Bob Stroud's BlogWeekdays 10am - 3pm
Rock 'n Roll Roots CD Series...Unlucky #13.
Right before we were to start work on this year's Rock 'n Roll Roots CD, Volume 13, we received word that Borders was filing for bankruptcy. Borders was our main partner and the home for the CD release parties for the past 10 years. Needless to say that their financial situation directly affected the progress of Volume 13.
Our sales staff scrambled to find a suitable substitute for Borders, but to make a long story short, the economic slump that has affected all of us basically sunk Volume 13. Everything possible was done to try and secure a partner and a home for our annual charity event, but it was just not to be this year. I'm sorry announce that for the time being, the Rock 'n Roll Roots CD series is on hiatus. I'm quite aware of how important this CD and event has been to the thousands of you who have supported it over the past 12 years. Believe me when I say that this has been my "baby" and it's tough to let it go this year. It's too early to tell what the future (next year) may hold, but if it's at all possible to pull off, we'll do it with the same vigor and dedication that has been the trademark of the past 12 Volumes. Thank you for understanding and thank you for your undying support these past dozen years.
The Drive's History of Rock 'n Roll/Behind the Scenes
We received just a ton of positive e-mail following last Friday's day-long presentation of The Drive's History of Rock 'n Roll. I can honestly tell you that everyone involved put their heart and soul into it. I received a lot of inquires as to method I used in crafting my vignettes in the chapters that were assigned to me. I stayed away from any tutorials on the subject unless I needed to double check chart facts. Because it's what I've done for a living the past 30 some years now, I'm a tad-bit well read on the subject, so most of the historical facts are already housed in my cranium. I then just went about letting the music speak to me. As you know, music has the incredible power of drawing out all kinds of emotions, passions and revelations from within. As I listened, I started writing. And what appeard on the note pad in front of me were facts, thoughts and opinions on the love affair I have with the many different genre's of music that make up The Drive's History of Rock 'n Roll. Everyone of you reading this blog right now could have done the same thing.....because our music makes us feel. And our feelings are real and meant to shared with others who are on the same plane. Weather writing about R&B/Motown, Power Pop Rock, Singer/Songwriters, Southern Rock and more, it was exhilerating to put words down on paper that tried to live-up to the music it described. I'm glad to know so many of you embraced our efforts. Stay tuned for announcements pertaining to the re-broadcast of The Drive's History of Rock 'n Roll in the near future!
A Perfect 10
The 10th Volume of the Rock 'n Roll Roots CD series has been released and is now on sale exclusively at all Chicagoland Borders locations.
With the release of this Volume, we have raised $100,000 for Chicagoland charities, something we're very proud of.
We're also excited to be able to bring you another set list of the songs you voted for, including two that are making their CD debut-"Sweets For My Sweet" by the Riddles and "What a Wonderful Thing We Have" by the Fabuluous Rhinstones, which really sums up
so nicely what we have with your support of this CD series. Thank you so much for your 10 years of support!
Gotta Take That One Last Read!
An old acquaintance of mine, Bob Greene has authored a new book, "When We Get To Surf City - A Journey Through America In Pursuit of Rock and Roll, Friendship and Dreams." Greene had e-mailed, alerting me to the book as he thought I'd take special interest in the story line. A story line that takes Greene, a middle-aged man on a tour of America for 15 summers as a band member with one of the great 60's rock and roll duo's, Jan and Dean. Greene knew I'd done something similar during 4 consecutive summer's as lead singer with Chicago's Cryan' Shames, hence my special interest. In fact Jan & Dean and the Cryan' Shames both played Bensenville on separate evenings in the summer of '05. Seems we'd just missed each other by a single night and the chance at comparing notes about this incredible journey we were both on.
When the book arrived I looked at my calendar to map out reading time. How pathetic to have to schedule out reading time in one's daily planner, but this is seemingly the world we live in. From the very first page I knew this book was going to be hard to put down. It was an engaging, almost cinematic story about meeting the legendary Chuck Berry while Greene was performing on stage with Jan & Dean. Greene was floored and I was hooked. I decided to pack my woody for the long haul.
Barely several chapters in, it suddenly became very important for me to know that I still had my original copy of "Surf City." The one I'd purchased for 69 cents in the summer of '63 in Kalamazoo, Michigan at Muir's Drugstore. Putting the book down I went to the cabinet where I store my alphabetized 45's and sifted through the "J" section. There it was, right next to "Summer Sun" by The Jamestown Massacre....how incredibly appropriate. On the left hand side of the label was a small sticker that bore the number 37. Those of us who collected 45's in the 60's know exactly what those numbers are about as we pasted them on all of our 45's to correspond to the numerical index card that was in the small cardboard box that housed our treasures of wax. On the "B" side, just as I'd remembered it was "She's My Summer Girl," a side that I must have played just as much as "Surf City." I kept the 45 out and used it as a bookmark. I'm the first to admit that I can be exceedingly, hopelessly geeky.
Yes, I took a special interest in the story of man close to my own age who happened upon a childhood fantasy of playing in a rock and roll band. Not just any rock and roll band, but a band who's two main components had an impressive list of national hits. Yet the story is so much more than that. As the title suggests, it's a about a journey where new friendships are forged, the kind of friendships that are sealed through the power of music. And as we all know, the music IS all powerful, not just to the performer but to the fan who comes to hear it as well. And the fans of Jan and Dean are still out there in all shapes, sizes and ages. Greene's observations on the star's of the show are told through a reverie that only a fan can tell. There's the sometimes irreverent Dean Torrence who handles his fame with an air of nonchalance while knowing in the back of his mind that he needs to keep a parental eye on Jan. His musical partner Jan Berry suffered brain damage from that car accident near Deadman's Curve all those years ago in 1966. It took Jan Berry 12 years of rehabilitation to get back on the road to bring his music to his fans. And the music was the common bond that kept Jan and Dean and their band of "lost boys" on the road all those years in search of the next place to play. The endless ribbon of highway with its pleasures and perils is worth it all in the end when you roll up to the next stage and unload your gear. The band, the audience and the music will soon become one again and is there really anything better than that? Not to lost boys. I can remember multiple occasions on stage with the Shames when I thought if I could only do this for a living, nothing could make me happier. I never wanted it to end. Just like I didn't want this book to end. Greene has the ability to make you feel like you're right there with the band day after day, night after night, feeling what they're feeling, seeing what they're seeing, eating what they're eating. Cheeseburger anyone?
