Sunday, December 29, 2013

Hunter S Thompson: The Motorcycle Gangs

Cover of "Hell's Angels"
Cover of Hell's Angels
by Hunter S. Thompson, The

This article first appeared in the issue of May 17, 1965. The Motorcycle Gangs: Losers and Outsiders

Last Labor Day weekend newspapers all over California gave front-page reports of a heinous gang rape in the moonlit sand dunes near the town of Seaside on the Monterey Peninsula.

Two girls, aged 14 and 15, were allegedly taken from their dates by a gang of filthy, frenzied, boozed-up motorcycle hoodlums called "Hell's Angels," and dragged off to be "repeatedly assaulted."

A deputy sheriff, summoned by one of the erstwhile dates, said he "arrived at the beach and saw a huge bonfire surrounded by cyclists of both sexes. Then the two sobbing, near-hysterical girls staggered out of the darkness, begging for help. One was completely nude and the other had on only a torn sweater."

Some 300 Hell's Angels were gathered in the Seaside-Monterey area at the time, having convened, they said, for the purpose of raising funds among themselves to send the body of a former member, killed in an accident, back to his mother in North Carolina.

One of the Angels, hip enough to falsely identify himself as "Frenchy of San Bernardino," told a reporter who came out to meet the cyclists: "We chose Monterey because we get treated good here; most other places we get thrown out of town."

But Frenchy spoke too soon. The Angels weren't on the peninsula twenty-four hours before four of them were in jail for rape, and the rest of the troop was being escorted to the county line by a large police contingent.

Several were quoted, somewhat derisively, as saying: "That rape charge against our guys is phony and it won't stick."

It turned out to be true, but that was another story and certainly no headliner. The difference between the Hell's Angels in the paper and the Hell's Angels for real is enough to make a man wonder what newsprint is for. It also raises a question as to who are the real hell's angels.

Ever since World War II, California has been strangely plagued by wild men on motorcycles. They usually travel in groups of ten to thirty, booming along the highways and stopping here are there to get drunk and raise hell.

In 1947, hundreds of them ran amok in the town of Hollister, an hour's fast drive south of San Francisco, and got enough press to inspire a film called The Wild One, starring Marlon Brando.

The film had a massive effect on thousands of young California motorcycle buffs; in many ways, it was their version of The Sun Also Rises.

The California climate is perfect for motorcycles, as well as surfboards, swimming pools and convertibles. Most of the cyclists are harmless weekend types, members of the American Motorcycle Association, and no more dangerous than skiers or skin divers.

But a few belong to what the others call "outlaw clubs," and these are the ones who - especially on weekends and holidays - are likely to turn up almost anywhere in the state, looking for action.

Despite everything the psychiatrists and Freudian casuists have to say about them, they are tough, mean and potentially as dangerous as a pack of wild boar.

When push comes to shove, any leather fetishes or inadequacy feelings that may be involved are entirely beside the point, as anyone who has ever tangled with these boys will sadly testify.

When you get in an argument with a group of outlaw motorcyclists, you can generally count your chances of emerging un-maimed by the number of heavy-handed allies you can muster in the time it takes to smash a beer bottle.

In this league, sportsmanship is for old liberals and young fools. "I smashed his face," one of them said to me of a man he'd never seen until the swinging started. "He got wise. He called me a punk. He must have been stupid."

The most notorious of these outlaw groups is the Hell's Angels, supposedly headquartered in San Bernardino, just east of Los Angeles, and with branches all over the state.

As a result of the infamous "Labor Day gang rape," the Attorney General of California has recently issued an official report on the Hell's Angels. According to the report, they are easily identified:

The emblem of the Hell's Angels, termed "colors," consists of an embroidered patch of a winged skull wearing a motorcycle helmet. Just below the wing of the emblem are the letters "MC." Over this is a band bearing the words "Hell's Angels." 

Below the emblem is another patch bearing the local chapter name, which is usually an abbreviation for the city or locality. These patches are sewn on the back of a usually sleeveless denim jacket. 

