The Ghost of Rock & Roll Past

“I saw rock and roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen.”

In 1974 music critic Jon Landau made this bold claim.

Well, I’m no Jon Landau nor have I been visited by any Dickensian Ghosts but I do believe I’ve just seen rock and roll past…and it resembles the Yeti…in white.

Matthew E. White

The missing link between Stevie Wonder ’72 & James Murphy ’05

Here’s the song that blew me away when I heard it a few months ago:

Big Love

Part soul man, part funk meister, this anti-hipster from Richmond, Virginia knows how to pay tribute to the greats without ripping them off.

And if White resembles any part of the future of rock and roll circa 2015, I’m in.


For about 10 years between 1997 and 2007 there was no activity I spent more time on than reading about music. But before we go there, a brief history…

I came into pop music consciousness in late 1980, early 1981. I clearly remember listening to John Lennon’s (Just Like) Starting Over climb up Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 shortly after his death.

Kasey Casem

One too many “long distance dedications”

If the warmhearted DJ was also a big part of your youthful weekends, you might enjoy Casey’s little studio meltdown (warning – contains explicit language):  Meltdown

Eventually my love for the iconic countdown waned, but not for music.

I spent countless hours practicing my fall-away jumper to the sounds of the Thompson Twins and The Doors blaring out my bedroom window.

In defense of my 14 year-old self, I recently heard the Twins’ If You Were Here and was amazed by how good it was…but that could very well be a case of nostalgia clouding judgement. Any thoughts?

Music was front and center of everything I did through high school, college and beyond.


What changed around 1997 was the reading part.

Sure I’d picked up the occasional Rolling Stone in high school but it wasn’t until living in Far East Asia in the mid-90’s that I learned to appreciate the written word…

Finding an English book or magazine in Inchon, South Korea in 1995 was like finding high-speed internet in Siberia during a snowstorm.

However it was in a tiny shop close to the DMZ where I picked up an indie sampler CD featuring two artists that would change my life forever.

Jeff Buckley’s Grace would go on to become one of my favorite songs of all-time and Wonderwall, well, more on Oasis later.

A few years after my stint on the Korean border, I landed in the more pop-friendly city of Matsuyama, Japan.

Matsuyama even offered a full-fledged Tower Records where I made regular purchases of CD’s and magazines. The year was 1997 and the Union Jack was everywhere.

Brit Pop

Faster than a cannonball…

It was at this time I picked up a copy of The Beatles newly released Anthology 3 “warts and all” collection.

It should be noted that in addition to the comprehensive BBC Anthology series, the Gallaghers had played a big role in the renewed interest in the lads.

So while buried in Brit Pop at its drug-addled peak I was discovering late-period Beatles, beards and all.

The Beatles

Lennon’s suit look familiar?

It also happened to be the first time in my life I was living alone. I cooked, read, even exercised in the confines of my tiny flat, making for an intense listening experience – every word, every note, every joke intimate.

Here’s one from Paul Ramon, Winston Legthigh and mates circa ’68:  Los Paranoias

The listening had suddenly shifted from dorm room passive to Cracker Jacks box active – a familiar setting from my childhood.

A few years later I’d be living in a new country, no longer alone but with the reading part at full throttle. There was even a point at the dawn of the new millennium when I found myself subscribing to three music magazines at once.

Needless to say, there wasn’t a whole lot of work getting done at the breakfast table. But after years of intense listening I was starting to connect some big dots…

“So before the Stones, Ronnie Wood was with The Faces…and before he was a Face, he and Rod Stewart played with The Jeff Beck Group…and what about that first band that turned into the Faces, those little guys? They were damn good”…and so it went.

Incidentally, the music I love most today was crystallized through all that digging.

As long as I’m alive I’m convinced that pop music will never be better than The Beatles between ’65 – ’69, The Rolling Stones from ’68 to ’72 and a handful of other greats during those same years – many of whom you just might hear in White’s humble musical output.


But rather than take my word for it, let’s play a little game.

It’s called “The Matthew E. White Tribute Challenge”.

Here’s how to play:

  1. Watch video, listen to full song (eyes closed if helpful).
  2. Which artist and song does White’s track remind you of (more than 1 answer possible)?
  3. On a scale from 1 – 10, how do you rate his song/tribute?

Please share your answers with me in the comments below and I’ll let you know if they match mine. Happy listening!


