Friday, May 10, 2013

My Greatest Experience in Music so Far




In 1964 The Beatles opened the flood gates for Rock bands everywhere. Even bands that only knew 2 chords (96 Tears) could craft a hit record.  For a brief period, The British Invasion made their living playing “Race” Music.  The Beatles were still singing “Mr. Postman” The Rolling Stone were singing “Robert Johnson’s Love in Vain”.  And the Dave Clark Five were singing the Chris Kenner Hit “I like it like that.

With the Exception of a few gems, Elvis was signed to a Movie contract which tied him up for 6 years in which he did 29 movies. So Elvis was no longer a factor in Rock and Roll.  He was a Hollywood Actor. Elvis once said he wanted to be “Dean Martin”.  In the 60’s the open use of drugs was encouraged in Rock Music by the Hippie scene.  Drug use would turn Rock into Acid Rock.

Acid Rock would invite many sub-genres of Rock from folk rock to pop to metal music while surreptitiously replacing “Race” music.  In an attempt to legitimize Rock music, English musicians began playing opera style Rock.  The “Rock Opera” became stylish (Tommy).  Later, progressive Rock from bands like Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer made what was once “Race” music, literally recognizable. This was all between 1967 and 1980. 

In 1977 an artist named Iggy Pop saw what was happening to “Rebel” music.  It had been co-opted by the establishment for a profit.  In an attempt to make “modern” Music more palatable (translated: “Profitable) Hollywood started kicking out, (once again), The Partridge Family and ABBA.  Safe bets like “Bread” or “The Bee Gees” had endless Hollywood bucks behind their success generated by lunch box sales and the “Rock T-Shirt”.

Hollywood started guiding this new style of Rock back towards the “Pretty boy Sex angle”.  With the huge success of both “Cassidy Brothers” (of which only one could sing) and British Icon Rocker Rod Stewart singing disco, (Do you think I’m Sexy) Iggy Pop started doing a new thing called Punk.  Iggy’s dream was personified in the Band “The Ramones” which worshipped Iggy Pop.  In one line: “Punk was music for the other kids”.  It represented the geeks and brought music back to that “Teen Rebellion”level that started it all.

PUNK, which was indicative of a rebellious, James Dean style of music, was given a new name (Typical of the progressive left) “New Wave”.  New Wave was form of punk yet less threatening.  Something Hollywood could put a handle on.  It didn’t take long for Hollywood to replace the real Punks like the Sex Pistols, the Clash and the Ramones, with less threatening pretty boys like “The Romantics”, “The Vapors”, “The Knack”, “Blondie” and to a lesser degree, “Greg Kihn”. One band that started out as a punk band, encompassed a panoply of genres by the time it’s lead singer would die of HIV. The Band Queen reinvented its’ self with every album and won the moniker: “The Band of the Eighties”.  By the end of the eighties, Metal had made a big impression on young teenaged boys again.  Bands like Metallica and Megadeath recycled older bands like Lead Zepplin and Ozzy with Black Sabbath. 

What does Hollywood do?  You have to remember that the money that bought Metallica Albums was usually allowance money.  This meant that the music had to be socially acceptable in the household.  So in an attempt to negotiate, metal music for mom and dad’s money, Hollywood went back to its’ old formula.  Pretty boys only this time in Spandex pants and really big permed out hair.  The music was loud, but that was O.K. because the bands like Motley Crue and Poison were singing lyrical masterpieces like “Girls, Girls, Girls”. Ultra success came to a mid-western college band called “REO-Speed Wagon” Fronted by the big haired attractive singer Kevin Cronin.  The once credible “Billy Squire” lost his integrity in an MTV video that had him dancing around in a “foot loose” fashion wearing a “pink” top.  He was touring with the English hair band “Def Leopard” and during the tour, Squire and Def exchanged places on the Marquis.  This list of Loud bands went from “AC/DC”, “Aerosmith” and “Cheap Trick”, to “Twisted Sister” and “Ratt”. 

