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!


Good Night

Bruce on Paul's Piano

This is a tribute to the man who set the bar high for musical guests on talk shows.

To see David Letterman’s commitment to high quality music & edgy artists over the last 33 years, watch a burn-the-house-down classic from The Boss, Reagan-era Dylan sounding more The Knack than Bob Dylan, Sir Paul “Get(ting) Back” on top of a NYC roof 40 years after he & the lads burned down the rooftop of 3 Savile Row…and 7 more memorable moments:

David Letterman’s Top 10 Musical Moments

So a big “thank you” to Dave and a fond farewell to one of the greatest comedy & musical institutions in TV history.

Closing out The White Album and signalling perhaps the beginning of the Beatles’ end, I offer these parting words…

Now it’s time to say good night
Good night, sleep tight
Now the sun turns out his light
Good night, sleep tight

Would love to hear which of these moments you enjoyed most. Thanks for sharing!

Note to Self: Don’t Die

ryan adams

Whose music has moved you more than anyone over the past 10 years?

I asked myself this question about 10 years ago, half way through the first decade of the new century.

If it’s one thing that has defined the 21st century so far it has been the breakneck speed of change – one day you’re listening to your relatively new CD collection and the next day you’ve got the entire collection in the palm of your hand.

And yet, if I ask myself this same question 10 years on from the first time I asked it, the answer is still the same.  Only now it’s 20 years.

From his kick-ass punk-country debut Faithless Street with Whiskeytown in 1995 to his solo double punch of Heartbreaker & Gold in 2000-2001, a couple classics with the Cardinals a few years later and right through to his new album, Ryan Adams has consistently cranked out high quality tunes for 20 years.  And at a higher quality than any other artist or band.

Incidentally, he just lost out to Beck for 2014’s “Best Rock Album of the Year” – another musical giant whose prolific output since the mid 90’s is impeccable.


My only complaint over the years with Adams had always been his perceived lack of humor when it came to his name, closely resembling that other Adams in sight and sound.

However, it seems that Adams the Younger has finally come to grips with his name and much more.  Read on.

If you question my bold claim, I challenge you to find me a song post 1994 that is…

…prettier than:  When the Stars Go Blue

…more feel-good than:  Firecracker

…a better Oasis cover than:  Wonderwall

…a catchier song about the Big Apple than:  New York, New York

…or a better non-parody 80’s tribute song than:  Gimme Something Good 

And as clearly seen on this final “live” video proof for my case, Adams has embraced his inner 80’s child as well as his Canadian cousin:  Run to You

Like many of his ideas around the time of his forgettable Rock n Roll, “Note to Self: Don’t Die” sounded like a bad idea.  Even without hearing it.  However, I am now very glad he wrote that note to himself and didn’t go the way of Kurt Cobain or Jeff Buckley – two other musicians who had a lot more to give us.

jeff buckley2

I understand if you take umbrage at my claim.  Therefore, I invite you to challenge me right back.

Tell me whose music has moved you most over the past 20 years.

P.S. My 3 Best Alternatives:


Thom Yorke/Radiohead

Jeff Tweedy/Uncle Tupelo/Wilco