Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On


What’s Going On is an album that changes Marvin Gaye’s life in his music career. He started of as a session drummer and become one of the greatest Motown/R&B singer at his time. He was the sex icon during the 60s and 70s. All his songs were about love with upbeat happy grooving to it. He likes jazz a lot, therefore he infuse smooth jazz, and some other styles like gospel, blues into his songs too. But at one point in his life when he was into jazz, his popularity just drop a lot. Somehow during that period, What’s Going On just came into his life.

The original writer of this song was Renaldo Benson one of the member in the band called Four Tops. The inspiration of this song came events that happened in front of his eyes. He saw how the police were brutally attacking civilians on the street, and the violence towards the anti-war protesters. No one care to bother about the cruel things happening around them during that time. He thought “What’s going on?”

At first he tried asking band members whether they want his song, but they were not interested. The band thought the song was a protest song, they were not cool with it. However he explain that is a song that help people to get aware of things around them and showing love. He tried asking another singer too, but in the end he approach Marvin and think that he is the perfect person to sing it.

Marvin have the connection with the song. He feel that same with the dislike of violence use around the world and want to change it. During that time, His younger brother came back from his military service in the Vietnam war. He was tell Marvin all his experiences, how scare and terrified he was during that three years. ” War is hell, believe me. The value of life is unbelievably low. Nothing you’ve ever experienced can prepare you for the terror”. Marvin felt really sad and ask what can he do to help. and that is when he was so sure to do this album.

He was so excited to do this album, he personal track down his in charge during that time Berry Gordy to talk about it. Marvin showed him the songs, but he didn’t like it because it was all protest songs and didn’t want him to ruin his career and superstar image at that time. He had cold war for a very long time with Berry Gordy. In between this “cold war”, he retaliated with that he would not record any more songs for the company and joined the Detroit Lion to play professional Football.

In the end, he still recorded this album with some help without Berry Gordy, approval. in The process of creating this album, Berry Gordy actually commented that this was the worse thing he ever heard.

There were many interesting characteristic about this album and song. While tracking What’s Going On, he hired a saxophonist to play backing for the song. The saxophonist when in set up his instrument and start warming up and practice on the song. Marvin recorded the whole process, by the time when the saxophonist was ready to perform and record, he ask him to pack up and go. Because he already recorded the part and it was good enough for him. So if you haven’t or have listen to the recording, go and listen to it again carefully to the beginning. What a good saxophone sound.

The other thing was, even though What’s Going On is tell about all the negative things about the social issues, the song was actually very grooving , up beat, smooth jazz ( he loves a lot) and gospel R&B. The song feel so comfortable, happy and relax. I think he actually just wanted to have the jazz element, but I feel he was trying to tell the message across everyone about all the bad things in a happy way. Letting them understand what’s happen to our world now.

As a listener, I was just moving and grooving along with the song. I gives a very comfortable feeling at the same time knowing what’s happen to the world and what can we change to make it better. I can feel his passion and love in wanting to do the best in this album. Somehow it reminded me of Michael Jackson’s Heal the world.

As a professional, it was very inspirational for me. With all the odds that against him in recording this album, he showed passion and determination can against all odds. Never give up on what he wanted for his music and rights!





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Brian Eno & His 40 years of music


Brian Eno is a very talented, musician, composer, producer and many other great things related to the arts. He was studying painting in an art school. He attended a lecture by  Pete Townshend of The Who about the use of tape machines by non-musicians. That is way he find himself excited to make music as his career even though he’s not train as a musician. Brian Eno has many influences from his early years to present. Some of his influences includes, classical, choir, Bowie’s minimalism theory, tape machine and delay, african music, world samples (sound sample from all over the world), rock, pop. electronic, ambient music and many more. Besides doing music, he’s also into visual arts, in the form of video sculptures, and writing.

In his 40 years of making music, his idea, style and technique to do change from decades to decades. However, the one thing that he never change was take risk in experimental ideas. The two projects or works of his that stand out to me was his first solo ambient album Discreet Music and his production on ColdPlay’s Viva La Vida.

Discreet Music is a very special album to me. It was his first official ambient album. The first track was a thirty minutes long ambient music. He was trying to create a very quiet, relaxing environment where the audience can connect to and just flow into his world. This first track was suppose to listen at a low level of volume. He gotten this idea when he was listening to music coming out from a spoil stereo speakers while he was hospitalized. That trigger him to another way of listening to sound. As for the other side of this album, it was on the variation of Pachelbel’s Canon in D. Is a piece that I feel it was overly played and perform by many people, but its still give me a feeling to it. Ambient factor is in place with wonderful arrangement.

ColdPlay’s Viva La Vida, was something new special and it stand out from most of the rock bands. It has very simple repetitive rhythm and melody, very simple. The track started from with strings sections, then the band and timpani drums. It was the first time the lead singer, Chris Martin using his mid and low voices to sing. In between you can hear some unique synthesizers melody coming in and fade away. Towards the end, it has another counter melody sing with vocals against the instrument melody. Even though both projects are totally two different styles of music, but you could hear some similarities in them like simplicity in arrangement. Brian Eno cares on how people listen to his works, whether is good or bad. All of his works you can somehow find his unique style in it.

