Hey hey, my my

Rock and roll will never die.


I present this ass-kicking foursome in the exact same order I heard ’em earlier on one of the local classic-rock radio stations when I was out. You can’t begin to imagine how deliriously happy it makes to know that even now, early in the year 2021, a four-song set as insanely great as this is still available for my listening pleasure, right there on my FM dial. Warms of the cockles of my cockles, it does.

Update! Looky what popped up automagically while I was typing the above.



Wonder if it really was Bon playing those bagpipes. If this ain’t what Rock And Roll Heaven sounds like, then I don’t wanna go.

A splash of Cranberries

The Cranberries have always been one my favorite bands, much though that might seem to clash with some of my other, umm, known proclivities. Fronted by the late, lamented, and completely lovely Dolores O’Riordan, they were one of those bands whose sound was so distinctive that you always recognized any song of theirs within only a handful of bars. About Dolores:

Dolores Mary Eileen O’Riordan (/oʊˈrɪərdən/; 6 September 1971 – 15 January 2018) was an Irish musician, singer, and songwriter. She was best known as the lead vocalist and lyricist for the alternative rock band the Cranberries. O’Riordan was one of the most recognizable female voices in rock in the 1990s and in pop history. She was known for her lilting mezzo-soprano voice,[5] her signature yodel, her emphasised use of keening, and her strong Limerick accent. With the Cranberries, she is regarded to have written “some of the most seminal songs in music history”.

Poor lass lived an extremely eventful life:

O’Riordan was singing before she could talk. When she was five years of age, the principal of her school took her into the sixth class, sat her on the teacher’s desk, and told her to sing for the twelve-year-old students in the class. She started with traditional Irish music and playing the Irish tin whistle when she went to school. When she was seven years old, her sister accidentally burned the house down; the rural community was able to raise funds to purchase the family a new homestead. Her formative experiences were as a liturgical soloist in the choir in local church and as singer at school. From the age of eight, she was sexually abused for four years by a person whom she trusted. At the age of ten, she would sing in local pubs where her uncles took her.

All that, and it only brings us up to age ten. Oh, did I mention she was quite the fair Colleen? Because I assure you, she was.

DoloresORiordan.jpg

Not that an abundance of personal pulchritude matters much when you can belt it out like she could.







Those last two are my own personal Best Of’s, but the real reason I thought of mentioning all this tonight relates to the first one. See, on the drive home from work earlier I heard Bad Wolves’ regrettable remake of Zombie. Not that they made such a terrible job of it, mind. In fact, to their enormous credit, the vid for the Bad Wolves version is quite tasteful, nicely highlighting the band’s obvious respect and affection for Dolores and the Cranberries. Nonetheless: some songs are just better left alone, y’know? Sleeping dogs, all that jazz.

Which brings Five Finger Death Punch to mind. From what I can gather, 5FDP seems to be big on the remakes as well, unfortunately including another perennial fave of mine: Bad Company’s signature tune. Please understand, I have nothing whatsoever against 5FDP and wish them nothing but success. Nor am I opposed to cover songs per se, having recorded a whole passel of ’em over the years my own self, offering neither shame nor apology for having thus sinned. Just the same: sorry fellas, but some things simply can’t be improved upon, and it’s sheer folly to even try.

Oh, and while we’re at it, I will never begin to understand why Bad Wolves didn’t name themselves The Big Bad Wolves when they had the chance. Redoing Zombie I can maybe make allowances for, but that lapse? Unforgivable.

Publick Notice

Added a YouTube alternative to the Neutral Territory sidebar section: Rumble. And what the hell, here’s another fine Cantus Christmas selection for ya.



Great as Chanticleer is, and they are, I really have to admit that I like Cantus better. Can’t really come up with a specific reason why, other than Cantus seems to produce a fuller, more muscular sound. Don’t know the actual number of vocalists in each ensemble off the top of my head; maybe it’s just that Cantus has more throats belting their stuff out than Chanticleer does, maybe it’s the arrangements, I dunno. Either way, when the singing kicks back in after the percussion interlude, this one takes off and soars like a mighty, majestic eagle.

Immortal, beloved

Y’all know by now that I’m more of a Mozart guy myself, but that still leaves plenty of space in my coal-black heart for good ol’ Ludwig Van Beethoven. I’ve been enjoying a bigger helping of the great man’s work than usual the past month, courtesy of the local classical station’s celebratory programming to commemorate the musical giant’s birthday. Somewhat curdling my pleasure, alas, is the fact that I had to grit my remaining teeth through the blasted 9th Symphony three fucking times today.

