The first episode of MTV Unplugged made its television debut on Sunday, November 26, 1989. The series would eventually feature many classic episodes and recordings, such as four years later with the November 18, 1993 show featuring Nirvana.
But back in 1989, the show had not established a reputation so the performers on the first episode were not superstars. The show featured Squeeze, Syd Straw, Elliot Easton (of the Cars), and Jules Shear.
Below Shear, Straw, Chris Difford, Glenn Tilbrook, and Elliot Easton come together to cover The Monkees during that first show. Check out “I’m a Believer” from the very first episode of MTV Unplugged.
Many credit Paul McCartney with helping make MTV Unplugged a popular show that would attract major artists. During the second season, after his appearance, he released a recording of the show, Unplugged – The Official Bootleg, which went on to be quite successful.
MTV Unplugged aired regularly between 1989 and 1999. The show appeared less frequently during most of the next decade usually called MTV Unplugged No. 2.0.
Since 2009, MTV has occasionally run the show as a special, sometimes in online-only versions. But for those of us who were around during the decade that was the show’s heyday, it was an important cultural touchstone of that time.
What is your favorite episode of MTV Unplugged? Leave your two cents in the comments.
Recently, Sturgill Simpson brought out a horn section for his performance at Paradiso in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Fortunately, rialto1961 did a great job of recording a large portion of the show in black and white before posting it on YouTube.
In this segment of the show from September 26, 2016, Simpson performs a number of originals and covers. The video includes: “Water in a Well,” “Long White Line,” “When the Levee Breaks” (Led Zeppelin cover), “I Never Go Around Mirrors” (Keith Whitley cover), “The Promise” (When in Rome cover), “You Don’t Miss Your Water” (William Bell cover), “Sea Stories,” and “In Bloom: (Nirvana cover).
Check out the video below.
What is your favorite Sturgill Simpson song? Leave your two cents in the comments.
Sturgill Simpson’s upcoming album A Sailor’s Guide To Earth has been receiving positive reviews even before the CD has been released. As he did earlier for When in Rome’s “The Promise,” Simpson once again surprises listeners with a unique cover song, this time covering Nirvana’s “In Bloom” on the new album.
Simpson found inspiration for the album A Sailor’s Guide To Earth from two sources, his grandfather’s letters from the South Pacific during World War II and the birth of Simpson’s own son. While Simpson struggled with watching his own son grow up fast while he was on tour, he turned to creating this album, which Mojo describes in a 4-star review as ruminating “on the transformative powers of parenthood, the weight and ecstasy of love.”
Considering the conceptual context of Simpson’s new album, it may at first appear an odd selection to include a cover of Nirvana’s “In Bloom.’ The song was the fourth and final single from the band’s 1991 album Nevermind (1991) and was the band’s message to those who did not understand their music: “And he likes to sing along / And he likes to shoot his gun / But he knows not what it means.”
But in the context of the album, “In Bloom” does seem to fit as part of a parent’s message to a child as perhaps a warning against ignorance. Similarly, Simpson closes the album with “Call to Arms,” a diatribe against authority and in particular the military. “Bullshit on the TV/ Bullshit on the radio/ Hollywood telling me how to be/ Bullshit’s got to go.”
In this context, Simpson takes a great Nirvana song and explores the hidden love behind the song as not so much a message to the ignorant but as a warning to the ones we love. Check it out.
A Sailor’s Guide To Earth hits stores and the Internet on April 15, 2016.
What is your favorite cover of a Nirvana song? Leave your two cents in the comments.
The big story leading up the the 12-12-12 Concert for Sandy Relief last night was the news that Paul McCartney was going to play with the surviving members of Nirvana — Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic and Pat Smear. Although it might have first seemed like an odd pairing, remember that McCartney and the Beatles recorded songs like “Helter Skelter.” Anyway, if you missed the performance, here the group plays a new song, “Cut Me Some Slack.”
In addition to appearing on the concert’s soundtrack, “Cut Me Some Slack” will appear in Grohl’s upcoming film, Sound City Movie.
What do you think of the performance? Leave your two cents in the comments.
Regular readers of Chimesfreedom might be surprised to learn that I did not grow up listening only to the hippest rock music on the planet. As a kid in the 1970s, I listened to a lot of AM radio, which gave me a steady diet of pop songs. For example, in 1974, Bob Dylan went on the road for the first time since 1966 and the Ramones were forming. And, one of the biggest hits of the year was “Seasons in the Sun” by Terry Jacks.
Then again, that year also featured endless radio plays of “Kung Fu Fighting,” “Smokin’ in the Boys Room,” and Olivia Newton-John’s “I Honestly Love You.” Whether I like it or not, these songs and other similar songs from 1974 are all etched in my brain.
“Seasons in the Sun”
In the morbid song “Seasons in the Sun,” the singer is dying for an unknown reason. He addresses his father, his friend, and Michelle, who is either his lover, his daughter, or younger sister. He expresses his happiness that they had “seasons in the sun.” But he also laments that “the wine and the song like the seasons have all gone.”
Why was the song such a big hit? As I have written elsewhere, songs about dying may subconsciously make us happy in that they remind us to enjoy life. Or, as James Sullivan wrote in an excellent article about the song on Slate, “During those mid-Watergate weeks and months, the whole country seemed eager to wallow in tuneful misery.” Or maybe it was the catchy opening riff.
Origins of “Seasons in the Sun” From “Le Moribond”
“Seasons in the Sun” was a reworking of a French song, “Le Moribond” (“The Dying Man”) by Jacques Brel. In Brel’s version, the singer addresses his wife in the final verse.
Check out Brel’s version and see how the original style of the song is much different than the poppy march-like American version.
Rod McKeuen, the pop poet of the time, wrote the English translation for “Seasons in the Sun.” And Terry Jacks — who was born on March 29, 1944 in Winnipeg, Manitoba — made some modifications.
Jacks then brought the song to The Beach Boys when he was producing one of their sessions. But the band decided not to release their happy-sounding version. So, ultimately, Jacks recorded his version, which became a hit.
Legacy of “Seasons in the Sun”
Here is the point in the article where I admit that I owned the 45 record of “Seasons in the Sun.” But I do not think it ruined my taste in music.
Better men have survived an embrace of the charms of the song. Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain loved the song, and it was the first 45 record he ever bought. It did not seem to hurt his taste in music.
As for Terry Jacks, he never had another big hit like “Seasons in the Sun.” He recorded a few songs that had some success in Canada, the U.K., and the U.S. He went on to be a record producer and work as an environmentalist, and he is still alive.
But apparently it has been a long time since Jacks recorded new music. So “Seasons in the Sun” was largely his season in the sun as far as music success goes. But at least he had one big season.
So as we enter December and will soon welcome a new season later this month, we wish you a good winter. (Speaking of seasons, if you are seeking more depressing songs like “Seasons in the Sun,” check out this post on depressing holiday season songs. And remember, the holiday season is over in less than a month.)
What do you think of “Seasons in the Sun”? Leave your two cents in the comments.