In addition, members have been observed wearing various types of Luftwaffe insignia and reproductions of German iron crosses* (*purely for decorative and shock effect. The Hell's Angels are apolitical and no more racist than other ignorant young thugs).

Many affect beards and their hair is usually long and unkempt. Some wear a single earring in a pierced ear lobe. 

Frequently they have been observed to wear metal belts made of a length of polished motorcycle drive chain which can be unhooked and used as a flexible bludgeon ... probably the most universal common denominator in identification of Hell's Angels is generally their filthy condition. 

Investigating officers consistently report these people, both club members and their female associates, seem badly in need of a bath. Fingerprints are a very effective means of identification because a high percentage of Hell's Angels have criminal records.

In addition to the patches on the back of Hell's Angel's jackets, the "One Percenters" wear a patch reading "1%-er." Another badge worn by some members bears the number "13." It is reported to represent the 13th letter of the alphabet, "M," which in turn stands for marijuana and indicates the wearer thereof is a user of the drug.

The Attorney General's report was colorful, interesting, heavily biased and consistently alarming - just the sort of thing, in fact, to make a clanging good article for a national news magazine. Which it did; in both barrels.

Newsweek led with a left hook titled "The Wild Ones," Time crossed right, inevitably titled "The Wilder Ones." The Hell's Angels, cursing the implications of this new attack, retreated to the bar of the DePau Hotel near the San Francisco waterfront and planned a weekend beach party.

I showed them the articles. Hell's Angels do not normally read the news magazines. "I'd go nuts if I read that stuff all the time," said one. "It's all bullshit."

Newsweek was relatively circumspect. It offered local color, flashy quotes and "evidence" carefully attributed to the official report but unaccountably said the report accused the Hell's Angels of homosexuality, whereas the report said just the opposite.  

Time leaped into the fray with a flurry of blood, booze and semen-flecked wordage that amounted, in the end, to a classic of supercharged hokum: "Drug-induced stupors ... no act is too degrading ... swap girls, drugs and motorcycles with equal abandon ... stealing forays ... then ride off again to seek some new nadir in sordid behavior ...".

Where does all this leave the Hell's Angels and the thousands of shuddering Californians (according to Time) who are worried sick about them? Are these outlaws really going to be busted, routed and cooled, as the news magazines implied? Are California highways any safer as a result of this published uproar? Can honest merchants once again walk the streets in peace?

The answer is that nothing has changed except that a few people calling themselves the Hell's Angels have a new sense of identity and importance.

After two weeks of intensive dealings with the Hell's Angels phenomenon, both in print and in person, I'm convinced the net result of the general howl and publicity has been to obscure and avoid the real issues by invoking a savage conspiracy of bogeymen and conning the public into thinking all will be "business as usual" once this fearsome snake is scotched, as it surely will be by hard and ready minions of the Establishment.

Meanwhile, according to Attorney General Thomas C. Lynch's own figures, California's true crime picture makes the Hell's Angels look like a gang of petty jack rollers.

The police count 463 Hell's Angels: 205 around L.A. and 233 in the San Francisco-Oakland area. I don't know about L.A. but the real figures for the Bay Area are thirty or so in Oakland and exactly eleven - with one facing expulsion - in San Francisco.

This disparity makes it hard to accept other police statistics. The dubious package also shows convictions on 1,023 misdemeanor counts and 151 felonies - primarily vehicle theft, burglary and assault. This is for all years and all alleged members.

California's overall figures for 1963 list 1,116 homicides, 12,448 aggravated assaults, 6,257 sex offenses, and 24,532 burglaries. In 1962, the state listed 4,121 traffic deaths, up from 3,839 in 1961.

Drug arrest figures for 1964 showed a 101 percent increase in juvenile marijuana arrests over 1963, and a recent back-page story in the San Francisco Examiner said, "The venereal disease rate among [the city's] teenagers from 15-19 has more than doubled in the past four years."

Even allowing for the annual population jump, juvenile arrests in all categories are rising by 10 per cent or more each year.

Against this background, would it make any difference to the safety and peace of mind of the average Californian if every motorcycle outlaw in the state (all 901, according to the state) were garroted within twenty-four hours?