The two main characteristic that set that set his project from other recording is, his risk of experimenting new things and ideas in producing, composing or even arranging and helping the musician or the artist to play or sing at their potential. From his past forty years, he has been fusing different elements of music into one. Like having an oboe, strings and other orchestral instruments in rock music. Using different sample recording from around world to create music. In the last few years, he created computer and application programs that infuse music and visual arts together. Allow people who are not a musician or artist to create works of their own. In a recording studio, he always try to use things in the studio or create music or add things into the music on the spot. He has this set of oblique strategies cards to help him when he feel stuck. He often uses body movement or picture to tell the artist and musician what he wants.

As a listener, I enjoy his works a lot. He willing to try new things and it gives the audience a surprise when listening to his works. Brian Eno really cares about creating a comfortable environment in his music or production. There is always something that hooks the listener to get deeper into his music. As a profession, I inspire me to be confident, dare to try new ideas, do what I like to do in music and don’t compare with what other people do. I remember in one of the rolling stones interview with Chris Martin, that was what Eno said to them. He also say that Eno is more like a band member to them then a producer because he is always playing instruments around them while recording giving them wonderful ideas that sound good .



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Brian Eno and His Years of Works Prezi presentation

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The Beatles ‘Revolver’


The Beatles image before Revolver is more of the rockabilly rock. During the “British Invasion”, the songs and image that they portraying were more boy band like. Many people from all different ages especially girls fall in love with them. They were actually competing the best band with The Beach Boys. Just like The Beach Boys, The Beatles songs were about love, sex and romance and attracted lots of teenage girls. When The Beach Boys release Pet Sounds, The Beatles actually like it alot, especially “God Only Knows”, inspire them to to create a new kind of style of music for themselves. Thats where Revolver steps in. Revolver was an album that The Beatles try all kinds of experimental musical ideas into their songs. They were trying to keep up with the bands that started singing things that is not about love. The Beatles have never left their pop rock style, they were just experimenting with new ideas which let them into Psychedelic rock.

In the making of Revolver, The Beatles have many influences from musical and non-musical prospective. One of it was drugs LSD acid. It gives them a “high” hallucinating feeling when they took the drugs. They wanted the listeners to feel the same way by listening to their songs. Some of the song that were strongly influence by drugs were Tomorrow Never Knows and She Said She Said. In Tomorrow Never Knows, John Lennon was influence by an ancient Tibetan book ,The Psychedelic Experience by Timothy Leary and LSD drugs to write this song. The lyrics of Tomorrow Never Knows were adapted from the book. In She Said She Said, they were trying to describe the feeling of death. Others songs in Revolver, was mostly expressing the band feeling at different point of their lives. Some were more innocence (Yellow Submarine), some talks about the government (Taxman) and some express aloneliness (Eleanor Rigby).

Like I’ve said before, The Beatles try lots of new experimenting ideas into the making of Revolver. They created an artificial double tracking technique by taking a copy of the original vocal and delay very little to create doubling vocals. For the first time tried compression technique on their kick drum to create a strong and prominent kick sound and not leveling the peaks. They recorded Paul McCartney bass sound with another bass cabinet to create a bike ramming sound. Lastly, the using of tape machine. They create all the psychedelic sounds by slowing, reversing and speeding up tape reels and throw them randomly into their music.

In Revolver, beside having them trying out new experiment with studio equipments, they actually put lots things that they like, learn and influences from everywhere. The song Love To You, was written specially for an indian instrument call the Sitar. Sitar is a guitar like instrument that Harrison fall in love with when he heard it in an indian restaurant. He fuse in the eastern indian Sitar sound with rock music together. Yellow Submarine influence by Philip Sousa Marches with a strong marching beat and striking brasses sound. McCartney likes to club a lot at that time, and got in love in motown music. Got To Get You Into My Life using lots of jazz brasses sound from motown. Lastly the eerie vocals from Lennon at the beginning of Tomorrow Never Knows, was put through a swirling leslie speaker.

For me, The Beatles brings me back to the rockabilly era, where their songs were so called for the “cool” people. The songs were really catchy and easy to sing along. However, I only start getting into them when a movie called Across The universe was created out of all the Beatles songs. Same as The Beach Boys, I only like how they write their music. After doing research for this assignment, it brings me into a different world of understanding what actually made they write their music this way.

As a listener, I feel that all the song in Revolver feels fresh and new to me even though they were created in the 1960s. They have created something that can be fitted into any era in the timeline. Somehow it triggers a very special feeling in me which i never felt before. It brings me to a world where everything feels possible to do. Especially McCartney’s Eleanor Rigby, it creates lots of imagery image just by having a string octet playing the backing tracks. It creates so much tension and release.

