In the groove

So I’ve been jamming out in the car recently to a mix CD of some late 60s-early 70s classics I burned a while back—songs I loved as a kid, but had been sorta neglecting of late. And suddenly the responsibility—nay, the solemn, sacred duty—to share some of this good stuff with y’all weighed heavily upon me.



The above, of course, would be the legendary Buddy Miles, just doin’ his legendary Buddy Miles thang. In the unlikely event you don’t know of him, please allow Wikipedia to hip ya some.

George Allen “Buddy” Miles Jr. (September 5, 1947 – February 26, 2008), was an American rock drummer, vocalist, composer, and producer. He was a founding member of the Electric Flag (1967), a member of Jimi Hendrix’s Band of Gypsys (1969–1970), founder and leader of the Buddy Miles Express and later, the Buddy Miles Band. Miles also played and recorded with Carlos Santana and others. Additionally, he sang lead vocals on the critically and commercially acclaimed “California Raisins” claymation TV commercials and recorded two California Raisins R&B albums.

Yes, THOSE California Raisins. Of course, most people who DO know of Buddy will surely know of his stint as drummer for Hendrix’ Band Of Gypsies. Yes, THAT Band Of Gypsies. But then, who from that wondrous, magical era DIDN’T Buddy play with, anyway? That would probably make for a shorter list, one a hell of a lot less burdensome to tot up.

Miles played with a variety of rhythm and blues and soul acts as a teenager, including Ruby & the Romantics, the Delfonics, and Wilson Pickett. In 1964, at the age of 16, Miles met Jimi Hendrix at a show in Montreal, where both were performing as sidemen for other artists.

In 1967, Miles joined Hendrix in a jam session at the Malibu home of Stephen Stills. They also went on to play together again in 1968 in both Los Angeles and New York. In the same year, Miles moved to Chicago where he teamed with guitarist Mike Bloomfield and vocalist Nick Gravenites to form the Electric Flag, a blues/soul/rock band. In addition to playing drums, Miles sometimes sang lead vocals for the band, which made its live debut at the Monterey Pop Festival in mid-1967.

In early 1968, the band released A Long Time Comin’, its first album for Columbia. The Electric Flag’s second album, An American Music Band, followed late the same year. Shortly after that release, though, the group disbanded. In the same year, Hendrix used several guest artists, including Miles, during the recording of the album, Electric Ladyland. Miles played drums on one long jam that was eventually split into two album cuts, “Rainy Day, Dream Away” and “Still Raining, Still Dreaming”, with a different song, “1983… (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)”, edited in between.

At age 21, after the breakup of the Electric Flag, Miles put together a new band with Jim McCarty, who later became the guitarist for Cactus. This new group performed and recorded as the Buddy Miles Express. In 1969, Hendrix wrote a short poem as a liner note for Expressway To Your Skull, the first studio album recorded by the Buddy Miles Express. Hendrix went on to produce four of the tracks on the group’s follow-up album, Electric Church. The title of the latter LP was taken from Hendrix’s poem on the first.

In 1969 he appeared on British jazz guitarist John McLaughlin’s album Devotion.

Exressway To Your Skull might just be the greatest album title in all of history, I’m thinking.

And while we’re groovin’ to the classics here and all, allow me to bring forth another true great: Lee Michaels. Yes, THAT Lee Michaels.



Michaels, who I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned here before at least once, is another fascinating study. A generally-acknowledged keyboard virtuoso, he did most of his live shows accompanied only by a drummer—covering that complex, fluid bass line his own self via the pedals on the Hammond B3 he ran like a boss. This, whilst also ravaging the keyboards, and crooning his little heart out to boot.

For me, it’s that distinctive, passionate singing voice of his that really sets the hook in deep. Occasionally raspy and whiskey-raw, then a croon smooth as smoothest velvet; a banshee’s wail with a desperate, out-of-breath sob hot on its heels. He gulps and gasps along just behind the beat, like every good bluesman should.

The real bones and sinew of the singer’s art, though, is phrasing. Proper phrasing can cover a multitude of other sins, while clumsy phrasing can rubbish an otherwise skilled performance entirely. Michaels’ phrasing may sound somewhat haphazard, even confused and/or anarchic, to the uninitiated. But it’s actually note-perfect, rivaling that of even Sinatra in the way he makes the attentive listener WAAAAIIIIIT until he’s about to fall over anticipating that next crucial syllable.

The above tune has an interesting little history of its own (bold mine):

Lee Eugene Michaels (born Michael Olsen, November 24, 1945) is an American rock musician who sings and accompanies himself on organ, piano, or guitar. He is best known for his powerful soulful voice and his energetic virtuosity on the Hammond organ, peaking in 1971 with his Top 10 pop hit single, “Do You Know What I Mean”.

