It’s obvious that mixing white and black make grey, but mixing “The White Album” (The Beatles) with TheBlack Album (Jay-Z) makes something new and improved. The Grey Album from Danger Mouse is a must for any fan of music.
The Grey Album was basically a highly innovative, highly illegal mix-tape that deconstructed The Beatles’ White Album (technically, it’s called The Beatles LP). Then, Danger Mouse tossed in samples from an a cappella version of The Black Album.
Originally, the mix was only meant to showcase the artist’s abilities, but it came out at the peak of illegal downloading.
Danger Mouse Combines Jay Z With The Beatles
Back in February 2004, the mix was passed out as a 3,000-copy project for tech fans. The creator never intended to make money on the project. So, he didn’t think to ask for permission for use of the material.
However, when a cease and desist letter came in the mail, he knew things have changed. Basically, an illegal album eventually became Entertainment Weekly’s best album of 2004.
What makes the album so great is that it’s a deconstruction and not a mix.
An Illegal Mix Becomes Album Of The Year
“A lot of people just assume I took some Beatles and, you know, threw some Jay-Z on top of it or mixed it up or looped it around, but it’s really a deconstruction. It’s not an easy thing to do,” said Brian Burton, better known as Danger Mouse.
If the studios were to ever mix these two genres, it would feel like a gimmick. But Burton’s passion made it something unique. “If you put Jay-Z on a record with Radiohead, it’s a gimmick. But you can easily put two different actors in the same movie and have it still make sense—if the right director does it,” he said.
At first, some Beatles fans will scowl at the idea of mixing these two genres. However, if you think about Danger Mouse using every musical element from the Beatles to create new patterns, there’s something else there to appreciate.
The loops, patterns, and examples were then combined with Jay-Z’s classic album. At this time in history, everyone else in the music industry was running around in a panic. But Danger Mouse simply put his head down and worked 12-13 hours a day for three weeks to create something fresh.
“It was almost this Andy Warhol moment, where I made a decision to do something artistically without a clear reason as to why, except to show people what I could do,” said Danger Mouse.
Have you ever heard of this album from Danger Mouse?
There are actors who are also musicians (Jack Black/Jeremy Renner) and then there are musicians who are also actors (Jared Leto/Mark Wahlberg). Then there are celebrities that no one had any idea were weekend rock stars.
Sometimes an actor will get to sing in a film, like Heath Ledger in 10 Things I Hate About You, Zooey Deschanel in Elf, or Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future. Then there are actors who simply love music.
Here’s our list of weekend rock stars in Hollywood.
Hugh Laurie Plays Piano When He’s Not House
English actor Hugh Laurie studied at Cambridge before he got into acting professionally. He’s most known for his 8-year stint on House, but he’s also been in films like Tomorrowland, Stuart Little, and Flight of the Phoenix.
When Laurie isn’t treating patients on House, he’s working on his chops at the piano. The actor actually has several albums that have high praise. A few examples include, Let Them Talk, Didn’t It Rain, and Hoggin All The Covers.
Rock Star, Actor, Musician: Ryan Gosling
When he’s not dancing in La La Land or fighting in Drive, actor Ryan Gosling rocks out with his band, Dead Man’s Band. Basically, it’s just Gosling and his friend Zach Shields. Gosling also showcased his ukulele in the film, Blue Valentine, where he also sang.
So far the band has two singles. “In The Room Where You Sleep” is pretty unnerving, but the song “Name in Stone” is pretty solid. It’s hard to picture Gosling’s soft-spoken voice as he sings in more of a deep, dark tone.
Bruce Willis Loves The Harmonica
Actor Bruce Willis is perhaps the most surprising closet rock star. The actor is best known for his super successful Die Hard franchise, but he’s also been in films like Pulp Fiction, Moonlighting, and The Sixth Sense (plus over 100 more).
Fans don’t typically think of the harmonica when they think of John McClane. When he’s not killing bad guys, he’s a singer and harmonica player. In fact, his album The Return of Bruno is still available online.
One fan commented on the album: “Wish I had gotten this one back in the 80’s instead of waiting more than 25 years. Good collection of songs.” Another wrote, “He’s a better actor than singer.”
