52 Music Moments, Part 1

On the 52nd birthday of co-founder Karyn Albano (her “younger” husband Ric will be 52 in exactly 5 months on December 10th), we celebrate this brave milestone we are putting together a special list of Karyn’s personal 52 great moments in music since July 10, 1968.

Beatles 1968

First, let’s start at the beginning. The Billboard #1 song on July 10, 1968 was “This Guy’s in Love with You” by Herb Alpert, in it’s third of four weeks on top of the charts. The number one album that week was Bookends by Simon & Garfunkel. July 1968 was the moment of conception for what would become Led Zeppelin as The Yardbirds officially broke up that month but Jimmy Page was granted use of their name if he agreed to form a new band and fulfill their commitments to several concerts in Scandinavia. And as for Karyn’s favorite band, The Beatles, they were smack in the middle of recording The White Album and pretty much focused on the songs “Ob La Di, Ob La Da” and “Revolution 1” at Abbey Road studios during the week of July 9th-13th. So from here, we move forward with the 52 moments.

  1. Sugar Sugar by The Archies – Karyn’s favorite song when she was around 2 years old (1970)
  2. American Pie – she remembers a very cool Montessori school teacher playing guitar and singing to this Don McClean classic (1971 or 1972)
  3. Tony Orlando and Dawn – watching their variety show with grandma and singing “Tie a Yellow Ribbon” (early to mid 70s)
  4. Discovering The Beatles – through a friend’s parents record collection in 2nd grade. Before this, Karyn was into Barry Manilow and Donny and Marie, so the Beatles were a true revelation. “I Saved all my pennies and bought my Sgt Pepper album at the Listening Booth in Wyoming Valley Mall at age 8.” (1976)
  5. Barricuda by Heart – instantly bought this single after first listen (1977)
  6. The Flute – choosing this instrument to play from grades 4 to 8 after a music teacher presented the music of Traffic and Jethro Tull (1977-1981)
  7. Parallel Lines – great album by Blondie (1978)
  8. “Help” Movie – on “Dialing for Dollars” television show, solidified love for The Beatles (late 1970s)
  9. Discovering Rock 107 – first real rock station in NE Pennsylvania (around 1980)
  10. Rock 107

