Is Dylan a Prophetic Entrepreneur?

Buy Slow Train Coming

Gotta Serve Somebody single by Bob DtlanIf art is always open to interpretation and art can be examined from a new prism for deeper meaning; then we might ask a simple question. Could Bob Dylan have had an entrepreneurial mindset when he wrote “Gotta Serve Somebody”? The opening track on Dylan’s 1979 album Slow Train Coming, the song could be seen in a new context even if it was conceived to mean something different through constantly revolving artistic reinterpretation.

Let us start with the most basic premise, that most successful people create a service or product and its main purpose is generally about serving others. The service or idea etc. helps provide awareness to a problem or is a product that makes things easier for someone or something simple it makes them laugh and forget about their daily problems. These are all services designed for the benefit of others. Dylan’s song basically points out you are serving somebody. It does not really matter who or where you are in life. Some of Dylan’s lines:

Might like to wear cotton, might like to wear silk
Might like to drink whiskey, might like to drink milk
You might like to eat caviar, you might like to eat bread
You may be sleeping on the floor, sleeping in a king-sized bed”

The chorus then continues after with the hook “Gotta Serve Somebody”. In the song, whether you are rich or poor may not be the only important thing; it can also be an indirect to ‘How you serve?’ or ‘who do you serve?’ What Dylan doesn’t maybe realize even himself is that this is a basic part of the entrepreneurial mindset. What is your motivation for serving others? Why are you doing this? In order to make a living you “gotta serve somebody”. An entrepreneur knows who their target audience

Yes, Dylan does refer to the spiritual component of either serving the Good or the Dark side of spiritual faith. But this may further the point. We have the choice! No matter what industry it is in it is a service. And the idea of why are we doing it either to be helpful or just further our bank account. No matter what it is. Whether it stories, characters, products they are all geared toward creating fulfilling a need. The best created products find a way to relate to someone else.

Bob Dylan in 1979

Sometimes we go through a stage where ego gets in the way. We feel our ideas are just so original people will fawn over us our talent is so great we will be discovered. That is not how most things work and this leaves us cold and empty ideas that get lost in translation. There needs to be a connection with some audience. Zig Ziglar once famously said, “You can’t get what you want until you help others get what they want!” No matter what stunts your try in the end. Doesn’t matter if you try to scheme. You will be found out. The audience or purchaser will figure you out. It can’t be faked. Dylan can point out the phony. In the song he comments further:

You may be a state trooper, you might be a young Turk
You may be the head of some big TV network
You may be rich or poor, you may be blind or lame
You may be living in another country under another name”

You can’t really fool people either you are really trying to be helpful or just an opportunist. The point is to be genuine. So think of your products, ideas, characters, as it relate to others. What are the connections between you and the purchaser not just what are the features but what are the benefits as well? It is a major contributing factor to building a successful concept or business.

What they are concerned about what problem do they have and how are you going to solve it, it is all about them. No one pays you twenty dollars because you are special and cool and they just want to hang out with you well at least not most of us. It does something for them that they want. Let’s think of an actor, who is a part of a team, their purpose is to be a part of the ensemble and help the show or play itself become successful. They either can think of furthering their ego or the show is more important to be a part of it. No matter how we play the game. We end up serving someone anyway. The chorus begins to ring with a repeated truth, “But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes you are. You’re gonna have to serve somebody.”

We might conclude from the Dylan song it is your choice on what kind of person you want to be, the one who simply takes advantage of others, or the one who really genuinely wants to help and not just to fill your pocket. Better to fill yourself with a deep sense of helpful and a deep satisfaction as well. Simply put “To err is human to serve is divine. We only have what we give.” ― Isabel Allende

~

Article by Edgar Rider

 

Steve Winwood Rocks

Steve Winwood 2017

After more than a half century on the international stage, Steve Winwood has not lost a step in the quality of his musicianship and performance. We got a chance to catch him in Philadelphia on April 22, 2017 and thoroughly enjoyed the wide range of classics as performed by Winwood and his uniquely arranged band.

Backing Winwood were two multi-instrumentalists rotating on guitar, bass, organ flute, and saxophone, along with a dedicated drummer and a dedicated percussionist. Winwood himself moved from guitar to mandolin to traditional organ with left hand bass to complement his distinct, soulful lead vocals. This set the stage for unique, jam-band style performances all night.

Winwood opened the show with a beautiful mandolin-led performance of “Back in the High Life Again”, the title song from his tremendously successful 1986 album Back In the High Life. However, this would be the first of only three songs from his solo catalog.

Steve Winwood band 2017

The group quickly shifted to the organ to deliver a bluesy version of the traffic classic, “Pearly Queen.” This would be the first of many tunes by his former band that he would perform this evening with other highlights including “Dear Mr. Fantasy” from Traffic’s 1967 debut album, “Empty Pages” from 1970’s John Barlycorn Must Die and the cool, jazzy title track from The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys. Winwood also played a couple of fine songs from his 1969 supergroup Blind Faith, the hard-rock, riff-fused “Had to Cry Today” and a funked up version of the classic “Can’t Find My Way Home”.

