Category: essay

George Harrison, “Here Comes the Sun”, August 1, 1971

From the Concert for Bangladesh of course. You can see at the beginning how nervous George was! Not only his first solo performance, his first concert appearance at all since 1966, featuring his first performances of his own compositions ever – but here, also for the first time on stage, vulnerable and stripped down to an acoustic guitar. George’s little smile as the audience reaches out to him is priceless.

His duet partner, Badfinger’s Pete Ham, later revealed that they hadn’t even rehearsed! “George just wanted to keep it simple,” he said. After George told him the chord changes, Pete ducked into his hotel room to listen to the version on Abbey Road a couple of times, and that’s all there was time for! 

The result: magic. And beauty and joy and, yes, sun, sun, sun! Here it comes!

(Mi pequeña, está toda bien!)

(Note that by the time you come across this post, the video may have been taken down. It happens. Here’s the YouTube search for you to find another version. Worth the extra clicks!)

brownskinsugarplum76:

tremble-and-shake:

So I’ve never seen Labryrinth before… Thoughts from those who have? Is it a must see?

I haven’t seen it, either. ☺️ Fill us in, Bowie fans!

Look, nobody can see everything, and I’d be the last person to shame anyone for what they ain’t seen. I studied film in the 70s, been in and around the movie business for decades, seen 150-200 movies a year since the early 60s, and have still never seen a godfather picture, even though I like other Coppola movies and other work by those actors. (Short version: spare me angry, lawless men.) Sorry man, no time. Life is short. Can’t see all the movies.

BUT THIS IS BOWIE AND MUPPETS. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU? LOL

Kidding aside, this is 100% a kids movie. Not like Muppet Movies which are made two-thirds for grownups, but ACTUAL kids stuff. Not all of it works, and the mixed reviews and box office underperformance sent Jim Henson into a bit of a tailspin. 

You should also know that his collaborators included George Lucas and Monty Python’s Terry Jones. There’s some genuinely thrilling stuff here, some exceptional wit, and wall-to-wall striking visuals, to say the least.

My wife and I saw it a couple of times in theaters when it came out in 1986, (already aged closer to 30 than 20, but always up for a kids movie), owned it on LaserDisc (did I mention I’m old? LOL)….

AND IT HAS BOWIE AND MUPPETS!!! (Embed below; here’s the link for mobile peeps)

More broadly, I think anyone is right to assume that a movie with Bowie in it is probably not going to be a good time. (Sorry, not sorry. If you can watch The Man Who Fell To Earth and not want to kill yourself after you’ve murdered a whole bunch of other people, you’re tougher than I am. LOL)

And I’ll be the first to admit Bowie and his music aren’t necessarily the best part of this movie, and might not be enough to carry you through. 

For example, how do you feel about closeups of farting mud assholes? Because my wife and I still find a way to bring up The Bog Of Eternal Stench around our house every couple of weeks, nearly 40 years later. Featuring 16 year old Jennifer Connelly…..and farting mud assholes. (Link)

(Note that when Labyrinth was screened for the Royal Family, Prince Charles was the only one who laughed at this scene, among the many gems you’ll find at the film’s IMDb page.) 

The trailer lands pretty close to the mark, if somewhat on the somber side (whereas the movie as a whole does in fact seem like its writers include a member of Monty Python), so by all means take a gander.

So I don’t want to oversell it. It really is movie for KIDS. But the awesome stuff is awesome enough that the movie has become a worldwide cult favorite for generations. It is one million percent worth 101 minutes of your time.

RUSH with AIMEE MANN: “Time Stand Still”

There are many ways to think about Rush’s long career in the context of remembering drummer Neil Peart, but we’ve never been able to get this amazing video for “Time Stand Still” out of our head since we first saw it in 1987 (over 30 years ago!!!!!). 

Geddy had gotten it in his head that the song needed a woman’s voice to complement his own (hold the jokes, please: we’re here to remember Neil Peart), and considered women as varied as Kate Bush, Bjork, Chrissie Hynde, and Cyndi Lauper before landing on Til Tuesday lead singer Aimee Mann. While she’d soon be setting off on a solo career, the band’s videos were MTV mainstays, and any conversation about the women of alternative rock had to have Aimee near the top of the list.

Even though she’d never really thought too much about Rush one way or the other (no disrespect; they were just on different paths: the dance-punk flavor of early Til Tuesday was already morphing into Elvis Costello-inspired acoustic Americana), she loved the song and thought it sounded like fun. It really was that simple.

They spent a few hours getting to know each other, then another three hours to land on the vocal that made everyone happy – and hey, it makes EVERYONE happy who hears it to this very day. It truly is an amazing flourish to what would otherwise be a very good entry at the poppier end of Rush’s musical spectrum. With Aimee, it became magic.

