Hard Rock Music Time Machine – 2/23/17: BLACK HISTORY MONTH
Each Thursday, Hard Rock Music Time Machine takes a journey back in time to feature a variety of songs that date back as far as the ’70s.
Whenever possible, it will also contain interviews from featured artists discussing the inspiration and meaning behind their songs. On the last Thursday of each month, we will be doing special themes that feature songs based on specific categories or years.
In addition to appearing on the embedded YouTube playlist below, all songs featured on Hard Rock Music Time Machine can be listened to individually by clicking on the hyper-linked song titles above each review.
ADAM WALDMAN – (Publisher, Hard Rock Daddy)
LIVING COLOUR – “Cult Of Personality” (1988)
In celebration of Black History Month, we are all honoring some of our favorite black hard rock/metal artists.
Back in 1988, when Living Colour burst onto the scene, they had the benefit of being featured on MTV, giving them a much higher profile than most other black hard rock/metal artists (outside of the legendary Jimi Hendrix). The grunge movement and the drastic shift of MTV eventually left the band without the outlet that they had when they debuted with Vivid. A handful of songs from their debut album got attention on MTV, but none made as much of an impact as the in-your-face “Cult Of Personality.”
Like many big hits, this song was written in just one rehearsal session. The instantly recognizable riff was stumbled upon when practicing another song. It would go on to become the band’s biggest hit, winning a Grammy in 1990 for Best Hard Rock Performance.
What separates Living Colour from most other black hard rock/metal artists is that they became a household name as a band made up exclusively of black members. Although songs like “Cult Of Personality” help to expose the band to the masses, it was also their image that helped make them rise above the din during the height of the hair band era.
While most other hard rock musicians were sporting spandex and teased hair, Living Colour had a style all their own. They were truly unique, especially frontman Corey Glover whose multi-color braids mesmerized you as he banged his head. The music was just as bold and powerful. In a genre that is predominantly white, Living Colour made a meaningful, lasting impact that is to be celebrated, particularly during Black History Month.
KING’S X – “Goldilox” (1988)
Back in 1988, I discovered King’s X in a bit of an unusual way. They had just come out with their debut album, Out Of The Silent Planet, and were still unknown. My plan for the summer of ’88 was to do an internship one day a week at Concrete Marketing / Management. Although I would eventually go on to work for the company several years later, that internship lasted for only one day.
The company was in the process of moving offices, so they weren’t sure that they would even be able to give me any guidance during the internship. It was a disappointment, but on the bright side, I was given a parting gift – the chance to raid the promo closet. Back then, retail was strong, and Concrete Marketing was (by far) the best at marketing hard rock and metal, so there was plenty to choose from. I grabbed a number of titles from artists that I already knew, and one that intrigued me because of the album cover artwork – King’s X, Out Of The Silent Planet.
When I dropped the needle on the record, I was blown away. King’s X was unlike anything that I had ever heard before. And though they have put out some incredible albums through the years, their debut still remains my favorite, and “Goldilox” remains one of my favorite songs ever by any artist. As I listened to the album, I had no idea that Doug Pinnick was black. All I knew was that I was instantly drawn to his distinct, soulful delivery that oozed charisma and stood out from all other hard rock music of the time.
When I finally got the chance to see King’s X at the Roseland Ballroom in NYC, my awe of Pinnick continued to grow. Not only was his voice as flawless live as it was on record, but he is also one of the best showman to ever grace the stage. I don’t know exactly how tall Pinnick is, but to say that he is a towering presence is no exaggeration. In a lifetime of going to concerts, it’s hard to pinpoint many specific moments. However, one that still sticks with me to this day is seeing Pinnick take a running start and stage diving into the crowd, eventually landing several rows from the stage.
In my opinion, Pinnick is still one of the most underrated frontman of all-time, and King’s X one of the most underrated bands. It’s hard to think of anyone more deserving to honor on this special Black History Month edition of Hard Rock Music Time Machine.
ANDY CHEUNG – HRD Music Scout
BAD BRAINS – “I Against I” (1986)
Growing up, I was lucky to be part of a music scene where race had no bearing on what we listened to. When we all listened to punk and hardcore, we never paid attention to black musicians or white musicians. We all listened to hardcore because we were angry teens mad at the world, disillusioned, and didn’t want to be part of the norm. Bad Brains was one of the bands we all listened to repeatedly. Whenever an outsider would make a comment like…“oh, I didn’t know they were black,” the response was typically a blank stare or a “yeah, so?”. The band combined jazz fusion, funk, metal and reggae to come up with a unique sound. When they introduced the speed of punk, the political lyrics and PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) into the mix, their music became the sound that hundreds of thousands of punks and hardcore kids grabbed on to. Despite the band’s objection to being called the innovators of hardcore punk, Bad Brains (to me) are THE pioneers of hardcore punk.
GOD FORBID – “Anti-Hero” (2004)
One of the best metalcore/thrash bands to have come out in the late ‘90s was New Jersey’s God Forbid. The band (which had three black members) came out around the same time as the New Wave of American Metal (along with bands such as Lamb of God and Shadow’s Fall). Their sound is loud, heavy and fast with Byron Davis’s death metal/metalcore screams, Corey Pierce’s thunderous drumming and Doc Coyle’s amazing guitar riffage. I was saddened to hear of the band breaking up in 2013, but the sound of God Forbid lives on.
ROB DELL’AQUILA – HRD Music Scout
CROWN OF THORNS (JEAN BEAUVOIR) – “All I Wanna Do” (2008)
Jean Beauvoir is an incredibly talented musician best known for his smooth vocals and masterful bass work, but who can deftly handle almost any instrument in the band. Born in Chicago, and with proud Haitian roots, he’s also a prolific songwriter, producer, and entertainment executive, and the founder and CEO of Voodoo Island Entertainment Group.
Jean got his start in the doo-wop group the Flamingoes, and then playing bass for the Plasmatics in the early ‘80s. He worked for a couple years with Stephen Van Zandt before launching a solo career in the mid-‘80s, catching a big break when his song, “Feel The Heat” was chosen by Sylvester Stallone for the hit movie Cobra.
His music has spanned many genres, but my personal favorite is the hard rock he produces with his band Crown of Thorns. This song comes from their 2008 album, Faith.
SEVENDUST (LAJON WITHERSPOON) – “Thank You” (2015)
Born in Nashville and raised in Atlanta, Lajon Witherspoon has music running through his blood. His dad was a singer in a funk band, and when he took up music himself, Witherspoon started with the soul group Body and Soul. It was while singing with them that he was discovered and recruited by the band that would eventually evolve into Sevendust.
He has had an incredible career as the lead singer of one of the most successful alternative metal bands, putting out eleven hit albums with Sevendust. Boasting one of the most distinctive, soulful voices in metal, he was even ranked by the magazine Hit Parader as one of the top 100 metal vocalists of all time (coming in at # 35).