Russell Crowe Rocks Out With The Guitar
Thanks to his role of Javert in Les Misérables, a few fans already know that Russell Crowe can perform. But, he’s still best known for his acting work on films like Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind, and L.A. Confidential.
But when the Australian isn’t battling in an arena, he works on his music. The actor sings and plays guitar for an Australian rock band called 30 Odd Foot of Grunts (recently changed to Russell Crowe and the Ordinary Fear of God).
Russell Crowe’s bandmate said, “Russell is the most thoughtful writer I’ve ever worked with. No one considers and ponders a lyric, a character, or a context like him. The whole experience has changed what I expect of myself as a lyricist.”
Johnny Depp, Pirates, And Rock Stars
After actor Johnny Depp partnered with director Tim Burton, he started taking on quite unusual roles. His best performances still include Edward Scissorhands, Corpse Bride, Ed Wood, Sleepy Hollow, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
But Depp is also quite the guitarist. He spends his off-time jamming out with his band mates Alice Cooper and musicians formerly with Aerosmith and Guns N’ Roses. Depp is also in the HBO documentary The New Basement Tapes.
Bill Burr, Comedian, And Drummer: Rock Star
Comedian Bill Burr is best known for his stand-up and podcast, but he’s also a drummer and occasional actor. Currently, he’s got a show on Netflix called F is For Family and he’s been on the iconic series, Breaking Bad.
When Burr isn’t acting, writing, or performing, he spends his time drumming. For the comedian, the drumming basically gives him a break and helps him clear his mind. Surprisingly, he also spends some of his time flying helicopters as well.
In fact, before he performed at Madison Square Garden as a comedian, he got friends to join him on stage to perform Motley Crue songs. The practice performance made him more comfortable for the paid gig.
Jason Schwartzman, The Actor Behind Phantom Planet
Before actor Jason Schwartzman partnered with Wes Anderson, he was a drummer for Phantom Planet. The band toured from 1994 until 2003, but their major hit “California” rose to the top as the soundtrack for the series, The O.C.
Schwartzman and Anderson have worked on movies like Rushmore, The Darjeeling Limited, Moonrise Kingdom, and The Grand Budapest Hotel. But, he’s also worked on two HBO series with Jonathan Ames called Blunt Talk and Bored to Death.
Johnny Galecki Partners With Randy Houser
Somehow, TheBig Bang Theory star Johnny Galecki found the time to partner with Randy Houser between shoots. Despite being on a major CBS sitcom and producing two other shows, there’s always time to be a rock star on the weekends.
“Johnny has become one of my dear friends and a lot of times when he gets through taping he’ll just jump on the bus and go ride with me for a few days,” Randy Houser told Taste of Country.
Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon, The Rock Star
Every now and then, actor Kevin Bacon will perform with the Bacon Brothers on the East Coast. The duo are actually performing in New York in February and March of 2018 at the Towne Crier Café and The Beacon Theatre.
When he’s not half of the Bacon brothers, actor Kevin Bacon works on films like Hollow Man, The Woodsman, Sleepers, and Mystic River. But, Bacon’s main role will always be remembered as Ren in Footloose.
Did you know all of these actors were actually weekend rock stars?
Author and Rolling Stone contributor Chuck Klosterman often gets paid for the absurd. A few years ago, he partnered with the Bill Simmons Institute for Randomly Idealized Utopian Statisics (a.k.a. B-SIRIUS) to mathematically calculate rock bands.
Basically, the formula was meant to mirror baseball stats for rock bands. And, instead of hits and errors, the formula would determine things like “visual impact” or “sonic contribution.”
The overall method was discussed in Chuck Klosterman X, but the breakdown is somewhat simple.
Ranked Rock Bands From A Mathematic Formula
At the top, Songwriting is worth 40 points. Then Sonic Contribution (the band’s “sound”) is worth 20 points. Next, Visual Impact is worth 10 points. Plus, Live Performance is worth 10 points. Finally, Attitude is worth 5 points and Intangibles is worth the final 15 points.
Now, the final category is perhaps the most complex, or at least the most debatable. But Klosterman has been paid to write academically about pop culture (mainly music and sports) for years, so he’s got a pretty good of idea of “Intangibles.”
“All bands are ranked on a scale of .01 to 1.0, with the Beatles representing the 1.0 designation,” wrote the author.