Michaels began his career with The Sentinals, a San Luis Obispo, California-based surf group that included drummer Johny Barbata (later of The Turtles, Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship). Michaels joined Barbata in the Joel Scott Hill Trio, a group led by guitarist Joel Scott Hill. Michaels later moved to San Francisco, where he joined an early version of The Family Tree, a band led by Bob Segarini. In 1967, he signed a contract with A&M Records, releasing his debut album, Carnival of Life, later that year with David Potter on drums. As a session musician, he played with Jimi Hendrix, among others.

Michaels’ choice of the Hammond organ as his primary instrument was unusual for the time, as was his bare-bones stage and studio accompaniment: usually just a single drummer, most often a musician known as “Frosty,” real name Bartholomew Eugene Smith-Frost, who was a member of Sweathog, and whose bare handed technique was an inspiration for John Bonham, or with Joel Larson of The Grass Roots. This unorthodox approach attracted a following in San Francisco, and some critical notice. (Sounds Magazine, for one, reported of Michaels that he had been called “the ultimate power organist.”) But Michaels did not achieve real commercial success until the release of his fifth album.

That album, titled 5th and released in 1971, produced a surprise US Top 10 hit (#6 in the fall of 1971), “Do You Know What I Mean.” It was an autobiographical homage to the loss of a girlfriend. Michaels’s Top 40 follow-up, a cover version of the Motown standard, “Can I Get a Witness,” peaked at #39 on Christmas Day of 1971, eight years to the week after Marvin Gaye’s version peaked at #22Billboard ranked “Do You Know What I Mean” as the No. 19 song for 1971. Michaels recorded two more albums for A&M before signing a recording contract with Columbia Records in 1973. But his Columbia recordings failed to generate much interest, and Michaels had gone into semi-retirement from the music industry by the end of the decade.

“Do You Know What I Mean” always brings the salt tang of an ocean breeze to mind for me, and there’s a good reason for it. See, back in the day when Myrtle Beach was still a place worth visiting, they had the late, lamented Myrtle Beach Pavilion (now unforgiveably torn down for no good reason at all, damn their eyes) on the beach side of Ocean Blvd, with the Pavilion Amusement Park directly across the street from it. We vacay’ed at MYB every year without fail, whiling away a goodish chunk of my misspent youth in the Pavilion and its Amusement Park both.

And ‘long about 71 or 72, the Amusement Park installed a great ride yclept the Himalaya, which my brother, my cousin, and I loved all to pieces. We’d ride that thing over and over again, round and round and up and down, until we were literally nauseous from it. And one of the things that attracted the Younger Generation to it was the fact that, unlike many of the other, older rides, they played that summer’s rock and roll hits loud as thunder over the installed speakers, to our endless delight.

There are two songs I heard on the Himalaya that really rang my bell but good, and never did forget. One of them was, of course, “Do You Know What I Mean” by Lee Michaels. The other, funnily enough, was a ditty whose origins I strived long and hard to unearth, only years later finding out that it had been Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Sweet Hitch Hiker.”



Now in my defense, I was exclusively a hard-rock kid back then. I was all about Iron Butterfly, D-Purp, Black Sabbath, and such-like in those days, see, and didn’t really give too much of a rip one way or the other about CCR; they weren’t on my radar until much later, I confess. But I did love me some “Sweet Hitch Hiker.” It hit me right in the sweet spot, for whatever reason.

And I had not the vaguest clue who it might be performing it on vinyl. Nor, it seemed, could I find out, not for love nor money.

What’s most curious about the whole saga is that I went around asking absolutely everybody I came into contact with that summer—grown-ups, young ‘uns like me, teenagers, teachers, the mailman, everybody—if they had any idea whose damned song that was…and not ONE of them knew either. Or if they did, they weren’t saying. Hell, I even called the local radio station (Big WAYS, 610 AM on your dial) and asked about it, all to no avail. The vexing conundrum was finally resolved when I stumbled across the song in the track listing on back of the album cover, tucked into the stacks o’ wax for sale down at my uncle Gene’s drug store in Mt Holly a cpl-three years later.

Ahh, them were the days for sure.

Goooood vibrations

Ace mentioned something that got my gears turning a little bit.

Quarantine Cafe: Baby Elephant Walk Edition
—Ace

Baby elephants for the GOP.

And then he goes and embeds several vids that, sure enough, have baby edgyphonts in ’em…without including Henry Mancini’s immortal, beloved classic. What. The. HELL…?!?

Please indulge me, folks, while I rectify that omission.



And that in turn got me to thinking about another HQ post from earlier this week (or maybe it was late last week) that featured a wonderful Herb Alpert song I’ve posted here before myself—one of my veriest favorites, which surely merits a re-run. No baby ellyfants involved with this one, alas. Just a bull.



