Seattle Rock Class, October 23…Van Halen?

Posted: October 25, 2012 in The Strangest Tribe: the College Course

Sometimes I can’t believe I’m getting paid to do this…this class is just so much fun. On Tuesdays, as I drive up to the College, I make it a point to listen once again to the current week’s musical selections. This time I played songs by Red Dress, Jack Endino, and the Walkabouts. It continues to strike me…the incredible variety of music that came out of Seattle, all released at around the same time.

We started chatting about Red Dress, a band that combines elements of Captain Beefheart, Frank Zappa, James Brown, the Band, and the avant-garde. I fully expected the class to hate this band, but fortunately I was wrong. They seemed to appreciate the sheer creativity of the music, especially a live performance of “Bob Is A Robot” (or is it “Bob Was A Robot?”…nobody seems to know). Students appreciated the sheer talent of Red Dress…the guitar players on opposite sides of the stage somehow playing together, the dynamic rhythm section, the magnetism and antics of singer Gary Minkler.

Next we moved on to Jack Endino, better known as the “grunge producer.” He also gained some notoriety playing guitar for Skin Yard, but not many folks are familiar with his solo work. We listened the three Endino songs: “Folks, Let’s Nebulate,” “Flight of the Wax Tadpole,” and “Count Me Out.” I purposely didn’t tell the students about the instrumental nature of the first two selections…that kind of threw people for a loop. They found themselves waiting for vocals, vocals that would never happen. Students appreciated the loud/soft dynamic of “Folks,” and I mentioned that I thought “Tadpole” begins like the Who and then ventures into classic country/hoedown. The class also commented on the unusual song titles (including the Red Dress selection “Pterodactyl Teenagers”)…so emblematic of Seattle.

We had three presentations today. Hannah talked about the vibrant Chicago blues scene of the ’40s and ’50s, Nathan about LA hair metal, and Samantha finished with early twentieth-century Dixieland jazz.

Hannah’s interest in the blues became evident as she played selections from Muddy Waters and Sonny Boy Williamson (not sure if it was I or II.)

Nathan laid the basis of hair metal at the feet of Van Halen, a band whose first two records I wore out in high school. In particular, he played “And the Cradle Will Rock,” from the band’s 1980 third effort…and immediately I regressed to high school–especially the refrain “Have you seen junior’s grades?” Made me smile.

I learned quite a bit from Samantha’s presentation. She even explained the various instrumental roles of a typical early jazz band…then played musical selections to illustrate her point.

We ran out of time, so we couldn’t chat about the Walkabouts. We’ll save that for next week, when we open with a Q&A, via Skype, with the Walkabouts’ Carla Torgerson and Michael Wells. Should be a blast.

(The Walkabouts)

  1. Liz says:

    Wish I had a class like this in college!

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