Throughout the night, the five-man group broke into great musical jams, either leading into or during the middle of the highly recognizable tunes and, later in the evening, they were joined by a sixth member on backing vocals. Steve’s daughter Lilly Winwood helped out her Dad on his mid-eighties hit “Higher Love” as well as the mid-sixties classic “Give Me some Lovin'”, which was his breakthrough hit as a teenage vocalist for the Spencer Davis Group. Lilly had alos opened up the show with a fine solo acoustic set.

 

Led Zeppelin:
Standing Against Time

by Julia Dragomirescu

Led Zeppelin IV album unfolded

I hear the “ding dong” sound as I enter the vinyl record shop. The smell of antiques wafts gently through the air, beckoning to the wanderer to enter a realm of nimble-fingered guitarists and pre-Raphaelite-faced singers. Enchanted, my eyeballs focus on the simple black lettering, shifting from one category to the next. My eyes refocus on the last one labeled “Rock.” Rushing to the stack, I madly flip through it, reaching further and further, holding my breath when the holy grail appears before my eyes: Led Zeppelin IV! I knew today would be my lucky day. And it doesn’t even smell that bad. Proud of my extraordinary find, I whisk it away to my house and gently open the sleeve. Before doing so, I analyze every minuscule detail of the cover, noticing that it bears no title. A strange old man catches the viewer’s eye, he carries a gigantic bundle of sticks on his back and has a simple wooden walking cane. This painting has a countryside background nailed onto what appears to be the wall of a peeling building when the front and back cover are viewed together. When opening the inner sleeve, a charcoal background lights up the wise old man and the lantern that guides his way. He stands atop a cliff, as intricate as a spider web, while peering at the miniature town below him. At last, the shiny black disc slides into my hands. Mysterious symbols appear on the label. Not paying much heed to them, I laboriously place the vinyl record on the player. I gently pick up the needle and anticipate the first chords of the singer and guitarist in harmony. I can feel the music flow into my ears physically shaking my heart and reminding me of the power and force of music, especially Led Zeppelin’s music. I will now take you on a journey to discover the answers to the following questions: Why is Led Zeppelin, a band from the 1970s, still popular today with audiences, especially the younger generation? What has caused their music to survive while other bands have been forgotten?

I decided to start off my research by looking more closely at general facts about the band in order to test my own knowledge and maybe find out something new. I went on Led Zeppelin’s music portal and found that they were an English rock band that started up in 1968 by Jimmy Page, the producer and guitarist of Led Zeppelin. Robert Plant became the vocals of the band as well as the harmonica accompaniment. John Bonham thumped away on his drums while John Paul Jones played the bass guitar, mandolin, and was the keyboard master of the group. The band mostly played hard rock songs, with a few softer more acoustic songs in between. Led Zeppelin’s inspiration came from African-American blues singers, such as Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. From there they developed their signature sound: a turbulent, guitar-oriented blues rock medley. Led Zeppelin experimented further by incorporating reggae, funk, soul, Celtic, classical, Indian, pop, Latin, Arabic and country behind the blues and folk background of many of their songs. They are considered valuable today for their ongoing commercial success, past artistic achievements and influence over others then and now. All of their original studio albums reached the top 10 of the Top 100 Billboard of the US, with their sixth album, Physical Graffiti, rising to number one. Ok, wait, stop! I thought. These statistics are great, but are they the true representation of why and what makes Led Zeppelin popular with young people today? I decided the answer was no. I steered away from electronic sources and chose to go old-fashioned.

Led Zeppelin on stage in 1969

In Barney Hoskyns’ book Led Zeppelin IV, he describes the mood of the recording room when the band first met. The future members knew that something great had happened right from the very beginning when they stepped into the room. In the studio, there wasn’t much to see. John Paul Jones recalls the dim atmosphere of the room; “It was wall-to-wall amplifiers and terrible, all old,” but that didn’t bring them down one bit as Page took the lead and corralled them all into action: “Jimmy counted it out and the room just exploded.” Bonham followed and set the rhythm and beat with his drums while the rest just fell into place. Plant became the focus with his booming voice and Page joined in to support him, complementing each other. John Paul Jones bass guitar set the right tone, as they harmonized “Train Kept a-Rollin” an old Johnny Burnette Trio rock n’ roll song. Together, they created the perfect jigsaw puzzle. This description, (not much of a scene really), was a good start to understanding the band’s dynamic but didn’t give me any concrete descriptive details to paint a picture on why the band was a success today.

Hitting a dead end, my first intention was to actually contact the real band members and get them to tell me their perspectives and experiences with younger people of my generation. I grabbed my laptop and found some fan mail and official websites with email addresses. I first tried to contact Robert Plant since he is my favourite member of the band. I spent a long time scanning Google search results and I found absolutely nothing. Disappointed, I tried the other band members and found an email address for Jimmy Page. I emailed him and asked him for an interview. The email came back to me and stated that the address did not exist. Frustrated, I remembered that I read a while ago an interesting blog post about the band’s references and inspirations for songs. I found a name attached to that article: Steven Markham. I emailed him, asking him for an interview, trying to seem professional despite being a high school student. He emailed me back immediately, success! I shouted quietly in my head because everyone else in the house was already in bed asleep.