And since one almighty-good Herb Alpert song deserves another, here’s probably my all-time favorite: a lush, utterly gorgeous version of “Lemon Tree.”



Man, they just don’t make ’em like that anymore.

“An album made by heroes

This quote alone makes the whole thing a must-read far as I’m concerned: “No matter how good the newest rock or album is, ‘Back In Black’ will kick its ass.”

Yep, it’s another captivating slice of AC/DC history, that’s what. Don’t hate me ’cause I’m beautiful.

In the seven years since AC/DC had formed in Sydney, Australia – with Angus, dressed for the stage in his old schoolboy uniform, an unlikely looking guitar hero – they had built up a strong international following via relentless touring and a series of brilliant, balls-out albums, including Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, Let There Be Rock and Powerage, the latter a favorite of Keith Richards. 

But it was with 1979’s Highway To Hell that they had a major breakthrough, their first million-seller. And in the new songs they demoed in London, with Bon playing drums, as he had done as a young man in his first groups back in Australia, there was such potential that Bon had told his mother Isa in a phone call: “This one is going to be it!”

It was only a few days after that call – on February 19, 1980 – that Bon Scott was found dead in East Dulwich, London. He had been out drinking with friends on the previous night.

Angus spoke for the whole band when he said, “You feel immortal until something like this happens.” But at Bon’s funeral in his hometown of Fremantle in Western Australia, his father Chick urged Malcolm and Angus to carry on with the band. And on April 1st, Brian Johnson, then aged 32, formerly of glam rock act Geordie, was announced as AC/DC’s new singer.

Those were big shoes that Brian Johnson had to fill. Bon had had it all: a powerful voice, a witty turn of phrase in his lyrics, and a macho stage presence that was the epitome of rock ’n’ roll cool.

As drummer Phil Rudd said, “Bon was such a character.” Moreover, he was, for Malcolm Young, a talismanic figure. “He pulled us all together,” Malcolm said. “He had that real stick-it-to-’em attitude. Bon was the single biggest influence on the band.” 

But in Brian Johnson, they found the right man for the job, and as it transpired, even Bon had been a fan of Brian’s. Back in the early ’70s, Bon’s old band Fraternity had opened for Geordie on a UK tour and witnessed what he later described to Angus as the best Little Richard impersonation he’d ever seen from a singer rolling around on the stage and screaming his head off.

As Angus said of that conversation: “It was rare that Bon ever raved about anything.” What Bon hadn’t known was that Brian Johnson had been screaming in agony that night, and had subsequently been rushed to hospital suffering from appendicitis.

As diehard an AC/DC fan as I am and always will be, there are plenty of fun facts in this piece that I didn’t know about before. It’s a killer for sure; don’t miss a single word of it.

Southern rock is dead

RIP Charlie Daniels, a truly great American.

Country Music legend Charlie Daniels, best known for his monster 1979 hit “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” died Monday of a hemorrhagic stroke. He was 83.

According to a press release from his representatives, the acclaimed Country Music Hall of Fame and Grand Ole Opry member died at Summit Medical Center in Hermitage, Tenn., where doctors determined his cause of death.

Daniels accumulated a slew of accolades and awards during his long career in music, including his induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Musicians Hall of Fame and becoming a member of the Grand Ole Opry. He also won a Dove Award for gospel albums and a coveted Grammy Award for best country vocal performance by a duo or group

I didn’t actually know he was an Opry member, bless his ornery ol’ heart.

“Few artists have left a more indelible mark on America’s musical landscape than Charlie Daniels. An outspoken patriot, beloved mentor, and a true road warrior, Daniels parlayed his passion for music into a multi-platinum career and a platform to support the military, underprivileged children, and others in need,” a statement from Daniels’ representatives reads.

In addition to his music, Daniels was a major advocate for several causes that were close to his heart including supporting the U.S. military with The Journey Home Project, which he founded in 2014 with his manager, David Corlew, to help veterans.

The article mentions several other charitable organizations either started or supported by Daniels, before getting to something else I didn’t know:

Daniels, a singer, guitarist and fiddler, started out as a session musician, even playing on Bob Dylan’s “Nashville Skyline” sessions. Beginning in the early 1970s, his five-piece band toured endlessly, sometimes doing 250 shows a year.

“I can ask people where they are from, and if they say `Waukegan,′ I can say I’ve played there. If they say `Baton Rouge,′ I can say I’ve played there. There’s not a city we haven’t played in,” Daniels said in 1998.

Daniels performed at White House, at the Super Bowl, throughout Europe and often for troops in the Middle East.

Daniels, a native of Wilmington, N.C., played on several Bob Dylan albums as a Nashville recording session guitarist in the late 1960s, including “New Morning” and “Self-Portrait.”

