On This Day – John Lennon Born

john lennon John Winston Lennon joined this world today in 1940. As part of the Beatles he helped shape modern music writing some iconic songs. He worked for peace and against the Vietnam War. He was threatened with deportation from the USA by the Nixon administration, investigated by the FBI. He was murdered on 8th December 1980 by Mark David Chapman.

Lennon was raised by his aunt Mimi although he did have regular contact with his birth mother Julia. She bought him a banjo when he was 11 and taught him to play “Aint That A Shame” by Fats Domino. She also bought him his first guitar in 1957. His aunt Mimi was not in favour of his infatuation with music and did not share his faith that he would be famous one day and make a living out of music. Julia died after being hit by a car driven by an off duty policeman in 1958.,

Lennon had co-founded a skiffle group in 1956 which had him on banjo. Originally called The Blackjacks they changed their name to The Quarrymen (after the school that they attended) as another local group was using that name. Their repertoire consisted of Lonnie Donegan songs which they aired at parties, school dances and the like.

The whole local music scene was very fluid at this time with various lineups and personnel sitting in with other groups but the Beatles began to come together. When Paul McCartney joined The Quarrymen he insisted that George Harrison also join over Lennon’s objections that Harrison was too young. Later Stu Suttcliffe (bass) joined and suggested that they change their name to The Beetles, later The Silver Beetles and then to The Beatles. Their first recording was “That Will Be The Day” with “In spite of All the Danger” (by McCartney and Harrison) on the other side. The recording cost 17/6 (£0.77) and the one disc produced was passed around the band. It resurfaced in 1981 when McCartney bought it for an undisclosed amount.

Against Mimi’s vehement objections Lennon went with the other Beetles to Hamburg in 1960. That residency at Bruno Koschmider’s Indra club did not last long. The Beatles were deported back to the UK after a minor arson incident and it was discovered that Harrison was under age.

The Beatles went on to be the biggest band in the world, of course, but why should we celebrate Lennon’s birth? He was voted the 8th greatest Briton by BBC viewers (but then Dianna came 3rd…..), he was awarded an MBE (or was that an OBE – don’t know and don’t care). Helped to shape popular music and wrote some great rock and pop songs. But, what made him so great?

I think he together with, but perhaps more than, the other Beatles showed what was possible. In those days you went to school and then left to find a job, got married, had children, and then died. There were no other options, until we were showed otherwise. He was an inspiration for others, and surely that is as good as anyone’s life can get, there is nothing better.

My favourite Lennon song, I even like the Tin machine version (yes, I was the one person who bought that god awful album).




You know, I am not terribly happy with this post. My heart is not really in it. I don’t think that I have done JL justice, so much more than a member of the Beatles.

Perhaps it is just because it is 5.00am…….

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On This Day 26th Sepyember 1887- Thanks Emile

250px-Emile_Berliner_with_disc_record_gramophone_-_between_1910_and_1929This day in 1887 was one of the great days of popular music.

Emile Berliner who emigrated from Germany to the USA when he was 26 applied for a patent for his invention, the gramophone. This was the first machine to play discs and not the wax cylinders. He solved the problem of getting the turntable to revolve at a steady and measurable rate after teaming up with Eldridge Johnson.

Although he also designed a very (very) early helicopter and a loom suitable for mass weaving his contribution to popular music is what he will be remembered for.

My thanks to Emile, you saved my young life.

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On This Day – Hendrix, Suicide, Accident or Murder?

On this day in 1970 some firends and I were on holiday with our girlfriends in a cottage in South Wales. We were having breakfast when we heard the news of Hendrix’s death on the BBC.

Since then there have been a number of theories as to what happened. Eric Burden of the Animals and a close froend thought that it was suicide, Monika Dannemann, his girlfriend, said that he died after a bout of drinks, drugs and sex. Others have claimed that his manager, Mike Jeffery stood to benefit to the tune of £1,000,000 from an insurance policy. Still others have said that as Hendrix was regarded as being subversive the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program ( COINTELPRO) had an interest in him being ‘removed’.

The truth? I doubt if we will ever know. Here are some things we do know.

Dannemann said that he was alive and sleeping when she went for some cigarrettes but in obvious trouble when she returned a few minutes later. She called Burden. He said that she should call the ambulance. When the ambulance arrived she went to the hospital with him and said that he died en route. The medics say that he was pronounced dead at the flat.

The time of death was never confirmed so we do not know if he was dead when the medics arrived or not.