I can almost imagine one of those other women singing (almost), but I can’t imagine any of them being as game as Aimee was to push around that camera and do that other goofing around with anything like the same exuberance.

Video nerds will appreciate that, under director Zbigniew Rybczyński.

they laid down the entire thing live to 1-inch broadcast tape, using the same kinds of camera we see Aimee pushing around, shooting in that very studio, around the clock for four days to build it one layer at a time – to the same master tape! No edits, so safeties, no lay-offs. Trust me when I tell you that this is INSANE.

As for Neil Peart, boy howdy, he drums up a storm on what sounds like a pretty simple track, and in obvious ways, of course, it absolutely is. But Neil had a way of making complicated drum patterns sounds simple. One advantage of this bizarre floating approach to the video is that Neil stays in the frame for darn near the entire video, even if occasionally obscured by other folks also floating through.

This is one of my favorite Rush tracks, and definitely my favorite Rush video, but do take some time to focus on Neil. Not just a terrific drummer, but like all the fellas in Rush, among the nicest guys in the business. Neil was uncomfortable with adulation, and didn’t care for the limelight (which he of course referred to as a “gilded cage” in one of his most famous lyrics), so, apart from some reticence around socializing, people only have good stories to tell about Neil. 

“The night I introduced Chrissie Hynde to Joan Jett,” by photographer Donna Santisi

“I met Chrissie in April 1980. The Pretenders were playing their second concert, at the Santa Monica Civic. I was already a huge fan. It was also Joan’s first performance at the Whisky with the Blackhearts. After their show, I took Chrissie upstairs to meet Joan. Chrissie was sisterly with her, giving her advice. 

“At one point, they start dropping their pants to compare the black and blue marks they got from their guitars.” 

(Below, Chrissie pulling off Joan’s pants!)

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“Joan would let me photograph anything I wanted. But I had just met Chrissie and she was more guarded, so she wouldn’t let me take the photo.”

(Below, Donna Santisi photographing the bruises Joan got from playing her guitar!)

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(Top two photos and story source here. Bottom photo source here.)

@sosozoso​ tagged me, and was probably looking for much shorter answers….but this is what happen when people ask me stuff. 🤣

It takes forever for me to answer, and takes forever to read. 

Favourite colours: Bluuuuuue. I used to say that I didn’t have a favorite color, but one of the things I’ve learned about myself over the years is that I’m happiest with a view of the water and/or the sky. Here’s the view from where I’m sitting. 

(I live in Hawaii. For more scenery and flowers and pets and such, connect to me on Instagram. Let me know that it’s you, and I’ll gladly follow back!)

Last song I listened to: I obviously love classic rock, but that’s not what I mostly listen to. Almost all I listen to is music released this year (every year), and for the past couple of years, it’s been almost entirely women artists and women-led bands. Starcrawler released my second-favorite album of the year, Devour You, and I LOVE this song, featuring one of the most striking frontwomen in rock, Arrow de Wilde. Great video too.

(I’m going to be writing some about Starcrawler and other faves from this year. For a sneak peek, here’s my Best of 2019 playlist on Spotify, Twitch, Spit, Cream, Trouble. I’m also almost done building it on YouTube, here.

Favourite Song: Because I’m very old (you know that I’m older than your dad, right?)

and very obsessive, I have a LOT of favorite songs, so I thought about how to slice this question. 

I haven’t often spoken on tumblr about being bipolar and schizophrenic but I’ve been thinking I should bring it up more when it makes sense, and right now, it kind of does. Here’s a handful of songs that have genuinely saved me at various times over the years. I mean, I might prefer other songs for dancing or kissing or for other specific reasons….but these have really helped me. Maybe they’ll help you too.

In chronological order:

The Beatles, “Penny Lane”. It’s funny, if I was making a list of favorite Beatles songs, this is up there for sure, but not on top. (That would be “Here Comes The Sun.”) But a list of songs that have been saving my life the longest, this is alllll the way at the top. 

Too long a story to tell now, but the short version is that I knew I was in trouble from a very young age. I was 7 or 8 when I first fell under “Penny Lane”’s thrall, already pointedly aware that despite an ostensibly idyllic childhood in lovely suburbs with a loving family, I had precisely zero happy memories apart from perhaps The Beatles themselves. As far as I was concerned, my life was nonstop fear, nightmares, and voices in my head who meant me harm. 

Paul’s vision of a happy childhood was also rooted in considerable pain, including the loss of his mother, but the joy in the song is so palpable that it made me wonder if there might not be a way that I could get out of my own childhood agony alive. I’d listen to the single obsessively for hours at a time, jumping up to set the needle back at the beginning as the final note faded, occasionally flipping it over to hear “Strawberry Fields Forever,” but mostly “Penny Lane” on repeat for days. 