Understand, it’s not that I don’t appreciate the 9th as the genuine masterpiece it inarguably is. It’s just that I’ve heard it so many times I long ago got sick of the damned thing. If I never hear the 9th again in my life that will be entirely satisfactory, with no insult whatever to either the symphony nor its composer expressed or implied. For the record, I feel exactly the same way about Handel’s Messiah, another earwig which to my discomfort is nearly impossible to avoid this time of year.

Funnily enough, there’s another piece by Ludwig Van that I haven’t tired of, one that’s closely reminiscent of the 9th’s renowned Ode To Joy in certain spots. Let’s have a listen, shall we?



Also funnily enough, one of the YT commenters commends the tempo of this particular rendition as being “exactly correct.” The reason the comment merits a “funnily enough” is that I’ve been noticing, with increasing irritation, how many modern conductors seem to want the orchestra they’re in charge of to perform every work from the Classical or Romantic Period as if their foremost consideration is to just get through it as speedily as they possibly can. Hearing the musicians stampede through these classics as if the recording studio was burning down around their very ears just gripes me no end. I can’t begin to imagine why these conductors think it’s a good idea. And I fervently wish they’d just cut this crap out already.

While we’re at it, there’s another fantastic Beethoven piece I’ll leave you with—the Adagio movement of a piano piece not quite as well-known as the Emperor Concerto is, I reckon, but an unforgettable one in its own right nonetheless.



Happy 250th, Beethoven, and thanks for all the fish.

A Cold War carol

Yep, it’s time for another sheer-genius musical extravaganza from Steyn.

Back in 1952, Gloria Shayne had been the pianist in the dining room of a New York hotel when a young man walked in, took one look at the gal at the keyboard, and went up and introduced himself. He was a Frenchman who spoke very little English, she was an American who spoke even less French. She liked pop music, he had come to America to be a classical musician. Yet within a month they were married. Flash forward ten years: Noël Regney’s English has improved, and, although he still hasn’t made his name in serious music, he’s learned to appreciate American pop music since his wife hit the jackpot with “Goodbye, Cruel World”. They even write songs together – usually with Noël writing the music, and Gloria the lyrics.

But not this time. Noël Regney had had a lively war. Born in Strasbourg, he’d been conscripted, after the German invasion, into the army of the Reich. And, although he soon deserted and joined the Resistance, he stayed in German uniform long enough to lead his platoon intentionally into the path of a group of French partisans, who wound up shooting him. After the liberation of his country, he went east to be the musical director of the Indochinese service of Radio France, and found himself in the middle of a new conflict. He thought the Second World War was so terrible that it must surely be the end of all war. But here it was – October 1962 – and as he saw it Washington and Moscow were playing a dangerous game of nuclear brinksmanship over Soviet missiles in Cuba. On the streets of Manhattan, he saw two infants in strollers being wheeled by their mothers along the sidewalk, and decided he wanted to write something for them. Not music, but words: A poem.

He wrote a tune to go with it, too, but he decided it wasn’t right, and turned to his wife. “When he finished,” said Gloria, “Noël gave it to me and asked me to write the music. He said he wanted me to do it because he didn’t want the song to be too classical. I read over the lyrics, then went shopping. I was going to Bloomingdale’s when I thought of the first music line.”

I was gonna withhold the name of the song so as to keep y’all in suspense as to which Christmas classic he’s referring to, but then realized there’s no way I could resist embedding it here, and that I had no desire to anyway.



Amazing, isn’t it, how so very many of those Great American Songbook tunes have such fascinating backstories?

Promise: kept

Told y’all I’d be re-running this heavenly beauty once again this year. Maybe more than just this once, if I remember my stated promise/threat correctly. What, you thought I was just kidding around or sump’in?




As many times as I’ve seen that one, it never fails to choke me up even yet. While we’re Christmasing around, here’s another good ‘un.



Yeh, yeh, I know: it’s Frosty the Limey, a Brit-pale knockoff of the real all-American magilla. But still. A lovely little tune—simple, elegant, moving. And while I’m reposting a few of my personal holiday favorites, no such list could ever be complete without departed genius John Fahey on there.



