Thursday, March 16, 2006

Miles Davis, Dark Prince of Rock

Bud Parr on Miles Davis' induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame:
It took me a while to warm up to Davis's electric music, but “Bitches Brew” is worth letting your ears forget what they thought jazz was supposed to sound like .... But it would seem that “Bitches Brew” is the sort of thing that gives the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame the license to call Davis a “rock star"
I'd also read Ben Ratliff's ok New York Times piece on Davis, in which he asserts:
You could call his albums "Bitches Brew" and "Live-Evil" rock by extension — especially in this context, because [James] Brown, the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Sly and the Family Stone have already been inducted into the hall. And the album "A Tribute to Jack Johnson" from 1970 even more so.
And says:
But if he wanted more of his music to sound like rock, he meant its sound: the volume, the riff, the electric guitar and bass, the back beat.
It's not clear what this means. If it "sounds like" rock, then presumably it is rock.

I find this, from the Hall of Fame's site itself (and quoted by Bud) bizarre:
His induction as a performer into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a subtler and less obvious matter. Davis never played rock or rhythm & blues, though he experimented with funk grooves on 1972’s On the Corner and in some of his later bands.

I'm listening to Tribute to Jack Johnson right now. Guys, it fucking rocks. This insistence that his early 70s music was not rock seems more than little weird to me. It's easy to criticize jazz purists for not getting it, that Miles' electric music is just as valid as his wonderful acoustic music. In the same sense, we need to expand our definition of rock. I mean, are we now saying that funk is not rock? Funk is most assuredly rock. And if nothing else these early 70s records are a seriously hard, dark funk, a point, indeed, that everyone seems to agree on. Also, no, he was not inducted as an "influence", as the Hall blurb points out, nevertheless this period has been a major influence on all kinds of out rock and other sub-genres since. (Incidentally, about 18-20 minutes into the first track on Jack Johnson, "Right Off", begins a stretch that reminds me a lot of Faust. Specifically "No Harm" from So Far. I submit that "Krautrock" is also still rock. Not that Faust is going to be inducted to the esteemed Hall any time soon.)

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is pretty silly, for a variety of reasons. But, I think there's no question that these Miles Davis records are rock.

See also Julian Cope, from 2001, on the electric period (specifically the excellent Get Up With It, Dark Magus, Agartha, and Pangaea records).

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