Burden’s claim that it was suicide may not stack up as, although having a chaotic and professionally troubled life at the time, friends say Hendrix was happy and talking abou the future, both his and his new band’s. He was going to change the drummer of the Band of Gypsies, planning new recordings etc. Not the usual behaviour of someone about to kill themselves.

There was a lot of alcohol in his stomach and lungs there were nine Vesperax sleeping pills in his system. Hendrix was an insomniac and his use of sleeping pills was not unusual. What was unusual was that there was a lot of red wine in his lungs, and relatively little in his blood stream. Even a hard drinkling session rarely, if ever, ends up with wine in the lungs and not in the blood stream. That could be the case if he was water boarded. That points towards murder not a night long alcohol binge.

Jeffery died in a plane crash in 1973, Danneman committed suicide in 1996. So there are few people who can tell us what really happened.

However, hendrix’s roadie James “Tappy” Wright says he knows. He says that Jeffreys was in trouble and he needed the money. He says that Jeffrey’s confessed to him 2 years before his death.

He writes: “I can still hear that conversation, see the man I’d known for so much of my life, his face pale, hand clutching at his glass in sudden rage.”

He says Jeffery told him: “I had to do it, Tappy. You understand, don’t you? I had to do it. You know damn well what I’m talking about.”

He quotes Jeffery as saying: “I was in London the night of Jimi’s death and together with some old friends …we went round to Monika’s hotel room, got a handful of pills and stuffed them into his mouth …then poured a few bottles of red wine deep into his windpipe.

“I had to do it. Jimi was worth much more to me dead than alive. That son of a bitch was going to leave me. If I lost him, I’d lose everything.”

Why did Tappy not come forward earlier? Well, that could be because of the identity of the “old friends”. Friends who are prepared to kill one person are not likely to like someone exposing them………….. Perhaps they are no longer arround.

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On This Day 15 September 1964 – Beatles’ Halted, To Protect The Fans!

On this day in 1964 The Beatles were playing a show at The Cleveland Public Hall in Ohio.  Things were going swimmingly, The band was playing well and no one could hear a thing because of the young girls screaming.  Just a normal performance really, when the show was stopped for health and safety reasons.

Those were the days when several acts played on the same bill.  Playing before The Beatles were The Bill Black Combo, The Exciters, Clarence ‘Frogman’ Henry, and Jackie DeShannon.  Beatle Mania being what it was in those days it was usual for the fans, mainly girls to go wild, screaming and rushing the stage.  The spectacle of young people enjoying their own music, rather than music made for them by grownups was very disturbing for the forces of the establishment.

It is hard to appreciate the effect of rock and roll on teenage culture.  In fact, rock ushered in a new phenomena, that of a widespread teen culture.  It can be argued that the emergence of teen culture was the result of teenagers having more disposable cash than ever before and capitalism realizing that there was a whole new market.  That is a debate for another day.

Back to 15th September 1964.  The build up to the show was eventful with a police cordon around the hotel to protect the hotel from the fans.  Apparently an 11 year old girl tried to get into the hotel with a stolen key, a boy hid in a packing case that was to be delivered to the hotel (shades of Waldo Jeffers in the VU song “The Gift”).  Other kids tried to blag their way into the hotel bars, pretended to faint to be taken inside etc.  A normal day.

The show was going well with some 100 policemen (numbers vary according to the source) forming a cordon to stop the kids getting to the stage.  As The Beatles played the police were pushed back towards the stage and several young people made it onto the stage.

Fearing for their safety the police (not sure if they were fearing for their safety or the fans, or that of The Beatles) decided that the show should be stopped so that order could be restored.  Inspector Michael Blackwell and Deputy Inspector Carl Bare decided to stop the concert.  Bare walked onto the stage and took a microphone, telling the crowd that the show was over and to sit down.

The Beatles did not want to stop playing, they were part way through “All My Loving” at the time.  Eventually they went off for 10 minutes while relative calm was restored.  They then completed the show.

Afterwards The Beatles and Brian Epstein were livid with John Lennon saying that the police were a bunch of amateurs.  Epstein was diplomatic saying “The police were absolutely right. This has never happened before, but it was clear to me from the start that there was something very wrong. The enthusiasm of the crowd was building much too early.”

After the show, The Beatles made their customary high speed escape to the local airport.