Steven Markham, an alumnus of the University of Chester, is an expert on Led Zeppelin’s music and gave his overall impressions of the band:

I think that their strongest point is that they are, individually, superb musicians with a technical mastery of their instruments and voices. Their use of English folk music as well as the usual blues and rock influence also makes them stand out amongst their peers and produces melodic and harmonic structures that are unique. The ‘Rock Gods’ look, style and stage posing also made them iconic figures as did their refusal to ‘play the game’ within the music industry; refusing to release singles, not using their faces on album covers and the brutal management style of Peter Grant”

I also decided to interview some cover bands. I emailed around 20 different bands from the US, UK and Canada. Only 8 bands got back to me: Led Zeppelin 2, Letz Zep, Coda, Led Zeppelica, Crimson Daze, Black Dog, Boot Led Zeppelin and A Whole Lotta Led. However, only 5 of them actually answered my questions. I asked them what originally led them to become Led Zeppelin fans. Robert Miniaci, Coda’s singer, had this to say;

When I was about 11 years old, I was sitting at the family stereo with headphones on listening to the radio. I tuned into a local station and there was a song on already a third way in. I didn’t know what the song was, the title, or who the band was. What happened to me was that I was struck with this incredible feeling. This energy that made the hair on my arms rise. I never heard a song like this. In that instant it was the most incredible song I had ever heard. So, eventually the song ended with a blistering guitar solo. The DJ came back on, and said, ‘Well that was Black Dog by Led Zeppelin.’ The very next day I was going through my older brother’s record collection, because I had a feeling he had some Led Zeppelin records. Sure enough I found an album, that had no writing on it, nothing to indicate who created this record. I was to learn that this was Led Zeppelin’s untitled fourth album. From that moment onward, it became a discovery of Led Zeppelin. I was immediately addicted to their music. I had to learn everything about them, and what their music was all about. I spent hours locked in my bedroom listening and learning, and singing along. To this very day, I still feel the same about the band and their music.”

My second question was trying to probe what they thought made the band stand out, what was specifically unique to Led Zeppelin. Letz Zep’s Billy Kulke exclaimed;

With Zeppelin, all the musicians are masters of their instrument, pushing back the boundaries of music. All four members contributed to the sound and the appeal of the band. Yes, there had been rock bands, and great musicians before, but not a band with all four trailblazing in a way Zeppelin did. To compare with other bands, they may fall onto a successful formula, then flog it to death. Zeppelin never sat on their laurels, but were always looking to advance, and change, and try new things. They were never content to sit on past glories. Whatever your mood, there is a Zeppelin period that satisfies this: the raw power of “Whole Lotta Love,” to the acoustics, and the prog-rock of No Quarter.”

Greg Reamsbottom from A Whole Lotta Led had an enthusiastic response;

It’s about how the music makes you FEEL. Bands like the Sex Pistols technically sucked in terms of musicianship (a problem Zeppelin certainly didn’t have!) but they made you FEEL something…that’s what counts! Led Zeppelin’s music SWINGS…the way the guitar, bass and drums lock together (always described as “tight, but loose”!) just works…few bands have that little bit of magic. Add Plant’s stratospheric vocals and you have something unique. It’s basically just the blues (something primal) with a heavy, psychedelic twist.”

One thing that really grabbed me when I was just starting to get to know Led Zeppelin was not only the amazing riffs and vocals, but also their strange and mystical lyrics. I think the creativity of their lyrics cause the listener to be compelled to hear more. Steven Markham contrasts two of their styles and the impact Led Zeppelin’s music has on him:

When you play their acoustic and ‘quieter’ tracks there is a melodic beauty that transports you to simpler times, somewhere between Merrie Olde England and Tolkien. When they turn up the volume there is a primal energy that erupts through the speakers.”

As I delved deeper behind their inspirations and meanings of their songs and albums, I found a multitude of references. Jimmy Page was clearly the major contributor to Led Zeppelin’s more odd and “spiritual” songs. It is evident that he had vast knowledge on the occult, folk mythology and fantastical literature and was fascinated by it. He has been described by Barney Hoskyns’ as, “a satanic Paganini [playing Dazed and Confused on stage], an evil minstrel with his face obscured behind a curtain of black hair.” Mr. Markham’s article on Led Zeppelin caused me to become more interested in the band. Since childhood, I remember being fascinated by books and story-telling. My dad would read fairytales and myths to me (almost) every night before bed. I remember the way he would “present” them to me, describing them in such a way that the characters appeared real. Anyways, I also remember that I would listen to the music channel on TV, watching different videos of Abba, Bee Gees and other vintage bands. I didn’t realize then, but music is a form of story-telling. It captures the audience with a particular rhythm or beat and lets the lyrics follow naturally. A lot of Led Zeppelin’s songs cover different topics like Led Zeppelin on stage in 1973love, mythology, religion and folk stories. This is one reason why I love music and why I liked particular songs by Led Zeppelin, like Stairway to Heaven. However, I thought that this was not the case for everyone, especially other young people who listened to music because it made them feel a certain way. Now, that’s in general of course and doesn’t apply directly to the band. So, I decided to look online in chat forums that were geared towards the younger generation.