This is not to say that a group like the Hell's Angels has no meaning. The generally bizarre flavor of their offenses and their insistence on identifying themselves make good copy, but usually overwhelm - in print, at least - the unnerving truth that they represent, in colorful microcosm, what is quietly and anonymously growing all around us every day of the week.

"We're bastards to the world and they're bastards to us," one of the Oakland Angels told a Newsweek reporter. "When you walk into a place where people can see you, you want to look as repulsive and repugnant as possible. We are complete social outcasts - outsiders against society."

A lot of this is a pose, but anyone who believes that's all it is has been on thin ice since the death of Jay Gatsby. The vast majority of motorcycle outlaws are uneducated, unskilled men between 20 and 30, and most have no credentials except a police record.

So at the root of their sad stance is a lot more than a wistful yearning for acceptance in a world they never made; their real motivation is an instinctive certainty as to what the score really is.

They are out of the ball game and they know it - and that is their meaning; for unlike most losers in today's society, the Hell's Angels not only know but spitefully proclaim exactly where they stand.

I went to one of their meetings recently, and half-way through the night I thought of Joe Hill on his way to face a Utah firing squad and saying his final words: "Don't mourn, organize."

It is safe to say that no Hell's Angel has ever heard of Joe Hill or would know a Wobbly from a Bushmaster, but nevertheless they are somehow related. The I.W.W. had serious plans for running the world, while the Hell's Angels mean only to defy the world's machinery.

But instead of losing quietly, one by one, they have banded together with a mindless kind of loyalty and moved outside the framework, for good or ill.

There is nothing particularly romantic or admirable about it; that's just the way it is, strength in unity. They don't mind telling you that running fast and loud on their customized Harley 74s gives them a power and a purpose that nothing else seems to offer.

Beyond that, their position as self-proclaimed outlaws elicits a certain popular appeal, however reluctant. That is especially true in the West and even in California where the outlaw tradition is still honored.

The unarticulated link between the Hell's Angels and the millions of losers and outsiders who don't wear any colors is the key to their notoriety and the ambivalent reactions they inspire.

There are several other keys, having to do with politicians, policemen and journalists, but for this we have to go back to Monterey and the Labor Day "gang rape."

Politicians, like editors and cops, are very keen on outrage stories, and state Senator Fred S. Farr of Monterey County is no exception.

He is a leading light of the Carmel-Pebble Beach set and no friend to hoodlums anywhere, especially gang rapists who invade his constituency.

Senator Far demanded an immediate investigation of the Hell's Angels and others of their ilk - Commancheros, Stray Satans, Iron Horsemen, Rattlers (a Negro club), and Booze Fighters - whose lack of status caused them all to be lumped together as "other disreputables."

In the cut-off world of big bikes, long runs and classy rumbles, this new, state-sanctioned stratification made the Hell's Angels very big. They were, after all, Number One. Like John Dillinger.

Attorney General Lynch, then new in his job, moved quickly to mount an investigation of sorts. He sent questionnaires to more than 100 sheriffs, district attorneys and police chiefs, asking for more information on the Hell's Angels and those "other disreputables." He also asked for suggestions as to how the law might deal with them.

Six months went by before all the replies where condensed into the fifteen-page report that made new outrage headlines when it was released to the press (the Hell's Angels also got a copy; one of them stole mine).

As a historical document, it read like a plot synopsis of Mickey Spillane's worst dreams. But in the matter of solutions it was vague, reminiscent in some ways of Madame Nhu's proposals for dealing with the Vietcong.

The state was going to centralize information on these thugs, urge more vigorous prosecution, put them all under surveillance whenever possible, etc.

A careful reader got the impression that even if the Hell's Angels had acted out this script - eighteen crimes were specified and dozens of others implied - very little would or could be done about it, and that indeed Mr. Lynch was well aware he'd been put, for political reasons, on a pretty weak scent.

There was plenty of mad action, senseless destruction, orgies, brawls, perversions and a strange parade of "innocent victims" that, even on paper and in careful police language, was enough to tax the credulity of the dullest police reporter.

