George Harrison’s Birthday…

George Harrison’s 72nd birthday…a bittersweet reminder that All Things Must Pass…

George Harrison (image courtesy Wikimedia)

In many ways it’s pointless to write or say much more about The Beatles. They remain, despite revisionist rock historians’ best efforts, rock music’s most important band. Arguments about their merits as solo artists follow similar paths. John is better because he was truest to rock and roll’s founding principles. Paul made what Dave Marsh once called “the Decision for Pop” because he wanted to be loved. Ringo was – well, Ringo was better than anyone expected but still the luckiest sod in musical history.

Then there is George. Known during the Fab Years as “the quiet Beatle,” his release from what had become for him the prison of being a Beatle led to a creative outburst and the best of all Beatle solo efforts, the magnificent All Things Must Pass. Many critics think George had the best solo career of any former Beatle. I think Paul has done so but then, I’m his buddy.

On to the music…

Continue reading

Tournament of Rock: The 5280 – Tommy Bolin vs. Rose Hill Drive

TOR5280_bannerAnd away we go. First, the ground rules. There are 24 bands in ToR5280, with the top 8 (in the editor’s estimation) receiving a first-round bye. They were selected along a range of criteria, including artistic merit, critical acclaim and influence. (If they achieved some popular success that doesn’t hurt anything.) Instead of trying to seed, as I have in the past, we’re going to use the FA Cup method: blind random draw at every stage, with no brackets involved at all.

I’ll post some information, including whatever links I can pointing you to their music. You listen and vote. Winner advances. Simple enough?

Let the games begin. Up first: Continue reading


Patriarchy in the news – January 25, 2015

(warning: graphic content)

patriarchal principle: Men are entitled to take up space

“Manspreading” refers to men sitting in public spaces with their legs spread wide apart. Anyone – and especially a woman – who has sat in a movie theater, airplane, or any sort of public transportation is all too familiar with the phenomenon. All too many men seem willing to rudely spread out beyond their little designated spaces in places like those I’ve mentioned. I’d really like to have a dollar for every time I’ve been squeezed out of my space in a movie theater by a man manspreading next to me – I could buy most of the books on my wish list at Amazon. Some speculate that this behavior is an act of dominance or is about male privilege. Personally, I have always thought the message is, “Hey,everybody look at me – my balls are so big that I can not even close my legs!”  The problem is widespread – if you will – enough that now, the New York City subway authority is mounting a campaign against the practice, using the slogan “Dude, stop the spread please. It’s a space issue.” Continue reading

Music and Popular Culture

Five musical acts that should have played the Super Bowl

It’s impossible to predict what will happen once a Super Bowl gets underway.

Some games are cliffhangers that go down to the final seconds on the clock. Others are blowouts, so the only drama involves the commercials on our television sets, not the action on the field.

But there is one thing we can predict. Regardless of the score, the Super Bowl halftime show will feature some of the most popular entertainers in the world.

Over the years, artists such as Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Prince and Madonna have provided halftime entertainment at Super Bowls. This year’s game will feature performances by Katy Perry and Lenny Kravitz.<!-more->

I’m a football fan and a music fan. Like many Americans, I look forward to the game, the halftime show and everything else that makes Super Bowl Sunday special. But I can’t help feeling a tinge of disappointment that some of my favorite recording artists never had an opportunity to showcase their talents before an audience of more than 100 million TV viewers (in addition to thousands in the stands at the game itself).

My musical tastes tilt heavily to the late-1960s and the early 1970s, a time when the Super Bowl was in its infancy and the halftime entertainment was limited to marching bands, choral groups and an occasional vocalist. It was not until the 1990s that popular recording artists became a staple of the halftime shows. But what if that custom had begun with the very first Super Bowl in 1967? Here are the acts I would have liked to have seen in the first five years of the big game.

Super Bowl I (1967): Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan? A folk singer at the Super Bowl? I know what you’re thinking, but let me explain.

First of all, it’s wrong to characterize Dylan as a folk singer – or as anything else for that matter. In fact, that was a message he was delivering at this very time when he stunned the folk music world and added a full-blown electric band to his performances. Granted, it would have been 18 months since he first went electric – to a chorus of boos – at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, but in the ensuing time he continued to snub his nose at angry folk purists and embarked on a world tour backed by the Hawks, a group that later became The Band.