On Quora, in a topic called “What is so great about Led Zeppelin?”, a 21-year-old named James Cook made two interesting comments:

The music they created defined a genre, transforming rock music from a tired rehash of old blues standards into a whirling dervish of musical energy and primal force. Songs like Immigrant Song and Kashmir transport the listener to distant lands…..When you listen to a Led Zeppelin song, you’re listening to something other than four men in a cramped studio. You’re listening to fifty years of blues music driven into a frenzy by Jimmy Page’s studious years of listening to every release by the American blues masters. You’re listening to all the folkish tradition of the English countryside in Robert Plant’s vocals. You’re listening to the musical theory and melodical genius of John Paul Jones. You’re listening to John Bonham, whose drumming style once led Jimi Hendrix to comment, ‘Boy, you’ve got a right foot like a rabbit!’ When you’re listening to a Led Zeppelin song, you’re listening to the combined output of four of the most talented musicians who ever lived, along, of course, with that unknown factor.”

On another website titled, Debate.org, there was a poll taken where users answered ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to the question, “Is Led Zeppelin the best rock ‘n’ roll band of all time?” 78% said ‘yes’ and 22% said ‘no.’ KaeciMill compared Led Zeppelin to other bands for the ‘yes’ section;

No other band has achieved their level of musical sophistication as well as having a catalogue as unique and accomplished. In the decades following Zeppelin there have been metal bands who surpassed them techniquely. However, Zeppelin had better song writing abilities and that is why their songs remain timeless. If you play a later era album by The Beatles you could argue the songs are as good if not better than Zeppelin’s but they fall short musically with uncompromising artistic statements. In comparison, Black Sabbath and Pink Floyd lack certain aspects of career fulfillment. Sabbath’s late 70s work pales miserably in comparison to their early achievements and lacks the diversity of Zeppelin. Pink Floyd may have released musical masterpieces like “The Wall” and “Dark Side of the Moon” but certainly were not as prolific, with only 3 or 4 defining albums. Zeppelin has 6 pretty much undeniable classic albums, that’s excluding their last two. In the years to follow no other group has released 6 albums of that calibre in their career. Even artists as great as Hendrix can’t make that claim, despite how profound their influence. Even 90s greats like Nirvana can’t reach Zeppelin’s level of artistic fulfilment.”

In the ‘no’ section Anonymous makes some disagreeable comments,

Led Zeppelin were half of a great band. As everyone seems to say, Led Zeppelin had one of the greatest-ever rhythm sections in all of rock music. Bonham and Jones were incredible not only in how good they sounded, but also in how they were, as players, capable of getting out of the way and providing an underlying propulsion for Plant and Page to work on. But Plant and Page were the problem; the prior is, let’s face it, not a very good singer, and the latter, while a very good guitar player, sacrificed actual depth in his song writing for pretentious myth-making. So what Led Zeppelin ended up being was a great drummer and bassist adding propulsion to shallow, nerdy totems. Art should have higher standards.”

What!? I thought after reading that. I guess everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but that was a little crude, I concluded.

I tried to find someone on the forum, Quora, that lived in my area. I found a few kids that lived close by and tried to contact them. I was wondering if I could see their personal collection of vinyl records and the stories behind how they got them, especially the Led Zeppelins. I got about 3 people to agree to give me their email. Most of them had around the same collection that I had which made me really dispirited. The one kid that had a more extensive collection told me that he now lives in Barrie [he forgot to update his profile]! Seeing that I couldn’t find anyone with an extraordinary vinyl record collection, specifically with Led Zeppelin records, I settled with my dad’s (technically mine as well) potpourri. Since I had failed in finding a stranger that I could conduct a live interview with, the next best thing was to interview my dad who also influenced my music taste.

As you enter our condominium suite the kitchen is the first thing you see. A very homey looking island counter and black accessories creates a warm and pleasant atmosphere. As you pass the kitchen area you realize that the boundaries blur between different spaces and all of a sudden you find yourself in the living room. Dark bookshelves line the walls with various subject matters. Paintings of different sizes stand out against the coffee hued walls. When you reach the spiral staircase to your left, you notice a large collection of records. As you skim through, it is clear they are separated by categories, like jazz, pop, electronic and rock. In the rock section you’ll find Led Zeppelin IV, Houses of the Holy, Led Zeppelin II, Led Zeppelin III and Physical Graffiti. In the CD section you’ll also find The Best of Led Zeppelin and Latter Days: Best of Led Zeppelin Volume 2. After coming into the room and pretending that I was at an interview with a person I hadn’t met before, I sat down on the futon, setting the mood for a casual and relaxed session. I asked, “What caused you to become interested in Led Zeppelin?” as I was getting ready to scribble down on my notepad what he had to say. “Their expressive music: the melody as well as the lyrics. Also, at the time when I started to love hard rock music, in the Communist [in Romania] era, a contributing factor was my growing love for the English language and the Occidental [Western] life. This also powered my desire and the dream I had to ‘escape.'” Satisfied with the unique answer I had received, I continued: “What do you think are the band’s strongest points? What makes them stand out when compared to other bands?” He replied,

Besides what I have already mentioned previously, both the melodies and lyrics, I believe Led Zeppelin is one of the best bands due to their genre diversity but also, at the same time, being able to maintain their characteristic orchestral line. Also, Robert Plant’s exotic voice definitely makes them stand out from the crowd.