Well, whaddya know. All in all, a life well-lived, and now a reward well-earned. I’ll put up two of my favorites among Charlie’s long string of monster hits, by way of wishing him a fond farewell. He will surely be missed.



Chain of events

So as I was typing up my email to our governor, Comrade Cooper, begging official permission to be allowed to celebrate my “freedom” on the 4th, I was listening to the classical-music radio station as background, as is my usual wont. Amidst all the usual rah-rah 4th of July treacle and sludge, they aired a rendition of “Down In The Valley” for some reason—a lovely old tune, a real classic. And somehow, that in turn reminded me of an old Richard Pryor/Gene Wilder buddy flick called Stir Crazy, which at one point featured a beefy, intimidating cellmate of Our Heroes yclept Grossberger performing maybe the doggone prettiest version of the old chestnut I ever did hear:



Nice, eh? The guy who played Grossberger was a Dutch-American actor, wrestler, and opera singer who also held a BS in computer science named Erland Van Lindth De Jeude. He died, alas, in 1987 at a quite young age. Hats off to him for a real treat of a performance on this tune, anyway. Says something that it’s stuck with me all these years.

What are we gonna do now?

Kenny outed my hijacking of a Clash song for a post title the other day, whereupon subsequent events brought one of their earlier tunes to mind for some strange reason.



While we’re at it, Clampdown is always worth another listen.




Clampdown is probably my single favorite Clash song, if I had to pick one. The cover photo of London Calling is one for the ages as well, although I do have to note that you only ever see rock and rollers destroying their instruments on the bigger stages, never in the cramped, beer-and-piss-soaked clubs they clawed their way up and out of. Destructo Theater takes on a somewhat different cast when you have to peel yourself from a fan’s sticky apartment floor after two hours’ sleep thereon, limp bleary-eyed and hungover out to the band’s wheezy old strugglebuggy, and count out the ones and fives from last night’s meager take to support your guitar-busting habit. By the time London Calling had forever cemented the Clash’s status as a top-tier act, Paul Simenon was well past having to sweat where the dough would be coming from to replace that poor P-bass of his.

RIP Little Richard Penniman

Belated, I know, but still. At the risk of making this post more about me than him (even though I’ll probably end up doing just that regardless) I’ll lead off with a snippet from the text conversation on Richard’s passing I had with my band’s former manager:

LittleRichardScreen-1.png

That last refers to a pic he included in the message, in which I am conspicuous only by my absence. Don’t worry, I’ll explain later.

Those three December nights remain among the most memorable of my entire life. We did three (3) shows opening for Little Richard at a legendary music hall called Tramps, on 20th Street in Manhattan. The above-mentioned Terry Dunne was the owner of that fine establishment, a big, bluff, Irish-to-the-bone man with some truly alarming IRA connections: bone thugs who would show up in NYC periodically when over here for a fundraising or arms-procuring jaunt, to the vague terror of one and all.

But it was the last night of that momentous three-night stand when Richard made the above-mentioned declaration, to the deep chagrin of a long, long line of autograph seekers—and to the spluttering rage of one Terry Dunne, who had a huge stack of Richard LPs he was hoping to get signed, a stack that ended up sitting untouched and forlorn by those famous hands on Dunne’s lonely office desk.

Almost didn’t get paid? Hell, we almost didn’t make it out alive. Mike, our manager, later told us that Terry was absolutely fuming when he went in to collect our fee that night—a handsome enough one by the usual NYC standard, as was always the case for us at Tramps. There was Terry’s big stack of LPs, unsigned. And there was Terry, screaming himself purple over how Richard had breezily dismissed one and all to spend thirty or forty of his precious green-room moments with us alone before announcing, “Y’all, I gots to GO! My legs, my legs are hurting! The legs is the first things to go!” and strolling right out surrounded by his entourage with nary a backwards glance at anybody.

Terry, poor guy, issued a few dire threats regarding things he really ought to hire somebody to do to us, then coughing up like a prince in the end. I stayed friends with Terry throughout the rest of my years in New York, even playing a few gigs with my local side-band at a little bar he opened up down on 1st and 1st, right off Houston Street. But the Belmont Playboys were pretty much persona non grata at Tramps after that.

Little Richard Penniman was known as The Architect of rock and roll, which was certainly accurate. There really was nobody quite like him; his piano playing was simultaneously frenzied yet virtuosic, and his singing was simply otherworldly, a revelation. He could growl, he could scream, he could croon, he could wail, every note of it pitch-perfect and bursting with a passion that was big as mountains and as moving as a desert sunset. He was less a performer than a force of nature, way larger than life both onstage and off. The truly astonishing thing isn’t how very good he was; given that the candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long, it’s that he lived as long as he did. When your peers are icons like Elvis, the Killer, Roy Orbison, Chuck Berry, and others, and you still stand out so sharply…well, that says one hell of a lot.

