Archive for protest songs

Great Rock Albums of 1988: Tracy Chapman

Posted in 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on June 8, 2022 by 80smetalman

With music seeming to go into the bubblegum pop of Stock, Aiken and Waterman camp or to heavy metal and even metal was beginning to fragment in 1988, Tracy Chapman’s self titled debut album breathed much needed fresh air into the music scene. She didn’t need all the modern synthesizer gadgets or heavy electric guitar power chords. Just basic instruments, a fantastic singing voice and songs which had great messages and accurately described the times. It was no wonder she shot straight to superstardom.

Some thought a metalhead like myself wasn’t supposed to like Tracy’s music. Furthermore, one woman I dated for a little while was quite surprised that a man would actually like her music. Both philosophies are total rubbish! But just in case, I had a quick look down and all the bits are still there. My counter is what is there about Tracy not to like? Like I said, her music is straight to the point and her fine voice conveys her social observations going on in 1988.

It’s the messages behind her songs which I really like. “Talkin’ Bout a Revolution” is a call for social change. It looks behind the smoke screen which was created by the American media machine and it makes you think. Some think the track, “Across the Lines” was a dig at apartheid in South Africa but it also highlighted the growing racial tensions in America and how nothing there becomes a problem until it hits middle class white suburbia.

Let us not forget the ultra number one hit, “Fast Car.” It’s about two young lovers escaping their sad surroundings and heading for a more promising life in the big city only to find that nothing had really changed and all the man had to offer was his fast car. A really disturbing track is the a cappella “Behind the Wall.” It’s about a woman suffering from domestic abuse but the police don’t seem to bother or can’t do anything because it’s a domestic issue. The lyrics are harrowing.

There is a calypso vibe to “Baby Can I Hold You.” This sounds like a genuine love song but there was no law that every song had to be a social or political commentary. That same vibe continues on with “Mountains O’ Things.” Tracy states she will be dreaming and the laid back rhythm makes this easy to do. On the subject of vibes, I get a Dire Straits one on “She’s Got Her Ticket.” Okay, the song sounds reggae but the lead guitar hooks had me checking the credits to see if Mark Knopfler had played on the song.

She goes back to more political lyrics with “Why?” and that’s another aspect of the album I love. Tracy’s songs stirred up some fear in the establishment. One critic poo-pooed this and “Talkin’ Bout a Revolution” on the grounds that Tracy was too good for left wing altruism. Even the right wing heavy metal hating UK newspaper, “The Sun” came out against her lyrics. Tracy was singing from her heart and what I believe is that then serving president, Ronald Reagan, had spent his entire presidency vilifying the 1960s and here come this black woman singing in the style that made protest music relevant back then. I think the establishment was a little scared.

Ronald Reagan

“For My Lover” is about a young wife trying to provide for her family while her husband is in jail and at the same time, trying to raise the bail money. It’s another moving song commenting about the times and is the climax to the album. The two remaining tracks are easy listening tracks which you can just float away to. A great way to end the album.

Track Listing:

  1. Talkin’ Bout a Revolution
  2. Fast Car
  3. Across the Lines
  4. Behind the Wall
  5. Baby Can I Hold You
  6. Mountain O’ Things
  7. She’s Got Her Ticket
  8. Why?
  9. For Her Lover
  10. If Not Now
  11. For you

Tracy Chapman

Tracy Chapman- vocals, acoustic guitar, rhythm guitar, percussion

Ed Black- steel guitar

Paulinho da Costa- percussion

Denny Fongheiser- drums, percussion

Jack Holder- electric guitar, organ, piano, sitar, dulcimer, dobro

Steve Kaplan- harmonica, keyboards

Larry Klein- bass

David La Flamme- electric violin

Bob Marlette- keyboards

Tracy Chapman not only brought something different to the music scene of 1988, she brought a revolution of her own with her debut album. Once again, we had some simple, no nonsense music which conveyed thought provoking messages which both trendies and metalheads liked. She also paved the way for others, which I will be covering in the next few posts.

Next post: Tanita Tikarim- Ancient Heart

To buy Rock and Roll Children, email me at: tobychainsaw@hotmail.com

To sign the petition to give Bruce Dickinson a knighthood, click the link: https://www.change.org/p/special-honours-committees-for-knighthoods-a-knighthood-for-bruce-dickinson

Original Vs. Cover- Ohio

Posted in Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 24, 2022 by 80smetalman

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

As my normal break in the action between the years and influenced by 2Loud, I thought I would do another “Original Vs. Cover” post. Today, I picked the song “Ohio” originally written by the band Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. The song was written in 1971 in protest to the shooting which took place at Kent State University in Ohio in 1970, which left four students dead.

When CSNY released the song, it was a clear reflection of the anger which was dividing America at the time. The Vietnam War was still going and Americans were dying in what is still considered a very questionable war. This anger is vehemently expressed through the lyrics and the passion of the vocals. The guitar licks augment this making the song’s message even more powerful. Even more than half a century later, those lyrics and the power behind the music give off strong emotions no matter how you feel politically. It’s one song which, for me, has definitely stood the test of time.

Hannah Wicklund in Bristol, England (October 2019)

The cover comes via Hannah Wicklund and the Steppin’ Stones, another 80smetalman discovery I have been plugging on here. Her version of “Ohio” didn’t appear on her album which I gushed over four years ago but when I saw her live in October, 2019, she played it and it was completely mind-blowing. I have always said that Hannah is a great guitarist and she shows it here. To steal a tired phrase from “X Factor,” she totally makes the song her own by simply totally rocking it out.

My Verdict: I’m going to take the easy way out and call it a tie. Which version of “Ohio” I like to listen to depends on my motivation for listening. If I want to chill and be absorbed in the lyrics or be politically motivated, then I will listen to the CSNY original. The lyrics are meant to be thought provoking and they do that to me. However, if I fancy a good rock out with some fantastic blues style guitar work, then I will pull out Hannah’s cover. Not a criticism but I don’t feel the message behind the lyrics in her version but that’s down to the great guitar work. Plus, if what I hear is true and history isn’t being properly taught in America, then she probably wouldn’t have appreciated the message CSNY were sending fifty years earlier.

Next post: TBA

To buy Rock and Roll Children, email me at: tobychainsaw@80smetalman

To sign the petition for a knighthood for Bruce Dickinson, click the link: https://www.change.org/p/special-honours-committees-for-knighthoods-a-knighthood-for-bruce-dickinson