The song became my safe place, where I’d hide when I tried to sleep, eyes clenched shut and body held so tight I trembled, playing the song in my head over and over until I could calm myself enough to sleep, hoping to avoid the nightmares for at least a few hours. Nothing brought the nightmares properly under control until I found the proper medication years later (take your meds, kids!), but “Penny Lane” has everything to do with how I did in fact make it out of my childhood alive.

Joni Mitchell, “Amelia”. I can’t overstate how much Joni Mitchell meant to me in the late 70s and beyond. I mean, I came across her in the late 60s and early 70s like most other music fans my age, and I love her now as much as then, but she and I fell deeply into jazz at about the same time, albeit in very different ways. LOL 

This was also the time when she started producing her own albums, and on Hejira in particular, speaking directly about her own inner landscape, apart from the relationship-oriented songs that she’d gotten so much grief for. Her inability to stop and stay anywhere spoke to my mania, and the travel fever that gripped me for most of  my life. 

Amelia Earhart, a woman who never returned from her travels, was a more-than-metaphorical stand-in for Joni herself, but the song cut far closer to the bone than that single parallel: “Maybe I’ve never really loved / I guess that is the truth / I’ve spent my whole life in air at icy altitudes”, she says, “sleeping on the strange pillows of my wanderlust”, and acknowledging that the search doesn’t have a point beyond the journey itself, that “some have found their paradise, others just come to harm” – leaving open the question of whether her affinity for Amelia’s impulses will lead her to Amelia’s fate. 

(I felt more like Joni’s description of “Icarus ascending, on beautiful foolish arms”, noting how closely and in how many ways this song embraced the likelihood of an early and final end to traveling.)

It happens that the musician who most obsessed me as the 70s ended and the 80s began was Pat Metheny, a jazz guitarist who joined Joni for Shadows and Light, the 1980 live album that featured songs from across Hejira, The Hissing of Summer Lawns, Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter, and Mingus. (Also on that album, a murderer’s row of jazz giants including Don Alias, Jaco Pastorius, Lyle Mays, and Michael Brecker.)

This version of “Amelia” from Santa Barbara in 1979 begins as a solo piece with Joni on electric guitar (my favorite incarnation of Joni), and becomes a duet with Pat. This clip ends before a song cleverly dubbed “Pat’s Solo”, a 3-minute interlude that transitions straight into the title track from Hejira (a poetic reference to the Prophet’s precipitous departure from Mecca). I’ve surely listened to this song 10,000 times or more over the years, and this version has been a meaningful number of those.

Radiohead, “Black Star”. I’m glad that I live in a world where OK Computer is one of the biggest albums of all time, but I like The Bends even better. This is the kind of song where the most beautiful line is a howling, “This is killing me.” And you believe it.

I saw them open for REM in 1995, and none of the people I was with had ever heard of them, so they asked me what to expect. I said, “Exactly splitting the difference between Bread and The Sex Pistols”, a description I think still holds up for The Bends-era Radiohead, although will only really make sense to people who were teenagers in the 70s. LOL 

The studio version on The Bends is probably the one you need, but I do love this performance, and I really can’t begin to tell you the trouble that this song has helped me get out of.

Bob Dylan, Mississippi”. This one’s not on YouTube, so I’m gonna have to share the Spotify link and leave it at that for now. I’m working on a reply to an Ask about favorite Bob Dylan songs, so I’ll talk about it there, but this is in fact the undisputed champ sitting at #1 on my list.

Underworld, Ova Nova. You’ll see on my list of favorite artists below that Underworld comes in at #3 behind The Beatles and Bob, but that hardly does them justice. There have been years where it feels like I spent 90% of the year listening to them. 2016 was one of those years, and this song (from that year’s Barbara Barbara We Face A Bright And Shining Future elpee) is one reason why. 

A ballad from a band most famous for bangers (they lit the fuse on the techno revolution with “Born Slippy”, which formed the climax of the movie Trainspotting), the song’s name is Latin for “New Eggs”. The singer-lyricist Karl Hyde has been very open about his addictions. He’s about my age, and I relate to the notion of fucking up an almost infinite number of things in an almost incalculable number of ways, leavened with the endless, humbling joy of still being alive to tell the tale. 

This song came out of the work that he and the band’s composer, Rick Smith, did to rebuild their relationship after Karl had managed to torch it again, and the women’s voices in the chorus are their adult daughters. Vastly oversimplified, and Karl’s lyrics are more poetic than literal, but the love in this runs so, so deep. I can’t listen to it without crying, but I listen to it a lot anyway. LOL 

There’s really no good reason I can think of that I’m still here, but I know that one thing keeping me around is the joy of finding songs like this, that make me want to hear more songs. 

Favourite Musicians/Artist: Again, being old and obsessive, it’s hard for me to even make sense of this question after the first couple obvious names on the list….but I came across a site that parses your Spotify listening over various timeframes, and it turns out that my longest-term list of artists comes super-close to providing a perfect summary. (If you’re on Spotify, check out your own history here. It’s a gas!) 