29 thoughts on “The Ghost of Rock & Roll Past

  1. #1 – It is weird that I hear Mungo Jerry as interpreted by Flight of the Conchords? I open my eyes and I see Matisyahu? There is something else in there…Stealer’s Wheel and another song I can’t put my finger on, Earth Wind and Fire or something…the horns and backup singers is resonating somewhere. However, I am highly unqualified to comment on this subject, unable to connect dots in music history and not steeped in Lester Bangsian literature. Fun game though! Will get to #2 and 3 soon

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nice call Tony on the Mungo Jerry and the Stealer’s Wheel – wasn’t my choice but I hear them both now! How bout that Earth, Wind & Fire?

      Charles Jefferson: “Hey you got those Earth, Wind and Fire tickets? I’m taking my little brother you know…”

      Mike Damone: “Is that your little brother…good lookin’ kid!”


  2. Wow, this is tough game, but a lot of fun. For Track #1 I’ll go with J.J. Cale mixed with Jamiroquai. Track #2 I got Derek and the Dominoes era Eric Clapton. And for Track #3 I’m hearing a bit of a Hey Jude-like refrain . I’m curious to hear what everyone else has to say because I’m not that well versed in rock-n-roll history.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nice! Thx for taking the challenge. I hadn’t heard the Cale, Jamiroquai or Clapton before but I’m w you on Hey Jude as one of the touch points on track 3. I’ll let you know the rest of my choices when I’ve heard back from a few more. Chrs, Tim


  3. Tony, I didn’t hear the Lay Down Sally on #2, but I can hear it now. Nice. Which Hall & Oates track on #3, by the way? Don’t know Jack Johnson very well but I can hear a little Ben Harper…Funnily enough, I didn’t have any of those – which makes this guy even better in my book. How about your ratings?


  4. I am definitely looking forward to hearing your selections – they will no doubt be spot on. As far as ratings go, I will need to let them simmer a bit…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Track one. Steady Pace. Great song. 8/10
    Dude, this is a hard game. I’m hearing such a mix here of late sixties,earlie seventies soul with a bit of gospel. Memphis meets Motown. But i have to say the overwhelming thing I’m picking up is The Band ! Specifically the song ‘The Weight ‘.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Track 2. Rock and Roll Is Cold. 7/10.
    Ooh la la, is that the ghost of Ian McLagen on keyboard? Very Small Faces for me with a bit of the Memhis Horns and the Stax sound mixed in for good measure.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Track 3. Feeling Good Is Good Enough. Nice. 7.5/10
    Man, this is a tough one. Definite Hey Jude as the track progresses but the start is full of familiar but elusive elements. Marvin Gaye meets The Band arranged by Becker and Fagan? Don’t know why I’m hearing Steely Dan in there but I am!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Enjoyed reading this.
    So this is based on a very quick listen:

    #1 I hear a bit of early Michael Jackson/Jackson 5 in the chorus (I want you back).

    #2 I’m hearing some melody similarity to Terrence Trent D’arby Wishing Well and Jack Johnson. The overall sound also reminds me of ZZ Top and Sonia Dada, though.

    #3 I also definitely hear Hall and Oates type vocals and melody similar to Sarah Smile, but sounds like there’s an Elton John (late 70’s?) riff tucked in there as well…

    Also, Thompson Twins Into the Gap was my first album (8th grade). Truly hard to judge the quality with all the nostalgia those songs evoked. I was crazy for Storm on the Sea if you can believe it! If you were here was definitely better. Overall not technically brilliant music compared to someone like Bowie, let’s say, but they were fab for their time!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alita – thanks for taking the challenge! Funny how ‘Into the Gap’ was also your first album:-). You’re the first one who’s got the Elton John on track 3 – I totally hear ‘Tiny Dancer’ in there. I’m not familiar with Sonia Dada but I can hear the Jackson 5 and ZZ Top. I’m going to have a re-listen for the D’arby…but I was a huge fan of his in the 80’s! Last I heard he was doing porn in Australia…watch this space for the final results. Chrs, Tim

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Damn hard dude. 1st song I can hear Van Morrison. 2nd song has me stumped. 3rd I get the stones. I’ll meditate on track 2 for a bit … And blow a J and see how I go …

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Smals – good to hear from you! Thx for playing. I’ve also got Van the Man on the first track – which track? And which Stones track do you have on the 3rd? Can’t wait to hear your #2…btw, any luck finding those Creedence tapes?


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