These “Metal” or “Hair” bands were playing loud “Head Banging” music in really clean leopard skin Spandex.  Vocalists were literally screaming.  The culture was about decadence and drug induced irresponsibility.  It was the perfect soundtrack if anyone wanted to make a movie called “Los Angeles”.
In Seattle, garage bands were minding their own business making their own sound.  It wasn’t something organized and it wasn’t a movement.  It was music from a forgotten region, The North West.  Just as you had “The Philadelphia sound and the Memphis Sound” Seattle was quietly (without notice) playing really loud ear bleeding music.  But it was music that truly touched the Teenager that didn’t look like Bon Jovi.  It was LOUD, it was HONEST, and it got straight to the point.  Songs like RAPE ME and LITHIUM appealed to a generation of Teens who didn’t have mommy and daddy’s Mercedes to drive down Sunset Blvd.  These bands were PUNKish but PUNK ON STEROIDS and written from experience.  I almost lost a tooth in a MOSH PIT.  Teens were having fun hurting each other.  It made the music come alive.  It was their music. It was music for the depressed.  Grunge bands sang about depression  The first band America would hear on national radio was a trio called Nirvana.  Ironically, Nirvana defined this new sound which would be defined or labeled: “Grunge” music.  The chord progression was not your typical Blues/Rock/Country/Gospel progression of chords.  It gave the music a flavor of its’ own. 
Just like The Japanese attacking Pearl Harbor or Stuka Dive Bombers screaming down on Poland; bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam literally over night put the pretty boy hair bands like Poison, Motley Crue, Ratt and Quiet Riot in the unemployment line. 
Just as the Beatles represented the U.K. invasion and The Ramones defined Punk, Nirvana would be the “Poster Child” for this strange new Alien sound.  But it wouldn’t take long before slick production would ruin the “quaint” originality of the Grunge Movement.  Pearl Jam, also from Seattle, (Originally known as Mookie Blaylock) would have a refined studio sound.  This went against everything the Seattle Grunge sound stood for.  It was anti-establishment.  Every A&R agent from southern California took the next flight to SeaTac International airport to sign anything that played this new music and had an audience.  Here’s the hideous part, bands in L.A. immediately shed their spandex pants and like chameleons, started wearing plaid flannel shirts and jeans with holes in the knees.  They let the layers in their hair grow out and did their best to look like Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vetter.  Ironically, Eddie Vetter and Kurt Cobain wore these tattered articles of clothing because it was all they could afford.  It was like the “Carringtons” from the 80’s TV Show Dynasty, dressing up like the Beverly Hillbillies because they thought it made them look like they were from Seattle.  They thought that was the “look” behind the sound.  In reality; the look had very little to do with the sound.

Hollywood, as it tried so many times in the past, would produce its’ own version of the real thing and market SoCal bands like “The Stone Temple Pilots”.  It had to get in on the action. The degradation of Grunge had begun.  It was like Pat Boone singing “Tutti Fruiti”. 
Coincidentally, just as the death of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richarson was known as the “Day the Music Died”; In 1994 when Kurt Cobain, who had written his songs about depression and teen angst based on his own life, finally succeeded in ending his own life; That was the day the last original music died.  Grunge wasn’t a fad that someone with a Master’s degree in marketing created, it was organic.  Just as the sound of cotton pickers singing in the fields of Mississippi was from the heart, So was the sound of Grunge.  It was proven by the country’s reaction to it.  Overnight the Glam Bands were in the “Where are they now” bins at Tower Records.
This was the greatest musical experience I had the chance to witness first hand.  Unfortunately, the same type of phenomena may never happen again as the “Theater” for Rock success is no longer there.
Hollywood, like a bad case of termites, destroyed the house called music and just came out and created a hit TV show called “American Idol”.  It’s what they wanted all along.  American Idol is the tombstone on the grave of something we will never see again.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

My Greatest Experience in Music So Far

Racial tensions were heating up in the 60’s.  In the 50’s, a black man singing about sex to teenaged “White Boys” was just wrong.  Sam Phillips had some wonderful race music that he couldn’t get on the air simply because it was politically incorrect at the time.  In April of 1953, a young white man who had moved to Memphis from Tupelo showed up at the “Sun Recording Studios”.  He wanted to record a birthday record just for his mother “Gladys”.  The secretary at Sun Record kept the young man’s name and address on file.  A year later Sam Phillips would be seeking the young man named Elvis for a song called “That’s alright Mama”.

Sam Phillips used Elvis Presley as a bridge between white singers and black music.  As the genre grew in popularity; It would soon become known as “The Devil’s Music”.  To this day, musicians such as Brian Setzer Joke about Rock-a-Billy being “The Devil’s Music”  As is the case with success in the entertainment industry, white singers lined up in front of Sun Studios to try their hand at race music.  Phillips would not only discover Elvis, but he introduce the world to “Roy Orbison”, “Jerry Lee Lewis”, Johnny Cash and the Man who “could have been king,” “Carl Perkins”.  Carl had a hit song he was to perform on the Ed Sullivan show called “Blue Suede Shoes”, but on the way to deliver his performance, he was injured in an automobile accident.  By the time he was released from the Hospital; Elvis had already recorded Blue Suede Shoes and it was a top 10 hit.  This was something that would haunt Carl Perkins the rest of his life.  Carl would have success with another one of his songs called “Honey don’t”.  It was covered by a band called The Beatles.