  11. Glass Houses – Karyn’s gateway to discovering and purchasing many other Billy Joel albums (1980)
  12. Elvis Costello – introduced to Karyn by her Aunt, starting with the My Aim Is True album (early 1980s)
  13. Warren Zevon on Lettermen – this 1982 appearance led to Karyn discovering his vast library and becoming a lifelong fan,
  14. Early MTV – when they actually played music (1983-1986)
  15. Rolling Stone Magazine – when they actually covered music (early to mid 1980s)
  16. Howard Jones – great synth songs (mid 1980s)
  17. First Rock Concert – The Sharks at St, Joe’s Gym in Hazleton, PA (1985)
  18. First Hooters Concert – at King’s College in Wilkes Barre, PA, the first of around 20 or so (and counting) shows by this Phiily band (November 1985)
  19. The Mandolin – from Led Zeppelin’s “Battle of Evermore” to Steve Winwood’s “Back In the High Life” to several songs by The Hooters, Bret Alexander and others, Karyn is a life-long enthusiast of its sound (mid 1980s to present)
  20. Billy Idol with The Cult – memorable times in the mosh pit(getting pulled out of it by security before being crushed to death) at Allentown Fairgrounds (1986)
  21. Backstage Passes – to meet The Hooters after their show at St. Joe’s Gym in Hazleton, PA (August 1986)
  22. Strong PersuaderRobert Cray album which sparked great love of blues and soul as Karyn went on to become a great fan of Aretha Franklin, Luther Vandross, Anita Baker, Prince and many others (late 1980s)
  23. U2 from the Parking Lot – couldn’t score tickets but had a blast with several Deadheads leftover from the Grateful Dead’s show the night before, outside JFK stadium in Philadelphia (September 1987)
  24. Tommy Conwell after a Phillies Game – several late night shows at the old Vet in Philadelphia (late 80s, early 90s)
  25. Billy Joel from the 3rd Row – great tickets, right in front of the piano, offered by a friend’s aunt for just $35 at the Spectrum in Philly (1990)
  26. Reggae – from Bob Marley to Peter Tosh, Jimmy Cliff and UB40, Karyn has been an avid fan of the genre since the early 90s
  27. The Batty Bat – Sesame Street song loved by Karyn’s daughter Erin (born 1992)
  28. The Badlees New Year’s Eve Show – Karyn and Ric’s first concert (as part of a larger group, not yet a couple) at The Silo in Reading, PA (New Year 1996)
  29. Collective Soul – Karyn and Ric’s first concert as a couple at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, PA (March 1996)
  30. The Steel Breeze – a unique Pink Floyd tribute set during a Dreaming Tree show at Cousin’s in Hazleton (2000)
  31. The “Accidental” Neil Diamond Show – Karyn scored a ticket to see the first ever show at The First Union arena in Wilkes-Barre when the driver for her in-laws and their friend couldn’t attend. Turned out to be a heck of a show (December 2001)
  32. Paul McCartney Live – first time actually seeing a former Beatle live and it was a fantastic show in Philadelphia, featuring a great backing band during the beginning and end sets with a long solo set by Paul in between (April 2002)
  33. Arts Fest – during our initial years in the Harrisburg area, this 4th of July riverside festival featured some fantastic performances by Central Pennsylvania artists like the Martini Brothers, Darcie Miner, Tripp McNeely, Herbie and the Jellybricks (2004-2010)
  34. Rush at Radio City Music Hall – a spectacular array of sound and light and an unbelievable drum solo by Neil Peart (August 2004)
  35. Briggs Farm Blues festival – Karyn and Ric attended their first Briggs festival in July 2005, featuring Big Jack Johnson. They have attended and/or covered this fantastic festival in Nescopeck, PA virtually every year since.
  36. The Cellarbirds – Karyn discovered the fantastic 2001 album Perfect Smile (their one and only) and went on top buy up about a dozen copies to give out as Christmas gifts (2005)
  37. Tommy Conwell with Hot Wing Jones – fantastic show at Gullifty’s Underground in Camp Hill where Tommy sat at our table and chatted between sets. (November 2007)
  38. Dollars for Diane – after Karyn’s sister Diane suffered a major stroke in 2007, many local businesses, venues and musicians donated towards throwing three benefit concerts and helping us produce a compilation album to benefit Diane and brain injury research in general (2007-2010)
  39. Concert with The Kids – in the summer of 2008 Karyn saw the one and only concert with her husband and all four of her kids, Rush at Hersheypark stadium
  40. The River of Rock Music Network – started by Karyn and Ric with the launching of Modern rock Review in October 2010. In the 10 years since, we have grown to five distinct websites covering vast genres and eras of music with nearly 1000 published original articles.
  41. River of Rock logo

  42. Sound Off for Vets – Karyn helped promote a concert series to benefit Wounded Warriors, organized by Chris Nelson and featuring several talented musicians including Nelson, Mycenea Worley, Shift Seven, Fools On Sunday, Brian Xander, Carmen Magro and many more (2010-2011)
  43. Little Buffalo Music Festival – an excellent festival each October featuring great music such as Jefferey Gaines (2011-2018)
  44. Interviewing Greg Kihn – Karyn had been an avid fan decades before interviewing this classic rocker after he published his fictional rock thriller Painted Black (2015)
  45. Paul McCartney Once Again – a fantastic outdoor show at Hershey stadium where Sir Paul once again impressed (July 2016)
  46. Karyn in Mississippi 2017

  47. Southern Music Odyssey #1 – our trip to many historic music sites in Muscle Shoals, Tupelo, the Mississippi Delta (BB King museum, Dockery Farm, Clarksdale), Memphis (Sun Records, Stax Studio, Beale Street)and Nashville with Karyn taking footage later used in a music video (March 2017)
  48. The Journey – the initial Sinclair Soul album, The Journey remains Karyn’s favorite of all her husband’s projects (June 2017)
  49. Southern Music Odyssey #2 – focused mainly on Virginia and North Carolina with stops at The Carter Family Fold, many sights in Asheville, Virginia Beach and wrapping up with Ric’s performance at the Cape May Singer/Songwriter festival in New Jersey (March 2018)
  50. The Hooters Return – first live performance of the year and a great one on the Ocean City, NJ pier (June 2018)
  51. Van Morrison – during his only North American appearance of the 2018 Outlaw Festival, Van the Man put on a show for the ages at Hersheypark stadium (September 2018)
  52. The Good Guys Session – On her husband’s 50th birthday (December 2018) Karyn joined Ric at Eight Days a Week studio for a super session featuring Bret Alexander, Paul Smith, Ron Simasek, Mycenea Worley, Phil Brosius and her son Jake Albano, making his studio engineering debut. The session yielded much material that was included on the 2019 Sinclair Soul album The Good Guys.
  53. Floyd, VA – a quaint little town that is an absolute incubator for music in the remote mountains of Southern Virginia (December 2019)
  54. Jeremariah – fantastic wedding featuring the Cellarbirds and Ric performing a dedicated song at the wedding of her step-son and daughter-in-law (May 2019)
  55. Southern Music Odyssey #3 – this time focusing on Florida and Georgia, including Ray Charles hometown, Southern Avenue at Bradfordville Blues club, a day in Macon, GA including The Big House and Rose Hill cemetery and topped by a fantastic show by the Allman-Betts Band. This all happened just weeks before the COVID-19 spread and remains the most recent music event to date (February 2020)