More to come, as and when? Oh, you betcher, bub. In fact, the local classical station, WDAV, played a piano adaption of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite the other morning, one I’d never heard before, that blew me away completely. Gonna have to see about digging that one up for sure.

The most wonderful time of the year!

Yes, folks, it is indeed the time of year when some of the most wonderful music yet written comes back around to enchant us all. Yes, I will most certainly be posting the wonderful Cantu/Chanticleer barside team-up on Biebl’s wonderful Ave Maria again this year—count on it. Probably more than once, actually. I swear, no matter how many times I watch that one—about eleventy million so far, I think, but who’s counting—I still get so badly choked up over it that singing along myself, much as I’d surely like to, is simply out of the question.

Anyways, thanks to MisHum and his wonderful ONT, to kick this wonderful season off in a most wonderful way we have something I didn’t see coming.



I always really liked Johnny Winter’s pickin’ but somehow missed this uncharasterically delicate little confection completely over lo, these many years. Talk about UNEXPECTED!™, eh?

Good Friday the 13th

A most hearty welcome back to some old and dear friends.




Sounds great to me—even more so when you ponder the trials and travails this band has managed to overcome over the decades. Some folks say that it really isn’t AC/DC anymore without Malcolm, and that’s a legitimate opinion, I guess. But for myself, I’m just glad as all getout to see these guys still in the game, still persevering, and still rocking the ass right off of it even yet.

Glad to have you back, boys. Many thanks for laying down such a remarkable catalog of pure, bone-crushing rock and roll for our enjoyment. Long may you wave.

Helloween

DAMMIT, I only realized on the way home from work that I had completely spaced on activating the CF Halloween theme this year. And given the insane amount of tweaking that will be required to bring the tired old thing even nominally into line with the more recent WP versions, it ain’t likely it’s going to make an appearance this year, alas.

On the bright side, however, it’s a matter of a paltry few days now until our beloved Scrooge Picard rears his top-hatted pate once more around these parts—since I blew off Halloween, I’m gonna inaugurate CF’s traditional holiday makeover early than ever this annum to make up to the CF Faithful. No need to thank me, folks. While you’re waiting, enjoy yourselves some spooky TuneDamage.




Not at all a Baroque-period guy myself, being the confirmed Classical/Romantic era man that I am. But could there possibly be a more fitting way to kick off our Spooky TuneDamage session than Bach’s legendary Toccata and Fugue?



Well, unless maybe it’s Chopin’s world-famous Funeral March, that is. Now let’s shift gears.



Back in my punk-rock halcyon days, I loved the Dead Kennedys all to pieces, and the lyrics of this one in particular spoke to my very soul. Why not every day/Are you so afraid/What will people say? indeed.



Sure, I could very easily have taken the easy way out and tossed up Boris and the Crypt Kicker Five’s classic “Monster Mash” to close things out, like any ordinary blogger certainly would have. But predictability and obviousness ain’t why you guys hang around here in the first place, I figger. Not that there’s anything at all wrong with “Monster Mash,” I hasten to add. But we’ve all heard it enough times, and Gene Simmons’ rollicking, lesser-known little finger-snapper sounds fresh and fun in comparison.

Now to get back to seeing if there’s anything I can do to fit the old Helloween theme into a fresh new WP framework. In case you haven’t seen it or don’t remember it, the theme’s feature image was done up special for me by the seriously amazing American artist Coop, so I’m gonna do my damnedest to make this thing work here.

Update! It occurred to me, in light of the H-ween theme’s shortcomings, that I maybe oughta check up on Scrooge Picard’s overall operability just as a precautionary measure. And wouldn’tcha know it, looks like that one’s gonna need some re-working also—thereby sending any chance of getting Coop’s Helloween masterpiece into usable condition this weekend a-swirling right down the ol’ drain, dammit.

Something’s happenin’ here

What it is ain’t exactly clear.




Tonight’s TuneDamage selection is pretty much self-explanatory, I believe. Been meaning to put this one up for a cpl-three weeks now; I was just waiting for an excuse, and now seems like about as good a time as any. Although on reflection, election day might be an even more apt choice.

All in all, one apt tune calls for another, right?




