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Smokey Robinson Answers the Question: What is "The Tears of a Clown" Really About?

Wednesday, October 28: 2:07 p.m.
Posted by Smokey Robinson

Smokey Robinson and the Miracles "Tears of a Clown" meaning and history of Motown soul Stevie Wonder

"The Tears of a Clown," which is one of the biggest songs and the biggest records that I have ever been associated with as a record artist.

We used to have social gatherings. We had Christmas parties every Christmas. And like I said, all of the others are Motown were very, very, very close. One of my closest brothers is Stevie Wonder. I love Stevie Wonder, okay. And so Stevie came to me at a Christmas party, he said, "Smoke man, I got this track, man, that I've recorded here."

And he said: "It's a great track… but I can't think of a song to go with this track. … listen to this for me and see if you can come up with a song for it." So I said okay. So I took the track, and I took it home and I listened to it.

And when I first heard the track, the track that he gave me that night was complete. It's the one that's on the record. He had already recorded the track and did the music and all that. And so the first thing I hear is [the main theme] – so that ...

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What Beach Boys Music is Brian Wilson Most Proud Of?

Thursday, June 25: 10:15 a.m.
Posted by Rock Hall

The Beach Boys Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees California Girls 60s

This month, the harrowing story of the deeply troubled life and wildly creative musical mind of Brian Wilson comes to the silver screen, in Love & Mercy. An ambitious undertaking, the film is directed by Bill Pohlad who tidily splits the entire narrative arc into two distinct epochs: the musically fertile period in the 60s that produced Pet Sounds (with Wilson played by Paul Dano) and the fraught psychosis of the 80s-era rebound (with John Cusack as Wilson).

It's a fascinating glimpse into a well-documented life, and the troubled man who gave rise to among the most memorable and celebrated rock and roll of the past 50 years. So musically speaking, what is Brian Wilson most proud of?

The leader of the Boys has cited the opening bars of "California Girls" as his proudest achievement: "['California Girls'] is something I’m very proud of in a sense because it represents the Beach Boys' really greatest record production we’ve ever made."

Released the summer of 1965, the track's intro is stately, almost lethargic, as it blends muted horns and keyboards before slipping into perky-pop song mode. It was also reportedly conceived during among Wilson's first acid trips.

Though ...

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The Unsung Versions of Jimi Hendrix's “Star-Spangled Banner”

Tuesday, March 24: 4:10 p.m.
Posted by Mark Clague

The sheer emotional impact of Jimi Hendrix’s Woodstock rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” sparked my fascination. His squealing guitar effects depicting the incoming descent of bombs that were soon “bursting in air,” grabbed me, especially as intensified on film when Hendrix “lip synched” the resulting cries and screams. His performance makes the abstract so very human. For me Hendrix’s Woodstock anthem of August 18, 1969, remains atop the list of the most powerful performances of Francis Scott Key’s song ever created

Jimi Hendrix "The Star Spangled Banner" rare performances live

Beyond Woodstock: The Other Hendrix "Star-Spangled Banner" Performances 

The Woodstock anthem gets even more interesting when compared with the other 40 or so surviving recordings of Hendrix performing the song. They reveal Hendrix’s artistic as well as political evolution and define the critical and patriotic extremes of his expression to place Woodstock firmly in the middle as a combination of both. Here's a look at five incredible Hendrix versions of "The Star Spangled Banner.' Want more Hendrix? Catch Mark Clague going deep on all-things Hendrix at the Rock Hall's Library and Archives on Wednesday, March 25, 2015!


1. August 16, 1968—Merriweather Post Pavilion (Maryland)

Hendrix first references the anthem melody a year ...

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5 Unbelievable Facts About Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On"

Friday, January 16: 12:18 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall

Marvin Gaye What's Going On Album Cover Art Rock Hall Cleveland

The story of Marvin Gaye, soul, R&B and rock and roll come together in the Rock Hall's Cities and Sounds exhibit. Plan your visit today.

Released in the Spring of 1971, Marvin Gaye's What's Going On was a transformative recording for Gaye and his Motown label. The nearly operatic concept album mused deeply on such issues as Vietnam, drugs, the decline of northern cities, the economy and the environment, all over a free-flowing musical backdrop that drew on jazz, pop and classical forms. Gaye referred to the album as a “gift from God,” and the album’s spiritual dimension found overt expression in his liner notes: “We’ve got to find the Lord. Allow him to influence us. I mean, what other weapons have we to fight the forces of hatred and evil?” With his inimitable voice, he provided nuanced perspective that immediately resonated with audiences – and has so for generations.

"My phone would ring, and it’d Motown wanting me to start working and I’d say, ‘Have you seen the paper today? Have you read about these kids who were killed at Kent State?’ The murders at Kent State made me sick," explained Marvin ...

