guitarist. If you listen though you can make out each individual instrument and actually the most dominate one is the bass not the drums along with the piano with intermitent burst of guitar.
Can't say I've ever been that keen on Elvis, but some of the songs he sang were nice.


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 Post subject: Re: Life Question #5 - Stark
PostPosted: Sat Nov 19, 2011 8:16 am 
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My impression is that while on the surface, this appears a simply constructed song, it's got complexities. At points throughout the melody, one instrument gets the attention. The piano is in the background until a short solo midway through. The guitar comes out strong on chords, as if making a point. The drums don't take center stage at all, just blending in with the other two. All in all, Elvis' voice is what carries the weight. That's not uncommon in music, though. There's no orchestration to make the song more lush. The "silence" in music are rests, so nothing needs to be there. Never really listened to this song that intently before!



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 Post subject: Re: Life Question #5 - Stark
PostPosted: Sat Nov 19, 2011 11:23 am 
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I read a book by Geoff Emerick, who was the primary engineer on many Beatles albums.
He described his childhood in the UK, listening to classical music on the radio. He loves classical music and was able to pick apart all of the instruments and "moments" in the music. He did an internship at EMI at 16 and worked with many classical orchestras. However, when he first started hearing Rock & Roll--Elvis, especially--he had a similar reaction. It was just sooooo different from what he had heard until then. And when the Beatles came in the first few times, he was just mesmerized by their sound.

Now we take all of our choices for granted and don't really pay attention to the subtleties involved. Back then, there was only radio and only a few stations, so when you can hear something different from the norm...it shocks the system...you either love it or hate it. :ok:

If you liked Keith's book, you will probably like this one, too.



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 Post subject: Re: Life Question #5 - Stark
PostPosted: Sat Nov 19, 2011 2:41 pm 
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SnoopyDances wrote:
Now we take all of our choices for granted and don't really pay attention to the subtleties involved. Back then, there was only radio and only a few stations, so when you can hear something different from the norm...it shocks the system...you either love it or hate it. :ok:

I agree. I loved being shocked, in the case of music. Nothing really shocks my system anymore. :-/

I find all of this so fascinating.....because I never looked at music this way before.

Thanks for the book recommendation.



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 Post subject: Re: Life Question #5 - Stark
PostPosted: Sat Nov 19, 2011 7:44 pm 
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Liz wrote:
I agree. I loved being shocked, in the case of music. Nothing really shocks my system anymore. :-/

I find all of this so fascinating.....because I never looked at music this way before.

Thanks for the book recommendation.

:highfive:
I even admit to liking some of Lady Gaga's music. :-O

But you really don't think of all the musical influences that go into the simplest of tunes. Until someone comes along and makes you think of it. :ok:

The other book is very good on music history and the recording industry for the last 40 years.....not quite as much emphasis on drugs and women as Keith. :lol:


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 Post subject: Re: Life Question #5 - Stark
PostPosted: Sat Nov 19, 2011 7:48 pm 
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Snoopy Dances said
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Back then, there was only radio and only a few stations, so when you can hear something different from the norm...it shocks the system...you either love it or hate it.


When I read that, I flashed back to lying in bed in the dark with the radio next to my ear; totally focused on the sound. No wonder I remember all the lyrics!

I am in awe of all of you -- these posts sound like a music theory class -- well done.

I forgot to add that I think that part of what Keith means by that passage is the way Elvis uses his voice, the range, the phrasing, and the richness. He could really sing that without any accompaniment and it would still be compelling. In fact, the later Elvis was ruined by the arrangements -- he was best when he just sang.

edited once


Last edited by stroch on Sat Nov 19, 2011 7:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.


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 Post subject: Re: Life Question #5 - Stark
PostPosted: Sat Nov 19, 2011 7:54 pm 
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I've been wracking my brain over a quote - unfortunately I can't remember it exactly, and I also can't remember who said it (great, huh?), but it was something about "the notes you don't play are as important as the ones you do play"...That's what I think he meant by "stark", at any rate.


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