 

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The Beatles in India

The Beatles with Maharashi

In early 1968, all four members of The Beatles traveled to northern India to attend a Transcendental Meditation training course with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. While George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr all arrived at the Maharishi’s ashram in Rishikesh in mid-February with optimism and enthusiasm, they departed at different times and with differing opinions of the positivity of the experience. In any case, prolific songwriting took place in India, much of which would be reflected on The Beatles (white album), which was released later in 1968. In that sense, this historic event remains musically significant, no matter the actual merits of the Maharishi or Transcendental Meditation itself.

This trip followed the adventurous and tumultuous year of 1967. That year was the group’s first full year without touring, where they produced and recorded the iconic classic Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, were the centerpiece of a worldwide television special, and starred in their third feature film, Magical Mystery Tour, and its recorded subsequent soundtrack. On the darker side, 1967 saw members of the group heavily experimenting in drug use and losing their long time manager Brian Epstein, which ultimately saw the band to begin fracturing professionally. Before departing for India, in what originally was to be a three month stay, the group recorded a few songs for single release. McCartney’s “Lady Madonna” was chosen as the A-side of the single, beating out Lennon’s “Across the Universe”, a version of which later appeared on  Let It Be. The single’s B-side was Harrison’s “The Inner Light”, which was partially recorded with several Indian classical musicians in Bombay, India in January during the sessions for Harrison’s Wonderwall Music soundtrack album. This is notable as the only Beatles studio recording to be made outside Europe and it set a nice vibe as the members publicly departed for India.

Beatles In India

A year earlier, Harrison’s wife Pattie Boyd came across a newspaper advertisement for Transcendental Meditation classes and she and her husband soon became part of this movement. In the summer of 1967, Harrison had recruited the other members of the Beatles to attend a lecture that the Maharishi gave in London, followed by a 10-day Spiritual Regeneration conference in Wales. McCartney reflected that the group had been “spiritually exhausted” and, while at the conference, the group members committed to giving up drugs. However, their stay at the conference was cut short when news of Epstein’s unexpected death reached the group. Before departing Wales, the Maharishi invited the Beatles to stay at his ashram in Rishikesh in the near future.

The group arrived in India in mid-February 1968, along with their wives (or girlfriend in McCartney’s case), along with numerous assistants, reporters, celebrity meditators and even some contemporary musicians like Donovan and Mike Love from The Beach Boys. They flew into Delhi and then rode by taxi the 150 or so miles to Rishikesh, walking to the ashram by crossing a footbridge over the Ganges River and up a hill to the property.

Located in the “Valley of the Saints” in the foothills of the Himalayas, this 14-acre ashram was built 5 years earlier in 1963 and it was funded through a $100,000 donation from American heiress. While there, life was comparable to that of a summer camp, starting with a communal breakfast followed by morning meditation and the occasional lecture from Maharishi. And at the end of the day, the musicians would often jam.

Beatles In India

Donovan taught John Lennon a guitar finger-picking technique that they later used on the songs “Julia” and “Dear Prudence”, the latter of which was a direct narrative about Mia Farrow’s sister who caused concern by locking herself inside and intensely meditating for weeks on end. Starr completed his first solo composition for the Beatles, “Don’t Pass Me By”, which he had begun writing way back in 1963. McCartney was prolific as usual with songs forming from the parody “Rocky Raccoon”, which he wrote to entertain others at dinner, to “Mother Nature’s Son” which was directly inspired by one of the Maharishi’s lectures, to “Back in the USSR” which he wrote in Love’s presence as an interpretation of the Beach Boys style. In fact, plans were briefly discussed for a possible concert in Delhi to feature the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Donovan, and Paul Horn.