These are the kinds of friendships that are as golden as the summers they were born in. It's a bittersweet ride through summer in America as seen through the heart of a rock and roll band and it's absolutely essential reading for you, the music fan. We could all use a good summer read and this is it. The next time you're in Borders, pick up a copy of "When We Get To Surf City - A Journey Through America In Pursuit of Rock and Roll, Friendship and Dreams" by Bob Greene.
And I'm warning you now, keep a CD copy of Jan and Dean's Greatest Hits close by. You'll be glad you did.
Sad All Over
The death yesterday of Mike Smith, lead singer of the Dave Clark Five was a particularly sad event. The past 5 years had not been easy for Smith as he physically and mentally struggled with the fact that he would live out his life as a paraplegic. In 2003 after returning home from a tour of the States, Smith fell from a fence at his home in Spain and damaged his spinal chord. Fans and fellow musicians around the world came to his rescue with enough donations to afford the kind of wheel chair Smith would need to live out his now paralyzed existence. Amidst this sad state of affairs came word that the Dave Clark Five had finally secured induction into the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame. Even though this once hallowed hall doesn't seem to hold the same level of cache that it once did because of very questionalbe inductee selections over the past several years, it must have been wholly gratifying to Smith to realize that he and his mates would finally be housed in the same institution with all of rock's true royalty. Sadly, Smith died just 2 weeks before the ceremony.
If there's any sort of uplifting angle to this story it's found in the music of the Dave Clark Five and the incredible talent of lead singer Mike Smith. It's no accident that a total of 17 songs by the Dave Clark Five landed in the U.S. Top 40 from 1964 to 1967. It was a lethal mix of great songwriting, explosive performances and the commanding vocals of Mike Smith that made the Dave Clark Five a staple on AM radio for 3 years and landed them on the Ed Sullivan Show more times than any other band. Even though I never saw the DC5 live as a kid, I felt just like a kid when I saw Mike Smith at the Star Plaza Theatre in 2003. He might not have looked the same, but he still sounded the same....just like the record. And in a testament to good song writing, those compositions that are 40 plus years old still sound as fresh today as they did when they came pumping out of our AM transistor radios underneath our pillows at night when we went to bed. Aren't you glad Mike Smith and the Dave Clark Five came along in our lifetime? Can you even imagine going through those years without feeling glad all over?
.....and the sky is grey.
I took one to the gut on Friday 1/19/07. I was almost out the door for dinner with a friend when I heard on NBC Nightly News that Denny Doherty of the Mamas and the Papas had died. I'm one of those people who's affected by the death of any musician from our era, but this one hit me particularly hard. You see, the Mamas and the Papas meant as much to me during that era as any musical entity..... Beatles, Stones, Beach Boys included.
Becasue I've always been musically inclined, albeit to a very amatuer level, I was and still am drawn to music that exhibits my particular strengths and that's vocal harmonies. I could never play guitar much passed strumming a finite number of chords, so hero worship of Hendrix, Clapton, Beck or Page was never a factor. I couldn't write a song if my life depended on it (writing these blogs is torture, quite frankly), so wanting to emulate a Jim Webb or Burt Bacharach was never going to happen. I wasn't born with vocal chords that could replicate any number of rock or soul screamers, so patterning my vocal abilities after a Wilson Pickett or Joe Cocker was also out of the question. But I could always hear harmonies. Picking out 3 and 4 part harmonies came somewhat easy for me. Almost from the beginning I found myself singing along to the songs on the radio, not with the lead vocal, but rather with one of the harmony parts. It was more interesting and it was more fun. But if there was a lead voice that my voice was close to, it was Denny Doherty's. And if ever there was a group that my music sensibilites were drawn to, it was the Mamas and the Papas.
John Phillips was a genius when it came to songwriting and especially when it came to harmonic structure. And he taught these songs and stuctures to Denny Doherty, Michelle Phillips and Cass Elliott. When I first heard "California Dreamin'" in early 1966, I was absolutely transfixed and transformed. I would frantically turn the dial on my transistor radio which I hid under my pillow at night out of ear shot of my parents, so I might catch the song again on another station. I finally had to buy the 45 so I could play it as much as I wanted and most importantly, so I could hear how the group sounded on the "B" side of the record. That paricular side, "Somebody Groovy" while not nearly as intoxicating, still exhibited many of the same musical ideas as "California Dreamin,'" convincing me that this group was the real deal. I remember the 1st time I saw the Mamas and the Papas on TV; it was on the weekly ABC music show, Shindig! To say the least, they were as interesting visually as they were musically. That's why their producer, Lou Adler decided to entitle their debut album, "If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears." It was a pop album that was as groudbreaking and breathtaking as any Beatles album to that point in time. In fact all five Mamas and Papas albums were aural delights, full of their crystalline harmonies and the truly inspired songwriting of John Phillips. While Phillips was the songwriter, the male lead vocals were almost always handled by Denny Doherty, while Cass Elliott took care of that responsibility on the other side of the sexual fence.
As a teenager and into my early 20's, I spent fully hundreds of hours with each of their five albums, dissecting the 4 part harmonies that would ornament each song. For years my musical fantasy was to be in a group that sang like the Mamas and the Papas. I wasn't the only one with that fantasy as groups who modled their sound after the Mamas and the Papas flourished all over the charts. In reality I knew I'd never be in a band who sounded like them, so I was content to collect everything I could find on them, including all of their albums, stereo and mono mixes, 45's and all articles pertaining to them in teen magazines like Hit Parader, Tiger Beat and 16.