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Henry Rollins Weighs in on Cleveland's Punk Rock Past

Tuesday, January 13: 4:20 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall

Pere Ubu and David Thomas and Cleveland punk rock history

Recently, former Black Flag frontman, solo artist and writer Henry Rollins shared his top 10 underground songs of all time with Esquire magazine. So what does that have to do with Cleveland's rock history? Turns out, a lot.

DEVO Akron, Ohio, art rock "Whip It" yellow outfits Mark Motherbaugh at Rock HallMid-70s Cleveland was the perfect breeding ground for a band like Pere Ubu. The city had seen better days, and amid the post-industrial bleakness, a group of young creative men formed Pere Ubu. "Ohio was one of the most fertile grounds for what could be called underground music. I could make this list only using bands from this state and do just fine," Rollins said. "David Thomas, Pere Ubu's vocalist and leader of the band to this day, has been making records under the Pere Ubu moniker as well as solo for decades. He is one of my favorite performers, and I see him whenever the opportunity presents itself. The band's early singles are now fairly pricey items... What is true of [the Pere Ubu track] 'Final Solution' is true of this initial batch of Ubu. It is visionary stuff from the schools of rock, what would be called punk, and art, all mixing with time, place, and restless ...

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Who's Next: 2012 inductee Glyn Johns Shares the Incredible Story of The Who's 1971 album

Thursday, November 13: 8 a.m.
Posted by Rock Hall

Below is an excerpt from Glyn Johns' new book, SOUND MAN: A Life Recording Hits with the Rolling Stones, the Who, Led Zeppelin, the Eagles, the Faces... (On sale now, Blue Rider Press).

Who's Next

The previous year, 1970, the Stones had started recording at Mick Jagger’s house out in the country, near Newbury. By this time, the Stones Truck was fully operational and we used the huge entrance hall of the Victorian pile that was Stargroves to record several tracks that were eventually used on Sticky Fingers. I had mentioned to Pete Townshend in conversation that these sessions had gone really well, so he suggested that we go there to start recording Who’s Next.

We began on the first day with “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” Not a bad way to start. With Pete’s permission, I edited the synthesizer track from his original demo, as it was a little too long, and played it in to the band in the studio. They performed live to it with remarkable skill, the synthesizer dictating a constant tempo for every bar of the song, with them staying locked relentlessly to it throughout. Roger Daltrey’s powerful vocal equaled ...

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5 Songs That Define the Sounds of the 1990s

Tuesday, November 11: 3:59 p.m.

Prodigy Firestarter music video singer 90s music

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees Tom Dowd, Berry Gordy Jr., Les Paul, Sam Phillips and Phil Spector represent a 1950s and 1960s "recordist canon," pioneers of maverick recording methodologies responsible for shaping the sound of classic rock and roll. Their work not only forms the underpinning of rock music’s sonic characteristics, but also represents an oft-imitated body of audible stylistic, genre and aesthetic recording principles. Some of their radical, experimental and at times rebellious production techniques – Paul’s "Sound on Sound," Spector’s "Wall of Sound"and Phillips’ "Slap Echo" for example, have informed a continuum of established rock production standards.

However, the 1990s also marked a significant turning point in pop and rock sound recording. At a time when computer-based digital audio workstations (an electronic tool for recording, editing and producing audio files) were fast becoming the norm, many sound recordists of the era either rejected this new direction outright or blended technological and processual precursors into unconventional and individualized working practice. Such reinventions of technological and processual modes of production mirror those of the 1950s and 1960s ‘"recordist canon."

Here are 5 songs that helped define the sounds of the 1990s, and the producers who ...

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Where did Joe DiMaggio go? Paul Simon tells the story of "Mrs. Robinson"

Wednesday, October 29: 2:11 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall

Who was Mrs. Roosevelt and what's her relation to Mrs. Robinson? Where did Joe DiMaggio go? Where does Paul Simon come up with his lyrics?

What is the meaning of the lyrics to "Mrs. Robinson?" Paul Simon explains.

"So goodbye to Mrs. Roosevelt, all along the road down to glory hallelujah," Simon recites from an old handwritten lyric manuscript (pictured) featured in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's new exhibit, Paul Simon: Words and Music. "I don't think of what I do as writing poetry, but the language may have imagery in it."

Watch Hall of Fame Inductee Paul Simon talk about how "Mrs. Roosevelt" became the famous "Mrs. Robinson," the real background to the "Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio" lyric and more:

Opening on October 30, 2014, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland's new exhibit Paul Simon: Words & Music will feature exclusive candid commentary gathered from hours of filmed interview footage that walks the audience through the personal story of Simon’s life and his creative process. This opening marks the Museum’s first-ever exhibit anchored by first-person narration by the artist. In addition to the autobiographical films, there will be videos of select performance highlights from Simon’s ...

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