Any bundle of information off police blotters is bound to reflect a special viewpoint, and parts of the Attorney General's report are actually humorous, if only for the language. Here is an excerpt:

On November 4, 1961, a San Francisco resident driving through Rodeo, possibly under the influence of alcohol, struck a motorcycle belonging to a Hell's Angel parked outside a bar. 

A group of Angels pursued the vehicle, pulled the driver from the car and attempted to demolish the rather expensive vehicle. The bartender claimed he had seen nothing, but a cocktail waitress in the bar furnished identification to the officers concerning some of those responsible for the assault. 

The next day it was reported to officers that a member of the Hell's Angels gang had threatened the life of this waitress as well as another woman waitress. 

A male witness who definitely identified five participants in the assault including the president of Vallejo Hell's Angels and the Vallejo "Road Rats" advised officers that because of his fear of retaliation by club members he would refuse to testify to the facts he had previously furnished.

That is a representative item in the section of the report titled "Hoodlum Activities." First, it occurred in a small town - Rodeo is on San Pablo Bay just north of Oakland - where the Angels had stopped at a bar without causing any trouble until some offense was committed against them.

In this case, a driver whom even the police admit was "possibly" drunk hit one of their motorcycles. The same kind of accident happens every day all over the nation, but when it involves outlaw motorcyclists it is something else again.

Instead of settling the thing with an exchange of insurance information or, at the very worst, an argument with a few blows, the Hell's Angels beat the driver and "attempted to demolish the vehicle."

I asked one of them if the police exaggerated this aspect, and he said no, they had done the natural thing: smashed headlights, kicked in doors, broken windows and torn various components off the engine.

Of all their habits and predilections that society finds alarming, this departure from the time-honored concept of "an eye for an eye" is the one that most frightens people.

The Hell's Angels try not to do anything halfway, and anyone who deals in extremes is bound to cause trouble, whether he means to or not.

This, along with a belief in total retaliation for any offense or insult, is what makes the Hell's Angels unmanageable for the police and morbidly fascinating to the general public.

Their claim that they "don't start trouble" is probably true more often than not, but their idea of "provocation" is dangerously broad, and their biggest problem is that nobody else seems to understand it.

Even dealing with them personally, on the friendliest terms, you can sense their hair-trigger readiness to retaliate.

This is a public thing, and not at all true among themselves. In a meeting, their conversation is totally frank and open. They speak to and about one another with an honesty that more civilized people couldn't bear.

At the meeting I attended (and before they realized I was a journalist) one Angel was being publicly evaluated; some members wanted him out of the club and others wanted to keep him in.

It sounded like a group-therapy clinic in progress - not exactly what I expected to find when just before midnight I walked into the bar of the De Pau in one of the bleakest neighborhoods in San Francisco, near Hunters Point.

By the time I parted company with them - at 6:30 the next morning after an all-night drinking bout in my apartment - I had been impressed by a lot of things, but no one thing about them was as consistently obvious as their group loyalty.

This is an admirable quality, but it is also one of the things that gets them in trouble: a fellow Angel is always right when dealing with outsiders. And this sort of reasoning makes a group of "offended" Hell's Angels nearly impossible to deal with. Here is another incident from the Attorney General's report:

On September 19, 1964, a large group of Hell's Angels and "Satan's Slaves" converged on a bar in the South Gate (Los Angeles County), parking their motorcycles and cars in the street in such a fashion as to block one-half of the roadway. 

They told officers that three members of the club had been recently asked to stay out of the bar and that they had come to tear it down. Upon their approach the bar owner locked the doors and turned off the lights and no entrance was made, but the group did demolish a cement block fence. 

On arrival of the police, members of the club were lying on the sidewalk and in the street. They were asked to leave the city, which they did reluctantly. As they left, several were heard to say that they would be back and tear down the bar.

Here again is the ethic of total retaliation. If you're "asked to stay out" of a bar, you don't just punch the owner - you come back with your army and destroy the whole edifice. Similar incidents - along with a number of vague rape complaints - make up the bulk of the report.

