Tag Archives: U2

Rocks In The Attic #587: ZZ Top – ‘ZZ Top’s Worldwide Texas Tour’ (1976)

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I saw this record posted in the fabulous Facebook group On The Turntable Right Now last year sometime. And if there’s something I don’t like, it’s finding out that there’s a classic-era ZZ Top album that I don’t own. Laptop. Discogs. Wait. Postman. Open. Needle. Done.

ZZ Top’s Worldwide Texas Tour is a promo-only radio sampler from 1976, designed to promote the band’s world tour in support of 1975’s Fandango! The tour would last through 1976 into 1977, with 1977’s Tejas recorded during breaks in the schedule.

RITA#587aAs a record, it’s the very first ZZ Top compilation and a forerunner to the band’s first official compilation, 1977’s The Best Of ZZ Top. In fact, the tracklisting is virtually identical, with only a couple of changes. Worldwide Texas Tour opts for six songs per side, The Best Of has only five; the extra songs being Precious And Grace and Nasty Dogs And Funky Kings, while The Best Of opts for Francine over Brown Sugar (presumably with the slow blues quota already filled by Blue Jean Blues).

The Worldwide Texas Tour is where ZZ Top’s glitzy image really started. Prior to this tour, the band’s live shows were minimalist operations, concentrating more on the music than anything else. This time around, they wore studded Western suits and toured with a full stage-set including plants, props and a Texan panorama backdrop.

Say what you want about the spectacle of 21st century concert performances, but would you ever see a band like U2 touring with a longhorn steer, a black buffalo, two vultures and two rattlesnakes?

Hit: Tush

Hidden Gem: Heard It On The X

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Rocks In The Attic #558: Foo Fighters – ‘The Colour And The Shape’ (1997)

rita558Foo Fighters’ sophomore album The Colour And The Shape marks the true beginning of the empire of Dave Grohl. The band’s self-titled debut album had been released two years earlier, but that was something else, a solo record of sorts with Grohl playing everything on the record.

Foo Fighters wasn’t even intended as the name of the band when that debut was being recorded. It was just the name of the album, the name of the project – in the same way Grohl has subsequently done with ventures like his metal project Probot. In 1995, Grohl employed a group of musicians – guitarist Pat Smear, formerly of the Germs and the latter days of Nirvana, and bassist Nate Mendel and drummer William Goldsmith, both from the recently defunct Seattle band Sunny Day Real Estate. He called this band the Foo Fighters – why not, that’s what the album was called? – but lived to regret this as bad idea much further down the line. To be fair, it is a terrible name for a band.

The recording of the band’s second album included one unsavoury moment that would prove to characterise the band over the rest of its lifetime. Unhappy with William Goldsmith’s drum tracks for the record, Grohl re-recorded them himself, behind Goldsmith’s back. As a result, the hired drummer understandably quit the band. Here was the thing – the Foo Fighters weren’t a democracy, they were a dictatorship, and Grohl was the man in charge.

As much as I loved the charm of the first record, I found its follow-up to be something else entirely. The songs were bigger, more bloated and Everlong pointed to the radio-friendly path the band would subsequently take. Even worse, I couldn’t even work out who a song like February Stars was aimed at – it was completely at odds with the rock band I thought the band was. This was only three years after Kurt Cobain’s suicide, and the former Nirvana drummer was now recording weak material for album filler. It didn’t help that my roommate at University started to like them around this time, and he really only noticed big, mainstream acts like U2 and R.E.M.

Listening back to the record now, I like it much better than I did back in 1997. Perhaps it’s because that for all its differences to its predecessor, it actually sounds more like that first record than anything the band recorded later. Songs like Hey, Johnny Park! and Monkey Wrench are more in line with the Foo Fighters of 1995 and it’s just a shame there wasn’t more of this kind of material across the album. I tried my best in 1997 to like all of The Colour And The Shape, but for me its weaker points outweighed its strengths.

In fact, by the release of Everlong as a single three months after the album dropped, I had checked out. A band – or more fittingly, a recording – I had invested so much in back in 1995 had turned out to be something else entirely, and I just slowly forgot about them. I kept one eye on them, and was sickened by what seemed like a never-ending cast of musicians came and went – Goldsmith was replaced by Taylor Hawkins, formerly of Alanis Morissette’s touring band, and Pat Smear left to be replaced on guitar by Frank Stahl, who ended up being fired by Grohl before they recorded third album There Is Nothing Left To Lose. A stable line-up only came when Chris Shiflett joined as the band’s guitarist after that record was in the can. Pat Smear seems to come and go as he pleases, but generally the band’s line-up has stayed the same in the 21st century.