A little over two years after they took us on one of the great musical rides, it was over. Fragile egos, outrageous affairs, in and out of the group, and substance abuse finally took their obvious toll. The group called it quits. I was sad. They were such a vital part of my musical makeup. They hadn't been around nearly long enough. I was sad to know that the four of them were no longer going to perform as a group, but each would persue solo careers. I was sad to hear that each of their solo efforts wasn't nearly as satisfying or defining as the music they made as a group. But I wasn't nearly as sad as I was last Friday when I heard the news about Denny Doherty. I felt sad that his beautiful, soaring tenor would no longer thrill an audience. I was sad that his family had lost a loving father, brother and husband. I was sad for Michelle Phillips that she was now the last surviving member of the group. I felt sad for myself and the generation of fans who found so much to love in the music that Denny had been such an intregal part of. And I felt sad that for some reason, we just can't find that same kind of love in the music we hear today. We all know why that is, but it just always hits home when you lose someone like a Denny Doherty. But obviously the upside to all of this is the fact that we still have his music. Music that was brilliantly conceived and has stood the test of time. And time is a test, isn't it? It tests all of us on a daily basis. Time is the culprit that brings on change........the dreaded change. And as Denny Doherty sang in the Mamas and the Papas hit Look Through My Window, "and nothing's quite as sure as change."
These Are a Few of My Favorite Things....7 in all from 2007.
....and in no particular order.
1. Jersey Boys. "Sherry" was one of the 1st 45's I bought with my own money in the fall of 1962....and it was far from the last Four Seasons' 45 I'd buy in the 60's. The current production at the La Salle Bank Theater is simply not to be missed. The story of the Four Seasons back in their hit-making era is one that most of us never knew. But as it unfolds on stage amidst the flood of hits that the group recorded, you'll find yourself captivated by a cast and a production that will elevate your mood to heights that you weren't expecting. If you plan only one event in '08, make a date with Jersey Boys. And speaking of Jersey...
2. The Soprano's. I arrived late on this HBO series as I finally tuned in on season 3. But like most everyone else, I was hooked after just one episode. After watching for a season or so, I was suddenly fascinated by the fact that I was glued to a series in which there are hardly any sympathetic characters. Everybody to some degree is reprehensible and deserved whatever they got. And plenty got it. I was ready for Tony to get whacked in the end and I would have been OK with that. But as it turned out, we'll never quite know. And I'm OK with that as well. And speaking of HBO....
3. Curb Your Enthusiasm. I thought season 5 was weak and didn't hold much hope for season 6, but I was pleasantly surprised. In a stroke of Larry David genius, he finds himself housing a displaced Hurricane Katrina family, the Blacks who are, you guessed it, African American. Let the comedy begin. The belly laughs that were absent in the 5th season were back with a vengence this year. It's often uncomfortable, but isn't that why we tune in? It's that old analogy of not being able to look away at the scene of an accident.
4. Silverchair - Young Modern. This past spring a buddy of mine suggested I check out the new Silverchair CD. I thought he was joking as I knew this Australian trio to be caught up in the grunge movement of the early 90's.
What I wasn't aware of was how they'd progressed mightily from CD to CD to where they are now, sophisticated popsters who fashioned one of the best cd's I'd heard in years. As we've talked about before, it's difficult at this stage of our lives to find new music that we can relate to. Many times it takes friends that we trust to lead us into something that we'll appreciate and I appreciate my friend for recommending what turned out to be my favorite CD of the year. And speaking of music....
5. The 40 year anniversary of The Summer of Love. I had an absolute blast rediscovering some of the music that filled up that golden summer. A summer that was musically and culturally spearheaded by Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. It was the crossroads of what once was and a brave new world.
6. Keith Olbermann. I was familiar with Olbermann from his years as a sports analyst and I'd even surfed by Countdown, his nightly show on MSNBC. But it wasn't until this past year that I made Countdown appointment viewing. Yes, Olbermann leans to the left and yes Olbermann can be long-winded and childish. But he does so with a sense of charm, as compared to a sense of smarm, one of the many overbearing qualities of his direct competition on Fox. He's a student of not only U.S. history but world history as well and that's just one of many cards he holds in his impressive journalistic arsenal. Fair and balanced? Probably not. But then again, he doesn't pretend to be.
7. The bill that passed a no smoking ordinance in Chicago bars and restaurants. Every once in a while the human race comes to its senses. What took it so long this time around is anyone's guess. From my perspective the only loser in this proposition is the dry cleaning industry. Their business is bound to plummet.
How about your favorite things in 2007?
$4.99 Stereo, $3.99 Mono
Looking ahead on the Drive programming schedule I see we have another Album Sides Thursday on the horizon.
Every time we share our LP collection with you on these very special days I'm always transported back to those years when the experience of shopping for albums was one of the highlights of the week. It was usually a payday, and it usually meant that you had to block out at least 30 minutes to take it all in. Who am I kidding, I was ALWAYS in a record store at least an hour and I always left with more than I came in for. I genuinely miss those days, but in a way I get to relive them on the Drive's Album Sides Thursday. Certainly there must be a memory or two for you when you hear the sound of the snap, crackle, pop. And it's now up to you to share them with the rest of us.
I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now.
This week on Rock 'n Roll Roots we Time Warp back to September 10th of 1965 and 1970. The '65 warp takes us back to an era when many of us discovered Bob Dylan for the first time, as his single "Like a Rolling Stone" muscled its way into Top 40 radio. A six minute song on the radio! Unheard of! Shocking! There must be an FCC law!
It took some getting used to hearing lyrics that went on from here till tomorrow, or so it seemed. But once we got used to the song's strange cadence and rhyming scheme, there was no denying its literate power and appeal. And 41 years later, it sounds as cutting edge as anything on the radio today. Speaking of today, Bob Dylan's new album, his 44th album, Modern Times is the #1 album in the country according to Soundscan. An astonishing fact any which way you look at it. I haven't gotten around to running out to the store to purchase my copy as of yet (sorry gen X,Y and Z's, I don't download my new music.....where's the fun in that?) but from the reviews I've read it's every bit on par with his last two albums; Love and Theft and Time Out of Mind. Dylan seems to have found a new wind. I don't know if it's his 2nd, 3rd or 4th, but whichever one it is, we're all better off for it.
