Tag Archives: musicians

RIP Chuck Berry – The King of Rock and Roll

I just read that the great Chuck Berry has passed away.

CNN Article

No disrespect to Elvis, but I always felt that Chuck was the true King of Rock and Roll. He had the flash, the persona, the guitar chops, and a coolness that surpassed all of his contemporaries.

I was fortunate enough to see him in concert years ago. Here is a link to my review of the show on my other blog, The Stub Collection, along with a picture of the ticket stub.

What was really strange is that I was actually thinking about Chuck Berry earlier today, and it’s not like I am thinking about Chuck Berry on a regular basis. It just came in my mind that it would be really cool to see him again. Weird, right?

I cannot be too sad, though. He lived to the ripe age of 90, which is a long time for anyone in rock and roll. Thank you Chuck, for all the inspiration you provided to guitarists throughout the years, myself included.

Hail Hail Rock and Roll!!

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Rockstars: Issue #01

rockstars_01

When I first heard about this new graphic series, I was immediately intrigued. A series about rock and roll excess, occult, and urban legend drawing inspiration from bands in the 1970’s seemed right up my alley. I added it to my pull list at my local comic store and patiently waited. This week, I finally got the first issue and it is everything I expected.

The tale is basically about two young people—a rock conspiracy theorist and a music journalist—who meet while looking into the mysterious deaths of young women, which they believe to be connected to black magic rites orchestrated by a mysterious rock guitarist.  The opening lines sucked me right in to the story.

Rock ‘n’ roll has always had its secrets. From backwards messages on classic albums, woven references to drugs and madness, or homages to fallen legends and lost friends. Hidden declarations of sympathy for the devil are as stock and trade as anthem calls to both the faithful and the damned.

Author Joe Harris credits the book Hammer of the Gods as an inspiration. I remember reading this book in my younger days and the glimpse it provided into the dark and mysterious world of rock and roll. I would never listen to a Led Zeppelin song the same way afterwards.

Already, this series makes references to some of the great rock myths: the infamous mudshark, the synching of “Dark Side of the Moon” to “The Wizard of Oz,” Jimmy Page’s obsession with all things Crowley, just to name a few. If you were a rock music fan in the late 70’s and early 80’s, you will undoubtedly catch and appreciate these references and how they are masterfully strung together with artwork that evokes the essence of that era.

I highly recommend this and eagerly await the next installment.

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RIP Keith Emerson

KeithEmerson

2016 is proving to be a tough year for musicians, writers, and actors. Yesterday, we lost a virtuoso keyboard player who has been a major musical influence in my life. Keith Emerson died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. It seems that he was suffering nerve problems that were hindering his ability to play keyboards. How devastating it must be to have your life’s passion taken from you.

Here is a link to a Rolling Stone article about Keith’s death.

Hearing this news made me reminisce about the impact Keith’s music had on my life. I listened to my vinyl copy of Brain Salad Surgery yesterday, and this morning, I located one of my old ticket stubs from when I had seen him perform. Here is a link to my stub and memory from the concert, along with a video of Keith performing.

The Stub Collection: Emerson, Lake & Powell

Thanks for all the inspiration.

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RIP David Bowie

Bowie

Image Source: Yahoo News

I was saddened to read that David Bowie passed away. He was a big artistic influence for me and I felt fortunate to have been able to see him in concert. He was a person who was never afraid to take risks, who constantly redefined himself, and stretched the boundaries of artistic expression.

Here is a great quote from the CNN article about Bowie’s passing.

As the world mourns Bowie’s death, fan Dean Podsta put it best:

“If you’re ever sad, just remember the world is 4.543 billion years old and you somehow managed to exist at the same time as David Bowie.”

Here is a link to a recent post on my other blog, which is my memories from when I got to see the legendary David Bowie.

The Stub Collection – David Bowie: 4/27/1990

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Doctor Who – Eleventh Doctor: Issue 3

DoctorWho_03

This installment takes place in three time periods and deals with musical genius. While Alice is looking through her deceased mother’s record collection in 2014, she comments on two of her mom’s favorite artists: Robert Johnson and John Jones (who is a fictional representation of David Bowie, whose original name is David Jones). The Doctor then takes Alice back to 1962 to attend the first John Jones concert and then to 1931 to see Robert Johnson.

When Alice sees Jones perform, she is very disappointed that he has not yet embraced the glam-pop persona and is kind of dull on stage, or as she harshly states: “John Jones, it turns out, has no talent whatsoever!!” The Doctor then provides an astute observation regarding talent.

Now, now. If I’ve learnt one thing over 900 years, Alice, it’s that everyone has talent. Even if it’s sometimes… extremely well hidden.