Dylan’s defiance of tradition is one reason why he would have been perfect for Super Bowl I. For years the NFL and the upstart AFL had been bitter rivals. The game marked the first time teams from the two rival leagues played against each other. To put it into today’s context (well maybe not exactly), try to imagine Bill O’Reilly and Al Sharpton joining forces to start their own political party.

Dylan’s iconic stature also would have made him an appropriate choice. The significance of this game was no place for an artist with a less impressive resume.

Of course, Dylan was not making concert appearances at the time. After a 1966 motorcycle accident near Woodstock, N.Y., he became somewhat of a recluse, fueling speculation and rumors about his physical and mental condition. His surprise appearance at George Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh in 1971 was a major news event. A performance at Super Bowl I, coming just a few months after the accident, would have had a similar, if not greater, impact.

Most importantly, however, Dylan would have rocked the Los Angeles Coliseum, where the game was played. Controversy aside, the musicians Dylan chose to back him up – the Hawks and folks such as Al Kooper and Mike Bloomfield – played exciting rock’n’roll. Just listen to the musicianship in some of those performances that elicited the boos.

Had Dylan and an all-star band performed at Super Bowl I, the talk around the water cooler the next day might very well have been the eclectic halftime show, not the Green Bay Packers’ easy and expected 35-10 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Super Bowl II (1968): The Doors

The late 1960s were the Psychedelic Era, a time of love, drugs and rock’n’roll. Bands such as Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead rose to popularity, but truth be told, their music was well suited for crowds of tripping hippies, not for raucous football fanatics.

The Doors, though, were a different story. By January 1968, the band already a few hit singles and two popular albums. Their songs, such as “Break on Through” and “Love Me Two Times,” had the ability to rile up a crowd. They had not yet recorded “Roadhouse Blues,” but try to imagine that type of energy in a performance at the Orange Bowl, the site of Super Bowl II.

In Jim Morrison, the band had a photogenic and controversial leader. By 1968, he already had ticked off Ed Sullivan by refusing to remove the word “higher” from the group’s performance on the Sullivan show. And just a month before Super Bowl II, he was arrested during a performance in New Haven and charged with inciting a riot, indecency and public obscenity.

Given Morrison’s unpredictability, coupled with the popularity of the band, booking the Doors for Super Bowl II’s halftime show would have created considerable interest, spirited debate and a strong sense of anticipation. It’s unlikely Jim Morrison and the band would have disappointed.

Super Bowl III (1969): Cream

The prospect of a British band headlining the halftime show at America’s championship football game may have rubbed some people the wrong way in 1969, but Cream was no ordinary British band. It was comprised of the leaders of three popular bands whose talents gave the band its name since they were considered “the cream of the crop.” Who better to play a Super Bowl than a super group?

By 1969, Cream had three popular albums and loyal fans on both sides of the Atlantic. Despite their roots in Great Britain, the band was heavily influenced by American blues and included songs by Robert Johnson and Willie Dixon along with original compositions such as “Sunshine of Your Love” and “White Room.”

Wheels of Fire, released in the summer of 1968, became the first platinum-selling double album and still was extremely popular in January 1969 when Broadway Joe Namath boldly (and accurately) boasted that his New York Jets would defeat the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.

Although Cream already had broken up and played its farewell concert in November of 1968, an invitation to make a Super Bowl performance its swan song might have convinced Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton to remain together for a few more weeks. And if we were lucky, that performance would have been more reminiscent of the band in its heyday than Cream’s actual farewell tour and album, which left audiences and music critics disappointed.

Super Bowl IV (1970): Jim Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix was many things – a guitarist, singer and songwriter, but most significantly he was an innovator. He did things with a guitar that never had been done before – and his influence on musicians still is apparent nearly 45 years after his death.

By January 1970, the Jimi Hendrix Experience had established itself with three platinum albums. The group disbanded in 1969, and Hendrix was exploring new musical avenues with projects such as the Band of Gypsys album and the Cry of Love tour.