In 2011’s Foo Fighters: Back And Forth documentary, Grohl reasons that all bands go through firings and difficult line-up changes, it’s just that the Foo Fighters did theirs after the band was already established in the public eye. As much as I agree with this, I just wish that initial foursome of Grohl, Smear, Mendel and Goldsmith had survived. There’s a band picture included in the packaging of that debut record, of the four original members looking very happy – maybe I’d still be a fan of the band if this line-up was still intact? My mild OCD seems to think so – I tend to prefer bands with a measure of stability in their line-ups.

Hit: Everlong

Hidden Gem: Hey, Johnny Park!

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Rocks In The Attic #359: U2 – ‘Boy’ (1980)

RITA#359I can easily see how for some people this is their favourite U2 album. It’s the least pretentious, by a long shot and doesn’t come with all the ego that would drown later albums. It’s their purest record, in the sense that it’s just them, as a strange post-punk / new wave band, borne of the 1970s but positioned for the 1980s, punctuated by the Edge’s stabbing guitar lines. Each subsequent album would (arguably) get musically stronger until they were the biggest band in the world from the early ‘90s onwards.

It’s funny how you can still hear the old U2 in the U2 of today. The background vocals on new single The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone) could have been lifted off something like Out Of Control on this, their debut record. So they’re still the same band, just doing everything on a bigger scale these days.

I always put U2 in the same camp as R.E.M – both developed out of weird places, off rock n’ roll’s usually well-beaten path; both bands rose to prominence in the ‘80s to become the biggest bands on their respective sides of the Atlantic in the ‘90s; both bands are four-pieces in the traditional sense of the world – guitarist, bass player, drummer, vocalist; both bands had a slew of albums under their belt before they crossed over into the mainstream; the similarities go on and on.

2014 was a bad year for U2. They tried to be clever by force-feeding their new album, Songs Of Innocence, on the general public via iTunes. Essentially, they spammed the world with something the vast majority of people didn’t want or need. The weird thing is that even though they gave it away for free, people still bought it. When it released properly, it hit #1 in all the charts. Presumably all the digital luddites who didn’t have iTunes rushed out to buy it, to see what all the fuss was about.

Tragedy almost struck a few weeks later when the door of the private jet Bono was flying in, flew open in mid-air. He then had a cycling accident, fracturing his eye socket, his shoulder blade, his upper arm, and his little finger (cue joke about him riding on the pavement, too close to the Edge).

Karma’s a bitch.

Hit: I Will Follow

Hidden Gem: Out Of Control

Rocks In The Attic #257: U2 – ‘The Joshua Tree’ (1987)

RITA#257I’ll always prefer The Unforgettable Fire (and War, for that matter), but this is the album that turned U2 into a household name, with the band’s obsession with America finally paying off. I wouldn’t say that U2 broke America with talent and hard work – it feels more like they got lucky with their sycophantic pandering to the country. Whenever I see Bono or The Edge in a cowboy hat, a little part of me wants to vomit.

I don’t enjoy U2 after this album. Right from the self-indulgence of Rattle And Hum, they’ve gone from bad to worse, and only now over their last couple of albums have they seemed to realise what a group or earnest cunts they turned into in the 1990s.

The Joshua Tree is very much their high-water mark. Where The Streets Have No Name specifically is a flash of brilliance they’ve never been able to replicate – and only a few of their singles since have come anywhere close. I’ve seen U2 twice now – once in Manchester and once in Auckland. They’re a great band live, but I have to admit I always switch off whenever they play anything post-Achtung Baby.

One Tree Hill will always mean something special to New Zealanders – it’s a tribute to Bono’s PA, a New Zealander, who died in a motorcycle accident in Dublin. When I last saw the band play in Auckland, they played One Tree Hill, dedicating it not only to Greg Carroll and his family, but also to the victims of the recent Pike River mining accident. Earlier in the night, support act Jay Z had also dedicated a song to the Pike River miners but – in an act typical of the infantile and limited world view of rap – diluted the gesture by also dedicating the song to “Biggie and Tupac”.

Hit: Where The Streets Have No Name

Hidden Gem: One Tree Hill