His band back then, the Upsetters, were every ounce equal to their Herculean task too; quite simply, they were probably the single best rock and roll backing band there ever was. Hey, when you can hire and then fire Jimi Fargin’ Hendrix, ferrchrissakes, none but a fool could consider you anything less than the creme de la creme:

Hendrix was an off-and-on member of Richard’s backup band, the Upsetters between late 1964–January 1965 until June–July 1965. So far, Hendrix biographers have identified only two songs he recorded with Richard, but are uncertain about the dates: “I Don’t Know What You’ve Got (But It’s Got Me)”, a two-part single released by Vee-Jay Records in November 1965, and “Dancing All Around the World”. Neither song appears on this album, although they are included on the West Coast Seattle Boy: The Jimi Hendrix Anthology (2010).

In July 1965, Hendrix played guitar during a WLAC-TV television appearance by Upsetters backup singers Buddy & Stacy. They performed the Junior Walker hit “Shotgun”, which was broadcast on Night Train, a Nashville, Tennessee, music variety show. Soon thereafter, Hendrix moved to New York City, where he sent a postcard to his father:

He [Little Richard] didn’t pay us for five and a half weeks, and you can’t live on promises when you’re on the road, so I had to cut that mess loose.

Richard’s brother, Robert Penniman, later claimed that Hendrix was fired because “he was always late for the bus and flirting with all the girls and stuff like that.”

Whatever the true story might be, the Upsetters were definitely the real deal all right, which this classic among classics demonstrates nicely.




One of the best tenor sax solos EVER, I think. Note ye well, though: the Upsetters could swing out, they could do jazzy, and they could turn on a dime and just rock the roof off the joint without seeming to break a sweat. But even so, it’s Richard you somehow can’t wrest your gaze from. That, too, says one hell of a lot.

And when we played with him at Tramps, the man STILL had every last bit of it. His band would take the stage without Richard first each night, spending about twenty or thirty minutes getting the SRO crowd good and warmed up. Richard would climb the long staircase up from the green-room dungeon near the last of the warmup set, waiting quietly and calmly in the wings behind the stage-right curtain to be brought onstage to a mad roar from the now-pumped crowd.

Which just happened to be where I was standing that last night, completely enraptured by his band and oblivious to the most august personage standing right beside me.

Little Richard really wasn’t particularly little at all, I realized when I turned to find him close by. He had a big head, big eyes, big hair, big hands, and a robust overall physique, even at the ripe old age of 60. Abruptly, I found myself in the immediate presence of true, honest-to-God greatness after not interacting with him at all on the previous nights. I struggled to come up with a few words to express my gratitude for the sublime honor of allowing us to share the bill with him for three nights.

And then came the moment I will never for one second forget. Richard stepped closer in, warmly grasped my hand in both of his, and then positively gushed with praise. Exact quote, as burned into my increasingly feeble brain for all time:

Oh, I just LOVE what you did with my friend Gene Vincent’s song! That Be Bop A Lula! You have SUCH a wonderful voice, so powerful! Thank you, thank you so much for that!!

Whereupon I immediately fell to my knees and kissed The Architect’s hand. I mean, come on, man! What the hell else was I going to do?

It might help you to better appreciate the impact if you recite the above words using your most flamboyant, gay-ass Little Richard voice, I dunno. Not that Richard was really gay, of course. No, Little Richard, elemental force of nature that he always was and will always remain, was parsecs beyond being tritely categorized as merely “gay” or “straight.” Richard was what one might call sexually omnivorous. To wit:

Beautiful, eccentric, fast, flashy, honest, intelligent, lascivious, rough, spiritual, trashy, wild, witty, the singer, pianist, saxophonist and raconteur Richard Wayne Penniman performing as the frightening and thrilling Little Richard is a musician’s musician and a pervert’s pervert.  Little Richard, who tried out some of his songs in front of audiences before recording them, an entertainer who challenged cultural barriers with his talent, and who for a time would live in Los Angeles in Sugar Hill near boxer Joe Louis, another Georgia boy from Macon, was a concert performer admired by fellow entertainers James Brown, Otis Redding, Elvis Presley, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Jimi Hendrix, Elton John, Michael Jackson, and Prince—and Richard’s gospel singing was admired by Quincy Jones and Mahalia Jackson.  Like many African-American artists, Richard Penniman would feel himself torn between the sensual and the spiritual.