In addition to his riveting live performances and creative guitar work, Hendrix was a man who knew how to seize the moment. Never was this more evident than when he closed the historic Woodstock Music and Art Fair in 1969. As the culmination of an epic counterculture event, he played the most unlikely song, “The Star Spangled Banner,” in a manner that never had been done before – and it was the perfect set choice.

Give him the stage at Super Bowl IV and who knows what might have happened? Perhaps one more legendary performance before his life came to close later in 1970.

Super Bowl V (1971): The Who

Actually, the Who did take the stage at a Super Bowl – Super Bowl XLIV in 2010 – and Rolling Stone included that performance on its list of the 10 best Super Bowl halftime shows. But only two members of the band’s classic lineup were still alive to perform – and those two, Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend, were in their mid-60s.

In 1971, the full lineup was in force, and the Who was enjoying perhaps its greatest years of popularity. During this period, the band recorded and released the groundbreaking rock opera Tommy and provided one of the more memorable sets at Woodstock. They followed that with Live at Leeds, a record considered one of the best live albums in rock history.

All of this could have played out at Super Bowl V, and perhaps we would have caught a preview of Who’s Next, which was released later in 1971.

* * *

Dylan, the Doors, Cream, Hendrix and the Who. That’s quite a lineup, even when spread out over five performances.

Katy Perry and Lenny Kravitz are unlikely to disappoint this year, but let’s hope Super Bowl XLIX gives us something more memorable – like a game that keeps America entertained from start to finish.


@Doc’s Best CDs of 2014

Jeffrey Dean Foster2014 was, in short, a remarkable year for music. Some hipster wanker pub recently lamented that there just wasn’t a great disc this year, and all I can do is hope that somebody forwards them this list, because they damned sure missed some things.

Let’s start with my co-CDs of the Year.

Jeffrey Dean Foster – The Arrow

You know that Desert Island List challenge? You’re stranded on a desert island and can only have 10 CDs to last the rest of of your life. What do you take? Continue reading

RIP Joe Cocker…

Joe Cocker’s soulful shouting was later overshadowed by his pop balladry, but the man could always bring it.

Joe Cocker 1944-2014 (image courtesy Wikimedia)

Joe Cocker, the magnificent singer from Sheffield, has died of lung cancer at the age of 70. Cocker’s career divides neatly into two phases – the great run from 1966-71 when he rose to prominence as a legitimate white blues shouter – and a forefather of what’s known as Northern Soul – and took prominent songs from contemporaries and made them his own (“A Little Help from My Friends” by The Beatles; “The Letter” by The Boxtops; “Feelin’ Alright” by Traffic) – and the rest of his long career in which he transitioned into singing more pop oriented material, often to great success (he won a Grammy for his duet with Jennifer Warnes on the otherwise execrable movie ballad “Up Where We Belong” from An Officer and a Gentleman).

What made Cocker special, besides that distinctive gravelly voice and his deep infusion of emotion into even the tritest material he sang, was his onstage behavior, an unforgettable experience for those who saw it. At times seeming almost as if struck by spasms, Joe’s windmilling arms, head shaking and air guitar made him a figure occasionally parodied (here’s a killer Joe Cocker/John Belushi duet from SNL’s Golden Age). But there was no denying his vocal talent or his desire to give everything he had to any song he sang.

Here he is at his emoting best doing a killer version of that Beatles’ tune mention above at Woodstock in 1969:

We may not see his like again. RIP Joe….

The Arts

Art and Tech Part 3: can we know the dancer from the dance…?

The 20th century offered artists – and everyone else – the greatest number of technological advances in human history. But these advances also changed human ecology – and artists and art – in startling ways….

For earlier essays in this series look here and here.)

RCA’s adverdog Nipper and the Victrola (image courtesy Wikimedia)

The turn of the 20th century saw humanity in the midst of an onslaught of technological change that has permanently altered how we communicate, travel, and entertain ourselves. The telephone made it possible to hear the voices of friends and family over remarkable distances and receive news, especially personal news, faster than ever before. The automobile and airplane made visiting those distant loved ones first possible, then feasible, ultimately expected. And the phonograph, motion picture camera/projector and later radio and television (remember, television’s blockbuster effect on home entertainment was delayed at least a decade by World War II) made home entertainment as simple as passively sitting and listening/watching. The culture became both easily mobile and easily sedentary in one fell swoop. Modern photography, already 75 years old by the beginning of the 20th century, had been appropriated for artistic purposes for at least 50 years. However, its documentary function far overshadowed its power as an art form for many decades.