40 Essential Albums from 40 years ago...1967.
In it's continuing coverage of The Summer of Love, the Summer of 1967, Rolling Stone magazine has listed in its latest issue 40 essential albums from that year. Lists like this are always subjective, even though most of the selections on this one would be tough to argue. That said, there are entries that even I'M not familiar with. Now I don't wanna say that I know everything (I'll leave that up to you ;-) ), but "The Serpent Power?" I'll list the albums from Rolling Stone and at the end I'll contribute a few I think they've missed.
The Doors - The Doors
Donovan - Mellow Yellow
Rolling Stones - Between the Buttons
The Byrds - Younger Than Yesterday
Jefferson Airplane - Surrealistic Pillow
Otis Redding & Carla Thomas - Otis & Carla
Aretha Franklin - I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You
Grateful Dead - Grateful Dead
The Velvet Underground - The Velvet Undergroud & Nico
Country Joe & the Fish - Electric Music For the Mind & Body
Howard Tate - Get It While You Can
Moby Grape - Moby Grape
Rolling Stones - Flowers
Beatles - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Hollies - Evolution
James Brown - Cold Sweat
Pink Floyd - The Piper At the Gates of Dawn
Big Brother & the Holding Company - Big Brother & the Holding Company
Jimi Hendrix Experience - Are You Experienced
Arlo Guthrie - Alice's Restaurant
Beach Boys - Smiley Smile
Procol Harum - Procol Harum
Tim Buckley - Goodbye and Hello
The Kinks - Something Else by The Kinks
The Doors - Strange Days
Van Morrison - Blowin' Your Mind
Dionne Warwick - Golden Hits/Part 1
The Serpent Power - The Serpent Power
Buffalo Springfield - Buffalo Springfield Again
Cream - Disraeli Gears
Jefferson Airplane - After Bathing At Baxters
The Beatles - Magical Mystery Tour
The Moody Blues - Days of Future Passed
Love - Forever Changes
The 13th Floor Elevators - Easter Everywhere
The Beach Boys - Wild Honey
The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Axis: Bold As Love
Bob Dylan - John Wesley Harding
Mississippi John Hurt - The Immortal
The Who - The Who Sell Out
And now for my 1967 essential album oversights in no particular order.
The Association - Insight Out.
This group is mostly ignored by elitist music types, but there's no getting around the fact that these guys could sing, write and play with a determined intensity that was almost always a joy to hear. This particular album was brimming with the kind of eclectic pop or psyche lite that was all the rage in 1967. A memorable release from start to stirring finish.
The Mama's & the Papa's - Deliver
This long player was awash in the brilliant harmonies and songs constructed by John Phillips and delivered by his cohorts. If this album didn't make you want to be a singer, then you were deaf. A crime to be left off the list.
The Buckinghams - Time and Charges.
This album really wasn't representative of what the Buckinghams were all about, but it laid the groundwork for what would be de rigueur in just another year with bands like Blood, Sweat & Tears and Chicago. Produced by Jim Guercio, it's his songs and brass arrangements that are in the spotlight, but it's the spirit of the Buckinghams that bring them to life.
Laura Nyro - More Than a New Discovery
Are you kidding me? The Serpent Power is on the list and this debut, filled with timeless classics and standards isn't? Shame on you Rolling Stone.
The Turtles - Happy Together
A real soft spot for this album. Not only for the title track but for the wistful Kaylan/Volman compostion, Think I'll Run Away. Magic!
Soundtrack to Casino Royale - Burt Bacharach rules!
The Monkees - More of the Monkees
How can an album that contains She, I'm Not Your Steppin' Stone, Mary Mary and I'm a Believer not be essential?
Scott MacKenzie - The Voice of Scott MacKenzie
I make no apologies for being a huge John Phillips fan and his influence is all over this album. A great selection of material, beautifully and masterfully sung by the voice who convinced us to actually wear flowers in our hair!
You Don't Sound a Year Over 40
It was 40 years ago this week that Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was released. I still have my original copy. It's worth next to nothing, but the personal memories that accompany that particular copy are priceless to me, as I'm sure your copy is to you. I couldn't throw away any of my Beatles albums when I sold so much of my vinyl collection years ago in favor of moving CD's instead of albums. Again, the memories associated with Beatles albums are so strong and so meaningful that I know I'll hang on to everyone of them until the bitter end.
I can remember like it was yesterday my reaction to Sgt. Pepper the first time I heard it. That's what a profound effect it had on me. A 16 year old Bob Stroud rushed home from downtown Kalamazoo where he'd purchased the LP and hurried to his bedroom to set the needle down on side one. From those opening sound effects of the audience, the orchestra tuning up, to the Beatles crashing in with the unexpected heaviness of the title track, I was transfixed. This was like nothing I'd ever heard before. It was all so visual, not just aural. When Sgt. Pepper segued into With a Little Help From My Friends, my head cocked to one side like a dog who had heard or seen something he didn't quite understand. It was all too much to keep up with the first time through... trying to comprehend the lyrical content while marveling at the sonic depths of the recording. It was immediately obvious that this album was going to take up more of my time than I was used to allowing with any other album in my collection. That's because you didn't just put this album on and go about your business. This album demanded your attention. This album begged to be dissected and devoured. This album would and did change the way we listened to albums from here on out.
I played Sgt Pepper all summer long. I finally bought it on 8 track so I could listen to it in my parents car as well. (my poor mom and dad.....what they put up with!) I bought many other releases that Summer of Love, Insight Out by The Association, Groovin by The Young Rascals, Absolutely Free by The Mothers of Invention, Time and Charges by The Buckinghams, but none of them came close to the emotional impact of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. But then again, that was The Beatles master plan all along, wasn't it?