Compared to the regular attendees, the Beatles were given some additional perks such as heated tents and on-demand private lessons from the Maharishi. Still, Ringo Starr and his wife Maureen were never quite comfortable with the retreat as Ringo had food allergies and Maureen had a deathly fear of insects. So, after just 10 days, Starr was the first Beatle to leave on 1 March. McCartney and his girlfriend Jane Asher left a few weeks later in mid-to-late March, causing slight derision by Harrison and Lennon who questioned his commitment. Lennon had wanted to invite his new love interest, Yoko Ono, on the trip but feared a confrontation with his then-wife Cynthia and therefore declined to do so. Nevertheless, the Lennons effectively split up on this trip as John moved into his own room about a week into the retreat.

Beatles In India

In early April, the Maharishi announced plans to move the whole retreat to Kashmir, a higher and cooler altitude as the summer months approached. Lennon and Harrison were planning to follow this course to the end, but changed their plans abruptly on April 12th, following rumors of the Maharishi’s inappropriate sexual behavior towards female students. The night before Lennon and Harrison sat up late discussing the Maharishi and decided to leave first thing in the morning. The final two Beatles and their wives left hurriedly and while waiting for their taxis to take the long drive back to delhi, Lennon wrote “Sexy Sadie”, a direct indictment of the Maharishi.

With the Beatles’ quick departure and implicit denunciation of the Maharishi, his rapid rise to fame abruptly ended. Whether or not the rumors about his misconduct were in fact true, remain in dispute to this day. Harrison later apologized for his and Lennon’s abrupt departure and he would later organize a 1992 benefit concert for the Maharishi-associated Natural Law Party. In 2007 McCartney took his daughter to visit the Maharishi, a year before his death in 2008. After a few years of abandonment, the ashram was opened to the public in 2015 and renamed Beatles Ashram.

Since they permanently gave up touring in 1966, this trip to India would be the last time all four Beatles traveled together outside of the UK. While their cohesion as a group began to deteriorate shortly after until they ultimately broke up two years later, the Beatles made a good faith effort to reach a higher understanding. In all, the group members wrote nearly 50 songs in India, some of which were published after the band’s breakup.


Beatles In India

List of songs written by the Beatles in Rishikesh, India 1968

Released on The Beatles (white album) 11/22/68:

  • “Back in the U.S.S.R.”
  • “Dear Prudence”
  • “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”
  • “Wild Honey Pie”
  • “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill”
  • “I’m So Tired”
  • “Blackbird”
  • “Rocky Raccoon”
  • “Don’t Pass Me By”
  • “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?”
  • “I Will”
  • “Julia”
  • “Yer Blues”
  • “Mother Nature’s Son”
  • “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey”
  • “Sexy Sadie”
  • “Long, Long, Long”
  • “Revolution” (1)
  • “Cry Baby Cry”

Released on Abbey Road 9/26/69:

  • “Mean Mr. Mustard”
  • “Polythene Pam”

Released on Anthology 3 compilation 10/28/96:

  • “What’s the New Mary Jane”, recorded during the White Album sessions in 1968
  • “Teddy Boy”, recorded during the Let It Be sessions in 1969

Released on recordings outside the Beatles:

  • “Sour Milk Sea” – written by Harrison, released by Apple Records artist Jackie Lomax as a single 8/26/68
  • “Junk” released on Paul McCartney’s debut solo album McCartney 4/17/70
  • “Look at Me” released on John Lennon’s album John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band 12/11/70
  • “Jealous Guy” (originally titled “Child of Nature”) released on John Lennon’s album Imagine 9/09/71
  • “Circles” released on George Harrison’s album Gone Troppo 11/05/82
  • “Cosmically Conscious” released on Paul McCartney’s album Off the Ground (The Complete Works) 2/02/93

Unreleased (as of 4/03/20)

  • “Dehradun” composed by George Harrison
  • “Spiritual Regeneration/Happy Birthday Mike Love” recorded at Rishikesh by several group members and Donovan 3/15/68

 

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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

 

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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.

 

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All Things Must Pass

All Things Must Pass DVDThe chronological framework of Classic Rock Review spans the years 1965-2000 in order to coincide with the rise and fall of the traditional, artist-driven, hard-copy “album”. Nearly mirroring this time span and on a parallel track is the meteoric rise and fall of Tower Records, a record “superstore” with humble beginnings to cult-like status to mainstream worldwide success to sudden demise. Directed by Colin Hanks, All Things Must Pass is a feature-length documentary that examines the company’s origins, serendipitous growth, culture, influence and its legacy.