Down in Lubbock, Texas, a young fan of Presley’s would tear up the charts with hits like “Peggy Sue”, “It’s so easy” and “That’ll be the day”.  Buddy Holley who’s contract name was Holly, would have a short but meteoric career.  He is one of Rock’s greatest influences on English Rock music as Elvis never toured England.  In Southern California, a young Little Richard fan named Ricardo Valenzuela would bridge the Latino music gap with a hit song called “La Bamba”, while another Texas disc Jockey named “Jiles Perry Richardson Jr. aka, J.P. Richardson aka “The Big Bopper” was having success with a hit song called “Chantilly Lace”.   In garages across the U.S. young teens were seeing the reaction of girls when Elvis shook his pelvis and rattled and rolled.
Sadly, on February 3rd 1959,  the three shooting stars mentioned above would die in a plane chartered by Holly while taking off from Mason city Airport after giving their last performance at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake Iowa.
The Hollywood Hormone formula
Elvis Presley, a friend of Holly would receive his draft notice later that year. The American Rock and Roll scene was extinguished as soon as it was lit.  Yet because Elvis’ manager Tom Parker was afraid of flying, Elvis never toured the U.K. however the young Buddy Holly and his “Crickets” did.  This left an impression on a young John Lennon and even more so on a lad named Paul McCartney.  The two would put together The Beatles (After "The Crickets) in 1960 and perform on American Television in 1964.  The Beatles became the hood ornament of the British invasion in 1964.

But what happened during the 3 years in between Holly’s death and the British Invasion?

The brilliant scientists in Hollywood saw Rock and Roll music as simply another Love Story.  They saw young girls fainting over a handsome Elvis.  It was the SEX.  That’s all it was to Hollywood.  The prettier the better.  So after Hollywood stripped down the Rock and Roll Formula; we were given a newer version of “Frank Sinatra”.  Only this time the music was race music being sung by handsome actors that sang like “Mister Rogers” from PBS’s Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood.  Probably the most egregious singer was Pat Boone.  The man who made more money than Little Richard did off of the LR hit “Tutti Fruiti”.  Pat Boone had no shame, and to be fair to Mr. Boone and his daughter, I would have done the same thing.  Boone sang what he was told to sing.  It’s the way it was “Back in the Day” (I apologize for that tired Cliché) The list of Hollywood phonies goes on from Fabian, Tab Hunter and Frankie Avalon to perhaps the only reputable talent, Rick Nelson from the TV show Ozzy and Harriet. (No not that Ozzy)
Fortunately, Buddy Holly’s music would return once again in the form of the “British Invasion”.  The most famous of the Invaders were the Fab four, John, Paul, George and Ringo.  What most people don’t know is that the first demo the Beatles recorded was “That’ll be the day”.  The Buddy Holly hit.  But the Beatles had another mentor, one that is unmistakable in early Beatle music, an original Race music writer, Richard Wayne Penniman  aka, “Little Richard”.

Once again, The Beatles with their long hair and their “colored music” gave Teens a tool of rebellion, while mom and dad listened to Frank Sinatra,  Lawrence Welk and Mitch Miller.
Please come back tomorrow for the Greatest Experience in Music in My Life……….So far.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

My Greatest Experience In Music ....... So Far
I was born the year Heartbreak Hotel hit the charts and Elvis became a house hold word.  I was only 7 when the Beatles played on the Ed Sullivan Show.  I don't recall any fanfare over The great Chuck Berry or Little Richard.  I guess it had much to do with race at the time. 
 I got to watch Rock Music morph to the point that "The Ramones" made a living out of rebelling against those who were making a living singing "folk and love ballads" under the guise of Rock.  The Ramones, who were just trying to be an "Iggy Pop" cover band, would go onto piss off Hollywood by interrupting the Hollywood Hormone Formula.
 To understand the Hollywood Hormone Formula you have to go back to February of 1959.  Those three years between 1956 and 1959 brought us the very cement foundation of Rock and Roll.  Those who like to marginalize other styles to make their own musical forms might call what came out those three years, Roots Rock or Rock-a-Billy.  I call it pure Rock.  It was a primal combination of Gospel, Country and Rhythm and Blues.  It was new and it was a form a Teenage rebellion.  That was the motive behind the success of Rock Music. 
Prior to 1956, what was soon to be recorded as "Rock and Roll" was then known as "Race" music.  In the south, especially in the farm fields around Memphis, black bands would get together and play a new kind of blues.  Songs like "Hound Dog" and "That's alright Mama" were songs sung for black social get togethers.  It wasn't long before a young disc Jockey who was dabbling in audio recordings, would hear black artists like "Howlin' Wolf" and most importantly a nobody named "Jackie Brenston". 
Many of you have probably heard of Howlin Wolf as a part of Blues History, but Jackie Brenston is probably one of the most unnoticed musicians in Rock and Roll History.  While this disc Jockey named Sam Phillips, was recording what was then called "Race Music",  Jackie Brenston was singing an upbeat version of the blues.  Mr. Phillips heard of the young Jackie Brenston and brought him to 706 Union Avenue in Memphis where "Rocket 88" was recorded.  On the way to Sam's studio, the Bass speaker of the electric Bass Amplifier blew a hole in the speaker.  This gave Rocket 88 that distorted sound, which at first, Brenston felt was the demise of the recording, but Phillips would discover "Distortion" in this recording.  Rocket 88 went on to become the 1st Rock and Roll recording ever.  And just for the sake of Trivia, the keyboardist for Jackie Brenston was an unknown musician named Ike Turner.
This is where the familiar story begins.
Young white teenage kids who were looking at pictures of hand painted porn where tuning their radios into Sam's radio show which came on "after hours" as many of the original "Race" music songs were "suggestive" to say the least.  Little Richard was known for writing songs so filthy that producers would hire writers to clean up LR's lyrics so they could be recorded and played on the radio.
This was that new cool thing that TEENS knew about while the parents were still listening to Frank Sinatra, Benny Goodman and Mitch Miller.  At the time, Frank Sinatra was the coolness of the air waves.  He was non-controversial, clean cut, and most of all he was WHITE.
Sam Phillips knew he was had something that American kids wanted to hear.  A good example is Billy Ward and the Dominoes' song "Sixty Minute Man"  Chorus goes:
There'll be 15 minutes of kissing, then you'll holler please don't stop!
There'll be 15 minutes of Teasing
15 minutes of squeezing
And 15 minutes of blowing my Top pop pop
Cause I'm a sixty minute man.
At least one got a Math lesson........
Come back tomorrow for some whiteness and the Crash that changed it all and let the termites in.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Happy Birthday Red Baron