Money and sex as well as the salvation of souls were, with music, among Little Richard’s lasting interests: they offered ecstasy, power, and transcendence.  Little Richard had a girlfriend named Angel who was a devilish sex vixen who became the practicing bisexual man’s friend, lover, and tool, as much of a freak as he was: “I loved Angel because she was pretty and the fellers enjoyed having sex with her.  She could draw a lot of handsome guys to me” (thus the libertine is quoted in 1984’s oral history of Little Richard’s life and career, The Life and Times of Little Richard by Charles White, originally published by Harmony Books in 1984, then Da Capo Press in 1994, and republished by Omnibus Press, 2003; page 73).  When the performer Buddy Holly walked into a backstage dressing room in which Little Richard and Angel were engaging in sex, Holly quickly joined them.  Following new religious devotion, Richard Penniman for a time would be married to a woman, Ernestine Campbell, who was satisfied with their married and sexual life but not with his renewal of show business obligations, leading her to seek a divorce.

I have that book around here someplace, and in its recounting of the Holly tale, Richard waxed rhapsodic about the size of Holly’s, umm, courting tackle, going on and on about how much fun it was to share out his then-girlfriend backstage before being walked in on by a stagehand anxious as to why Holly wasn’t onstage at the moment, like he was supposed to be. More from the same link:

“Homosexuality is contagious. It’s not something you’re born with. It’s contagious…The gay thing really came from me being with a guy called Bro Boy, who was a grocery boy. Bro Boy really laid me into that—he and Hester. It started with them and it growed.”
—Little Richard, page 11

“There was this lady by the name of Fanny. I used to drive her around so I could watch people having sex with her. She’d be in the back of the car, the lights on, her legs open, and no panties on. I’d take her around so that the fellers could have sex with her. She didn’t do it for money. She did it because I wanted her to do it. She wasn’t very old. I used to enjoy seeing that.”
—Little Richard, page 41

“We were breaking through the racial barrier. The white kids had to hide my records ’cos they daren’t let their parents know they had them in the house. We decided that my image should be crazy and way-out so that the adults would think I was harmless. I’d appear in one show dressed as the Queen of England an in the next as the pope.”
—Little Richard, page 66

“All I wanted was to have sex with the most beautiful women and get high…I used to like to watch girls be with girls, you know? I thought that was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.”
—Little Richard, page 178
 
“A habit like mine cost a lot of money. I was smoking marijuana and angel dust and I was mixing heroin with coke.”
—Little Richard, page 186

Those quotes make it plain that Richard was simply too supersized a character to ever be constrained within definitions meant to apply to mere mortals. His appetites—sexual and otherwise—could never have been anything short of voracious. How could they? I repeat: the really remarkable thing is that he lived so long.

His talent, too, was high, wide, and deep, as oversized and uncontainable as his personality. He could play, he could sing, he could write, he could perform; the man was a bona-fide colossus. He was the living incarnation of everything anyone ever meant when they used the word “fabulous,” and I am profoundly grateful to Whomever for the all-too-brief moments I shared with him. I’ll close this out with a photo from the green-room dungeon at Tramps on that last December night, along with a bit of audio I’ll never get tired of.

LittleRichard-backstage.jpg

From right we have our manager, guitarist/vocalist Chipps, Little Richard, and our drummer Mark. Visible in the background are a couple of Richard’s bandmates.



If there’s a rock and roll heaven, Little Richard Penniman just took charge of the band, making it wilder, more out-of-control, and just plain better than it ever was before. Fare thee well, Richard; may your lion’s heart and unquenchable spirit be forever at peace.

The eternal debate

You geezers like me will remember the forever-burning question of Beatles or Stones; you young ‘uns, if any, won’t. But Mick Jagger has just settled it for all of us. First, though, we’ll let Sir Paul (harrumph) get what licks he can in.

Paul McCartney, 77, says it’s clearly The Beatles.

In an interview with Howard Stern on his Sirius-XM radio show last week, McCartney said “I love the Stones but The Beatles were better.”

“Their stuff is rooted in the blues, whereas we had a lot more influences. Keith [Richards] once said to me, ‘You were lucky man. You had four singers in your band. We got one.’”

McCartney, who sang and played bass and piano for the group, and wrote dozens of the group’s songs, said The Stones sometimes copied The Beatles. “We started to notice that whatever we did the Stones sort of did it shortly thereafter,” he said.

“We went to America and had huge success, then the Stones went to America,” he said. “We did Sergeant Pepper and the Stones did a psychedelic album. There was a lot of that.”

Well, okay then. Now do understand, I loved the early Beatles stuff, and I still do. I can just remember my dad getting me out of bed to watch their first Ed Sullivan appearance when I was all of four years old, and I was enthralled. In fact, it was only when the Beatles went off the pop rails into the mondo-weirdo psychedelic ditch that they lost me. But let’s see what Jagger has to say.

Appearing on  Zane Lowe’s Apple Music show on Friday, Jagger said there was “obviously no competition” between the two, adding about McCartney, “He is a sweetheart. I’m a politician.”