I made a slight edit (Dylan is my #1 on Spotify, only because I have all six CDs in my car CD changer filled with Beatles disks, meaning I listen to them on Spotify less than I otherwise would), so I made the edit to move The Beatles to the top, and this is what I’ve got:

  1. The Beatles
  2. Bob Dylan
  3. Underworld
  4. Wire
  5. Led Zeppelin
  6. Elton John
  7. Crowded House
  8. Queen
  9. Bob Mould
  10. R.E.M.

Again, not at all reflective of my DAILY listening habits (apart from The Beatles, who I’ve listened to EVERY DAY since early 1964), but as good a snapshot of my 55+ years of obsession as I can come up with without physically injuring myself.

Last Film I Watched: Little Women! By far the best movie I saw in 2019, and one of the best I’ve ever seen. Truly spectacular-looking, too! Please see it on a big screen if you can, and do NOT wait for Netflix. Trust me on this.

Favourite TV show watched: I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned that I’ve been in and out of the TV business since the late 70s (blame it on seeing A Hard Day’s Night as a kid and falling in love with live TV), and am still on the periphery of it now. I’m almost as obsessive about TV as I am music, but it happens that my wife and I were talking about our all-time faves the other day, and I came up with a decent-enough list, again in chronological order:

  1. Star Trek: TOS
  2. The Mary Tyler Moore Show
  3. Buffy The Vampire Slayer
  4. Firefly
  5. So You Think You Can Dance
  6. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

There’s a lot more, but those really do tower above the rest.

Sweet, Spicy, or Savoury: All of them! That’s why Indian food is my favorite: sweet, spicy, and savory all at once! I’m pretty good at cooking Indian-style, too. I cook a LOT.

Pets. I’ve had so, so many pets over the years – dogs, cats, bearded dragons, birds, tortoises, snakes, fish, etc etc – but after our very old big dog and very old small cat passed away in the past year, we’re currently down to one: Snickers. That was his name when we adopted him. I don’t believe in naming pets after food, (others in the shelter had names like “Puddin” and “Muffin” – no thanks), so I treat his name like a verb, as in “He snickers.” Adorable little fella, though, and packed with love.

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Anyhoo, I’m supposed to tag some folks, but I’ve been on tumblr nearly 7 years and have never had anyone respond to one of these.  LOL I’d love if some of you considered this an open invitation, though, and do please feel free to reply like a normal person with normal-sized answers. LOL 

And hey, feel free to blacklist the tag “essay” to avoid more nonsense like this.

PS. I just noticed that if you’re seeing this in the tumblr app, some of the video embeds are missing. They’re there in both the mobile browser and desktop/laptop, so please check there to see the missing clips! 

Richie Havens – Here Comes The Sun (1971)

The first time that most people had ever seen or heard Richie
Havens wasn’t at Woodstock. It was when they saw Woodstock the movie.
That’s the thing about Woodstock.
Only a relative handful of people knew much about what happened there – and there
was nothing resembling a consensus on even the basics – until long after the
fact. 

So not in 1969. Not even necessarily 1970. For a lot of people, it wasn’t
even until well into 1971, when Woodstock was awarded the Best Documentary
Oscar in April and the film was subsequently re-released into theaters with a much, much
higher profile than before.

As a result, quite a few of the performers featured in the
film had their chart peaks and released their best-selling albums not in 1969,
not in 1970, but in 1971.
These included performers as varied as Joan Baez, The
Who, and Melanie, among others – like Richie Havens.

Richie been kicking around Greenwich Village since the 50s, when Beatnik poets were still the biggest draws in the local clubs. He wasn’t the first act
scheduled to appear at Woodstock. He was simply the only one there at all
by the time the crowds were
starting to get restless, and promoters were already afraid that the whole thing
was about to get away from them.

The legend is that he played the better part of three hours
as staff kept pushing him back on stage to keep the crowd occupied, and
that having sung every song he knew (including “Handsome Johnny”, already on
its way to becoming a standard), he was left to make something up on the spot,
riffing on “Freedom” over the base of “Motherless Child”.

While the reality is somewhat less dramatic than the legend,
what we saw in the film was jaw-dropping. It translated into chart success in 1971,
with by far his highest charting album, Alarm Clock (peaking at #29; his next album
peaked at just #55, with no others after that breaking into the Top 100), and the
one and only charting single of his long and distinguished career in the spring
of 1971, a glorious cover of
“Here Comes The Sun”.

Richie’s version is so different from The Beatles that there’s
really no point in arguing which is better. They barely seem like even the same song, but I’m glad we live in a world where we have both. I think it’s also safe to say that even if we’d never had The
Beatles version, Richie’s version would have been a hit on its own.
He packed an incredible amount of music into
his 72 years, and this one is one of the true gems.