As I thought about this, I had to accept the truth in the statement. All people have unique talents and sometimes it takes time for individuals to discover those talents and nurture them. And sadly, some talents are left undiscovered. I cannot help but wonder how many people, caught up in the craziness of daily life, neglect to search for and hone their particular abilities. I feel fortunate that I discovered my personal talents: playing music, reading, writing, running. These things have brought happiness to my life. I think that connecting with your unique talents provides a spiritual fulfillment that cannot be attained otherwise. I encourage everyone to find that special thing that you are passionate about and dedicate the time and effort to grow it.

The issue leaves off on a bit of a cliffhanger. Just like Robert Johnson, the Doctor was willing to “sell his soul” for something that he wanted more than anything. But after being freed from the spell, he cannot remember what it was that he desired so much that he was willing to sacrifice everything for it.

To be continued…

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“Sonnet 8: Music to hear, why hear’st thou music sadly?” by William Shakespeare

"The Musicians" by Caravaggio

“The Musicians” by Caravaggio

Music to hear, why hear’st thou music sadly?
Sweets with sweets war not, joy delights in joy:
Why lovest thou that which thou receivest not gladly,
Or else receivest with pleasure thine annoy?
If the true concord of well-tunèd sounds,
By unions married, do offend thine ear,
They do but sweetly chide thee, who confounds
In singleness the parts that thou shouldst bear.
Mark how one string, sweet husband to another,
Strikes each in each by mutual ordering;
Resembling sire and child and happy mother,
Who, all in one, one pleasing note do sing:
Whose speechless song being many, seeming one,
Sings this to thee: “Thou single wilt prove none.”

As a musician, this poem really works for me. I connected with the musical metaphors used to convey familial harmony.

Shakespeare is again addressing the fair youth and asking why the songs (or poems) encouraging marriage and children make the youth sad. As with most youths, he likely views marriage as the loss of freedom and liberty. He does not want to be tied down to responsibility. But as Shakespeare points out, marriage is more than just responsibility and commitment; it is about the joy of being in harmony with other human beings.

If we look deeper at the metaphor of musical harmony as used to express marital happiness, we can see just how appropriate this is. In music theory, a basic chord is built on a triad, which is comprised of three notes: the root, the third, and the fifth. The traditional family structure is also based upon a triad: “sire and child and happy mother.” While each individual string can create a note, it is the combination, the strumming of multiple strings, the shared vibrations, which create rich chords. Likewise, it is the family, the shared love, which creates richness and harmony in life.

In music, the combination of the various parts creates something that transcends the individual elements. It is the same with a loving family. When humans bond and share their feelings, it creates something that surpasses the sum of the individuals, and this is what Shakespeare is encouraging the youth to discover.

Thanks for stopping by, and may your day be filled with joy, music, and harmony.

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“The Scar Boys” by Len Vlahos

ScarBoys

My wife suggested I read this book. She told me it was a quick read and that it was right up my alley: a young adult novel about starting a punk rock band. She knows me well. I did like this book and as a musician I related to much of what was in there.

Anyone who has ever been in a band knows that there is always drama and that it is like being in Spinal Tap. You deal with attitudes, stupidity, conflict, and the absurd. In spite of that, there are moments when being in a band, playing on stage with a group of people, and connecting to the audience through music are nothing short of magical and transcendent. Over the years I have experienced the full range of musical highs and lows, and that is probably why I found this book so enjoyable.

The book is presented as if it was written as a college admissions essay, answering your generic prompt about a person that influenced you, a problem that you have overcome, etc. I found this an interesting approach. The chapters are short, which makes reading this like eating a bag of Doritos; you can just keep snacking on one handful of words after another. Also, all the chapters are named after songs and the song titles tie into the events within the chapter. Since I connect life events to songs on a personal level, I found this effective.

So for those of you who have never been in a band before and wonder what it feels like to be onstage playing, it can only be described as the best high you will ever feel in your life.

Playing in front of people was like a drug. The walls dropped away and I found myself surrounded by open air, floating above everything. The energy of the audience—even the tiny audience at that first gig—wrapped the entire band in a protective bubble. Only the music and the knowledge of each other existed. We were four individuals merged into one seamless being, each inside the other’s head, each inside the other’s soul. Music, I discovered that night, was a safe place to hide, a place where scars didn’t matter, where they didn’t exist.

(pp. 73 – 74)

When I first started playing music, it was about what I could get out of it: adrenaline rushes, women, free intoxicants, social acceptance. At some point, though, there was a shift and music became more of a spiritual experience, a way of connecting with others on a level that was transcendent. It is this feeling that has kept me playing music for so many years. Vlahos captures that musical epiphany quite well.