I reached my third and final question, “Can you describe the impact their music has made on you?” I inquired.

It makes me feel good, better. It relieves all stress that has been accumulated throughout the day.”

His answer was concise and simple which I liked very much because he described the number one reason why people like music: it brightened their mood after a demanding and tiring day. I gave a quick smile, shook his hand and said that it was a pleasure to be here, “Thank you.” I walked out the door and immediately came back in. Now it’s time to get back to work, I thought as I cracked my knuckles and sat quietly while the noise of the keys clacking accompanied my thoughts.

A recurring topic came up while I was doing my research, so I thought it would be interesting to learn more about it. That problem was the copyright conflict Led Zeppelin had with other artists. In Barney Hoskyns’ Led Zeppelin: The Oral History of the World’s Greatest Rock Band he claims that other bands, not just Led Zeppelin, that appeared from the British blues upswing of the 60s, stole riffs from African Americans who were also ripped off by their contracts from the 40s and 50s! Hoskyns describes Jimmy Page’s attitude toward this notion as indifferent and callous and was awarded song writing credit when he didn’t deserve it. Robert Plant clearly states Page’s actions back then,

I think when Willie Dixon [Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” was stolen from Muddy Water’s “You Need Love” which was purloined from Dixon] turned on the radio in Chicago 20 years after he wrote his blues, he thought, ‘That’s my song.’ When we ripped it off, I said to Jimmy, ‘Hey, that’s not our song.’ And he said, ‘Shut up and keep walking.'”

Jimmy ended up blaming Robert in an interview with Guitar World that he was supposed to change the lyrics but didn’t fulfill the task. But does this change the value of their music? I thought to myself. I decided to ask the tribute bands what they thought of the situation. Coda brought out what I think is one of the truest responses,

I guess the band should have given credit at the time the albums were released. I feel those early blues songs inspired the band and that they had no other intention but to pay homage to the early blues legends. They were fans of the music and loved it to death. Remember, the blues is like a quilt. Everybody absorbs what came before them, they will pay homage by playing those songs, then adding to them, their own brand of inspiration. It’s a story that every one contributes a chapter to. Remember also, that one single person cannot be given full credit for creating the blues. That’s impossible. The king of the Delta Blues himself, Robert Johnson, didn’t create the blues, and probably interpreted lyrics and songs in his repertoire that he heard orally from someone before him. But I would never take that title away from him and his stature in blues history. He helped influence so many! So back to the point of your question. I fully believe with all my heart, it all boils down to inspiration.”

A Whole Lotta Led had an equally true answer,

Zeppelin freely admitted that they used/borrowed/ripped off stuff from the guys that influenced them…it’s always been that way, and we still see this in music today. They were certainly inspired by such songs, enough so that they sometimes copied them verbatim, but Zeppelin took those songs and made them “their own,” playing them in a way no one had thought of before.”

Going back to my opinion, I don’t think the copyright scandal necessarily devalues their music because they truly reinvented the songs they “borrowed.” It is true that what they did was wrong, not properly crediting the artists they were inspired from, but that doesn’t change the fact that fans love their music regardless.

Overall, I think that people love Led Zeppelin and they have stood the test of time because of the raw power and synergy of their music. Led Zeppelin will continue to be one of the greatest rock bands of all history.

~

Julia Dragomirescu is a Romanian-born Canadian. Currently in her last year of high school at John Fraser Secondary School, she decided to take a course called Writer’s Craft this year. It is a class where students discover different styles of writing like poetry, narrative, satire and new journalism; as well as what techniques to use to improve their writing. She has a love of reading and has now discovered a love of writing. which has led Julia to become passionate about discovering new stories about various subjects.

~

Works Cited

  • Email interviews (including attempted) with Steven Markham, Boot Led Zeppelin, Led Zepplica, Sam Rapallo, A Whole Lotta Led, Black Dog, Crimson Daze, Letz Zep, Get the Led Out, Dread Zeppelin, Lez Zeppelin, Fred Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin 2, Talztop, Michael White & The White, Song Remains the Same, Led Zeppelin Show, Crunge, Coda, Scott Calef, Paula Mejia and Dave Lewis
  • Hoskyns, Barney. Led Zeppelin IV. New York, NY: Rodale, 2006. Print.
  • Hoskyns, Barney. Led Zeppelin: The Oral History of the World’s Greatest Rock Band. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2012. Print.
  • “Is Led Zeppelin the Best Rock ‘n’ Roll Band of All Time?” Debate.org. Debate.org, n.d. Web. 13 Jan. 2016. .
  • Live interview with lifelong fan Alex Dragomirescu
  • Markham, Steven. “The Occult Symbolism of Led Zeppelin.” Mysterious Times. WordPress, 03 Dec. 2013. Web. 30 Oct. 2015. .
  • “The Led Zeppelin Portal.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2015.
  • “What Is so Great about Led Zeppelin?” Quora. Quora, n.d. Web. 13 Jan. 2016. .