The Beatles And Stones Battle For No. 1
The author joked, “These 100 points encompass the totality of every group in every context, regardless of the band’s popularity— the Kinks, Los Lobos, Geggy Tah, Broken Social Scene, and your high school ska band are all built on the same 100-point scale.”
Therefore, the top ten rock bands can be calculated as follows:
1.0: The Beatles .989: The Rolling Stones .98: Led Zeppelin .97: The Jimi Hendrix Experience, the Beach Boys, the Velvet Underground, Pizzicato Five .929: Black Sabbath, CCR .914: Steely Dan, Bad Brains .91: The Replacements, the Smiths .909: The Stooges, the Carpenters .86: Thin Lizzy .825: Pavement, Radiohead, the Grateful Dead, the Police Just shy of the top ten (or so), Klosterman listed bands like R.E.M., Nirvana, ZZ Top, Queen, Fleetwood Mac and Cheap Trick. Again, these can all be argued and well, they should be argued.
At the bottom of the list- in no particular ranking order – Klosterman concluded the worst bands to be The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Green Day, Alabama, Crash Test Dummies, Porno for Pyros, Asia, Incubus, Spoon, and Iron and Wine.
So what do you think of this ranked list of rock bands from Chuck Klosterman?
According to author Chuck Klosterman, the most important date in rock history is August 28, 1964. On that historic date, Bob Dylan met with the Beatles in New York’s Delmonico Hotel. Dylan changed history by getting the Beatles high.
“A lot of people may want to disagree with this assertion,” wrote Klosterman. “But the artistic evidence is hard to ignore: The introduction of marijuana altered the trajectory of the Beatles’ songwriting, reconstructed their consciousness, and prompted them to make the most influential rock albums of all time. ”
In 1964, the Beatles started taking more serious drugs, which enhanced their musical performances for the rest of their careers.
The Day Bob Dylan Met The Beatles
Ironically, no matter how you look at this, it sounds bad. But Klosterman compares marijuana (and whatever else) to “performance-enhancing drugs.” While frowned upon in sports, enhancements are favorable in rock music, especially in the 1960s.
“No one views Rubber Soul or Revolver as ‘less authentic’ than the band’s earlier albums, despite the fact that they would not (and probably could not) have been made by people who weren’t on drugs,” wrote the author.
The author is known for writing about sports and music. In this one article, he managed to do both.
The Double Standard For Musicians
For whatever societal reason, we want for our athletes to be purists but we don’t really mind our musicians (and other creatives) doing whatever it takes to make music. It’s unclear exactly how this got started but it’s likely to do with kids.
Children play sports and play music at an early age, but it’s more clear that they’ll eventually hit a wall. At some point, the growth spurt will stop or the kid won’t be able to hit the curve but music is usually just associated with more and more practice.
Strength is viewed as maximum effort, plus some genes. With music, it’s more of an emotional feeling. Plus, the stereotype is that parents want their kids to one day perform in an orchestra, not a rock bad.
The kids that perform in rock bands are already doing whatever they want to do. Finally, Klosterman’s final point is not that drugs made the Beatles genius but that athletes get an asterisk next to their names for the same advantage.
What do you think of Klosterman’s interpretation of that historic date in rock?
HBO’s next major documentary is going to be Elvis Presley: The Searcher. According to Rolling Stone, the new project will also have a soundtrack available on April 6 from RCA/Legacy Recordings.
Not only will the soundtrack featuring a mixture of Elvis hits and alternative mixes, there will also be a deluxe edition that will feature selections from the documentary’s score. The score comes from Pearl Jam’s guitarist Mike McCready.
The soundtrack will be available for download as well as CD and double vinyl LP.
New Elvis Doc Highlights The King’s Many Muses
According to the Amazon description, “The new multi-part documentary Elvis Presley: The Searcher, directed by Thom Zimny and airing on HBO on April 14, pushes past the larger-than-life image of The King of Rock and Roll, portraying him instead as a man and an artist ‘who wanted to heal, to find that thing that was always felt to be missing, and to do it through the music.’”
The three-CD deluxe box set has an expanded 55-track collection of Elvis hits. Some examples include “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” “That’s All Right,” “Tomorrow Is A Long Time,” and “Trouble/Guitar Man.”