This live version has an even shaggier charm than the
version on Alarm Clock, and if Woodstock the movie taught us anything, it’s that
the best part of any Richie Havens performance isn’t his soothingly ragged
voice, or the relentless innovation and drive of his open-chord strumming, but
the pleasure of watching him play and sing.

“Here Comes The Sun” spent 14 weeks on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart,
peaking at #16 on May 21, 1971, just about a month after Woodstock won its
Oscar. Even more than that one, this is the version you need to hear…and see.

TURN IT UP! Joe Walsh with The James Gang, “Walk Away”, 1971

The James Gang was one of those bands that hit so much harder live than on their studio records that it’s almost impossible to believe that they’re the same guys. Their two 1971 albums offer the perfect contrast, Thirds (a solid but tame record from whence comes this glorious single), and James Gang In Concert, recorded in May 1971 at Carnegie Hall and released later that year.

I’m surprised the hall was still standing when they were done. It’s the loudest slab of vinyl I’ve ever put on a turntable – even with the volume turned all the way down, the racket coming straight out of the needle scraping through the grooves unamplified was flat out unbelievable. Very much in keeping with the ethos proclaimed in the liner notes of the previous year’s James Gang Rides Again“Made Loud To Be Played Loud.”

This performance from Germany’s Beat Club, first aired July 24, 1971, somewhat splits the difference between the civilized, if still loud, studio band, and the utter savages (in a good way!) of James Gang on stage. Surely you’ve already pressed play, and heard Joe Walsh absolutely ROAR into this thing. If all you know of him is what you’ve heard on the radio or with the Eagles, you’re in for an eye-opening, and ear-opening delight.

I had once thought of this song as a pleasant bit of science fiction. The MAN in the song is the one who wants to talk about his feelings and where the relationship is going, while “you just turn your pretty head and walk away.” Riiiight. Because that’s how men are. Just won’t shut up about relationships.  ‾\_(ツ)_/‾

Well, maybe Joe really IS that way, because the song sounds pretty damn persuasive, and other than being a little condescending, it’s not especially mean, which automatically sets him above most men of the day.

(1971 was the first great year for a wide swath women artists in classic rock, but women as a lot were alas still not faring well at the hands of male writers. Still aren’t, either, which is a story for another day.)

I actually started rethinking this song when I read what Stevie Nicks had to say about Joe Walsh, whom she describes as “the great, great love of my life.”

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She said of their breakup: “It nearly killed me. We had to break up or we thought we’d die. We were just too excessive.

We were busy superstars and we were doing way too much drugs. We were really, seriously drug addicts. We were a couple on the way to hell. 

But there was no closure. It took me years to get over it — if I ever did. It’s very sad but at least we survived. 

He was the one I would have married, and that I would probably have changed my life around for a little bit, anyway. Not a lot. 

[my note: the fact that she concedes that she’d have changed only a little bit, and only “probably”, suggests that she’s maybe not exaggerating the rest.] 

There was no other man for me. I look back at all the men in my life, and there was only one that I can honestly say I could truly have lived with every day for the rest of my life, because there was respect and we loved to do the same things. I was very content with him all the time. That’s only happened once in my life. 

This man, if he’d asked me to marry him, I would have. There was nothing more important than Joe Walsh — not my music, not my songs, not anything. He was the great, great love of my life.(more here)

So on top of being better at relationships and rocking harder than you might have thought, he’s also a terrific technical guitarist, and a hilarious storyteller. I heard him tell a story on the radio in 1988 or so, involving him and George Harrison, that I’ve never seen documented, but I dropped everything I was doing to listen. 

I even remember exactly where I was – in the back room of the bookstore I managed in Washington, DC, way past time to go home, but I didn’t want to miss the end of the story during the long walk to my car.

This is paraphrased, but it’s pretty damn close. I started telling this story to everyone within earshot right away, and you’ll get why. 

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(btw, I don’t have a picture of Joe and George together, although they shared a stage a time or two. There are quite a few pictures of Joe and Ringo, though – not only did Joe play in some editions of Ringo’s All-Star Band, they’re married to sisters! Marjorie and Barbara Bach, so yeah, they’re brothers in law.)

Anyway, Joe said that the one piece of advice he gives every guitarist trying to learn the instrument, “Learn to play every song The Beatles ever did, and sound exactly like they did. Doesn’t matter if you hate The Beatles or don’t want to sound anything like them when you’re done, because once you can play everything they played, exactly the way they sounded, you can do anything that it’s possible to do on a guitar.”

Well, there was one song that was vexing him, the very last one that he still couldn’t figure out – “And Your Bird Can Sing” from Revolver. When he finally got it, he was beside himself. He called up George Harrison to make sure he was home (both fellas were living in Los Angeles at the time), said, “Stay there, I got something you gotta hear!” 