Eighteen incidents in four years, and none except the rape charges are more serious than cases of assaults on citizens who, for their own reasons, had become involved with the Hell's Angels prior to the violence. I could find no cases of unwarranted attacks on wholly innocent victims.

There are a few borderline cases, wherein victims of physical attacks seemed innocent, according to police and press reports, but later refused to testify for fear of "retaliation."

The report asserts very strongly that Hell's Angels are difficult to prosecute and convict because they make a habit of threatening and intimidating witnesses.

That is probably true to a certain extent, but in many cases victims have refused to testify because they were engaged in some legally dubious activity at the time of the attack.

In two of the most widely publicized incidents the prosecution would have fared better if their witnesses and victims had been intimidated into silence.

One of these was the Monterey "gang rape," and the other a "rape" in Clovis, near Fresno in the Central Valley.

In the latter, a 36-year-old widow and mother of five children claimed she'd been yanked out of a bar where she was having a quiet beer with another woman, then carried to an abandoned shack behind the bar and raped repeatedly for two and a half hours by fifteen or twenty Hell's Angels and finally robbed of $150.

That's how the story appeared in the San Francisco newspapers the next day, and it was kept alive for a few more days by the woman's claims that she was getting phone calls threatening her life if she testified against her assailants.

Then, four days after the crime, the victim was arrested on charges of "sexual perversion." The true story emerged, said the Clovis chief of police, when the woman was "confronted by witnesses. Our investigation shows she was not raped," said the chief.

"She participated in lewd acts in the tavern with at least three other Hell's Angels before the owners ordered them out. She encouraged their advances in the tavern, then led them to an abandoned house in the rear ... she was not robbed but, according to a woman who accompanied her, had left her house early in the evening with $5 to go bar-hopping." That incident did not appear in the Attorney General's report.

But it was impossible not the mention the Monterey "gang rape," because it was the reason for the whole subject to become official.

Page one of the report - which Time's editors apparently skipped - says that the Monterey case was dropped because "... further investigation raised questions as to whether forcible rape had been committed or if the identifications made by victims were valid."

Charges were dismissed on September 25, with the concurrence of a grand jury. The deputy District Attorney said "a doctor examined the girls and found no evidence" to support the charges. "Besides that, one girl refused to testify," he explained, "and the other was given a lie-detector test and found to be wholly unreliable."

This, in effect, was what the Hell's Angels had been saying all along. Here is their version of what happened, as told by several who were there:

One girl was white and pregnant, the other was colored, and they were with five colored studs. They hung around our bar - Nick's Place on Del Monte Avenue - for about three hours Saturday night, drinking and talking with our riders, then they came out to the beach with us - them and their five boyfriends. 

Everybody was standing around the fire, drinking wine, and some of the guys were talking to them - hustling 'em, naturally - and soon somebody asked the two chicks if they wanted to be turned on - you know, did they want to smoke some pot? They said yeah, and then they walked off with some of the guys to the dunes. 

The spade went with a few guys and then she wanted to quit, but the pregnant one was really hot to trot; the first four or five guys she was really dragging into her arms, but after that she cooled off, too. By this time, though, one of their boy friends had got scared and gone for the cops - and that's all it was.

But not quite all. After that there were Senator Farr and Tom Lynch and a hundred cops and dozens of newspaper stories and articles in the national news magazine - and even this article, which is a direct result of the Monterey "gang rape."

When the much-quoted report was released, the local press - primarily the San Francisco Chronicle, which had earlier done a long and fairly objective series on the Hell's Angels - made a point of saying that the Monterey charges against the Hell's Angels had been dropped for lack of evidence.  

Newsweek was careful not to mention Monterey at all, but the New York Times referred to it as "the alleged gang rape" which, however, left no doubt in a reader's mind that something savage had occurred.

It remained for Time, though, to flatly ignore the fact that the Monterey rape charges had been dismissed. Its article leaned heavily on the hairiest and least factual sections of the report, and ignored the rest.