The Orchestra Stuns Atlantic City with Classic Rock Performances

Electric Light Orchestra in 1970The former members of the Electric Light Orchestra and the Electric Light Orchestra II joined forces and combined their musical prowess for the first time to hold an unforgettable performance at the Resort Casino Hotel in Atlantic City on January 2nd. Going under the moniker themselves “The Orchestra,” the two groups managed to bring classic rock hits with an orchestral touch to the thousands of guests who watched at the casino’s Superstar Theater. The Orchestra performed hits like “Strange Magic,” “Evil Woman,” “Livin’ Thing,” “Do Ya,” “Telephone Line,” and “Sweet Talkin’ “Woman.”

The Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) was originally an arena band that toured the world from 1971-1986. In the late 1980s, however, the arena band branched out and gave birth to a symphonic rock band called The Electric Light Orchestra II (ELO II). Both bands are well known for their extravagant performances, unique approach to rock music, and individual personas that garnered a huge following over the years.

Joining The Orchestra are original ELO Members Lou Clark and Mik Kaminski. ELO II members Gordon Townsend, Eric Troyer, Parthenon Huxley, and Glen Burtnik also joined as members of the newly formed super group.

The Resort Casino Hotel was a fitting venue for the arena band’s reunion. The Superstar Theater is well known for its amazing musical concerts all-year round, which actually help the resort stay in operation. Ever since the dawn of online gaming, which offers not only convenience when it comes to slots and staple casino games but also through their integration on mobile as well as daily freebies that seem to be absent in land-based casinos. As a way to drive tourists and revenues back into the city, casino establishments are expanding their entertainment options to the public, and this includes holding big concerts with marked-down prices. Tickets for the concert were sold for only $25, $35 and $45 via Ticketmaster.

The 1965 Album of the Year

Highway 61 Revisited by Bob Dylan

As a final wrap up of our final classic year review, 1965, we still needed to decide on an Album of the Year for that year. This was a unique situation, because all other classic years reserved the Album of the Year until the end of the review period but, in the case of 1965, we’ve gone with the “50 Years Ago Today” process of reviewing each album on (or near) the anniversary of each album’s release date.

For quite a while, we had decided that one of the two Bob Dylan classics from that year, Bringing It All Back Home or Highway 61 Revisited, would fill this top honor for 1965. For most of this year, I had championed the album that I personally reviewed (and my longtime favorite of all Dylan’s works), Bringing It All Back Home. There were two simple reasons for this – it came first and it perfectly intersects at the point of Dylan’s folk climax and rock n’ roll inception.

On the other hand, J.D. Cook had reviewed and championed Highway 61 Revisited as the album which “honors his past but also points a big bright burning finger towards works yet to come”. At one point, I had challenged Mr. Cook to debate the merits of each album and put it up for a public survey vote (much like we had for 1980’s Album of the Year). However, you really can’t put the two up against each other like a sporting competition so, after careful consideration I have decided to capitulate and concede Mr. Cook’s position. After all, this is Classic “Rock” Review, and there is little doubt that Highway 61 Revisited is closer to a traditional “rock” album out of the pair.

Like a Rolling Stone single by Bob DylanBeyond that, Highway 61 Revisited contains incredible musical benchmarks, from the innovative “Ballad of a Thin Man” to the exquisite gem “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” to the epic folk/Western “Desolation Row”. Further, this album is the first to include a heavy piano and keyboard presence, not only blazing the path in this regard, fully setting the template for countless rock albums to follow. Then there is the true classic part of this album, the opening track “Like a Rolling Stone”, a composition with a perfect balance of structure and improvisation, freak and thought, poetry and melody, which makes this song one of the very finest of the entire 20th century.

Finally, there is the true tipping point of the decision – the story behind the album’s title. As told in this River of Rock article; “as a teenager near Duluth, Minnesota, a young Robert Zimmerman used to daydream about riding down Highway 61 to the legendary musical locales of America.” Here, I believe, lies the true heart of rock n’ roll, not just the static situation, but the ongoing journey, whether it be in retrospective reflection or introspective vision. Highway 61 must always be revisited.

Merry Christmas 2015!
…..Ric Albano, Editor

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The Led Zeppelin Enigma

My Led Zeppelin Collection

I recently read an article by NPR intern Emily White in which the 21-year-old pretty much bragged that, despite possessing thousands of songs, she has never really purchased music. In David Clowery’s response to the article, he pointed out that the artists are the ones most hurt by file-sharing and other forms of “free” music.

