Robert Johnson: The man who sold his soul to the Devil

Robert Johnson: The man who sold his soul to the Devil

One of the greatest Blues musicians to walk the face of this earth, he was a true pioneer, but we know very little of the King of the Delta Blues, Robert Johnson. His death remains a mystery and his songs such as, ‘Me And The Devil Blues’ feel eerie in their lyrical essence, making us question whether Johnson truly sold his soul to the Devil.

Robert Johnson was born in Mississippi on May 8th, 1911, and some recall he was relatively well educated, considering his background. He often moved between cities and performed his music to crowds, but he never achieved much fame, most of it was achieved posthumously. As far as we know, Johnson could’ve been a ladies man with his apparent charismatic charm, which could justify his death. Some have claimed that he could’ve been poisoned by a jealous husband/boyfriend of a woman that he had flirted with earlier, others believe that he could’ve died of syphilis.

robert-johnson-top-10-songs

There may be certain things we will never know about this young man that suddenly died only at the age of 27. But there is a theory, which is that Robert Johnson sold his soul to the Devil. His music certainly does make us lean towards this theory, although we can only lean on to it to a limited extent, because they are just lyrics after all. The myth goes that Johnson was so determined to become a successful Blues musician, that he took his guitar to a crossroads near Dockery Plantation at midnight. At these crossroads he met a big black man (the Devil) who tuned the guitar and played a couple of songs on it before he gave it back to Robert Johnson.

In the song ‘Me And The Devil Blues’ he says:

“And I said hello Satan

I believe it’s time to go.”

There is a lot of space for interpretation here, and he might’ve not literally sold his soul to the Devil as some might like to believe. Blues historians have argued that perhaps he was referring to himself as the child of Satan, since he was a Blues musicians and the Blues were the work of the Devil. Others have argued that this was due to his roots as an African- American, where ‘selling’ your soul to the Devil, was actually making some sort of pact with trickster African God Legba, who just like the Devil is also associated with crossroads. The fact that Johnson mastered the guitar in such a short amount of time with scarce resources to do so, indicates us towards this theory, however, it is a weak one.

“Me and the Devil 

Was walkin’ side by side” 

Perhaps the most believable theory that I stand by (although the theory of him literally selling his soul to the Devil sounds the most interesting) is the fact that when he mentions the ‘Devil’ he is actually talking about white people. Evidently there was racial segregation in the 1930s, and Johnson would not be allowed to directly say that he doesn’t like white people, therefore they were the ‘Devil’. It makes the most sense to go with this theory.In fact, it is probably safe to say that the reason he didn’t reach much fame during his lifetime was because he was black.

We will never know the true circumstances regarding Robert Johnson’s sudden death. Could it have been poison? Syphilis? Legba? Or… the Devil himself coming to claim Johnson and send him for an eternity to the promised land, Hell?

“It must-a be that old evil spirit

So deep down in the ground

You may bury my body

Down by the highway side

Baby, I don’t care where you bury my body

when I’m dead and gone”

Advertisements

What it’s like being an all-girl punk band in conservative Spain

Up until the year 1975 Spain was ruled by Fascist dictator, Franco. This transition period that soon followed was coined as La Movida in Madrid, and it resembled the British new wave with its outrageous aesthetic that made you think of the New Romantics in the U.K. This was a time of freedom, rebellion, and most of all, loads of punk rock! Meanwhile La Movida was happening in Madrid, the Basques started their own thing, and it was more hardcore than the stuff they were doing in Madrid.

Within the arrival of punk as a definitive form of expression for the youth, we had the first all-girl punk bands emerging. Of course, you were already bound to get into trouble as a punk, because Spain still had a conservative mentality and continued to mourn Franco’s death. Bands like Eskorbuto, La Polla Records, and Cicatriz grew in popularity. Eskorbuto were certainly one of the most controversial, as they sang songs such as the legendary ‘Ya no quedan más cojones, Eskorbuto a las elecciones’, which translates to, ‘there’s no more balls, Eskorbuto to the elections’ (a very rough translation). That song literally criticised the Spanish government and how it has no balls, stating that Eskorbuto should run for president instead, because they’d make some changes for sure. Despite its sexist connotations (one of the lyrics in the song basically says that he’d like to find a female cop and “fuck” her all the time- using it as a metaphor to go against the hand of authority, but in my opinion it’s an unnecessary metaphor), it’s a brilliant song, but there was a lot of political trouble that soon followed the band due to this song and a couple of other ones. With these dominating male punk bands that were getting crowds super hyped up and ready for anarchy, it was a tough panorama if you were an all-girl punk band.