There are also rare outtakes like songs “Suspicious Minds” and “Separate Ways.”
Special Edition Book Comes With Album
Beyond Elvis hits, there are also other renditions of classic songs. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ sing “Wooden Heart” in an R&B style, plus there are country and gospel songs that once inspired the King.
As if the album isn’t enough, there’s also a 40-page hardcover book full of rare photographs, liner notes from Warren Zanes, and even a dedication from the documentary’s director, Thom Zimny (known for Bruce Springsteen concerts).
Zimny told Rolling Stone, “From day one I had a soundtrack in mind; one that would cover Elvis in a new way and go deep into the vault. Thanks to the help of Sony Legacy and the efforts of Ernst Jorgensen, I was able to pore over thousands of recordings and Elvis Presley outtakes.”
The director also made sure to pay tribute to those who influenced the artist. This, he could incorporate their music to the sonic landscape that made Elvis the King.
Have you pre-ordered your copy of The Searcher soundtrack?
One thing many people don’t know is the “how” behind Bob Dylan’s songs. Well, when Dylan accepted an award from MusiCares, he revealed how he created his biggest hits.
“…They didn’t get here by themselves,” he said. “It’s been a long road and it’s taken a lot of doing.”
He likened his songs to a great mystery or Shakespeare’s plays.
“These songs didn’t come out of thin air,” he said. “I didn’t just make them up out of whole cloth. …It all came out of traditional music: traditional folk music, traditional rock ‘n’ roll and traditional big-band swing orchestra music.”
He goes one step further and said he wrote songs, taking directly from those traditional songs. Some might call what Dylan did plagiarism, like Joni Mitchell.
According to Dylan, those old songs were basically his teacher.
“I learned lyrics and how to write them from listening to folk songs,” he said. “And I played them, and I met other people that played them back when nobody was doing it. Sang nothing but these folk songs, and they gave me the code for everything that’s fair game, that everything belongs to everyone.”
He listened to only folk standards for a period of a few years. He let them invade every part of himself.
“I went to sleep singing folk songs,” he said. “I sang them everywhere, clubs, parties, bars, coffeehouses, fields, festivals — I could learn one song and sing it next in an hour if I’d heard it just once.”
He said traditional folk songs inspired the songs he wrote. His music and traditional folk music are blood brothers.
“All these songs are connected,” he said. “Don’t be fooled. I just opened up a different door in a different kind of way. It’s just different, saying the same thing. I didn’t think it was anything out of the ordinary.”
It may have seem ordinary at the time, but his songs ended up standing out among all the other music of his time and future generations.
“The first drugs I ever took, I was still at art school, with the group,” he says in Anthology. “We all took it together– was Benzedrine from the inside of an inhaler.”
It was all thanks to a poet named Royston Ellis, who was friends with the band. They even supported him during one of his coffee shop poetry nights.
According to George Harrison, Ellis was the one who figured out how to get high from an inhaler.
“Ellis had discovered that if you open a Vick’s inhaler you find Benzedrine in it, impregnated into the cardboard divide,” Harrison said.
They figured out that chewing up that cardboard strip (aka “a spitball”) would give them a euphoric high.
So what happened when The Beatles tried this for the first time?
“Everybody thought, ‘Wow! What’s this?'” Lennon recalled. “And talked their mouths off for a night.”
Years later, Paul McCartney tried Benzedrine again while living with the family of his then girlfriend, Jane Asher. This time, Asher’s father, Dr. Richard Asher, told McCartney how you could extract the drug from an inhaler.
As Barry Miles writes in his book Many Years From Now, Dr. Asher “loved to shock his family.” One time he wrote a prescription for McCartney for a nasal inhaler and showed him how to use it.
“You take off the top and place it on your little finger, like so,” Dr. Asher told McCartney. “Then you take a sniff with each nostril as per normal; then, after you’ve finished with it, you can unscrew the bottom and eat the Benzedrine.”
Hey, those are the doctor’s orders. What was McCartney supposed to do?
“We learned about that stuff up in Liverpool but hearing it coming from him was quite strange,” McCartney said later.
Bob Dylan says there are two songs people ignore but that he thinks are some of his best work.
Critics and fans alike don’t think Bob Dylan’s gospel era was that great. But he begs to differ. One guy helped him write one of his best songs from that time.