If you’re experiencing a strong sense of deja vue right now, it’s justified. I have indeed run this one before—more than once too, if I’m not mistaken. Now admittedly, with apologies to our good friend Bill, I’ve never been what you’d call a Bob Dylan fan, although of course I’m musician enough myself to acknowledge the man’s genius. That said, I’ve always considered this song to be one of Dylan’s absolute best. And here, Frankie Perez—with his breathy, passionate vocal overlaying a gently captivating instrumental arrangement—has rejiggered a genuine masterpiece into a thing of purest, deepest beauty.

Legions of players have covered Dylan’s stuff over the years, with varying results. While I do still maintain that some classic tunes should just be left the hell alone, the above isn’t one of ’em. I’m confident Mr Zimmerman is well aware of Lopez’ rendition. And I’d be surprised indeed if he didn’t approve wholeheartedly.

Creature feature

Harpy (noun)

har·​py | \ ˈhär-pē  \
plural harpies

Definition of harpy
1 capitalized : a foul malign creature in Greek mythology that is part woman and part bird
2: a shrewish woman

Synonyms
battle-axe, dragon lady, harridan, shrew, termagant


Just in time to freeze the blood of every male in existence for Halloween, and make his testicles draw all the way up into the back of his throat—because they’ve heard that tune before, too may times, and know all too well what it forebodes. Every one of the guys I forwarded the vid to confessed with a shudder that they could only stand about ten or fifteen seconds of it before having to turn it off, and no wonder; one of them compared its powerful psychological impact to what he imagined having a needle-sharp icicle plunged straight into his heart might feel like. Via our old friend Stephen, whose lovely wife thankfully does NOT resemble the above dictionary in any way, bless herwarm, sweet heart.

As shitlib propagandist Walter Cronkite used to intone gravely: it oughta scaaaare yuh to death. But it does make for a note-perfect segue into tonight’s TuneDamage selection, I do believe.




That’s the legendary Swedish band Backyard Babies, masters of a subgenre that came to be known as Sleaze Rock. Their guitarist, Dregen, was also in another fine aggregation of Swedish hard-rockers yclept the Hellacopters, who I’ll have to remember to feature here sometime soon. I’m eternally grateful for having been put onto both bands by an Australian BPs fan, Helen, with whom I was quite close friends indeed for a goodish while there. Well, as close as two people can ever be who live half a world away from each other, I guess.

All Swedish rock bands have a rep for being almost preternaturally precise in their songwriting, performing, and recording too—a rep which is entirely justified, if you ask me. That almost anal-retentive approach to music holds true across genres, too; some Swedish buds of mine have a rockabilly outfit called the Go-Getters, and it’s the exact same way with them. They’re crazy good, almost too perfect, like some kind of clockwork machine when it comes to their music.

But to talk to ’em, Peter and his boys are just the nicest, most polite bunch of tall, blonde, blue-eyed devils you’d ever want to meet. Perhaps unexpectedly, though, they have not a trace of the cold, aloof arrogance that seems to be hardwired into the German musicians I’ve known. They had some swagger onstage, which is as it should always be, but offstage Peter and the other Swedish players I’ve had the opportunity to spend some green-room time with were all diffident and deferential, almost to the point of being downright painfully shy.

Be they arrogant or retiring, those Swedes can sure lay down some mighty fine rock and roll, all of ’em I ever heard tell of anyway.

Tonight’s Tune Damage™ selection

Heard this on the car radio earlier. I’d almost forgotten how much I always dug it.




I’ve been told, by people who would certainly know, that Ian Astbury was a pluperfect prick to work with, for whatever that’s worth to ya. But no matter; if the guy never produces another hit record his whole life long, he sure did good with that one.

We’re the Ramones…and you’re not

Just put up my first MeWe post, but sadly the video I tried to embed failed to embed for some reason. Yes, I’ve posted this one here before, I know, but I just don’t care. Deal, baby.




As I said on MeWe: it’s the greatest performance of the greatest song by the greatest band in history. Or, as Louder Than War’s John Robb puts it: “It’s all already there.. the ripped jeans, perfect poses, great tune, simplicity turned to an artform… a year later they would change music for ever…” Perfectly true, all of it.

One of the YT commenters says:

You know you are a serious Ramones fan when you think the terrible audio quality sounds cool

That’s as may be, I suppose. But the audio, umm, “quality” is one of the biggest reasons this video just flies all over me—to quote Little Richard, it makes my big toe shoot up in my boot. That raspy, buzzsaw distortion is every sound engineer’s worst nightmare; one can readily imagine the audio techs in the TV studio control booth literally bursting into tears and pulling their hair out by the handful when they realized that there was absolutely nothing they could do to fix this.