American Idol? It's More Like American Scandal
I'm not a fan of American Idol. But I don't single it out as the only reality based show I don't watch, because I don't watch any reality based TV. I'm a middle aged, grumpy old dude who searches for old school TV. Day in day out, I deal with reality. I don't want to come home at night and be agitated by the populous and their plight to become rich, famous and stupid. I want to sink my teeth into good writing, acting, production values and memorable story lines weather it be comedy or drama....dog. I could care less about who wants to be the next model, the next bride, the next groom, the next idol or the next greedy big money winner. (Let's face it, the only reason to watch those greedbags on the Howie Mandel show is to see them get tanked in the end and wind up winning $20....oh the glee I gather in that!)
Which brings me to another reason why I don't like American Idol. When you allow the masses into the mix, you're guaranteed bogus results. Happens all the time. I have seen American Idol a total of once at the urging of a friend. The show I saw was earlier this season when there was a large number of singers still in the running. Now I submit to you, that you would have to be 100% deaf not to realize that only one contestant was head and shoulders above all others and qualified to be the next American Idol and that was Melinda Doolittle. But understanding the public as I do (I'm not a psychologist, but I play one on the radio) I knew she'd eventually be voted off. After picking up the paper this morning (5/17/07) and reading the results of the voting, I rest my case. And don't even get me started about the Sanjaya debacle. American Scandal.....er, American Idol is an interesting concept but highly flawed by letting the viewers into the plot. Of course I understand why the viewers are an intregal part of the show and get to vote. It's called ratings and that's called advertisers. In the end, even FOX understands that it's not about the talent, they could care less. It's about the money.
O.K. So we got one good quarter of Bear's football on Sunday and one hell of a great halftime show. Kudos to Prince for braving the ridiculous elements and putting on the best Superbowl halftime show I've seen. The guy handles a guitar like you want a guy to handle a guitar and sings and struts like Justin Timberlake would like to sing and strut. And once CBS finally got the mix together, the marching band horns were a powerful addition to the already old school approach by the midget of the midway.
(and I say that with all due respect) Anyway, I guess what I'm getting at is, the afternoon wasn't a complete disaster. I mean imagine sitting through that 6 hour broadcast and moaning and groaning with each inept Bear's down and not getting anything back for your time! Who would have thought at day's end that the King of Purple enticing us to "get crazy" would be about the only time all evening that we legitimately could?
Not In My Life
John Lennon died 26 years ago this week. Here's 26 things Lennon never experienced.
2. The Internet
3. The Challenger Disaster
5. Michael Jordan
6. Fall of Communism & the Berlin Wall
9. The McNugget
10.Today the Newspaper
14.Martin Luther King Day
17.Night Games at Wrigley
22.The First Female Supreme Court Judge (Sandra Day O'Connor)
24.A Christmas Story
26.The Death of George Harrison
What's on your list?
I've read with some interest the reviews coming in for the newly released soundtrack to the Cirque du Soleil Beatles show, "Love." I say "with some interest" because I would have already bet my last dollar that many of the faux-hip critics of the print world were indeed going to pan this effort by original Beatles producer George Martin and his son Giles. I also surmized that many everyday Beatles fans were not going to appreciate having the holy grail of rock 'n roll messed with and I can certainly appreciate that opinion.
What I have a hard time appreciating is the school of thought that a two year old hip hop/rap album comprised of lyrics by Jay-Z from his "The Black Album" mashed to samples of the Beatles "White Album" by DJ Danger Mouse and called "The Grey Album" is a superior effort to that of the Martin's. I read about the album when it was completed a couple of years ago but never bothered to check it out. Now with local critics once again hailing it's artistic superiority to "Love," I felt I finally had to look into it. In all fairness I only got my hands on two tracks, but as it turned out that was plenty. What I heard was in my opinion laughable. In fact I laughed out loud at one point because it was so.........utterly juvenile. It wasn't sprinkled with obsenities, it was littered with obsenities (what a suprise) and the Beatles sampling came off sounding like it had been constructed by someone who had used Pro-Tools for the first time in his life. So this is what passes for art, I thought. We all connect with what we connect with. I just don't connect with this, try as I may, I just don't connect with any of this. I might have at 14 when spewing obsenities was infinitely cooler than it is at 55. If this is an imaginative way to turn someone on to Beatles music for the 1st time or reconnect with the Fab Four's music in a unique, edgy, forward-thinking-kind-of way, then I've evidently lost my way. And that's fine with me Jim, I'll just be content to be lost.
Again, realizing that not everyone is going to appreciate this concept, I still think it's worth your time to explore the "Love" soundtrack. Maybe it's because I have a production backround in radio, so that on a purely technical level I have an undying appreciation for the work that went into this. But that would be too easy, as I'd like to think that I also have an appreciation for the love and admiration that the Martin's have for the music that was created by the lads from Liverpool all those years ago.
This could have been executed on a rather unimaginative level, but just the opposite is true. There are unexpected twists and turns at every corner that keep the project fresh and exciting while still respecting the integrity of the song in its original form. In many respects it's like listening to a new Beatles album. And on top of the exploratory mixes is the sound. What a sound! There is a sonic depth to the remastering of the Beatles music on the "Love" soundtrack that makes much of this 40 year old music sound as if it had been recorded Yesterday. (And sorry Jim, as tired and overused as you feel "Yesterday" is, you just don't do a Beatles project of this magnitude and leave out the song that has been covered more often than any other Beatles song....where IS your sense of drama, man?)
Weather you feel the love or not can only be determined by you. But even in these rad re-workings of songs that have meant as much or more to the world of popular music than any others, there is the undeniable fact that something very powerful and timeless is still heavily at work.