He packed up his amps and his guitar, drove over to George’s house, and started setting up. “What is it?” asked George. “Just wait,” replied Joe, and kept setting up. 

When Joe finally unleashed a note-perfect “And Your Bird Can Sing”, George fell out of his chair laughing. “How the hell did you do that?” “Well, it took me long enough to figure out,” Joe said, “so I was going to ask YOU how YOU did it.”

George said, “The way *I* did it was John and me playing in unison, and then double-tracked! I can’t figure out how you did it by yourself, even though I just saw you do it!” 

Well, Joe was left feeling pretty good about himself, managing to sound like the equivalent of four Beatles guitarists all by himself, if a little exasperated to have spent so much time figuring out something that he should have known better than to try – but he did it anyway. THAT’s Joe Walsh for ya.

I hope you’ve already hit play AGAIN on that blistering take on 1971′s “Walk Away” up top, because Joe really was killing it that year. There’s more to him than you probably think, too, so if you’re into the heavy guitar thing, you should definitely do some exploring.

Led Zeppelin fans in particular, I’m looking at you. Joe and Jimmy were friends from Jimmy’s days in The Yardbirds, and it was Joe who said, man, you’ve gotta quit monkeying around with that Telecaster. When you’re ready to rock, switch to a Les Paul – and indeed, Jimmy bought his first Les Paul (known as “#1″) from Joe in 1969, for $1200, which Joe says he flew out to hand-deliver to Jimmy. Says Jimmy, “Joe brought it for me when we played the Fillmore. He insisted I buy it, and he was right.”

(btw, nifty pic from Joe’s Twitter feed of him and Jimmy hanging out after LZ’s February 12 show at The Garden in 1975!)

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I wouldn’t want to say that Led Zeppelin’s approach to live jamming was necessarily influenced by James Gang, but I’m saying that they were similar and Joe got there first. LOL And seriously, if you dig live Zeppelin, you NEED to know more about live James Gang and early solo Joe.

(More details about #1 than anyone but a gearhead would want here, here, here, and here, but hey, maybe you’re a gearhead!)

To give you a head start for exploring more James Gang and early solo Joe, I’ll add one more video, from 1972, “Turn To Stone” featuring Fanny’s Jean Millington on bass absolutely slaying dragons on this monster. As Joe told Rolling Stone,

“Turn to Stone” was written about the Nixon administration and the Vietnam War and the protesting that was going on and all of that. It’s a song about frustration. Also, I attended Kent State. I was at the shootings. That fueled it, too. In those days it felt like the government’s priority was not the population. They had an agenda that was about something other than doing what was necessarily good for the country.

A few years later [in 1980], I decided to run for president myself. [Ed. Note: Walsh pledged to make “Life’s Been Good” the new national anthem.] I thought it’d be a great idea and I had fun with it. And the reason I did it is because there was, and there continues to be, a very apathetic attitude toward voting. There’s a total separation between the federal government and the people. So running for president was an attempt on my part to get people to care enough to go vote. But people just don’t bother. And that’s why it’s not working.

TURN IT UP!

Oh what the heck, and one more from July 20 1971, from the French TV show Pop2, “The Bomber” (from 1970′s Rides Again) which includes a quick little nod to “Beck’s Bolero” along the way.  (Well, technically I suppose, Ravel’s “Bolero”, and indeed, Ravel’s estate made them remove the reference from initial pressings of the album!)

And another note for LZ fans: Joe does some crazy stuff with his bare hands at around 2:30-3:30 going into “Bolero” that Jimmy did with a violin bow. THAT’s Joe Walsh for ya.

TURN IT UP!

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Only John would have gotten the kind of reaction he did. Not just compared to Paul. Compared to anyone.

The reaction to his death had everything to do with John’s unique connection to us, and ours to him. 

People gathered spontaneously by the hundreds and thousands around the world from the moment they heard the news on December 8, 1980.

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On the day of his memorial, December 14, over 100,000 people came together outside his home in New York alone. 

Every radio station in New York went silent for 10 minutes (not just rock stations, either: every station) as did other stations across the country. 

Individuals around the world went silent, too. I certainly did, and so did many of my friends.

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Here are some of the reasons that I believe that only John’s passing touched us this way, and why it still touches us.

 

John was OUR Beatle.

When John & Yoko moved to New York in August 1971, they never went back to England again.

More than that, John fought be here. Almost from the moment he arrived, the US government was trying to throw him out. Constant FBI surveillance, deportation hearings – it took years of battles for him just to be able to stay here at all.

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The pictures of them walking to and from court (above, in March 1972) weren’t just staged for publicity. You can find hundreds of pictures of John & Yoko walking around New York, because that’s what they did.


