You can’t fault record labels for signing soundalike successful bands from other labels – it happens every year. In the early 1990s, every major label was in Seattle looking for the next Pearl Jam, Soundgarden or Nirvana. So you can’t blame thousands of indie bands sending in their demos to those very same ground-breaking labels like Sub Pop. They were so flooded with demos at that time, the label decided to send out their own rejection letter to the unworthy bands, addressing them as “Losers.” I’m sure more than a few bands were just happy to get a note from the coolest label on the planet at the time.
In 1990, Mr. Rogers wrote an unbelievably adorable letter to a six-year-old fan who had asked to come visit the set. The young boy’s father was so moved by the letter, that he sent one back to let Fred know how his son “was beaming all afternoon the day he received it,” to which Mr. Rogers yet again replied. Why would any of us be surprised by Fred’s polite and beautiful response – he was, after all, one of the world’s greatest human beings.
Check out Four Tet featured in Don’t Watch That TV’s Beat This video series, sampling portions of Michael Jackson’s classic Thriller album to make a beat in just 10 minutes. “10 minutes is not very long to make a track, and I’ve never sampled Thriller, before so go easy on me,” he wrote on Twitter. He doesn’t have to worry – he took a pretty important record and made it even more devastating.
Black Moses is the fifth studio album by Isaac Hayes and a superb double album at that, released on Stax Records’ Enterprise label in 1971. It was the follow-up to his “Shaft” soundtrack, and I remember picking up this record as a kid in my grandfather’s collection. I didn’t care what was on it, but couldn’t take my eyes off the cover and the ability to open it up with gatefolds all around. Once I got home and put it on, the funky sounds just blew my mind, and very few records are as potent and brimming with confidence as this one is. Rob Bowman’s excellent Soulsville, U.S.A.: The Story of Stax Records tells the story of how this iconic cover came to be.
It was Dino Woodward who came up with the “Black Moses” tag. “Dino said, ‘Man, look at these people out there,’” explains Isaac Hayes. “Do you know what you’re bringing into their lives? Look at these guys from Vietnam, man, how they’re crying when they see you, how you helped them through when they was out there in the jungle and they stuck to your music. You like a Moses, man. You just like Black Moses, you the modern-day Moses!”
“Somebody got wind of that and when I opened in Philadelphia at the Spectrum, [in front of] eighteen thousand people, Georgie Woods, who was a local radio personality and a promoter, introduced me that night. He said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I bring to you the Black Moses of the music world—Isaac Hayes,” and the whole place stood, people just screaming and it caught on. A writer for Jet magazine named Chester Higgins did an article on me and he used the term Black Moses, and then [Stax Records’ creative director] Larry Shaw had the savvy to capitalize on it and entitle the album Black Moses.
“I had nothing to do with it. I was kicking and screaming all the way. But when I saw the relevance and effect that it had on people, it wasn’t a negative thing. It was a healing thing, it was an inspiring thing. It raised the level of black consciousness in the states. People were proud to be black. Black men could finally stand up and be men because here’s Black Moses, he’s the epitome of black masculinity. Chains that once represented bondage and slavery can now be a sign of power and strength and sexuality and virility.
Ever since he had come to Stax, Larry Shaw felt that the company had severely lagged behind in its cover art department. The nadir for Shaw was David Porter’s Gritty, Groovy And Gettin’ It LP, released in February 1970, where a naked Porter was pictured with an equally naked female partner from the armpits up.
“To me,” confesses Shaw, “it was just a nasty presentation of an artist humping some chick. The disrespect that the designers of it had for the artist and the music was not necessary. It was their translation of guts. It was not appropriate.
Stax artwork had improved tremendously since Shaw, with help from former Bar-Kay Ron Gordon, took over its direction. With Black Moses he outdid himself, designing what has to be the most elaborate album package for a black artist up to that point. The two records were encased in a regular cover that portrayed Hayes from the neck up, shrouded in a caftan against a backdrop of endless sky. The cover clearly signified the notion of Hayes as Moses in the Middle East. Enveloping the regular cover was a multi-panel graphic that unfolded into a cross shape four feet high and three feet wide. Here was the same image of Hayes as Moses, but now it was a full body shot with the artist at the edge of a large body of water.
Via Soulsville, U.S.A.: The Story of Stax Records by Rob Bowman
A solid 5 minutes of a 21-year-old Dave Letterman and his broadcast from April Fool’s Day 1969 on WAGO-AM, the closed-circuit radio station he helped to found at his future alma mater, Ball State University. Note the woman he calls on the phone in this segment – that’s Michelle Cook, the very first Mrs. Letterman.
Watch Madlib produce a beat from scratch in this exclusive video, shot with ten of Sony’s Music Video Recorders running simultaneously. Armed with a couple of CDJs, mixer, drum kit, and a keyboard/sampler to pull it all together, this is a cool insight to a rare look at a genius at work.