In the summer of 1982 Las Vulpess formed, and they were bound to shock Spain out of its misogyny and conservative politics. Hailing from Barakaldo in the Basque Country, they roared onto the TV programme Caja De Ritmos with their ‘Me Gusta Ser Una Zorra’ (Which translates to: I like to be a bitch/whore/slut). The song was a cover of The Stooges’ ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’, and they pulled it off spectacularly. As you would expect, there was a huge uproar following their performance, which actually lead to a court case. Their short but sweet career really made a jolt of a start since then. They released ‘Me Gusta Ser Una Zorra’ straight after that scandal. In the documentary Rock Radikal Vasco: La Gran Martxa de Los 80 one of the girls from Las Vulpess recalls their experience in gigs and touring. She recalls how people used to call them ‘whores’, ‘bitches’,’sluts’, and even spit at them. It got to the point where they couldn’t bring their partners to their gigs because they couldn’t stand seeing them being treated in that manner and lack of respect. Some would say they were asking for it by releasing such ‘outrageous’ songs, but I think they weren’t asking for it, they were just expressing themselves as young women, and as human beings. They had the ‘cojones’ to actually tell everyone what they really thought, and I find that aspect most inspiring. If it weren’t for girl bands such as Las Vulpess (who in hindsight remind me a bit of L7, another band I completely worship) I think I’d still be in my shell and continue being that shy girl I used to be when I was younger. I’m glad I discovered these Riot Grrrls, and I’m happy to be one too.

Here is the ‘outrageous’ performance from 1983.

Sadly they only have one album out there, but it’s a memorable one for sure. Their fierce approach to the lyrics is something that is worth admiring, even to this day, they were really ahead of their time, and extremely underrated.

Have a listen to the whole album over here:

 

Album Review: The Getaway – Red Hot Chili Peppers

Red Hot Chili Pepper’s career has been extremely long and successful, so when this album was released there was the clear assumption that it’d be another great album. However, this time things are different. The band is no longer working with their long-time producer Rick Rubin who produced the band’s largely successful 1991 album ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magik’, on this album they’re working with Danger Mouse instead. So this is certainly an album that take Red Hot Chili Peppers outside of their comfort zone, both in a positive and negative manner.

It’s a really different album from what you’d expect from them, it’s more mature and lacks a lot of the punk side that the band tends to show in balance to their funkier side. As a major fan of their albums ‘Mother’s Milk’, ‘The Uplift Mofo Party Plan’, ‘What Hits?!’, and the legendary ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magik’ release, I was expecting the craziness that the band tends to depict in their music, it’s what makes them so cool. Instead, in this album I feel them ageing. Although in some respects that may be a positive thing, one side of me just wants that late 80s-early-90s RHCPs era back again! Putting all of that aside, I still believe this is a good album that grows on you with its charisma and eagerness to be heard on the radio.

Album Review: Knock ‘Em Out… With A Metal Fist! – Elm Street

People complain where all the good music is. Some people believe that the 1990s/1980s were the last squeeze of talent into the juice box. Those are the same people that most likely spend their days pointing out just how ridiculous musicians have become. Those people better think again, because we’ve got something real good in our hands blossoming.

Elm Street have been around ever since 2003, with just two studio albums released. This recent album is pure fresh air in today’s heavy metal genre. We are able to hear all the good influences such as Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Megadeth, and so on, without any signs of them ripping those legends off. A new dawning of good music is among us, and we must celebrate with this Elm Street album that is bound to knock you out with a metal fist, as the title appropriately points out.

 

David Lynch’s Usage of Music In His Films

David Lynch’s Usage of Music In His Films

*SPOILER ALERT FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN’T WATCHED TWIN PEAKS, LOST HIGHWAY, AND, WILD AT HEART!!*

David Lynch is known for many of his cinematic masterpieces due to his eccentric approach and outlook towards them, which sets him apart from many directors. He is able to play with tension and plot lines like it’s nobody’s business, as I tend to find myself sitting at the edge of my seat after each of his films. Lynch makes use of the small things to communicate his artwork to his viewers, one of those things is the composition and soundtrack that he includes. You might be familiar with a few of his works such as the film Mulholland Drive, Wild At Heart (featuring a young Nicholas Cage), or Lost Highway. Better yet, you might be familiar with his successful early 90’s TV show Twin Peaks that is set to come out later this year with a brand new season (I await in anticipation for the airing of that new season!). Throughout his work Lynch tends to make his selection of music stand out a lot, up to the point where it speaks just as much as the dialogue.The effects of such selections will at times make you feel warm and fuzzy, or just cause the hairs at the back of your neck to stand up.