Police inspector Blackwell was condescending to all concerned “I don’t blame the children. They’re young and they can’t be expected to behave like adults. And I don’t blame The Beatles – there is nothing wrong with their act. But if we hadn’t stopped it there would have been serious injury. One little girl was knocked down in the charge and there were 300 other youngsters about to trample her.”

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My Essential 100 Albums – 7 – George Thorogood and the Destroyers, GT&tD

gt&tdRecorded in 1977 this was the first Thorogood album.  Mainly blues covers with only two self penned songs it introduced me to the talent that is George Thorogood.  A love of blues shines through the playing.  It is one of those things, 10 bands can play the same song but you know instinctively which band really feels the music.  Add to that passion a deep talent and you get an album like this. 

His influences are obvious, Hound Dog Taylor, Elmore James, John Lee Hooker and Bo Diddley.  You can tell from that list that this will not a willo’ the wisp, guitar twiddling, feint hearted album.  This is full on rocking blues of the highest calibre. 

The riffs may be the same but the passion that he displays seem to make them his own.  The power of the music that this band produces explains why the album stands the test of time.  It is also why they have been one of my fave live bands for the last 35 years.

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My Essential 100 Albums – 4 – Music in a Dolls House, Family.

 music in a dolls house

The first album by Family is a strange and wonderful thing.  Roger Chapman is blessed with a distinctive, warbling voice.  The band were all talented musicians including Ric Grech on bass and Jim King on sax being just 2.  Being co produced by Dave Mason did not hurt either.

 

Family released this complexly orchestrated album in 1968 and has consistently included in lists of great rock albums since its release.  The band went on to have other well received releases but suffered over the years with in-fights, fist fights and constantly changing personnel.  The result being that I do not think that the band reached its full potential.

 

Having said that this first album was breathtaking in its majesty.  I was never a fan of progressive rock but I regard this as more a jazz rock fusion thing, whatever the genre it has remained a firm favourite over the years.  I can not imagine a CD collection that did not give me the option to listen to the sound of British prog/jazz fusion at its best.

 

Standout tracks, for me, are “Old Songs, New Songs”, “Mellowing Grey”, and “Me, My Friend”.

 

 

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My Essential 100 Best Albums – 2 Gone Aint Gone Tim Fite

GONE AINT GONEIt is my quest here to establish those essential 100 best albums that I would save if the house is going up in flames.  The first one to be saved is Strictly Personal by Captain Beefheart and His Magic band.

That was an easy, easy choice.  The second was equally easy.  Gone Aint Gone by Tim Fite was a chance find in 2005.  There was a guy on eBay in the UK whose cousin was The Edge in U2.  The Edge used to pass him lots of promo CDs that had been sent to U2.  Whether that was the truth or not I have no way of knowing.  This guy was selling them off at ridiculously low prices.  I used to buy job lots of 20 at a time.  There was a load of rubbish and some real gems.  I came across bands that were new to me including the excellent PK-14, Twinemen, and The Transplants.  There was also a promo copy of Horses by the great and glorious Patti Smith.

Amongst the piles of CDs was a promo copy of Gone Aint Gone.  This is a wonderful CD.

Tim Fite is an interesting individual.  An American multi instrumentalist he is hard to pigeon hole.  His past releases have run the gamut from alternative rock, hip hop, indie with a bit of country thrown in.  In other words, you do not know what you are going to get, which can be off putting for some.  He produced one album that was railing against consumerism.  Instead of trying to make money out of it (like so many others) he released “Over the Counter Culture” free on the web.  (Damn good bloke in my view).

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Rolling Stones At Hyde Park 6th July.2013

 We went to see the Rolling Stones in Hyde Park.  There is always a bit of trepidation when you see a band that you love and admire.  Will they be as good as you remember?  How will time have affected them?  Will it seem as if they are only there for the money and are only going through the motions? 

All those fears were set aside as they cam onto the stage at 8.30 and played a full 2 hours to a sold crowd of 65,000 on a hot (and I mean hot) summers day in London’s Hyde Park.  The support bands were great (apart from Temper Trap who are not my cup of meat).  King Charles was superb.  The Vaccines delivered just what you expected of them, all good nothing band.   

The best of the support by far was the excellent Gary Clark Jnr.  The blues is alive and kicking flowing through his veins and out of those magic fingers.  The support was worth the price of the tickets (and as I had to pay over the odds to get the tickets that is saying something). 