It said, for instance, that the Hell's Angels initiation rite "demands that any new member bring a woman or girl [called a 'sheep'] who is willing to submit to sexual intercourse with each member of the club."

That is untrue, although, as one Angel explained, "Now and then you get a woman who likes to cover the crowd, and hell, I'm no prude. People don't like to think women go for that stuff, but a lot of them do."

We were talking across a pool table about the rash of publicity and how it had affected the Angel's activities. I was trying to explain to him that the bulk of the press in this country has such a vested interest in the status quo that it can't afford to do much honest probing at the roots, for fear of what they might find.

"Oh, I don't know," he said. "Of course I don't like to read all this bullshit because it brings the heat down on us, but since we got famous we've had more rich fags and sex-hungry women come looking for us that we ever had before. Hell, these days we have more action than we can handle."
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Friday, December 6, 2013

VIDEO: Jerry Garcia Talks About the Birth of the Grateful Dead and Playing Kesey’s Acid Tests in New Animated Video

by , Open Culture:

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Before the Grateful Dead recorded their classic eponymous country psych album, before they were the Grateful Dead, they were the Warlocks, “playing the divorcees bars up and down the peninsula,” Jerry Garcia tells us above.

Their booking agent “used to book strippers and dog acts and magicians and everybody else.” Their first few gigs “sounded like hell,” says Garcia, “very awful.”

In this Blank-on-Blank-animated 1988 interview with former Capital-EMI record executive Joe Smith, Garcia gets into the origin of their name (a story involving the East Coast Warlocks, who might have sued. What he doesn’t mention is that the Velvet Underground - inventors of East Coast psych - also played at that time as the Warlocks).

Smith was with Warner Bros. when the Dead were signed in 1967. His relationship with the band then was frustrated, and he went so far as to call the recording of their second album “the most unreasonable project with which we have ever involved ourselves.”

But this conversation is a funny, cordial exchange between two very affable people with surprisingly good memories of the time (Smith also once said the Dead “could have put me in the hospital for the rest of my life”).

Jerry tells the story of their invitation to Merry Prankster and psychedelic genius Ken Kesey’s acid test parties in La Honda, California.

It’s more or less the history of the West Coast acid rock scene and its apotheosis at Haight-Ashbury, so kind of essential watching, I’d say, but at less than six minutes, you can afford to be the judge.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Dark Side of the Moon: The Most Popular Album in Music History

by James R. Coffey,
Founded in 1965, Pink Floyd originally consisted of guitarist Syd Barrett, bass guitarist Roger Waters, drummer Nick Mason, and keyboardist Richard Wright.
While playing London’s underground music scene in the late 1960s, they developed the experimental, progressive rock that would later come to define them. 
Under Barrett’s creative leadership, Pink Floyd released two singles in 1967 that drew the attention of Britain’s and America’s growing pop culture, “Arnold Layne” and “See Emily Play,” as well as a successful d├ębut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.

Fearing, however, that he may have to leave the band due to his increasingly difficult battle with mental illness, Barrett allowed guitarist/ vocalist David Gilmour to join the band in late 1967, then departed from the group the following year.

With bassist Roger Waters becoming the band’s chief songwriter and conceptual leader, lead vocals were shared with Gilmour. 

With this combination, Pink Floyd went on to become one of the world’s most innovative and successful bands in music history, achieving worldwide critical and commercial acclaim with albums like Animals, Wish You Were Here, The Wall, and the most commercially popular album in history, the phenomenal, The Dark Side of the Moon.

Pink Floyd’s eighth studio album, The Dark Side of the Moon is a “concept” album built on creative ideas explored by the band during their live performances and earlier recordings, and based on philosophical themes including conflict, greed, the passage of time and mental illness; the latter inspired in part by Barrett’s deteriorating mental state.

Recorded in two sessions in 1972 and 1973 at famed Beatles’ Abbey Road Studios in London, the group utilized some of the most advanced recording techniques available at the time, including 16-tract recording and tape loops.

Additionally, state-of-the-art analogue synthesizers were used on several tracks, as well as a series of recorded interviews with staff and band members that was infused throughout the 10 songs.

