Category Archives: Tony On: Music

Was the Maroon 5 “Sugar” Music Video Staged or Real?

There’s an old saying that goes “the truth is stranger than fiction.”  In the case of the ever-evolving saga of the story behind Maroon 5’s music video for their song “Sugar,” the lines between truth and fiction seem extremely blurred.

If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the video in question:

As a quick caveat before I dive full-on into this article: I’m not out to bash or “hate on” Maroon 5 or anything like that.  Regardless of whether you like or dislike the band for whatever reason (and the right to your opinion is certainly your own), it’s the story behind this uniquely-styled video that has captured a lot of attention. Continue reading Was the Maroon 5 “Sugar” Music Video Staged or Real?

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5 Songs with Deeper Meaning

With the ever-present and all-encompassing nature of tools like radio stations and online streaming services, listeners have unprecedented access to any and all types of music they could possibly desire.  When planning a wedding, private party, corporate gathering, or any other kind of social event, having a variety of music is key.  But, along with the sound of the songs, there is another important aspect that is often overlooked: the content of the music, specifically what the lyrics of the songs might be saying to the listeners.

Some songs are easy to understand, but lots of music features lyrics that are sung so quickly or take such a back-seat to the overall sound of the song that most folks miss the “real meaning” of the experience entirely.  For every obviously-apparent song like David Allen Coe’s “Take This Job and Shove It” (which I do not recommend playing at corporate functions, for the record), there are a slew of songs whose true meanings aren’t so readily apparent.  In addition to questions about lyrics, many popular songs have back-stories about the how/where/why the songs were written that may not be entirely accurate (but the stories sound good and help to sell copies).  Take, for example, Eric Clapton’s classic ballad “Layla;” while it seems readily apparent that the song was written about a lady in Clapton’s life, it was actually inspired by a classic Persian poem from the 12th Century that Clapton thought would make a good story in song.  I’m sure the mysterious-girl/heartbroken-singer angle sold many more records, though.

In my years of DJ work and music management, I’ve discovered lots of interesting tidbits about many songs that might just surprise you (or at least give you some nuggets of trivia for the next time you’re out at the bar with your friends).  I’ve listed five well-known examples below, and as you’re planning your big event, I recommend that you take the time with songs you might not be familiar with and explore their lyrics and/or back-story in a little greater detail.  By utilizing sites like Lyrics.com and other online resources (as well as consulting directly with your friendly neighborhood DJ), you’ll be able to avoid potential blunders: since approximately 94% of Taylor Swift songs are about break-ups, maybe her songs are not the best picks for your Must-Play list at your wedding, am I right? Continue reading 5 Songs with Deeper Meaning

a-BAND-oned: Blues Traveler

For the first entry into my fancy new column, I’m going to remind you of a great band that has always been one of my favorite groups, and remain so to this day:

BLUES TRAVELER

A rock-jam band formed in New Jersey back in 1987, BT has seen some definite ups and downs in their career. While Blues Traveler is best known among us fans for their improvisational live shows – I’ve been to five of them, and each one is different and amazing – the general public is probably most familiar with the group from their hit singles “But Anyway”, “Run-Around” and “Hook;” the latter two songs came from the same album. BT hit the peak of their mainstream popularity from this disc, their fourth studio album – appropriately-titled Four – released in 1994.

The group’s current lineup includes three of the four original members: founder, lead singer, and insanely talented harmonica player John Popper, guitarist Chan Kinchla, and drummer Brendan Hill. Bassist Tad Kinchla and keyboardist Ben Wilson joined the band following the death of BT’s original bassist, Bobby Sheehan, who passed away in 1999 of a drug overdose in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Sheehan’s death wasn’t the only major obstacle the group had to overcome. Popper’s long-time struggle with obesity also put a damper on the group’s success, and these and other issues compounded to the point where A&M dropped the band from their label in 2002. Fortunately, instead of folding, both Popper and the band took this transition period as an opportunity to start in new directions musically, going largely independent and releasing on smaller experimental labels, while still maintaining their “core sound” that made myself and many other fans fall in love with them in the first place.

Blues Traveler had a great success story from the get-go: in the mid-‘80s, high school mates Popper and Hill formed “garage band” group they called The Establishment, with Hill’s brother on bass and a rotating roster of guitarists. The band produced a few cassette tape demos; in addition to some original songs, their repertoire included upbeat covers of “Gloria” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” The group soon added guitarist and football player Chan Kinchla; although he was a promising athlete, Kinchla decided to commit to playing music instead after a knee injury sidelined him from sports. Popper soon met bassist Sheehan and the two became good friends, with Sheehan becoming the new bass player for newly-christened Blues Band in 1987. The quartet held a basement jam session, later christened “The Black Cat Jam.” which spawned the core grooves for several songs on their first album. A black cat happened to be nearby, and the group took this as a sign and adopted the Black Cat as their iconic mascot figure. The group soon changed their name to Blues Traveler, taking the “Blues” both from their style and from their love of the film “The Blues Brothers,” and the “Traveler” from the name of the primary demon in the film “Ghostbusters,” Gozer the Traveler. As a nerdy sidebar, Gozer was also known in the film as Gozer the Gozerian and Gozer the Destructor, but I don’t think that “Blues Gozerian” or “Blues Destructor” has quite the same ring to it. Well, maybe “Blues Destructor…”

Between 1990 and 2008, BT has produced 14 different albums, including 3 live albums and one album, 2007’s “Cover Yourself,” where the band uniquely decided to do cover versions of their own songs. Their best-known (and sometimes only-known) album is easily 1994’s “Four,” and the disc’s singles “Run-Around” and “Hook” reached #8 and #23 on the Billboard chart, respectively. The album itself reached #8 on the Billboard chart, going 6-times Platinum. Only one other BT album, 1997’s “Straight On till Morning,” went Platinum.

To this day, Blues Traveler continues to tour and perform live shows. BT is also one of the few groups that encourages their fans to record and exchange fan-made productions of their live shows; they only ask that it is a free exchange and that no one attempts to profit from it. You can legally download recordings of Blues Traveler’s live shows at www.archive.org and bt.etree.org. You can view BT’s complete discography here, and you can learn more about the band on their website, www.bluestraveler.com.

I love BT, and I have all of their albums, as well as having seen them live on five different occasions. This is one band that I am proud to say that I have not abandoned!

Currently Listening to: Blues Traveler “Four” (1994)