Much as the audiophiles and knob-twiddlers might disdain distortion as the very anathema of good sound and moral propriety, though, it’s also the direct result of the very thing that makes real rock and roll great: the awesome power of sheer, brain-busting VOLUME.

Without volume to excess, rock and roll loses its ability to excite, to incite, to inspire passion and release. Mind you, I don’t mean to say that there’s no ceiling, no point at which enough spills over into way the hell too much. It’s a surpassing-fine line that must be drawn here, and it’s very easy to cross over and get on the wrong side of it, to the ruination of everyone’s good time. I’ve certainly been to shows where the band was so loud it was actually unendurable, a muddled, unpleasant mess.

The fact remains, though: if it ain’t LOUD, it might just as well be jazz. In real rock and roll, and not some lame-ass Chris Cross pop-a-doodle claptrap, you want that guitar to bite; you want that snare to crack, that bass to thump. You want to feel that kick-drum push against your chest. The right level of LOUD is indeed a physical thing. But it shouldn’t be a painful one. You can peg the needles now and then, but you never want to bury them.

To my ears, the Ramones had things dialed in exactly right in this instance. It’s one of their very first TV performances, on a NYC local-access show called Arturo’s Loft, before they were known much of anywhere outside the hallowed halls of CBGB’s. And it’s just…remarkable.

Yes, that distortion is absolutely filthy all right. But notice: the levels of all the instruments, and the vocals too, are dead on. Meaning, nobody is drowning anybody out; you can hear Joey’s vocals just fine, loud if not exactly clear. And the vocals are usually the first thing to suffer from high volume—if they aren’t overwhelmed by a tidal wave of guitar, they’re sure to be lost behind the cymbal crashes perpetrated by an over-excited Keith Moon enthusiast.

But in the above video, you can actually distinguish everything, vocals included. Of course, the Ramones’ pure-as-the-driven-snow simplicity helps a lot with that. And it’s just as Mr Robb says: the Ramones turned simplicity into an art form. In fact, “simple” was the driving force from Day One, the whole idea, their raison d’etre. Johnny, for example, never was much for meandering, self-indulgent guitar solos, a staple of rock from its earliest days. Even later in the band’s career, when he did toss off his (very) occasional lead bits, he always kept them short, sweet, and straight as a razor.

I was fortunate enough to get to chat with Joey for an hour or so once, at the old Coney Island High entertainment complex on St Mark’s Place in NYC. Me and the GF were just kind of hanging out, nothing out of the ordinary going on, when I realized that I was standing not ten feet away from Joey Ramone his own self. I dithered for a moment; on the one hand, the Ramones really did change my life, and that’s the truth. So I very much wanted to express my gratitude for the crucial role they had played for me personally, for the inspiration they had provided me.

On the other, I hated to be That Guy, foisting myself on a celebrity who probably just wanted nothing more than an evening out, without having every Bozo from Brooklyn get all up in his grill and make a damnable nuisance of himself.

In the end, the GF insisted I stop being silly and just go over and say hello to the guy, ferchrissakes. Which I did, after a little more waffling. Even though he had to have heard my worshipful spiel so many times already that it made his hair hurt, he was quite gracious about it all. I succinctly explained to him that, after hearing the Ramones in the 70s, I had left the old classic-rock outfit I had been in before to start up Charlotte’s first punk outfit. I told him I had then drifted into the rockabilly thing, and was doing fairly well with it. He told me that he actually loved hearing such things from fellow players—people who were actually out there fighting the rock and roll road-wars for real and not just idly fantasizing about it, or boasting to their friends about all the big things they planned to do—someday.

Then a fight broke out behind us and some doofus got shoved into Joey’s back, nearly knocking him down and causing him to stagger slightly and spill his drink. He excused himself to head for the bar and a refill, and the GF and I wandered off someplace else.

I listen mostly to classical music on the radio nowadays, and go for long stretches at a time without listening to the Ramones at all. But I swear, every time I put ’em on again I wonder what the hell took me so long, what the hell was I thinking by it. Then I go on a Ramones binge for a few days, and I enjoy every second of it, too. It’s a fact, Jack: though the Ramones may not be everybody’s cup of tea, they really did change rock and roll, completely and forever. It’s kinda funny that their influence is so far-reaching and deep…but just the same, nobody else sounds quite like ’em. Ironically enough, the Ramones’ simple, stripped-down approach turned out to be a thing that moved mountains.