If you’ve watched the bewildering abstract film Mulholland Drive then you will know what I am talking about. The film follows a lot of ambiguous moments, which are part of the film’s charm. These moments are followed by music that adds layers to the overall atmosphere and tension that Lynch communicates in such a perplexing yet psychologically clear manner after watching the film more than once. An example of this occurrence can be found close to the end of the film where both lovers Betty and Rita find themselves in a ghostly empty cabaret place called ‘Club Silencio’ where a man standing on the stage announces “No hay banda (There is no band)! Yet we hear a band.”. Those lines soon follow an a cappella version of Roy Orbinson’s song ‘Crying’ performed by Rebekah Del Rio renamed ‘Llorando’ as she performs the song in Spanish. There is no doubt that her voice is a burst of power and emotion waiting to cut you in half as you watch on in bewilderment, her voice charms you into complete emotional despair and thrill.

You see a similar mood being set up in the TV show Twin Peaks plenty of times, although not as highly abstract as Mulholland Drive is. You see it in those black and white zig-zagged floor scenes that appear in Agent Dale Cooper’s (Kyle MacLachland) dreams, which feel so abstract yet entirely purposeful as we encounter the late Laura Palmer giving cryptic messages to him as he sets out on the mission to solve her perplexing murder case. During such scenes we tend to find ourselves in an atmosphere that has got very simple jazz café music playing in the background in the most subtle manner, whilst we are confronted with Laura speaking backwards (scaring the living daylights out of viewers) who before she disappears says, “I’ll see you again in 25 years.” soon followed by her screaming in a very possessed manner completely disrupting this atmosphere.

It is such juxtapositions in scenery that battle with our logic as viewers, which actually draw us into the story further. In Mulholland Drive you’ve got the message of ‘Silencio’ (Silence) in what seems to be some type of music club, and in Twin Peaks you’ve got this laid back jazzy atmosphere that seems to be conflicted by morbid things such as murder and diabolical possession, or perhaps insanity. It seems almost like David Lynch as a director is subconsciously playing with our minds, and I quite like that. David has been quoted to say, “Lately I feel films are more and more like music. Music deals with abstractions and like film, it involves time. “, he is very right about that, music is abstract and so is film, so why not embrace those two together? Lynch has got some type of background in jazz and he played the trumpet for four years. This seems to be reflected in his films where he often tends to reside to jazz in order to acquire that feeling of disturbance along with the contrasts of lightness that jazz has to offer to its listeners. In his 1990 film Wild At Heart, Lynch still pulls in an amount of bluesy-jazz composition although there is a symbolic amount of speed metal involved in this film due to the nature of the characters present. The plot deals with a young juvenile couple running away together from an insane and over-protective mother. The most notable thing in this film is the way in which David Lynch captures these youths through the correct dosage of jazz and speed metal. You’ve got to love that one scene where Lulu is on the verge of a panic attack as she is driving with her boyfriend, Sailor, whilst she flickers through every radio station she can find. After not finding any radio station with any of the music she likes, she stops the car, runs out and bursts into a panic attack demanding Sailor to put some music on. He then puts on Powermad’s ‘Slaughterhouse’, a song that appears to be the couple’s theme song since you tend to hear it quite often throughout the film with its clear connection to the couple who’s reaction towards that heavy metal power-driven track is to burst into insane non-stop dancing and head banging.

 

That’s just a glimpse into the eccentricity of Lynch’s choice of music. Although, a lot of good things seem to come out of his dynamic relationship with film composition artist Angelo Badalamenti who’s work appears in Mulholland Drive, Wild At Heart, Lost Highway and Twin Peaks (he even won a Grammy for best instrumental performance for the theme song of Twin Peaks). Without Badalamenti Lynch’s film soundtracks and scores would not be the same, he provides the right amount of eeriness and glam into each of Lynch’s masterpieces. They are a couple made in heaven!