On one of his gospel albums, Saved, there are two songs that Dylan singles out as underrated– “In The Garden” and “Brownsville Girl,” an 11-minute song that he wrote with a man named Sam Shephard. The late Shephard was a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and playwright.
If you’re a hardcore Dylan fan, you already know “Brownsville Girl,” and you probably agree with Dylan that it’s one of his better ones despite the lack of attention. Unfortunately, it appears on an album that most people consider his worst.
But that one song, it stands out.
Throughout the 17 verses of the song, both writers express their worries about the creative process, like in the lyric “If there’s an original thought out there, I could use it right now.” They also spout proverb-like lyrics for the listener to chew on (“Strange how people who suffer together/Have stronger connections than people who are most content”).
By the end of the song, you realize you’ve just listened to a conversation between two creatively minded men.
“Working with Dylan is not like working with anybody else,” Shepard told the Village Voice in 2004. “With Dylan, you’re continuing on this hunt for what he’s after, who he is, this continual mystery about his identity.”
And Shephard followed Dylan along in this journey.
During Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue tour, Shephard brought his pen, paper, and camera and created The Rolling Thunder Logbook, a book about the whole experience. In the book, he talks about Dylan as a mystery.
“If a mystery is solved, the case is dropped,” Shephard writes. “In this case, in the case of Dylan, the mystery is never solved, so the case keeps on. It keeps coming up again. Over and over the years. Who is this character anyway?”
Who knew this experience would lead to co-writing one of Dylan’s best songs?
What? A ban on rock music, you say? Yes, it’s true. Here’s the backstory.
Following the Cuban revolution, Fidel Castro banned rock music. It wasn’t on Cuban state-own TV and it wasn’t on the radio. Even Cubans who wore long hair like The Beatles or The Stones or wore beards faced harassment from the authorities.
And at The Stones’ concert– which was free to attend, mostly because Cubans earn about $20 per month in wages– Mick Jagger was not afraid to point out their anti-rock past.
“Years ago it was difficult to hear our music but here we are,” he said to the crowd in Spanish. “The times are changing.”
After the United States and Cuba announced in 2014 that they would be repairing their broken relationship, the work began to lift the Rock n’ Roll ban.
And it all culminated in The Stones playing a raucous set, including “Paint it Black,” “Sympathy for the Devil,” and “Brown Sugar.” Instead of blowing up balloons, the audience inflated condoms, which they bounced around in the air.
Ernesto Estevez, an English teacher who lives across the street from the field where the concert happened, remembered how then President Barack Obama made a historic visit to Cuba the same week of the record-breaking concert.
“I never would have guessed both things would have happened the same week,” he said. “But it has happened,” he said. “Which means anything can happen.”
Check out their performance of “Brown Sugar” during that concert:
If you’re going to cover a Beatles song, you’ve got to nail it. Did a young rocker do that with his version?
Blues rocker Gary Clark Jr. was commissioned to cover The Beatles’ “Come Together” for the Justice League soundtrack. And it’s a bad-butt, big-drums, nasty-good version.
The Austin, Texas musician is skyrocketing to fame, thanks to his passionate soul-filled vocals and his sick guitar playing. Rolling Stone calls him “The Chosen One,” and many big names praise him for his skills.
Legendary guitarist Eric Clapton said Clark rejuvenated his love of playing guitar.
“I wrote him a letter,” Clapton said, “Saying, ‘Thank you– you make me want to play again.'”
Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones, whom Clark has played with numerous times, said he’s a great mix if blues and rock.
“He’s billed as a kind of blues singer, but sometimes he sounds like early Bruce Springsteen,” Jagger said. “And I’m not putting it down!”
But Clark doesn’t see himself that way.
“There is pressure,” he told Rolling Stone. “Coming from Austin, there are so many guitar players there. And here I am playing the Garden. It still doesn’t feel fair.”
Although he doesn’t see himself as the next guitar hero, he loves him some superheros.
“Batman is my favorite superhero of all time,” Clark said. “My mother had this black robe that I thought would be amazing for a cape. I ran around my neighborhood telling everybody I was Batman. Jump off my roof holding the cape thinking that I would fly and then just hit the ground.”
And he showed us his super powers in his rendition of “Come Together.” Take a listen below…