“All I’ve ever wanted,” Chey continued, ignoring us, “is to play music that would make people feel good. We did that tonight.” We were all quiet for a moment.

It’s funny. I’d never really thought of it that way before. I’d only ever thought about how playing music made me feel. But Chey was right. The real magic comes from the audience. Music, it turns out, is more about giving than receiving. Who knew?

(pp. 124 – 125)

There is only one criticism I have about this book, and that is the abundance of references to late 70’s television and pop culture. For me, I liked them because I could relate to them and they stirred a feeling of nostalgia. But at the end of the day, this is a young adult book and I doubt that many teenagers would know who Potsie, Horseshack, or Vinnie Barbarino were. I understand that you have to write about what you know and what you feel, but you also need to take into consideration your target audience.

Anyway, this is a very quick and easy read, and one which I personally enjoyed. And if you remember CBGB’s and WKRP, then you’ll probably enjoy this book too.

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Naked Came the Leaf Peeper

NakedLeafPeeperAsheville, NC is a quirky place, to say the least. There is a saying here: “If you’re too weird for Asheville, you’re too weird.” But its home for me and I love it here. The unique blend of artists, musicians, writers, spiritual seekers, and fringe people of all sorts nestled within the Blue Ridge Mountains makes this the ideal place for me to live.

For the holidays, I was given a gift certificate to Malaprop’s, a local independent bookstore that I love to support. I knew before going there that I wanted to get a copy of Naked Came the Leaf Peeper. I had seen it on display for a while and it has been on my wish list. It is a collaborative work featuring twelve local Asheville writers each contributing a chapter.

The book is a riot! I burst out laughing multiple times as I was reading. Some of the scenes are so over-the-top that, even if you are unfamiliar with Asheville, you will still find them hysterical. For example, there is a scene where a vehicle gets stopped for reckless driving, and it is discovered that the woman driver is naked and shaving herself as her ex-husband tries to steer. And the craziest thing is, if you live in Asheville, it doesn’t seem that far-fetched.

So at this point, you may be wondering what it’s like in Asheville. Here is a quote that will give you an idea.

J.D worked his way downtown, pausing at a light straight across from the Asheville Civic Center so a man and his llama could cross the street in front of him.

A man and his llama?

J.D. turned off his auto-pilot and really looked around for the first time. There were llamas everywhere. Coming and going from the convention center, walking up and down the sidewalk, sitting on benches and parked cars. In the little park at the end of Broadway, hippies and llamas danced in a drum circle. There was even a llama standing with a tip bag tied around its neck while its owner played a guitar outside Malaprop’s Bookstore.

(p. 116)

So while this is a little bit exaggerated for humor’s sake, it’s not far from the truth. You’ll see all kinds of people with animals downtown, and there are always street musicians and people dancing around in drum circles. True story—I used to own an ice cream shop here in Asheville. One day a person came in with a goat on a leash and asked if it was OK to bring his goat in. I told him no, that the goat would have to wait outside. He seemed hurt. I couldn’t help wondering about relationship between him and his goat.

I had some neighbors once who told me that their friends would not come into Asheville because there were too many “wiggins.” It took me a few minutes to realize that he meant wiccans. Yeah, there is definitely a strong earth-based religious community here and the book includes a nod to them with a pretty accurate depiction of a pagan gathering in downtown.

The drummers began to beat their drums slowly, their rhythm increasing as Rowena’s voice grew louder, directing listeners to connect with the Divine within and to the spirits of the land, water, and sky. She called out to the spirits dwelling inside the rock and soil that formed the mountains visible in every direction; she called out to the spirits living in the rivers and springs that nourished the soil, the plants and the animals that drank from them; she called out to the spirits dwelling among the flowers and trees that also nurtured life and brought beauty and comfort. Holding a crystal wand in her hand, Rowena traced a spiraling pattern from above her head to the ground at her feet. She spoke to the dead, honoring those who had come before, and invited them to the circle, too. She undid the boundaries between the living and the dead, the animate and the inanimate, the earth and the cosmos. All were welcome at the gathering.

(pp. 169 – 170)

I don’t want to give away too much, but I’ll say that the rest of the book is filled with witty satire, parody, social commentary, literary allusions, and such. While the story is fictional, the depictions of Asheville and the surrounding counties are pretty accurate. I can also say that many of the characters in the book remind me of people I’ve met here over the years, from the conservative to the quirky to the just plain weird.

Yeah, I live in a weird city, but I love it. Honestly, I can’t imagine living anywhere else. And on that note…

Forget the Keep Asheville Weird bumper stickers. Asheville was weird enough as is.

(p. 116)

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