Lynch and Badalamenti’s dynamic partnership shines extremely well on the soundtrack for Lost Highway. There is so much to appreciate in this film, from the scene where Pete Dayton comes across platinum blonde beauty Alice Wakefield (Patricia Arquette), which is captured in its most electrifying manner through a Lou Reed song ‘This Magic Moment’, to the scene where Pete finds a bizarre porno film of Alice, playing in the living room as he breaks into Andy’s house to run away with his love, Alice, suitably a Rammstein song ‘Heirate Mich’ can be heard, and when Pete shoves Andy into the edge of his coffee table and he soon gets a nosebleed and searches for some place to go and get it cleaned up,  Rammstein’s song ‘Rammstein’ makes an appearance. Pete finds himself in this nightmare situation where he hallucinates a diabolical version of Alice in the bathroom having sex with another guy. Not only does the heavy metal Rammstein music play a huge symbolical role in the distressed and disturbed mind of Pete who has just morbidly murdered a man who at this point is most likely a pimp and he’s running away with a woman who’s actually a pretty freaky porn star, but it also captures the cold-blood that runs throughout the film, and specifically in this scene. Of course, even this scene doesn’t do the film justice in terms of musical influences. We’ve got a bit of David Bowie’s velvet voice at the very beginning of the film with his song ‘I’m Deranged’, which feels so cold, pretty much preparing us for what is about to come our way with this thrilling and psychologically disturbing film. Let’s not forget Marilyn Manson’s contribution to the soundtrack as well, with both his song ‘Apple of Sodom’ and ‘I Put A Spell On You’ being featured in the film at very crucial points. He even makes an appearance on the mildly disturbing porno film staring Alice that we discover with Pete in the living room of Andy’s huge mansion. Although, there’s a heavy presence of such artists who in their own manner are perplexing and abstract through their own music, there’s still jazz scores involved in the film, and that’s very ‘Lynchian’. The sound of jazz appears to be the mediator between this heavily abstract dream-like appearance that the film provides us with and the reality of it all. What does the film mean? Is it all just a dream…? You tell me.

 

It’s clear that the music present in Lynch’s work is simply a getaway into his elusive dream-like world that we get to experience throughout his work. It’s also very notable his dynamic partnership with Badalamenti who’s hard work and beautiful creativity we get to experience in a lot of Lynch’s work. The film’s music tends to speak to us in ways that the dialogue would fail to do so, and I think it’s that connection between your consciousness and the music in his film’s that makes the difference. In this manner we are given the opportunity to dive into this world of unsolved self-conflicting mysteries that paint themselves in a philosophical light waiting to enlighten us. What a privilege.

 

Hindsight: Cowboys from Hell- Pantera

Transitioning from the thrashing and big-haired 80s into the grungy and teen angsty 90s was a strain on those who were fans of heavy metal. The 90s amounted to bands such as Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and Alice in Chains, all of which were not heavy, but soon dominated the charts.

Just when we thought heavy metal was going to be buried by grunge, Texas heavy metal band Pantera came along. They brought something fresh to the table, and that was their bouncy riffs. Although their songs at times feel predictable due to their typical verse-chorus formats, which lack guitar solos, we cannot deny the talent that the band had of making their riffs sustain their songs rhythmically. Songs like Cowboys from Hell, Domination, Shattered, The Art of Shredding, are clear representatives of how brilliant and talented this album was, due to their tendency of making this album feel ageless. Despite that it wasn’t their debut album, it certainly felt like the band had reinvented themselves, and so arguably this was their debut into the music industry. After this album the band released their next masterpiece, ‘Vulgar Display of Power’, which features the much acclaimed song ‘A New Level’. It was only the start of Pantera, the COWBOYS FROM HELL!

Check Out Upcoming RAPPER Lilgims

Although hip-hop is not my scene, I tend to make exceptions at times, even if rarely. Earlier this week I came across a dedicated young rapper whose lyrics grasped my attention instantaneously. This young rapper that goes by the name of Lilgims will impress you in his own right. The instrumentals through most tracks on his mixtape ‘Legends Are Made’ provides a good feel towards the lyrics, which I feel are what make this rapper stand out the most. You can see this quality of work in his song ‘Downfall of Society’, which manages to rub the right spot. You can hear sheer determination and dedication towards his music throughout each track, which communicates a clear passion and drive. If you want deeply moving and realistic lyrics then I suggest you take some time to check Lilgim’s Soundcloud and listen to his ‘Legends Are Made’ mixtape.