No Time Like the Right Time
Now Time magazine's in on the act. The latest issue lists
their offering of the All Time 100 Albums over the past six decades. They don't rank the discs, but rather list them chronologically by decade as to what their music critics feel are the most influential albums. It's no surprise that the Beatles lead the list with five albums, Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles (White Album) and Abbey Road. What MAY be surpising is what didn't make the list.... nothing from Buddy Holly, Santana, Jefferson Airplane, Eric Clapton & Pink Floyd. Here's your chance to be a music critic. The Time website is www.time.com/time/2006/100albums
Your mission, should you decide to accept it, review their choices and why, then let us know what they missed.
This blog will self-destruct in 10 seconds............
I Coulda Had a V-8!
The labor of love called the Rock 'n Roll Roots CD series is once again on sale this week. This year it's Volume 8 and if you've been collecting from the beginning, you'll now have a total of 96 songs from the Rock 'n Roll Roots library. 15 of those songs were initially made available on CD through the Rock 'n Roll Roots CD series, something I'm quite proud of. This project takes up over half of my year as we begin in ernest in April with suggestions from you as to what you'd like to see on the upcoming Volume.
After a month of tabulating the hundreds of song titles we receive, we narrow it down to the top 30 and work from there. We interview a number of local charity organizations to find a good fit with the station and the project. This year it's the Sherwood Conservatory of Music. Make sure you check out the backround of this dedicated organization on our website. Then comes the involved process of designing the CD package. At least 4 of us pour over hundreds of design possibilities before we agree by committee on the final product. Waiting for licensing rights to be secured for each individual song takes up most of the 7 months. As they come trickling in, I begin writing the liner notes for each selection. It's something I've always wanted to do, seeing as how the process has long been a lost art form. In the end, it's a mad scramble to make sure it all comes together by deadline. While many individuals are involved in making sure the product is the best it can be, there's one in particular who tirelessly works to ensure the CD's professional completion and that's my co-producer Nikkie Jones. When you see her at one of the CD release parties, be sure to walk up to her and thank her for her countless hours of quality work. I'm proud of the fact that we've raised $80,000 over the years to help those less fortunate through charities that do the work of angels. And I'm proud to be associated with you, the Stroud Crowd, not only for the last 8 Volumes, but for the past 27 years, as I've been privileged to play for you the greatest music ever recorded.
Take Me Out to the Ballgame
I grew up in an era when baseball was America's Great National Pass Time, Abner Doubleday's ingenious setting of 18 men on a field methodically out-playing and resourcefully out-smarting each other. I don't recall weather the game has ever been compared to a game of chess, but in some respects that's what it plays like to me. It was my favorite sport as a kid, maybe because it was the only sport I ever excelled at during my teen years as my frame was too small to compete in basketball or football. And it's still my favorite sport today. I'm always on board for the World Series and this year was no different. In fact next to having either the Cubs or the Sox in the Fall Classic, this year's Series was of particular interest to me. Growing up in Kalamazoo, Michigan, the Detroit Tigers were my heroes, no matter where they ended up in the standings. This year's match-up brought back a flood of memories as it was 38 years ago when the Tigers and the Cardinals last played in the Word Series. It was October of 1968 and my beloved Tigers were down 3 games to 1 before they came roaring back to take the annual classic 4 games to 3. History repeated itself this year when we got to 3 games to 1 .......and that's where it stopped repeating itself as the Cardinals went on to maul the Tigers 4-1. There was no Mickey Lolich, Denny McClain, Norm Cash, Al Kaline or Jim Northrup this year. And there was absolutely no music from 2006 that I could identify or relate to like I could from October of 1968. I can remember it like it was yesterday, if I may speak in cliches. What an era! Return with me now to October of 1968 when the Detroit Tigers were World Series champions!
Fire - Crazy World of Arthur Brown
Midnight Confessions - Grass Roots
Hey Jude/Revolution - Beatles
Shapes of Things to Come - Max Frost & the Troopers
Girl Watcher - O'Kaysions
Susie Q - CCR
On the Road Again - Canned Heat
I Gotta Get a Message to You - Bee Gees
Time Has Come Today - Chambers Brothers
Hush - Deep Purple
White Room - Cream
Do It Again - Beach Boys
Greenburg, Glickstein, Charles, David Smith & Jones -
The Snake - Al Wilson
Soul Drippin' - The Mauds
Elenore - Turtles
Those Were the Days - Mary Hopkin
In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida - Iron Butterfly
Indian Reservation - Don Fardon
Baby Come Back - Equals
Fire - Five by Five
Run to Me - Montanas
Piece of My Heart - Big Brother & the Holding Company
All Along the Watchtower - Jimi Hendrix
San Francisco Girls - Fever Tree
Cinnamon - Derek
Is there any doubt why we continue to return to this era and this music time and time again?
The Set List
I saw Lindsey Buckingham a few nights ago at the Park West. Lindsey's a trip. He's intense and focused, loose and raucous. He's touring in support of only his 4th solo CD in the past 25 years, "Under the Skin." I love this CD because it demands your attention. You can't have it on in the backround and expect to get anything out of it. You've got to be adult about it, sit down and pay attention. Your effort will be rewarded after 2 or 3 listens with gorgeously constructed melodies, and deeply personal lyrics. The whole affair is rather ethereal and eclectic....right up my alley. Buckingham and his band beautifully recreated the handful of songs chosen to perform from the new release. He filled out the rest of the set with selections from past solo efforts and of course the obligatory Fleetwood Mac nuggets. Which brings me to my point. The reviewer in the Sun Times quibbled with Buckingham's set list, (he also got snotty about Buckingham choosing to wear a v-neck t-shirt at his age.....HUH?) complaining that he should leave the Fleetwood Mac material for Fleetwood Mac and concentrate on lesser known and in some cases, unknown solo material.... not that there's anything wrong with that. Yet there is when you don't balance it out with a dose, if not a healthy dose of familiar, tried and true hits and near misses. Fans love the hits. They love to HEAR the hits. You can tell time after time by the reaction they get when the song begins AND ends. A buddy of mine saw Neil Young a couple of years ago and was wholly disappointed because Young chose to play nothing but his new CD that had just been released. He did offer up a couple of classics for the encore but that was it as far as familiar material was concerned. My buddy felt cheated. I hear it all the time from fans who are disappointed when the artist doesn't play enough of the songs that they've come to hear. Hey, in a perfect world we could all program what we think our favorite artists should play in concert. But it's not perfect and we're at the mercy of the artist to mix it up with hits and "deep tracks." And for the most part, the professional up on stage does a pretty good job of coming through with a memorable set list. Or does he? What's your take? When you go to see a classic artist, do you want to hear his greatest hits with a few deep tracks and 1 or 2 new songs, or would you be more than content in hearing nothing but the new CD? Guranteed your friendly neighborhood newspaper reviewer would vote for the latter.
