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

Nota Bene #117: Wake Up!

“Hollywood is so crooked that Mafia gangsters are entirely outclassed and don’t stand a chance. People in Hollywood are smarter. They have more sophisticated knowledge of money and deals and how to steal legally rather than illegally.” Who said it? Continue reading

Tournament of Rock – Legends: the Byrds pod

Results: Surprisingly, the anticipated controversy never developed, as Janis Joplin dispatched one of the strongest pods of competitors we’ve seen so far. The numbers: #8 Janis Joplin 47%; Stevie Ray Vaughan 34%; Bob Seger/Silver Bullet Band 6%; Paul McCartney/Wings 6%; Catherine Wheel 3%; MC5/Wayne Kramer 3%. Janis moves on to the Great 48.

Up next in our quest for the greatest band of all time, a band of jangle-pop innovators faces off with a couple of the most popular bands ever (and a couple of the most influential bands ever). Continue reading

Tournament of Rock – Legends: the Janis Joplin pod

Results: This was one of those pods where the seed never had a chance. It was nip and tuck the whole way, and in the end ZZ Top eased away for a narrow victory. The numbers: ZZ Top 39%; Pearl Jam 30%; Genesis 16%; #11 Oasis 7%; Garbage 7%; Sheryl Crow 2%. The lil’ ol’ band from Tejas advances to the Great 48.

Our tournament to determine the greatest band of all time now moves to the Budokan region, where one of the most dynamic female rock vocalists in history defends against a pack of competitors that seems guaranteed to spark outrage among the voters. Let the conniptions commence. Continue reading

TunesDay: America singing 2: goodnight, Irene, goin' down to the crossroads…

Most music historians explain the origins of rock music as the gradual blending of Southern blues (both Mississippi Delta based acoustic style and Chicago electrified) with country/western music as codified by Nashville. This over facile explanation has always seemed insufficient – hence the plethora of “(name your)-rock” divisions within rock music – like “rockabilly” (pictured at left being performed by its foremost practitioner).

This week we talk about blues. And about two giants to whom rock, that most “rebellious” of music, owes just about everything….

Huddie Ledbetter’s catalog reads like the history of both folk and rock (Hey, that would be be “folk-rock,” wouldn’t it?). But no one thinks of Leadbelly, as he’s more commonly known, as anything but a blues man. Continue reading

TunesDay: Can music violate the Geneva Conventions (or the 8th Amendment)?

Yow. If you missed the story, US PsyOps personnel are using music as a torture tactic on captives in Iraq. How silly, you say? Torture someone with music? Well, check out the playlist.

  1. “Fuck Your God” – Deicide
  2. “Die MF Die” – Dope
  3. “Take Your Best Shot” – Dope
  4. “White America” – Eminem
  5. “Kim” – Eminem
  6. “Barney Theme Song” – Barney Continue reading

The White Album – The Fabs in Autumn…(II)

latebeatles.jpg (Part I Here) It takes a while to drive up to a decent trout stream from where I live. About the time the first side of the cassette ended (sides one and two of The White Album) I stopped at a country store for a diet green tea and a protein snack bar (I’m such a Boomer health junkie now). I hopped back into the truck, flipped the cassette to listen to sides three and four and headed up through the red and gold of the hills toward the river, heartened by what The Beatles were revealing to me and anxious to find out if I could be drawn in again…. Continue reading

The White Album -The Fabs in autumn… (I)

thewhitealbum.jpg Autumn fills me with yearning. Maybe it’s those first twinges of approaching winter – a warm evening begets a frosty morning – that come unexpectedly, as crises or messages from long feared lost loved ones do, when one isn’t expecting them, bringing fear or joy so suddenly that one isn’t able to anticipate them sufficiently and then try to appreciate them adequately….

Maybe it’s because autumn is that seasonal reminder that we’re finite – that we’ll all die some day – and that we don’t even know when that’ll be, so we can’t really plan. Death, like love, comes even to those who are looking for it at that moment when their attention strays – a fly buzzes, as Dickinson noted, or maybe, as Keats whispers to us, a bird is singing:

“Now, more than ever seems it rich to die…” Continue reading

When giants walked the earth…the end of “the age of rock stars…” a personal view…

who1.jpgI think maybe this starts at a Who concert in 1976:

I went to the concert with two musician friends of mine and some women who, for reasons obvious to me at least, shall remain nameless. Toots and the Maytals, one of the great reggae bands, opened the show. In retrospect, they played a nice opening set – what there was of it. We booed them off the stage early.