“The big difference, though, is that The Rolling Stones is a big concert band in other decades and other areas when The Beatles never even did an arena tour,” Jagger said. “They broke up before the touring business started for real… They did that [Shea] stadium gig [in 1965]. But the Stones went on.”

“We started stadium gigs in the 1970s and are still doing them now,” Jagger said. “That’s the real big difference between these two bands. One band is unbelievably luckily still playing in stadiums and then the other band doesn’t exist.”

Yeah, there’s that. Actually, I never have cared all that much for the Stones, although it’s basically less a question of who’s the better band than it is of whether you prefer rock to pop. Nonetheless, I do love me some Keef. And Charlie Watts still ranks as one of the greatest rock & roll drummers ever.

I may have mentioned before here that my beloved mother-in-law in NYC insisted on flying me and my late wife up to see the Stones on the Meadowlands date of their 2006 tour; neither Christiana nor I were very enthusiastic about the proposition, sharing an opinion of the Stones which could be summed up most pithily as: meh. But Xenia, who had seen the Stones their very first time in the States, stood firm. And BOY, was I glad she did. The show featured the Stones with the Uptown Horns, Chuck Leavell, and a whole slew of other top-flight guest artists as well. I admit it was truly one of the best shows I ever saw in my entire life.

Jagger in particular was a thing of wonder to behold. He ran—not walked or jogged, literally RAN—from one end of the huge stage to the other and back again…for more than two friggin’ hours. Nonstop. While, umm, “singing.” As I told the ladies, I couldn’t have done that shit when I was thirty, and he would have been, what, in his late 60s at the time? Incredible.

But longevity ain’t the only weight on the Stones’ side of the scale. Hate to get so personal and all, but with rock and roll royalty, this is the sort of thing that matters. This is who Paul married:

linda-louise-mccartney-2.jpg

Just to be downright cruel about it, certain ungentlemanly scoundrels once referred to her as “the dog with Wings.” Ahem.

Now have yourself a gander at the one-time Mrs Mick:


JerryHall.jpg


Uhh, YEAH.

All things considered, though, the Beatles/Stones debate is made forever moot for me, nothing more than small potatoes, by a whole ‘nother, far more weighty consideration. See, even the Beatles and the Stones at one time or another hied themselves to Graceland to genuflect in justified awe and pay due obeisance to the once and forever King. And friends, there can only ever be just one.



Argument settled, sez I.

(Via Ed Driscoll)

End game? Ain’t none

Too much: never enough.

There simply is no stopping point or ideological boundary line for the left.  There’s no point where the general liberal consensus says, “OK, we’ve arrived at our destination.  Hallelujah, we’re here!  We’re now liberal enough!”  Just when you think they’ve finally reached the point of maximum possible craziness, they march on.

For this reason, I foresee that many more liberal icons will be destroyed in the future, simply because at some point in their lives, they made the mistake of thinking, “The here-and-now is pretty much where we’ll stay.  The here-and-now is the end point of our liberal ideology.  The actions or comments that are appropriate and safe today will always be appropriate and safe.”  Nope.  The leftward drift will continue ad infinitum, such that acts that seem OK and reasonable today will soon be viewed as evidence of some unpardonable sin that is treasonous to the cause.

Bernie Sanders is not the left’s political end point, either.  He may seem extreme today, but in the not too distant future, we’ll look back at Bernie with nostalgia for how quaintly midstream he was.

What, you mean the way opposition to gay “marriage” went from being a perfectly reasonable, near-unanimous sentiment to unalloyed Nazi genocide in about, ohhh, twenty minutes or so?

Quoth moi, from one my very own song lyrics: A hundred miles an hour/Ain’t no brakes. To wit:




I didn’t know I was writing about “liberalism” when I came up with that one, I promise I didn’t. And yet it works just the same, in this case anyway.

But see (just to meander a bit further afield here), that’s the magic of songwriting: one’s audience can individually glean many different meanings, including contradictory ones, from the self-same set of words. And they will, to. Shoot, if I had a nickel for every time some female walked up to me after a show or some other place to sassily proclaim “You wrote that one about ME, didn’t you? I KNOW you did!!” I’d be…well, I’d be something other than a failed musician, at the very least.

Never mattered a bit whether I actually knew the dame or not, seemed like. She would always know, of a rock-solid certainty, that SHE was the one I’d had in mind throughout the wearing struggle of the creative process—humbly begging the favor of The Muse via downing shots of whiskey and staring endlessly at a blank sheet of paper—when all I had really been doing was just trying to cobble something together that at least rhymed half-decently and wasn’t too embarrassingly trite, nonsensical, or just plain goddamned stupid to be performed onstage night after night and/or distributed internationally on thousands of CDs.