The Travelin' Man....At it Again!
As Jackie Gleason used to say..."a little travelin' music Sammy!" And with that, Bob Seger is on the road again.
As he used to do so often in the 60's, 70's and 80's, he'll be touring in support of a new release, "Face the Promise," his first new CD in 11 years. I'm not sure how it happened, but I've never seen Bob Seger, except up close one time in a radio interview I did with him a few stations ago. He was charming, down to earth, forthcoming and engaging. How could he not be, he's a midwesterner, one of us. Now being a Michigander I was well aware of Bob Seger long before say, an Idahoian would have been. In the mid 60's he toured extensively throughout the state and midwest. His records received sporadic airlpay on stations all over the Great Lakes State. I thought it exciting when the Bob Seger System signed with Capitol in 1968 and struck it rich with "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man". There was even a local connection for us as one time Kalamazoo musician Dan Honaker was the System's bassist.....cool! We latched on to the single, "Lucifer" in 1970 and felt disappointed when the song stalled on the national charts at No. 84. Seger persevered and consistently released albums in the early 70's and more importantly, consistently toured. By 1975, the years of hard work began to pay off with the release of "Beautiful Loser." It was his most sophisticated work to date and he was rewarded with extensive airplay on FM album stations from coast to coast. From there, I think you know the rest. As I mentioned earlier, I'm almost embarrassed by the fact that I've never seen him in concert, but I do plan on being in attendance when he hits town next month. And how about the $65 ticket price? If that doesn't tell you something about the man's character then I don't know what does. But what I want you to tell me and everyone is your experience with Bob Seger in concert. When did you see him and what's your most vivid memory? I know you'll remember, because rock 'n roll never forgets.
We're So Hot For Them But We're So Cold!
...and so were they. When the Stones hit Wednesday night at Soldier Field, they looked like a group of guys in search of the nearest ski lodge instead of the nearest stage. Keith and Ronnie looked like popsicles, Charlie looked shell-shocked, (Charlie always looks shell-shocked) and Jagger looked and acted just like Jagger, even if he was buttoned up to the adam's apple. Make no mistake, it was brutally cold. Bitter, biting, blustery cold. I should have been in long johns. What the hell was I thinking? That said, I had a great time. They played enough secondary material including "Monkey Man," "Sway," "She Was Hot," and "Streets of Love" to keep it interesting. And this was the kind of show where there wasn't a bad seat in the house. The video screen was so big you could have seen it in Merrillville had you stepped out your backdoor. But the thing that I really took away from this show was Mick Jagger's performance. What planet is this superman from anyway, Krypton? At 63 he's in better shape than 99% of the population that's younger than him. YOU run 8 miles a day on a treadmill and you too can front a rock 'n roll band. That is if you can still sing at 63. Jagger doesn't sound like a 63 year old trying to sound like a 23 year old....he SOUNDS like a 23 year old. Vocal chords made of leather and an obvious regiment made up of sheer discipline and determination that is not only commendable but wholly impressive. The Stones rolled the Tumblin' Dice when it came to playing outdoors in Chicago in mid October. The weather may have won the hand, but the Stones won the game by practicing what they preach.....they're so "Respectable."
May I have the origin of the word and could you please use it in a sentence?
Last week I walked into my local music store to purchase the new Byrds box set, "There Is a Season." I couldn't find it in the locked case that housed the store's alphabetized inventory, so I turned to the 20 something clerk and inquired as to its availability. She went to the computer and reported back that there was nothing in the system to indicate it was a part of the store's inventory. Strange I thought, as the box set had just been released. With resignation, I offered up a "thanks for looking." I continued to search through the bins of cd's not looking for anything in partricular, but just content to browse and see if I might find something that I just couldn't live without. After about 15 minutes, the 20 something sales girl who had orignally waited on me approached and sheepishly asked if I was the one who had been looking for the Byrds box set. "Yes," I replied and with that she produced the item from behind her back, all the while profusely blushing in her explanation that she had mis-spelled the Byrds name while searching it out in the computer. I paused, chuckled and thanked her for her efforts. It's a new pitfall for us children of the 60's to face, that of a 20 something music clerk's unfamiliarity with not only our music, but the spellings that are uniquely ours. That said, just think of the fun we could have with them in asking for help with Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Cyrkle, Cryan' Shames and the Shadows of Knight.
And by the way, the box set "There Is a Season" is a stunning work that historically documents the Byrd's rightful place in pop music's artistic progression. They were visionaries. Just ask the Beatles. You know they listened to "Eight Miles High" in early 1966 and understood that something very musically forward was happening. And that was the Byrds, always moving forward. Yes they may have drawn upon influences from the past, but their interpretation of the source was always in a progressive light. And that light still shines and shimmers today. Just like the jingle-jangle of the ever present 12 string Rickenbacker of Roger McGuinn
Time for my boot heels to be wanderin'.....till next time.
Viva Las Beatles!