I tend to side with Clowery’s view that all artists should be compensated and copyrights should be respected. But in contrast to this believe, I have my own example of what I call the “Led Zeppelin Enigma” where I personally feel entitled to access to any Zeppelin recording free of charge for the rest of my life.

In my early teens I was a Zeppelin fanatic (still am, really) and I bought ever single one of their albums on vinyl. In those days, records were about $6 to $7, but that was still about half of my weekly take that I got on my paper route. Years later as LPs faded, I once again bought each and every Led Zeppelin album on CD, including the newer box set and BBC Sessions collections. This cost even more as CDs by top-shelve acts typically went between $12 to $15, despite the fact that compact discs ultimately had a fraction of the manufacturing and packaging costs of traditional vinyl. So when the technology confluence of recordable CDs, mp3s, and digital downloads hit in the late 1990s, you’ve got to forgive me for feeling like I had a “license for life” for much of this music (not just Zeppelin but many others that I had bought on vinyl and CD).

Now, I’ve long since stopped downloading music as I’ve pretty much got my classic collection in order. And I haven’t quit buying music but I am a lot more judicious over what I spend my money on and I now give much preferential treatment to independent and local musicians. It really is all a moral paradox to contemplate but I feel I’ve been more than fair with the music industry and I do believe that industry will ultimately be just fine. I am optimistic that a purer market system is emerging through new technology and social media, which further diminishes the corporate “middleman” and gives the artists and producers much more direct access to the consumers.

 

Classic Rock Christmas Songs

Classic Christmas Rock SongsNearly from its inception, rock and roll and Christmas songs have made for a potent mixture of holiday-flavored punch. This marriage dates back to 1957 with the first Elvis Presley Christmas Album and Bobby Helms’s timeless “Jingle Bell Rock”, a rockabilly Christmas classic which was actually written by an advertising executive and a publicist, joining together the overt commercialism with these early anthems. However, it wasn’t all about dollars and cents, as demonstrated in 1963 when major Christmas initiatives by producer Phil Spector and The Beach Boys were pulled off the shelf after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Below we review our favorite songs during the classic rock era. Please be sure to let us know which ones you like best, including those that we omit.

Christmas by The Who, 1969“Christmas” by The Who, 1969

This is a truly fantastic song from the rock opera Tommy but, as such, this song is only about Christmas for a short period of the song, the rest of the song is spent pondering whether the aforementioned Tommy’s soul can be saved as he is deaf, dumb and blind – lacking the capacity to accept Jesus Christ. This aspect of the song works exceptionally well in the scheme of the album, but not so much in the scheme of it being a Christmas song. That said, no song captures the majesty of children on Christmas day as well as this one.

Happy Xmas by John Lennon, 1971“Happy Christmas (War Is Over)” by John Lennon, 1971

John Lennon’s voice is fantastic and the song itself evokes the kind of melancholy Christmas spirit I find in great Christmas songs. The backing vocals work very well and the bass guitar, sleigh bells, chimes, glockenspiel all play their part as well, a testament to the excellent production by Phil Spector. It does sound a little dated with the overt political correctness and, of course ant-war sentiment. Then there is a bit of irony, foe, although the song advocates “War is Over”, the personal war between Lennon and Paul McCartney was at a fevered pitch with Lennon poaching McCartney’s lead guitarist for this very song just to stick him in the eye a bit. So, in that sense, I guess war was not quite over.

I Believe In Father Christmas, 1975“I Believe In Father Christmas” by Greg Lake, 1975

You really do learn something new every day. In fact while doing research into this song’s origin I discovered that this is actually a Greg Lake solo song and not an Emerson, Lake, and Palmer song which I had always believed because of its inclusion on their 1977 Works compilation album. This new revelation does not diminish my love of the song one iota. The song was written by Lake with lyrics by Peter Sinfield. Lake says the song was written in protest at the commercialization of Christmas, while Sinfield says it is more about a loss of innocence and childhood belief. I tend to believe them both, as I’ve always found the melancholy song to be much too complex to be written about any single subject or incident. Musically and melodically, the song is a masterpiece, with Lake’s finger-picked acoustic ballad complemented by ever-increasing orchestration and choral arrangements. Each verse is more intense than the last and the arrangement elicits all kinds of emotions, far deeper than the typical “feel good” Christmas song.

Father Christmas by The Kinks, 1977“Father Christmas” by The Kinks, 1977

Just listen to the first fifteen seconds of this song and you will see, it’s amazing! Starting with a Christmas-y happy piano melody and sleigh bells before punk-influenced guitar and drums crash in with the impact of a meteor. Lead singer Ray Davies sings as two characters in the song; the first is a department store Santa (“Father Christmas”), the second is a gang of poor kids. Davies makes his vocals more forceful for their demands, “Father Christmas give us some money!” I have long thought Davies is probably the most underrated singer in Rock, and the Kinks may be the most underrated band in rock history. What other band appeared in the British invasion did a few concept albums and then practically invented punk rock!? Dave Davies lead guitar is fantastic, definitely the most entertaining work in any of the Christmas songs on this list. The drums are also a huge high point as they roll franticly between verses. If you needed a definition of it, this IS Christmas Rock!