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Their address, first in Greenwich Village, then near Central Park, were public knowledge. The night of December 8, 1980, John did what he usually did. He stopped to talk to fans who had been waiting for him outside his home. 

Even if you didn’t live in New York, it was very much in your mind that if you wanted to meet John, you knew you could. It was easy.

Which is also how John came to such a sudden end. John was vulnerable because he chose to live vulnerably.

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The Imagine album was released 9/9/71, the single released 11/11/71

And look at the songs: “Imagine,” “Power To The People,” “Instant Karma (We All Shine On),” “Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” “Give Peace A Chance,” “All You Need Is Love” – nobody else could have written even one of these, much less all of them.

It’s easy to point to John’s hypocrisy (which John talked about as much as any of his critics did) and the fact that he was generally a blowhard with an opinion about everything and just roll your eyes, but the fact is that he genuinely aspired to a better world in a way that resonated with us.

It resonated with the people in power, too. The US government in particular was terrified of him. That’s why starting in 1971, John was constantly under FBI surveillance, and under the constant threat of being thrown out of the country.

Portions of the FBI’s files on John were kept secret until 2011 because the government said the information about John’s surveillance endangered national security!

If you’re interested, you finally can see John’s complete FBI files here, and can learn more about it in the film The US  vs John Lennon.

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It wasn’t until 1976 that John was granted permission to stay in the US. Below, showing off his shiny new green card.

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I could go on at length about the depth and breadth of his fundraising and activism – not just anti-war, but also racial and gender equality, education (including leading a protest march for free speech for high school students!), criminal justice reforms, and much more.


The US government’s fear of John Lennon was very much rooted in reality, and we loved that about him. He was speaking for us.


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The non-album single"Power to the People" was released March 22, 1971.


Remembering the way that John inspired us led to headlines like this one: “DEATH OF A HERO”


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You can see the way that this still resonates when, in 2013, the gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman in India led 600 guitarists to gather in Darjeeling to play “Imagine” together, in both protest and hope.

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John’s connection to us was also intimately personal.

Inspiration, out there, is one thing. John wanted more than that. Or you could say, he wanted less. As far as he was concerned, the world had more people wanting to be leaders than was good for us. 

Instead, he wanted to touch us. 

More than the other Beatles, maybe more than any musician ever, John opened himself to us.

There was the literal nakedness of theTwo Virgins album, and these famous portraits by

Annie Leibovitz

taken the very afternoon that John was murdered.

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More important, there was also the emotional nakedness. 

On Plastic Ono Band he dismantled his stardom as he howled out isolation, abandonment, and pain, side by side with songs of wounded tenderness and simplicity. It’s easily among the most personally revealing albums ever released by anyone.

Of course, he’d been doing this since the beginning, even if it wasn’t until later that he explained to us just how very desperate he felt when he wrote songs like “Help!,” “I’m A Loser,” “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away,” and others. While other rock stars were making drugs look cool, John was the first one I ever heard sing about the harrowing fear and and chaos they caused him, in “Cold Turkey.”

What he showed us when we got close wasn’t always pretty, including on 1971′s Imagine. The vision of the title song is right up against his confession of being a “Jealous Guy” who causes pain, and his undisguised anger at Paul in “How Do You Sleep?” 

He quickly apologized to Paul, both privately and publicly, admitting that his anger ultimately had nothing to do with Paul, that it was all in John’s own head.

And that’s the thing. Some people thought of John as a saint. John didn’t.

It wasn’t (and isn’t) always easy being a fan of John’s. He could be cruel and violent, he was unfaithful to both his wives and a terrible father to his first son, he let drugs and alcohol get the better of him, and much more.

He finally figured out that he couldn’t be a rock star and be the kind of man he wanted to be, so he quit. 

It’s easy to forget now, but he only headlined two concerts, both of them benefits, in 1971 and 1972. He played a few songs on stage with Elton John in 1974, but that was it for live shows. A few albums of course, but after some famous (and infamous) detours, he cleaned up, got into therapy, and became a full-time dad – the first time many of us had heard of such a thing.

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Not that he’d gotten everything together by the end, not at all – but he was definitely moving in the right direction for once. He seemed happy, in some ways, for the first time in his life. 

One of the final songs he recorded after his long hiatus said it was like he was starting over, and it was clear that, even more than his recording career, he was talking about his life

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And we were watching it happen, because he lived in the open, still walking the streets of New York. 

So there really was that strange extra sense that you get when a friend or neighbor suddenly passes, a confusion, almost like, “But he was just here. I was just talking to him.”

It’s still almost inconceivable that any celebrity was that accessible, either emotionally or physically, in real life, but John Lennon was. 

John’s passing also reminded us that The Beatles were HIS band.

On one level, this is simply, literally true. John had a band already. The others joined it.

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John wasn’t the best musician in The Beatles, though. He wasn’t even the best guitarist.