Last weekend I traveled to Las Vegas to see the newest Cirque du Soleil" show, "Love." If you haven't heard, this is Cirque's tribute to not only the music of The Beatles, but to the band itself. A band who changed the face of popular music and societal pop culture as well. As I sat there awe struck by the spectacle in front of me, I wondered what other modern band's music could translate into something of this nature and magnitude? A band who's music and entertainment value is both timelessly relevant and utterly visual. A band who's music asks you to use your imagination...."picture yourself in a boat on a river, with tangerine trees and marmalade skies." Music that dares you to get involved..."roll on up for the Magical Mystery Tour, step right this way!" Music that can bring you to your knees with its warmth and grace..."something in the way she moves, attracts me like no other lover." Music that exudes joyous whimsy..."I'd like to be under the sea in an Octopuses Garden in the shade." Music that just makes you want to sing, "na na na na na na na na na na na, Hey Jude!" And music that no matter how many times you hear it, takes you back to the era in which you first discovered it and still makes you feel so anxiously alive...."I can't hide, I can't hide, I can't hiiiiiiiiiidddddeeee!!!"
The Beatles' music and especially their legend is that of almost mythic proportions. But it's not mythic, it's real. And the reality of their contribution to global society continues to thrive and grow, especially in the mounting of "Love" at the Mirage in Las Vegas. This is not some cheesy, 3 ring circus, dog and pony show. Instead it's a production that's been lovingly constructed and crafted by some of the most creative and brilliant minds on the planet. And if that wasn't enough, the "Love" soundtrack has been overseen and remixed by none other than Sir George Martin. I mean who else? And even after the show is over, an awakening experience awaits you in the gift shop as fans of all ages, 12 to 80, people of all cultures, French, Spanish, Phillipino and accents I couldn't quite pick out, wait in line to buy CD's and souveniers of their beloved Fab Four. It's almost a show in and of itself.
It wouldn't be a gamble for you to plan a trip to Vegas to see "Love." But you'd walk away a loser if you didn't.
Welcome Back PF Sloan
I was recently at Fitzgerald's in Berwyn to see one of rock's more interesting stories, PF Sloan. When I mentioned this to 3 or 4 of my friends, not one of them knew who I was talking about. And judging by the somewhat small turnout at Fitzgerald's, Sloan's legacy is not widely known. What a shame. I could list a half dozen song titles by him and you might then begin to understand the scope of this man's talents. But I'll list just one: Eve of Destruction. According to Sloan, he wrote the protest anthem in 1964 when he was 19. He labored over the lyrics in the early morning hours and in doing so, composed a line that was so thoroughly irrefutable that it eventually became one of the rallying crys by the supporters of the 26th Ammendment to the US Constitution, which changed the voting age from 21 to 18.
"You're old enough to kill,
but not for votin.'
You don't believe in war,
Then what's that gun you're totin'?"
So powerful was the song and its questions and observations that it claimed the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 singles charts in September of 1965. Obviously the song was seen as controversial and highly inflammatory and some stations chose not to play it, including WLS here in Chicago. Amazing. Beyond that, Sloan was on the receiving end of vicious ridicule (even by his own record label) and numerous death threats.
Sloan's story is a fascinating one and in my humble opinion, worthy of a movie script. It's a story that's far more in depth than the time I have for a simple blog, but it's worth your time to explore. Do yourself a favor and Google PF Sloan and discover the trials and tribulations of one of our greatest unknown poet/songwriters, PF Sloan.
Labor Day weekend I did something I very rarely do, I went to the movies. Putting up with rude, moronic imbeciles is something I have no patience for at this stage of my life. These seem to be the kind people who always sit in back of me. By film's end, they know every dissatisfied line of my face as I've turned around a half dozen times to give them the extremely evil eye. But because the film had come so highly recommended by friends who's opinions I respect, I took the chance. As it turned out, it was a chance worth taking as Little Miss Sunshine showed itself to be one of the best films I'd seen in years.
Now being the musical kinda guy that I am, I'm always aware of the soundtrack running through a film and this one was no exception. I wasn't familiar with the songs except for Super Freak by Rick James (which I'll never be able to hear again without seeing the film's hysterical final scene in my mind's eye) and couldn't peg the artists, but it all fit in so perfectly with the mood of the film, as it well should. So taken was I with the music that I sat throught the entirety of the film's credits to see who the artists were and if there was a soundtrack available. As it turns out, the soundtrack is CD ready and the musicians were unknown (to me) indie artists.
But this stuff is all so accessible and memorable and really helps one to relive the very unique celluloid experience that is Little Miss Sunshine. In fact it's the kind of music you might pop into your car player for your next road trip....just the way it was used in one of the most rewarding films you'll see this year.
In an over-blogged world, what's one more?
It's the Beach Boys this Sunday morning on Rock 'n Roll Roots. One of the great American bands for one of the great American holiday weekends!
I have a memory for almost every 45 and every album released by the Beach Boys in the 60's and 70's. I'm at the Park Cafe in Kalamazoo, Michigan every time I hear "Surfin' Safari." I can smell the chlorine in my grandmother's swimming pool when I play side 2 of "The Beach Boys Today." And I'm in the car with my father on the way to stock shoes at his shoe store in Saginaw, Michigan whenever I hear "California Girls." I could go on forever, and I think you know that!
But I won't. Half the fun of doing Rock 'n Roll Roots every Sunday morning is knowing that someone in the listening audience is going to have great memories triggered by the music we feature. That's just the way it works.
What does it for you? Beatles, Stones, Shames, Motown? Want to share? Don't be shy if the music moves you. And have a great Labor Day Weekend!
Friday, Dec 19, 2014
|9:00pm||Long One @ 9|
The Rolling Stones
|10:00pm||Ten @ 10 Replay|
Saturday, Dec 20, 2014
|11:00pm||The Deep End|
Sunday, Dec 21, 2014
|7:00am||Rock 'n Roll Roots|
Holiday Hootenanny (3hrs)
|8:00pm||Sunday Night Star|
Sam Howard of Des Plaines (1hrs)
Christmas Classics (2hrs)
Monday, Dec 22, 2014
|7:00am||Milestones in Rock|
|10:00am||Ten @ 10|
|1:45pm||One 45 @ 1:45|
|5:00pm||Lost & Found|
|9:00pm||Long One @ 9|
|10:00pm||Ten @ 10 Replay|