BORN 5/2/1892
Manfred Von Richthofen (Born 5/2/1892) is the most celebrated pilot of WWI.  His record 80 Victories (Kills) was quite an aerial achievement since he was using technology less than a decade old. 
It’s unfortunate that most of the “Red Baron’s” fame would come from a 20th Century cartoonist name Charles Schultz who wrote a daily syndicated cartoon called Peanuts.  From time to time, the Dog (Snoopy) would pretend he was a WWI fighter Pilot in search of Baron Von Richthofen.

The popularity of the comic strip became so universal that a Top 40 hit song called “Snoopy vs. The Red Baron” was spawned from the comic.  The “Royal Guardsman” who made their musical mark with S v MVR  cashed in on the first Christmas cartoon special, Charlie Brown’s Christmas by releasing “Snoopy’s Christmas” in which Snoopy goes up on Christmas day and engages MVR.  In the Christmas classic, MVR has the kill on Snoopy but forces him to land “Behind enemy lines”.  It is here that MVR  offers Snoopy a “Holiday Toast”.  It’s interesting because a legend exists that MVR forced Canadian Pilot Roy Brown down in the DMZ, shared a flask of Schnapps then let him go.  The Royal Guardsman would go to the well one more time with an awful recording called “The return of the Red Baron” with minimal success.
Back to reality, for years, Captain Roy Brown was credited with the demise of the Red Baron.  Manfred Von Richthofen was given a military funeral with honors yet the Canadian pilot was reluctant to talk about the victorious achievement.  That’s because he never shot down the Red Baron.  Once all of the forensic evidence was assembled in the 21st century; a majority of historians agreed that MVR’s fatal wounds could not have come from Brown’s machine gun position.  There was an Australian anti-aircraft machine gun crew taking shots at the Red DR.1.   As far-fetched as it sounds; MVR’s entry wound would have been in direct alignment with the anti-aircraft guns.  It was confirmed that MVR was killed from a bullet that entered his left axilla.  This “golden B.B. would then exit the right side of MVR’s chest.  MVR had no entry wounds from his back or six o’clock position which is where Brown’s plane was positioned. 
This fate is not uncommon throughout history.  MVR’s mentor and the father of Aerial Combat “Oswald Boelcke” had 40 victories in one year and died at the age of 25 because his wing man clipped Boelcke’s wing with his landing gear.
Werner Mölders, the first Pilot to score 100 aerial victories, died on route to WWI Ace Ernst Udet’s funeral.  Ironically, Molders was flying in an HE-111 that encountered a horrific thunderstorm that caused engine failure resulting in the death of Werner Mölders.  The name of the HE-111? The Boelcke.
Perhaps one of history’s most colorful heroes, George Patton looked death in face many times.  Patton was one of the 3rd Reich’s most feared commanders.  When Patton was being punished for “The Slap”; Berlin thought it was just a poor attempt at diversion because no opponent would remove a leader as great as Patton. 
Patton would die in an automobile accident. 


Today May 2nd we celebrate the birth of one of aerial combat’s greatest heroes.