Peace On Earth / Little Drummer Boy, 1977“Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy”
by David Bowie & Bing Crosby, 1977

This partial cover (Bowie’s “Peace On Earth” part was original, while Crosby sang the traditional “Little Drummer Boy”) was actually as about as original a compositions as any Christmas song with a rock theme to it. So why does this song make the cut? Well it is fantastic! It’s DAVID BOWIE and BING CROSBY! It’s a great little song that feels like Christmas. Two totally different artists from different genres and eras coming together to sing a song for a television special, only around Christmas could this happen. Well, in fact it was recorded in London in August of 1977 for an upcoming Christmas special and Crosby passed away in October, before it aired, making it even more special.

A Wonderful Christmas Time, 1979“A Wonderful Christmas Time” by Paul McCartney, 1979

Not to be out done by his former Beatle mate turned musical rival (see above), Paul McCartney launched the post-Wings phase of his solo career with “Wonderful Christmas Time”. A song with an uncanny ability to instantly put one into the Christmas spirit, this synth-driven, new-wave ballad showcased McCartney’s mastery at writing pleasant pop songs in just about any sub-genre. Unfortunately, his “wonderful Christmas” was interrupted soon after the new year of 1980, when he got busted In Japan for marijuana possession and spent ten days in prison before he was released.

Christmas Wrapping, 1981“Christmas Wrapping” by The Waitresses, 1981

“Christmas Wrapping” is a really fun new-wave style song that jives musically by an otherwise obscure group. The song goes through quite a few little progressions – a little guitar rift and some jolly percussion instruments introduce the listener to the song’s primary beat of guitar and drums. Lead singer Patty Donahue flirts with actually rapping through the song which comes out really cool despite my less than enthused relationship to that genre. The interlude of horns really makes this song fun as they bridge the gap between verses.

2000 Miles, 1983“2000 Miles” by The Pretenders, 1983

Not really intended to be so much a Christmas song as a lament about missing someone with the hope they return at Christmas. It was nevertheless released in 1983 in advance of the band’s 1984 album Learning To Crawl because of its holiday season potential. The vivid lyrics which paint the Christmas landscape and activity, along with the masterful delivery by lead vocalist Chrissie Hynde above the simple folk-guitar riff, makes this one for the ages.

Thank God Its Christmas, 1984“Thank God It’s Christmas” by Queen, 1984

This is a Christmas rock song that often gets overlooked but is virtually impossible to ignore due to Freddie Mercury’s singing. Co-written by drummer Roger Taylor, the drums have a smooth grooving feeling, albeit very processed. Mercury’s backing keyboards and occasional Christmas bells give the song that holiday feeling it needs. The addition of the guitar later in the song by the other co-writer, Brian May adds some earthiness, but the song would benefit from more of it. The piece never quite transcends the mellowness or the karaoke-like quality of the song, but is still a Christmas classic.

Do They Know Its Christmas, 1984Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid, 1984

Sure, it is outrageously corny, especially when you are watching Boy George and other eighties has-beens singing next to the likes of Bono and Sting. But underneath all the silliness lies a pretty good song, written in a decent style of British pop. This song is the brainchild of Bob Geldof, lead singer of the Boomtown Rats, who co-wrote this song along with Midge Ure, and then they brought together these top-notch English musicians to perform under the name Band Aid as all proceeds went to relief for the Ethiopian famine of 1984-1985. The success of this single eventually lead to the worldwide benefit concert Live Aid, the following summer.

Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, 1985“Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”
by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, 1985

The only true cover of a “traditional” Christmas song on this list, this song was actually recorded in December 1975, but was not released for a solid decade when Bruce Springsteen began putting together his triple live album 1975-1985. It was put out as the B-Side to his single “My Hometown” in 1985 and has since become a holiday staple and rock and pop stations worldwide.

Another Christmas Song, 1989“Another Christmas Song” by Jethro Tull, 1989

We conclude with a beautiful and elegant song put out by Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull during their leaner years, this May be one that many do not know. From the 1989 album Rock Island, this is actually a sequel to “A Christmas Song” put out by Jethro Tull on their 1968 debut album two decades earlier, but is far superior in beauty elegance than the original. With some light flute, drums, and the occasional wood block sound and other percussive effects, the song features Tull’s traditional guitarist Martin Barre who nicely accents the flute line from Anderson in the interweaving musical passages. Lyrically, it describes an old man who is calling his children home to him for Christmas and subtly drawing their attention to other parts of the world and other people;

Everyone is from somewhere, even if you’ve never been there
So take a minute to remember the part of you that might be the old man calling me…”

Through the 1990s and early 2000s, the Christmas rock tradition continued with fine originals such as “Christmas All Over Again” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, a rendition of “Heat Miser” by The Badlees, “Don’t Shoot Me Santa Clause” by The Killers, and Coldplay’s “Christmas Lights”. It is likely this tradition will continue for years to come.

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J.D. Cook and Ric Albano