Friday, September 10, 2010

September 10: The Blasters, "Marie, Marie"

Artist: The Blasters
Song: "Marie, Marie"
Album: American Music
Year: 1980

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Having been used so often over the decades, it is now almost clich√© when an artist or band is referred to as being "ahead of their time."  However, it is beyond a rare occasion when the opposite is said, as few bands can be seen as "behind the times" and still come off as being an amazing group.  Truth be told, even after long thought, one might only be able to come up with three or four bands in all of history that fit such a statement, and yet each of these bands has had a large influence on the shaping of music.  Proving that the classic sound of rock and roll was not only alive and well, but clearly linked to the punk rock movement, few bands in history can compare to the awesome sound and energy from the Los Angeles "roots rock" band, The Blasters.  Coming out of a music scene that at the time was responsible for the likes of Black Flag, The Germs, and many other hardcore/punk legends, The Blasters stripped down their sound to the most basic of rock and roll, and yet there is a spirit underneath it all that reflects that of the punk style.  While a number of bands have tried this approach, no other has succeeded in the way that one finds on The Blasters' 1980 debut, American Music, and this is due both to the style which they play, but also to the unparalleled level of musicianship found within each of the band members.  Though there is not a bad not anywhere to be found on the record, there are few songs from any era that can compare to The Blasters' 1980 classic love song, "Marie, Marie."

From the moment "Marie, Marie" begins, everything that makes the music of The Blasters so fantastic is on display, as the perfectly toned guitar from Dave and Phil Alvin matches that of the great performers of the "roots rock" era.  In reality, the sound could have perfectly fit into the scene from 3 decades earlier, and the fact that it sounds of good serves as a testament to the undying attraction of this revolutionary musical approach.  Bassist John Bazz flies across the fretboard, and to this day, his performance on "Marie, Marie" represents one of the finest basslines ever recorded.  Rounding out the band is drummer Bill Bateman, and few will argue that he was anything less than the greatest drummer of his generation.  In reality, it is largely within the drums that the punk spirit comes through, as they are far more forward and faster than anything that was recorded during the 1950's, and where the true fusion of The Blasters lives.  The combined sound found on "Marie, Marie" is a hybrid like no other, as the band perfectly executes a sound that would have topped the charts in the 1950's, and yet they also inject a modern energy into the song, but not to the point where it alters the face of the song even in the slightest way.  The fact that the band is able to so perfectly walk this delicate line is clearly due to their phenomenal level of musical talent, and this is why "Marie, Marie" remains just as catchy today as it was upon its initial release.

Along with playing second guitar and the occasional harmonica, one would truly be hard pressed to find a more perfect voice for the music and style of The Blasters than the one that lives within Phil Alvin.  Displaying a clear understanding of how to do the "rock croon" as well to add a number of unique vocal modifications, few singers of any genre sound as good as he does on "Marie, Marie."  Again making the case that the song could have easily been a hit thirty years previous, Alvin's voice soars across the track, and the brief moments where he displays an almost country-style singing approach further add to the bands credit for having superior understanding of many musical genres.  Working in perfect harmony with his voice and the music over which he sings, the subject matter of "Marie, Marie" is as classic as one will find anywhere, and this serves as the ideal finishing touch to the songs' persona.  The opening lines of, "...Marie-Marie, playin' guitar on the back porch, I sit in my car..." superbly captures the mood of youth, and proves that this feeling and sentiment are truly timeless, as it fits just as perfectly today as it did when the song was released, or in any of the decades previous.  One would be hard pressed to find a more classic theme, as Phil Alvin sings of his girl, his car, and his frustration and one not being in the other.  While this idea has been explored countless times over the decades, few songs and singers made it sound better than The Blasters and their extraordinary song, "Marie, Marie."

Though at face value, the punk rock spirit may not be completely clear, after a handful of listenings, one cannot deny its presence.  Furthermore, if one looks at the following that both the band and song have gained over the decades, it becomes truly undeniable.  "Marie, Marie" has been covered over the years by everyone from Lars Fredrickson And The Bastards to MXPX, along with being a minor hit for Shakin' Stevens.  Powered by a fantastic melody and a tempo and energy that match, the fact of the matter remains that perhaps due to the sheer talent level, none of these covers have come close to the amazing sound found on The Blasters' original.  "Marie, Marie" stands as an unrivaled tribute to the early years of rock and roll, and with the punk spirit buried within the song, it is clear that even in an age when artificial musical means became the trend, the purity of "roots rock" was still alive and well.  From the phenomenal rhythm section of Bateman and Bazz to the unparalleled talent within the Alvin Brothers, it is nothing short of unexplainable when one ponders how The Blasters did not become the biggest band on the planet.  Bringing a high-energy, amazingly catchy, and superbly talented sound, no band of their day could even come close to The Blasters, and everything that makes them such a sensational band can be found within their unforgettable 1980 song, "Marie, Marie."

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