As a professional, it encourages me to think out of the box. Use anything that can create a sound to make music with it. At the time, their audio equipments are not as good as what we have now, but they are still able to create things that we would never think of using whatever resources they have in the studio. I just have to put on my thinking cap and be creative in it. One main thing I have learn from them is nothing is impossible if you have not try it.


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Pets Sound By The Beach Boys


Before Pet Sounds was created, The Beach Boys was famous with songs that are related to surfing, cars, west coast, beaches and romance. Thats how they get their band name too. Songs like Surfin USA, I Get Around and Barbara Ann and many which release during 1962 – 1963, which matches their image as Beach Boys, and the state where they were living, California. Because of their fame at that time, teenagers think the things that they sing about are what the “cool” guys will do. (1)

However, their album Pet Sounds, was something so different and special from what they usually sings. Pet Sounds, give the listener a very special experience compare to what they use to. If you listen the whole album through out, it gives you a feeling of watching a movie that talks about what love can do. You are watching it with your ears not your eyes. Pet Sounds was recorded without any musical contributions from any of the Beach Boys; instead they were only solely for vocals and harmonies. (2, 3, 4)

Before going in depth with the process of creating Pet Sounds, lets talk about the main guy behind this creation, Brian Wilson. Brian Wilson is a member of The Beach Boys, at the same time, a songwriter, an arranger and a producer. In Pet Sounds, all his musical arrangements sounded very new special and relax, but in actual fact, he uses lots of complex harmonies and instruments that you will not think of using it on a rock band. Some of the instruments he uses are created from scratch. In the creation of Pet Sound, he sacrificed himself by stop touring with the rest of his band mates, just to stay in the studio to compose this magical album. (1, 4)

The main strive he have to compose this album is because of The Beatles. It was upon listening to The Beatles Rubber Soul at that time, makes him feel that he need to come out with something real good to top The Beatles. With the idea in mind, he was also influence by how Phil Spector works. (1, 3, 4)

What makes Pet Sounds standout and become an important part of the pop music history was that every song in the album has a unique musicality to it. All the songs are have the same idea carry throughout the whole album. One of the main song in the album that was so special, Paul Mccartney from The Beatles like it so much that it influence him in writing his songs in a new way. The title of the song is God Only Knows. The song uses lots of instruments which are not commonly hear in the pop rock era at that time. He uses lot of orchestral instruments like french horns, strings, mallets and saxophones. It was the first song that has the word god in the title. (1, 4, 5, 6)

The other unique aspect of Pet Sound is, having a musical motive throughout the whole album. All the songs he wrote for Pet Sound is about his own life, growing from an adolescent youth to a young adult. He is expressing how important give love in your life. The first song in the album, Would’t It Be Nice is a happy song about not having what you want. The other song That’s Not Me, describing big city dreams and independence are nothing without love. Caroline No talks about his love for his wife. (4, 7, 8)

I actually heard and play their songs before when I was in the high school marching band. I didn’t know much about who are they and what are the songs talking about. At that time I like their songs because it was very catchy and happy. After watching videos about the creation of Pet Sound and Brian Wilson, I feel that he was writing things for the future.

As a listener, I can feel what he wants to tell the world with his music. I actually have tears in my eye for every song he wrote in Pet Sounds. Even when the song, Wouldn’t It Be Nice has a catch and happy feeling, somehow I can feel the unhappiness of not having what you want. I don’t know how to express the feeling in words, but if you allow yourself to fall in depth into his songs you will understand the feeling.

As a professional, he inspire me to creative in my composition and musical arrangements. He combined classical music into rock music. Even though at his time the whole album did not receive good comments, but he influence musician to dare to express and create something new and special. He did it and he change the pop music industry. He also show that with determination, you can succeed.


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Hi, I’m Zhen Yang Loo 26 years of age. I’m currently, studying in Full Sail University in their recording arts program. I’m a musician, singer, and band director. I played the euphonium, trombone, piano, and now currently picking up the tenor saxophone.

Before I came to Full Sail, I was a elementary school music teacher and band director and an instrument tutor around high school back in Singapore. I got my band directing associate degree in the National Institute of Education International. I have teaching wind bands and brass bands for about 4 to 5 years.

I like music when I young. However, I only get expose to it when I was in high school. I joined school marching band and only start listening to the radio then. Both my parents like really oldies songs in both mandarin and english, however I was only expose to music that was late 90s and above. Most of the bands or singer I know was from UK. Therefore, when I was in Full Sail, I don’t know much about any pop, rock history and songs.

After having music history 1, I feel that I have learn a lot from it. I surprise some of the songs I do actually know. Even though this blog is for music history 2 assignment, I wish that people like me who have no knowledge about music industry can learn and understand through my blog. Hopefully by the end of music history 2, I get to learn more about the legendary bands and producer, and how they change the music world at their time.

Peace, Love, and Music never dies


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