The promise of this story is in the opening script; “In 1999 Tower Records had over a billion dollars in sales by 2004 the company was bankrupt…” However, in reality, this documentary unfolds in proportion to real time events, with much more attention spent on the decades of growth and expansion in the company and much less (not enough) focused on the sudden and shocking collapse of Tower Records and the recorded music industry as a whole.

Russ Soloman in Tower SF, 1968aThe focal point of the documentary is Russ Solomon, the founder of Tower Records, who got started at a young age working in his father’s variety drug store in Sacramento, California in the 1940s. Solomon’s experience in the record industry started by selling used records from the soda fountain jukebox and slowly led to Russ focusing solely on the wholesale and retail record sales of the multi-purpose drug store. After an initial attempt and failure at running an independent record store in the 1950s, Soloman incorporated Tower Records in 1960 and had several years of steady growth in Sacramento. In 1968, Solomon opened a 5,000-square-foot store in San Francisco, which lauded itself as having the “largest inventory anywhere” and met with immediate phenomenal success. Solomon then replicated this model with an even larger location on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, which caught the attention of many popular rock artists and record industry insiders.

Much of the documentary talks about staff who started as simple clerks and rose to the highest executive positions when the company grew and expanded. These stories are somewhat interesting but a bit too “inside baseball” for the passive viewer. The documentary does do well in talking about its culture and relaxed atmosphere, with no dress code and an implicit tolerance of drinking and drugs with the only real “rule” being to show up everyday. Soloman claimed he had a “Tom Sawyer” style of management, letting his staff enthusiastically do the hard work and giving them the freedom to get the work done in their own style. Many of these workers were musicians or music fanatics, creating an ideal social atmosphere for the customers they were looking to attract. The documentary includes on-camera commentary by Bruce Springsteen, Elton John and Dave Grohl as well as a really cool 1974 audio advertisement by John Lennon.

Through the seventies, eighties and nineties, Tower Records grew nationally and internationally, with sales and profits rising each year until the company did over a billion dollars annually by the end of the century. Then came the collapse of terrestrial retail as digital technologies emerged starting in the year 2000 when, after 40 years of consistent growth, sales flat-lined. By no means was this collapse due in total to outside forces and some of the key players at Tower own up to mistakes. One major mistake was the panicked sale of Tower’s Japanese outlets which, ironically, are now the only store locations that are still operating today.

Empty Tower store, 2006

A native of Sacramento, Hanks spent seven years on this documentary and presents the story expertly, bringing the record store experience back to those of us who grew up in that era. The most vivid and haunting scenes coming at the very beginning and very end with a completely empty but still-in-tact Tower location in a retail strip-mall, showing the passing of a cultural pastime.

All Things Must Pass was released on DVD by MVD Entertainment Group on September 13, 2016.
~

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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. .

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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.

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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.

 

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Roxy Music

Roxy MusicWhen you’re an early-1970s rock band that tours with your own fashion designer, hair stylist, photographer and “PR consultant”, chances are you’ll take some heat. Roxy Music, the English glam-art band formed by Bryan Ferry, Brian Eno and Graham Simpson, was a big proponent of style, so much so that legendary rock critic Lester Bangs said the band represented the “triumph of artifice”, Despite their early detractors, the band proved highly influential to both the glam-rock movement and new wave/punk musicians, including David Bowie, the Sex Pistols, Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Cars, Grace Jones, Kate Bush and many more.

While very popular in the U.K., the band’s lush, highly produced tracks, prominently featuring electronic synthesizers, were not widely embraced in the United States. Like his band mates, lead singer Ferry was an ex-art student, and saw rock n’ roll as performance art. Eno, who became widely known for his ambient productions, proved to be a pivotal influence over David Byrne and the Talking Heads.

They are perhaps best known in the U.S. for their music videos, each a minor cinematic masterpiece. A seamless integration of music and film propelled Roxy hits, including “More Than This” and “Love Is the Drug”. Some of their best work came late in their career, including the great make-out album Avalon, which showcased Ferry’s theatrical, crooning voice.

The band continued to perform through the early 2010s, remaining true to their dedication to style and production values. We agree with Rolling Stone magazine, which ranked Roxy Music number 98 on their “100 Greatest Artists of All Time” list. The brought the swag, the sex appeal and the surreal to every show they performed. On the 42nd anniversary of their first appearance at the Great Western Express Pop Festival, we celebrate one of the most influential bands of the rock era.

~

Article by Marcelo Molina

 

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