But hey, what the hell do I know, right?

Buddy Mercury sings!

I dunno, could be I’m wrong here, but in my opinion he’s the greatest Vegas lounge crooner since Sammy Davis Jr.




Might there be an album available on iTunes, you ask? Why, yes. Yes, there is: Buddy Mercury Sings the Blues! The cover alone is worth the price of admission. If your interest is piqued and you’re just dying for a bigger dose of Buddy’s distinctive stylistic artistry—which I know it is, and you are—Ace has several more video recordings of Buddy wailin’ away over at his joint.

Imagine this

For a real change of pace, this one is perfectly easy to spot as a Bee satire.

John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ Rereleased With More Realistic Description Of Communism
UK—Have you ever tried to imagine living in a perfect world ruled by communism, but previously only received the information from catchy folk songs which praise the system? Well, lucky for you, it is now easier than ever to understand what a full-blown communist utopia actually looks like.

That’s because John Lennon’s commie classic “Imagine” has been rereleased with more realistic lyrics to reflect the harsh realities of communism. Lennon, long dead—though not by way of communism, since he was blessed to live in a capitalist country—would be proud of the change, due to its artistic value in realism.

While the classic folk song does do a fantastic job of laying out the basics of communism—no religion, no possessions, no food—it never invites the listener to imagine all the people in their true form, which is dead—usually by firing squad, but often by way of starvation as well.

The folks at the Bee are good enough to provide us with the new lyrics, which include a “re-Imagined” turnaround:

You may say I’m a commie
But I’m not the only one
And someday you will join us
Or we’ll shoot you in the face

Somehow, I just can’t quite see this more candid and factual version being sung at the next big candlelit ‘n’ teary-eyed circle jerk in the wake of yet another Islamic mass slaughter that has nothing whatever to do with Islam. Way too real for the “reality”-based creampuffs to choke down, maybe.

Sweet soul music

This one’s for our pal Aesop, who kindly regaled us with a slice of solid-gold soul from the great Hugh Masekela yesterday. One good turn deserves another, I always say. So dig this if you will, brothers and sisters.




Important kinda-sorta caveat: you MUST listen to this one twice (at least) to get just how hard this piece really swings. First time around, just let the sound take you away. The Adderley Quintet works that almighty groove to damned near exhaustion; they play so far behind the beat they almost drop one entirely every other bar. The dynamics are pure perfection, crescendoing from soft and sweet to a thunderous climax again and again. There might possibly some way to improve on the arrangement, maybe, but as a songwriter of some minor repute myself I surely can’t see how you’d do it.

Second listen is for paying close attention to the audience. The above recording is from the halcyon soul days of 1966. I don’t know where it was done, but I always envisioned one of those small jazz joints that flourished in lower Manhattan in those days, a smokey room packed with finger-snapping beatnik hipster originals who were neither shy nor quiet about expressing their appreciation for a performance as nonpareil as this one. Listen especially for the dude who keeps yelling “Work out! Work out!” during the Fender Rhodes Wurlitzer (see below) solo in the middle, and the nice round of applause keyboard whiz Joe Zawinul receives for his stellar work.

When the audience erupts into raucous, sustained applause at the end, there’s no doubt that these folks were keenly aware that they’d just witnessed something truly special. And they had. Nat’s spoken intro is great, even.

Alas, those days are but a memory now, as are almost all of the musicians, bless them. Nowadays, the only correct and proper way to enjoy this one is with a tumbler of fine whiskey at your elbow and a cigarette in your hand, as God His Own Self intended. Anything less can only come up short. Not that I’m trying to incite delinquency on anybody’s part here, mind.

Both the Masekela classic and Cannoball’s slow-burn scorcher, among loads of other soul satisfiers, are still available on this excellent Rhino compilation from years back, along with another old favorite of mine which I’ll graciously toss your way as a bonus track. No need to thank me, y’all.



Oh, and my wistful idea about the Adderley Quintet playing in some lower-Manhattan jazz dive for this recording? Ummm, think again.

Though the original liner notes state that it was recorded at the Club DeLisa in Chicago, it was actually recorded at Capitol’s Hollywood studio with an invited audience and an open bar.[3] The reason for this discrepancy, according to the liner notes in the CD reissue, is that Adderley and the new manager of Club DeLisa (which had been renamed “The Club”, after operating for years in Chicago under its old name) were friends, and Adderley offered to give the club a bit of free publicity.

The title track became a surprise hit, reaching #11 on the Billboard Hot 100. On this album, Joe Zawinul played a Wurlitzer electric piano; however, subsequent live performances saw him taking up the new and mellower-sounding Fender Rhodes instrument.

Ah well, my being wrong about a couple-three details diminishes the music itself not a whit. Enjoy, folks.

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