January 31, 2008

Take Five--Short Live Music Videos

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[Take Five. Every once in a while on Friday, Fire on the Mountain picks a category and lists five cool things in it. It's up to you, dear reader, to add your own in the Comments section. Just click on the word "comments" at the bottom of the piece and you're off to the races.]

The most recent piece I posted here, a week ago on the Killer Coke campaign, I introduced with a pop music video speaking unkindly about drinking Coke. On the whole I don't like music videos much--I prefer to listen to listen to my music unmediated by a set of images somebody else has conjured for me to associate with a tune.

But I still love YouTube, which is where I link the bulk of the tunes I post here at FotM from (in fact, it's much easier to embed videos than simple sound files).

One big fat reason is that YouTube gives us the unprecedented ability to see musicians of the past (and present) in live performance. Those who've come up since the vinyl era have no idea how cool this is. Seeing in this instance does provide a better approximation of being there than even a live album like Sam Cooke Live at the Harlem Square Club or Got Live If You Want It can give.

So here are five short pieces, designed to showcase the unbelievable wealth of great stuff that not so long ago was available to only a handful of fortunate obsessives. It's all live or quasi-live as far as I can tell, all old or really old (ya wanna see Amy Winehouse live, that means you're young enough to know how to do it without me), all really short (2 minutes or less--NB: this means if it doesn't play smoothly the first time around just wait 'til the end and click on replay and it'll play great), and all exciting as hell!

And being as it's me, there'll be a bit of commentary with each one.

Whew. The video says this is from 1960 but I'd swear that's the Duchess on rhythm and I'm pretty sure she didn't replace Lady Bo until 1962. Play it again and turn it up some this time.

Yep, yer lookin' at Woody Guthrie in one of the only two film clips known to exist of him. And yep, that's Sunny Terry and Brownie McGhee backing him up. History, y'all, our history.

And speaking of Woody, here's his greatest acolyte making the big break. This is Dylan on the legendary 1966 European tour with the Hawks (minus Levon Helm), where the culture clash over his "betrayal" of his acoustic, lefty, folk past made every show a battleground. This is here because it made the less than 2 minute cut, but to really get a sense of the historic moment, at YouTube enter "Dylan 1966" and rummage around. This does have that loose grind-y drive that's my favorite thing in rock and roll (and while you're at it, check out live videos of Them in '65 or the Faces or the Dolls or Slade in the early '70s for other variations).

Ruth Brown tears the Apollo apart in the mid-1950s. Check her tambourine.

Guy who posted this says it's field hands from Augusta, GA in 1929. Some amazing stuff in any event. While "Oh, Mary Don't You Weep" dates back to slavery days, it would later become an anthem we sang during the Civil Rights Movement. Guess the message of Pharaoh's army getting drownded always resonates. Note also that the banjo is still used by African Americans, though it is in the process of a transition that will make this most African of stringed instruments into an almost totally white-identified instrument, used in country, folk and polka, a backlash against blackface...

Okay, folks, now it's to you--post or link to great, live music (preferably at least 40 years old) on YouTube that's less than two minutes long. Beware lip-synchers...


Anonymous said...

Yeah, these are great! I've missed Take Five. (Speaking of which, congrats to the whole FotM crew for revitalizing the site.)

If you'll let me break the two-minute rule, I think this is one of the best videos on YouTube, bar none:
Billie Holliday performing "Strange Fruit"

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