RIP Eddie

Of course y’all know that Eddie Van Halen passed away the other day. I won’t belabor the thing by saying much, beyond repeating what everybody else already said: the man was just a stupendous player, truly one of a kind. His influence on the evolution of rock guitar-playing is simply incalculable. I was fortunate enough to see ’em live in Charlotte on their first arena tour after that first blockbuster album was released, and was duly blown away not just by Eddie, but by the whole damned band—they were ALL fantastic. That show remains one of the best I ever did see, and ever expect to see. So without further ado, a vid or two.




My very favorite VH song of ’em all, and a goofy, fun video too. Which was typical of them; their videos were always light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek, and…well, just plain FUN to watch. You could accuse VH of a lot of things, maybe but taking themselves too seriously was never one of ’em. This next one is interesting: a compilation of five great live Eddie solos.



Next is another intriguing oddity: the one and only Slash opines on EVH’s passing.


Slash is a most hellacious player his own bad self, although I never much cared for Guns N Roses, honestly. Don’t get me wrong here; the band itself was excellent, as the short-lived Velvet Revolver side project with the late, great Scott Weiland more than amply demonstrated. It was that goddamned whiny pissant Axel Rose I couldn’t stomach.

Aw, what the hell, while we’re on the subject…yes, I know it ain’t EVH, but somehow I don’t think he’d resent the digression.




Goooood shit. Rest easy, Eddie Van Halen; the guitar-slinger bar in Rock ‘N’ Roll Heaven’s house band, already ridiculously high, just got seriously raised.

Forty years after

And suddenly, a new contender appears.

The song grabs you in the first two seconds: two shots on an E chord, followed by quarter-note hi-hat hits. You know something big’s going to happen. No—it already is happening.

At five seconds, the hi-hat hits double into eighth-notes as the E chord shots repeat. At seven seconds, the addition of a swung sixteenth-note (played on cowbell with a brush) signals the imminent, exhilarating plunge into a song you’ve never heard, but which you now want to hear more than anything else.

And at twelve seconds, an authoritative, effortlessly-executed drum fill plunges you into what might be rock and roll’s greatest first song on a first album, ever…and we already know—before the song, or even a proper drum part, has started—we’re in the presence of drumming greatness. The rest of the song, as well as the rest of the album, only further confirms it.

If you’re as dyed-in-the-wool a rocker as I am, you already know which song he’s talking about, and which band, and which drummer. The surprise here, though, isn’t that it’s another great music post from Steyn Online. The surprise is that it isn’t Steyn writing this one; it’s his increasingly-impressive co-author, Tal Bachman, who is the scion of a pretty danged rich rock and roll legacy his own bad self.

I don’t even have to say it, right?

They’re BACK, baby!

Via Ed Driscoll, I bring you glad tidings of great joy.

After several days of online hints and teasers, Australian high-volume rockers AC/DC have confirmed their return to active duty by announcing that veteran singer Brian Johnson, drummer Phil Rudd and bassist Cliff Williams have rejoined the band after several years’ absence.

A new photo of the band finds them looking older but energized, with lead guitarist Angus Young, now 65, still rocking the schoolboy outfit.

The term “Pwr Up” featured in several of the teasers is apparently the title of a new album, although the official announcement does not say when it might be coming. Twisted Sister Singer Dee Snider, a longtime friend of the band, said over the summer that the group has completed a new album.

I still say they’re the greatest pure rock band there ever was or ever will be, and I wish them nothing but the best. Calls for a little something in the way of celebratory revelry, I do believe.



A match made in (someplace far from) Heaven

Mickey Dolenz lays out the fascinating backstory to one of the most peculiar chapters in rock and roll history.

The odd pairing might have been doomed from the start, given the two artists’ very different audiences. But Dolenz had been a fan of Hendrix since the guitar god was still known as “Jimmy James” and performing in Greenwich Village nightclubs with the Blue Flames. “It was 1966 or so, and the Monkees were in New York on a press junket,” he recalls of the first time he saw Hendrix live. “Someone said, ‘You gotta come down to the Village and check this cat out.’ The actual act was, I think, the John Hammond Band or something. But when we went down there, I remember sitting in the front row and there was this young kid, and he was playing guitar with his teeth! I didn’t even know his name at the time. I don’t even know if he was introduced, but he was going under the name Jimmy James at that point. He was just great.”