I always rationalize to myself that it was because they covered John Denver’s execrable “Country Roads” – I mean, who in hell can tolerate “Almost Heaven/West Jamaica” as a lyric? But that wasn’t the real reason we booed them off, pissed off Pete Townshend, and had to wait an extra half-hour for The Who to come out and play an amazing show.

What we wanted was the spectacle. We wanted The Who – rock stars who’d give us a show worthy of our grubbily lofty expectations. It was 1976, after all. No one would want to see authentic musicians like The Maytals playing their music – we wanted the Big Bang.

And The Who delivered – a laser lit , ear ringing spectacle that I have long told anyone who’d listen was the best concert I ever saw…. Continue reading

The Forgotten Beatle

ringo1.jpg

Dick Cavett: Who’s the greatest drummer in rock?

Ringo: Me.

Dick Cavett: Why’s that, Ringo?

Ringo: Because I’m in the greatest band.

Today, 7/07/07, is special for something much more important than that Live Earth music industry circle jerk (any “rock concert” including the Pussycat Dolls is immediately authenticity bankrupt) posing as a pro-environment direct action. Meanwhile, Sir Paul is busy shilling his album in every $#@#@ Starbucks on the planet.

Today is the birthday of the self-described greatest drummer in rock history.

It’s Ringo’s birthday, kids. He’s 67.

We rarely think of Ringo these days, but he’s vital to the career of The Fabs. Here are a few reasons why Ringo matters… Continue reading

McCartney reaches retirement age, Hendrix still dead – of time and rock stars….

“It’s funny how most people love the dead. Once you’re dead, you’re made for life.” – Jimi Hendrix

Today is an important day in rock music history .

jimihendrixfire.jpgOn this day in 1967, Jimi Hendrix burst upon the consciousness of American rock audiences with a blistering set of psychedelic blues rock at the Monterey Pop festival, at the climax of which he threw his guitar to the stage, squirted it with lighter fluid, and set it ablaze. That image of Hendrix – who would tragically be labeled “a sex machine/witch doctor” because of his action (a stage stunt meant to rival the hyper-destructive Who’s earlier instrument bashing at the end of their set) – burning his instrument would become the definitive moment of the first great rock festival – and an iconic moment in a decade full of iconic moments. Thankfully, it was captured for posterity.

None of us knew then that this “trans-cendiary” act would be the apex of Jimi’s career – and that from that magic moment he would enter the slow downward spiral that – despite the brilliant music he created while falling from the sky he’d kissed so passionately – would end in a London flat just over three years later – deeply in debt, lonely, confused, feeling abandoned by friends and business associates – dead by choking on his own vomit, his drug addled girlfriend too confused or scared to save him….He was 27….

Continue reading

It was 40 years ago today…

On June 1, 1967, the unthinkable happened – the world was changed by a record album – a rock record album. Today is the 40th anniversary of the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by – oh, come on, you know this:

How many people can hum even two bars of Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony, or Mozart’s 30th? I recently played 60 seconds of these to an audience of 700 — including many professional musicians — but not one person recognized them. Then I played a fraction of the opening “aah” of “Eleanor Rigby” and the single guitar chord that opens “A Hard Day’s Night” — and virtually everyone shouted the names.

Yeah, yeah, yeah – I know, more Boomer mewling and puking about how wonderful we had it musically. Because we did… Continue reading

Old Men Admiring Themselves…

HEARD the old, old men say,
“Everything alters,
And one by one we drop away.”
They had hands like claws, and their knees
Were twisted like the old thorn-trees
By the waters.
“All that’s beautiful drifts away
Like the waters.”
William Butler Yeats

The Beatles have a new single coming out.

At one time in those same days of this our life, as the Anglo Saxons used to say, nothing was more important than these eight words.According to sources, this will be a “last great song.”

Continue reading

When “The Ever Present Past” doesn’t supply marketing research

Paul McCartney has a new single out called “My Ever Present Past.” (Scroll down the page to download the song.) Not only is it sonically a nice synthesis of a lot of the music he’s heard over the last, oh, forty plus years or so, the lyric explores his failed marriage, his still burning desire to make music, and the albatross around his neck that being Paul McCartney can be.

Bob Lefsetz has a note from a radio guy who pointed out that he couldn’t play the new McCartney single because there’s no market research for a song by Paul McCartney.

Let’s think about what that means for a moment. Continue reading