The newer technological innovations of recording and film offered artists opportunities – but unlike other technological innovations such as I mentioned in the previous essay (industrially produced paint for artists, the use of the typewriter by authors, the harpsichord’s replacement by the piano in music), these technological innovations did not necessarily lend themselves to exploitation by artists. In truth, the technological changes that developed in the 20th century changed not simply how art was made but how art was conceived and executed and how art came to be viewed in ways that we have not fully considered. A look at the changes that occurred and what their possible meanings are for us culturally seems apropos.  Continue reading

The Arts

Art and Tech Pt. 1: Known Knowns and Known Unknowns…

We live these days in a weird era where art and tech are linked in ways which I don’t believe we understand very well and don’t think about enough. Maybe we are in some transition to a culture in which tech is believed to be art and art is believed to be -I don’t know – tech…? Whatever the artist says it is…? Obsolete…?

This started out, as sometimes things do, with a conversation:

Claude Monet, technology freak (image courtesy Wikimedia)

Lea, my wife, and I were coming home from one of her art exhibition openings last night and somehow we got on the subject of Claude Monet.  The art opening was part of a series of events in which artists, writers, and craftsmen and women had simultaneously occurring book fest, art exhibition opening, and crafts fair.  This is the sort of event that arts groups hold more and more often in these same days of this our life. Artists hoped that book lovers would stop by the art exhibition, writers that art lovers would stop by the book fest, crafts people – well, people still buy crafts, kinda sorta (more than they buy fine art and books, at least), so the crafts people were likely simply being helpful.

I don’t know how well the whole series of events went off (I didn’t even go to the crafts fair because I – I don’t know – well yes I do: at least half the tables at the “book fest” were selling – crafts – yeah, I know). I hope that the artist and writer friends I ran into at the two events I attended made some sales. But at one point last evening Lea looked at me and noted, “I think everyone at this exhibit is an artist.”

Yeah. I know. This is all too common these days.

And yes, I’m rambling, but I’ll get to something in a minute. Bear with me.  Continue reading

Music and Popular Culture

“Goodbye,” from The Well Wishers: Saturday Video Roundup

Greetings from the Pop Underground – here’s a track from one of my best CDs of the year…

Those who follow along know that I have a weakness for “Power Pop” – that retro, guitar-driven genre originally practiced by the likes of The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Badfinger, Big Star, The Who, The Raspberries, and others of that ilk. You don’t hear it much on the radio, sadly (although Foo Fighters have been on a roll of late) – we’re talking about a largely underground movement here – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t as dynamic as ever.

One of my favorite practitioners of the craft, The Well Wishers, released a new CD this year. It’s called A Shattering Sky, and like everything else Jeff Shelton has done in his various incarnations (WW, The Spinning Jennies, Hot Nun), it’s packed to the rafters with ringing guitars and melodic hooks and positively viral earworms – if you’re like me this disc will be buzzing around in your head for days. Continue reading


Being There…or we knew the bride when she used to marry rockers….

Pattie Boyd’s autobiography is a fascinating and messy piece of memoir that offers sometimes illuminating, sometimes banal insights into the private lives of two of the rock era’s iconic figures – George Harrison and Eric Clapton...and raises a slew of bigger questions…

Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Me by Pattie Boyd (image courtesy Goodreads)

When Tom Snyder asked John Lennon in the famous Tomorrow Show interview why he became a musician and formed a band, Lennon replied slyly, “For the birds, Tom. That’s why every guy does it. To get girls….”

Pattie Boyd was one of the most famous of “the birds….”

A few years ago Boyd published her autobiography which I just re-read as part of my 2014 reading list. It should be a riveting read for anyone interested in rock music, rock history, or rock stars in our popular culture.

But it isn’t.

Before we go into why, exactly, Boyd’s autobiography causes arguments, it might be useful to talk a little bit about reasons why people are famous. Continue reading