When Dolenz witnessed Hendrix’s iconic performance at the Monterey Pop Festival (a year later), he recalls, “All of a sudden this act comes on, not very well known yet, but very flamboyant — the clothes, the music. And I said, ‘Hey, that’s the guy that plays guitar with his teeth!’ I recognized him. And so simultaneously, just by coincidence really, we were looking for an opening act for our first tour. So, I suggested the Jimi Hendrix Experience to our producers, because obviously it was incredible music, but also very theatrical. And the Monkees were a theatrical act, if you really examine it. I guess that’s why it made sense to me. I just thought it would make a great mix.”

Apparently the admiration wasn’t mutual at first, as Hendrix had previously blasted the Monkees in the U.K. press, describing their music to Melody Maker as “dishwater” and saying, “Oh God, I hate them!” But once the Monkees’ “people went to his people,” says Dolenz, “Chas Chandler and everyone thought it was a good idea.” And so, on July 8 — less than a month after Hendrix had been the breakout star of Monterey Pop — the Jimi Hendrix Experience joined the Monkees for their first joint tour date in Jacksonville, Fla.

While the audience was vicious and unwelcoming, Dolenz was too wrapped up in watching Hendrix’s electric stage show to actually notice what was transpiring in the venue. “I didn’t even pay attention to what the audience reaction was, because I was just mesmerized by Jimi and his art,” he confesses. “We were just blown away by him every night — I know Nez [the Monkees’ Mike Nesmith] especially was. We would just stand in the wings in awe. I was fascinated by Jimi’s showmanship, by his persona. All I knew was, I liked it. And to this day, I don’t care much what people thought.”

Hendrix apparently did care what people thought, as he decided to quit the Monkees’ tour just eight days later, after dates in Miami, North Carolina, and a three-night run at New York City’s Forest Hills Tennis Stadium. Later, a seemingly bitter Hendrix told British music paper the NME that he’d been replaced by “Mickey Mouse.” Dolenz can neither deny nor confirm the longstanding rumor that Hendrix flipped the bird at the combative crowd during that final NYC show, though he quips, “I’ve never seen evidence of that rumor, but if it’s true, he certainly ain’t the first person to flip off an audience.”

In retrospect, Dolenz says he “wasn’t totally surprised” that the Monkees/Hendrix tour didn’t work out. “It was just night and day,” he admits of their clashing musical styles. “And we all knew, because he was fairly unknown at the time, that those thousands and thousands of kids were there to see the Monkees. Jimi knew that too.” As for whether he thinks the negative reaction Hendrix received had anything to do with racism, he insists, “No, it had to do with the fact that these fans had spent so much of their money to see the headliners. And if fans like that are really, really anxious and passionate, they’ll make their feelings known.”

Despite Hendrix’s poor reception, reservations about joining the tour in the first place, and that NME shade, he and the Monkees did hit it off, getting up to all sorts of rock ‘n’ roll adventures during their week on the road. “We spent a lot of time together. We went to clubs and wandered around aimlessly, and sometimes non-aimlessly,” says Dolenz fondly. “We got along great and had a great time. We partied; we hung around in the hotel rooms jamming and just singing, having little aftershow parties. I remember once we went to the Electric Circus in New York, a very famous psychedelic place back then.

The article comes complete with a cool photo of Hendrix sitting on a hotel-room bed beside Mike Nesmith, with one of Nesmith’s beautiful Gretsches in hand and Peter Tork looking on in what could only have been stunned delight. A friend of mine, a big Monkees fan back in her pre-teen years, told me once about how her mom had taken her to the disastrous Charlotte show, although she claimed to have little recollection of any details now. I kinda felt sorry for her, actually.

The story of horribly ill-considered combinations of headliners and support acts is a long and old one in the music biz, at just about every level. I’ve been on both sides of that same brand of miserable mismatch more than once my own self, just as any other road-dog touring act either has or will sooner or later. It’s almost inevitable if you’re out there long enough, just part of the game, and can even be looked back on with a certain fond amusement once the passage of time has healed the painful wound. But the legendary Hendrix/Monkees misfire is definitely one for the ages.

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.

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