Whether he was the best writer is irrelevant. He and Paul created magic together, and they also challenged each other to be better writers on their own. Paul was more driven and ambitious, but even Paul was very clear: they all looked up to John.


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John’s death also meant that there would never be a Beatles reunion. Sure, we knew it was never going to happen really, but we could still talk about at least a one-off concert at some point down the line, right? 

But now, no. 

So there’s a sense in which, when John died, The Beatles died too.

Frankly, to many of us, it felt like the 60s had finally died too.


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Mourning John Lennon 

Please note that I’m not placing John’s murder above assassinations like Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and the Kennedys. 

John himself would say that his death was no more important than any of the people of color singled out for killing by American police, “security” guards, and vigilantes, or the mass shootings taking place every day in America for no apparent reason other than that they can.

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The glasses John was wearing when he was shot, photo by Yoko Ono 

Again underscoring how ultimately insignificant to the world John himself would acknowledge his death to be, this is still only a small look at the scale of our response to it at the time. 

We reacted more strongly to John Lennon’s death than we would have to anyone else’s, because he was more a part of our lives.

Not necessarily because he was our favorite Beatle. Ultimately, not even necessarily that he was a Beatle at all.


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John Lennon wanted to connect to us, personally, intimately, deeply, and he did. 

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John Lennon, 1971. Below, Strawberry Fields in Central Park, NY

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Do you ever post any Taste/Rory Gallagher? I tried looking through tags, but couldn't find anything – though that could also be Tumblr being its usual nightmare self.

Well, friend, ya stumped me! I’d heard Rory’s name but knew nothing about him (or heard him that I’m aware of), and had certainly never heard of Taste!

It turns out that our boy Rory had a stellar 1971, with his second solo album called Deuce, two Taste live albums, (Taste Live, and Live At The Isle of Wight), and finishing ahead of Eric Clapton to top Melody Maker’s poll for Best Guitarist!

As you know (and I discovered), he’d left Taste as 1970 ended, and the tale is a sad one, combining the usual record label nonsense of the era with the Irish Troubles. Taste, and Rory in particular, had gone from having vocal supporters in John Lennon and Eric Clapton (opening for both Cream’s final shows at the Royal Albert Hall and Blind Faith’s US tour) to a final show in Belfast on December 31, 1970 as a dozen car bombs ripped the city apart. 

Rory was 19 when the band started, and 22 when it all came crashing down.

An amazing telling of the tale here: The rise and acrimonious fall of Rory Gallagher’s Taste: Cork power trio Taste blazed onto the blues scene, propelled by Rory Gallagher’s incendiary guitar. Fours years later they blew up in a maelstrom of betrayal. (Read on – a genuinely fantastic read, even for folks like me who aren’t familiar with Rory!)

Taste was only around for a few years, so not a ton of photos, and most of the ones I’ve seen around the web are already on tumblr. I did find a couple I haven’t seen here yet, including a couple from that amazing 1970 edition of The Isle of Wight Festival:

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And one from 1975 that I think looks pretty cool:

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And a more tender one:

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I found all of these on the Pinterest of a user named Fenna Bosman, and none seemed to point back to tumblr images. If any of you have better sources, by all means let me know!

Anyway, YOU surely have a lot more to tell ME about all this, so feel free to drop me a line! My chat’s open if you want to keep it private, and I don’t post non-anon Asks without permission, so let me know what else I should know!

PS. Coming soon: more answered Asks!

Queen: Freddie Mercury and Brian May, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”, Budapest, July 27, 1986, via queenphotos.

I was just going to post this without additional commentary (no, I have not been taken over by a pod from outer space), but you know what? You really, really need to see this. Not even the Live Aid performance of this (WHICH I HATE THAT THEY LEFT OUT OF THE MOVIE) gives a hint at how gloriously chaotic “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” could get on stage

So here ya go, from Wembley a couple of weeks earlier than the Budapest photo above, on July 11. Here you’ll see Brian switching between three guitars (you see his black Telecaster above, which he typically used for the first solo), and both him and Freddie actively engaging keyboard player Spike Edney, who’s absolutely wailing on the piano for this. (Spike is still playing with Queen today!)

There’s a camera parked behind Roger, who really doesn’t get enough credit for how hard he pounds drums (as if Bonham is the only one who hits hard or something?), and Deacy’s shorts are so short that he looks like he’s wearing a big t-shirt and nothing else while he POGOS HIS WAY THROUGH. (Check right around 3:30 for several shots of him bouncing clear off the ground.) This ain’t just a rhythm section. Both of these fellas are bringing the pain

This clip cuts in just after Freddie laughs, “Everybody knows I can’t play the fucking guitar,” and opens with his holy invocation, “This is for all you crazy f*****s out there.”

Turn this WAY THE FUCK UP, and soak in it. Amazing stuff.