The Rolling Stones.  What can you say?  Keef has a paunch, Ronnie has more lines that a train station, Charlie looks like a good old boy that you can meet in any London pub.  As for Jagger, £300 a pop on anti aging cream and a 28 inch waist is a bit odd for a 69 year old.  But he can still belt out a number.  His voice has changed over the years losing some of the urgency and swagger of the 18 year old I first saw.  Making up for those losses were a stage presence that has grown over the years and a voice that has become the epitome of real rock.  Packed with power and delivery skills, his voice still moves you.   

Even the best rock singer in the world would be lost in front of an average band.  The Rolling Stones are anything but an average band.  They all seemed up for it.  They knew each others playing backward with that subtle psychic communication that happens when with people you have known and loved (and occasionally fought over so many years.  God they were good.  Even Charlie smiled! 

The whole weekend cost us more than £1,000.  To put that in context; that is what I earn in a month.  It was about a third of what it cost the two of us to tour India for almost 3 months, including flights. 

 

Was it worth it?  You bet!  

 

Rolling Stones Setlist HYDE PARK 6th July 2013

 

Start Me Up

It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll (But I Like It)

Tumbling Dice

All Down The Line (By Request)

Beast Of Burden

Doom And Gloom

Bitch (with Gary Clark Jr)

Paint It Black

Honky Tonk Women

You Got The Silver (with Keith Richards on lead vocals)

Before They Make Me Run (with Keith Richards on lead vocals)

Miss You

Midnight Rambler (with Mick Taylor)

Gimme Shelter

Jumpin’ Jack Flash

Sympathy For The Devil

Brown Sugar

 

ENCORE

 

You Can’t Always Get What You Want (with the Voce Choir and members of the London Youth Choir)

(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (with Mick Taylor)

 

My only, minor, quibble was that there was no Street Fighting Man.  But that in the fans choice vote for the next show.  Perhaps we aught to go back next week!

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Music Really DOES Change Your Brain Chemistry

The strap line on this blog is a quotation from Nick Cave who says that music is the only art form that can change your brain chemistry in 3 minutes.  It is true.  A programme on BBC Radio 4 was talking about the science behind music and made the very same point.  Music affects the brain and releases dopamine.  The mystery is why and how. 

Why some music will release dopamine for one person and not another and what is the mechanism behind this. 

Researchers scanned the brains of subjects while they listened to new songs and asked how much they would spend on buying the tracks. They found that the most popular songs – those which people were prepared to pay more for – were also the ones that elicited the strongest response in the nucleus accumbens, a structure in the centre of the brain that is involved in reward processing.

“This area is important because it’s involved in forming expectations and these are expectations that could be rewarding,” said Valorie Salimpoor of McGill University in Montreal, Canada. “What makes music so emotionally powerful is the creation of expectation. Activity in the nucleus accumbens normally would indicate that expectations are being met or surpassed.”

This still does not explain why some music elicits such a harsh response that I can hardly bear to listen to it.  I have a particular problem with brass band music.  It is not just that I do not find it entertaining, my reaction is more basic.  It is akin to a physical pain.  It hurts me to listen to a brass band! 

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My Essential 100 Best Albums – The First One! – Strictly Personal – Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band. (1968)

album-Captain-Beefheart-and-the-Magic-Band-Strictly-Personal

 The idea behind this list is for me to say which essential 100 best albums I will take with me when I have to go to live in an old folks’ home (not that I am anticipating that in the near future).  The prospect of paring my CDs down to just 100 essential albums is daunting.  However, it is also quite intriguing, which albums would I just have to keep and which, however good, would have to stay behind?

The only self imposed rule is that most artists or bands would be restricted to just one CD.  Obviously, that ‘rule’ will probably not apply to Zappa or Beefheart but will to most people.

Although later choices will be more difficult the first choice is easy.

Strictly Personal – Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band. (1968)

I have written an article about this album or rather How I Met Beefheart elsewhere on this site.  This was the first Beefheart album I heard and is the automatic choice for the essential 100 albums list.

Released in October 1968 I first heard it in 1969 when a friend gave it to me as he had bought it and hated it.  It had a profound affect on me.  It seemed like grown up music.  I had listened to blues, firstly, as part of the British Blues Boom later I had begun listening to the original bluesmen.  This was different.  It was not like the straight blues copies of the BBB, Beefheart had taken a blues and changed it.  Ah Feel Like Acid is the first track on the album and it mesmerised me.

From Strictly Personal I went to the wonderful Safe as Milk, the first album by Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band.  I was a Beefheart believer, sometimes disappointed, often mystified, but always a devotee.

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