Engineered by Alan Parsons (of the Alan Parsons Project) who’d help engineer the Beatles’ Abbey Road and Let it Be albums, Parsons is credited with adding some of the most notable sound components to The Dark Side of the Moon, including the extraordinary improvised vocal performance by British singer/ song writer Clare Torry on “The Great Gig in the Sky.”

Parsons also made prominent use of flanging and phase-shifting effects on vocals and instruments, innovative use of reverb, and the then-unheard-of panning of sounds between channels (most notable in the quadraphonic mix of “On the Run,” when the sound of the Hammond B3 organ played through a Leslie speaker rapidly swirls around the listener).

Featuring the now iconic light prism on a sea of black cover, The Dark Side of the Moon was released in March of 1973, becoming an immediate success, topping the Billboard 200 and then subsequently broke all popularity milestones both past and present-day by remaining on the charts for 741 consecutive weeks from 1973 to 1988; longer than any album in history.

With an estimated 45 million copies now sold, it is Pink Floyd’s most commercially successful album, breaking record sales all over the world. 

Twice remastered using updated technology, The Dark Side of the Moon remains one of Pink Floyd’s most popular albums and is frequently ranked as one of the greatest rock albums of all times, along side such monumental masterpieces as the Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers, Deep Purple’s Machine Head, and Led Zeppelin’s, Zeppelin IV (“Zoso“), outsold only by AC/CD’s Back in Black and Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

Additionally, two singles, “Money” and “Us and Them” did considerably well on the record charts, with the now ultra-famous sounds of coins clinking and a cash register ringing making “Money” one of the most recognizable song openings ever.

The cuts

Side one

1. "Speak to Me" (Instrumental: Mason) 1:30
2. "Breathe" (Lead vocals: Waters, Gilmour, Wright) 2:43
3. "On the Run" (Lead vocals: Gilmour; Instrumental: Waters) 3:30
4. "Time" (containing "Breathe [Reprise]") (Lead vocals: Mason, Waters, Wright, Gilmour) 6:53
5. "The Great Gig in the Sky" (Lead vocals: Wright; Vocal improv: Clare Torry) 4:15

Side two

1. "Money" (Lead vocals: Waters, Gilmour) 6:30
2. "Us and Them" (Lead vocals: Waters, Wright, Gilmour) 7:51
3. "Any Colour You Like" (Lead vocals: Gilmour, Mason; Instrumental: Wright) 3:24
4. "Brain Damage" (Lead vocals: Waters) 3:50
5. "Eclipse" (Lead vocals: Waters)1:45

All lyrics written by Roger Waters.


David Gilmour: vocals, guitar, synthesizers and production
Nick Mason: percussion, tape effects and production
Roger Waters: bass guitar, vocals, synthesizers, tape effects and production
Richard Wright: keyboards, vocals, synthesizers and production

Additional musicians:

Dick Parry: saxophone on "Money" and "Us and Them"
Clare Torry: vocals on "The Great Gig in the Sky,” and background vocals
Lesley Duncan: background vocals
Barry St. John: background vocals
Liza Strike: background vocals

Doris Troy: background vocals


Alan Parsons: engineering
Peter James: assistant engineering (incorrectly identified as "Peter Jones" on first US pressings of the LP)
Chris Thomas: mixing consultant
George Hardie: illustrations, sleeve art
Hipgnosis: design, photography
Jill Furmanovsky: photography
James Guthrie: remastering supervisor on 20th- and 30th-anniversary editions, 5.1 mixing on 30th-anniversary edition
Doug Sax: remastering on 20th- and 30th-anniversary editions
David Sinclair: liner notes in CD re-release
Storm Thorgerson: 20th- and 30th-anniversary edition designs
Drew Vogel: art and photography in CD re-release


One of the many unique aspects of this masterpiece are the verbal snippets peppered throughout the tracks. During the recording sessions, Waters recruited the staff to answer a series of questions printed on flashcards. 

The interviewees were placed in front of a microphone in a darkened studio and shown such questions as “What's your favorite colour?” and "What's your favorite food?" before moving on to themes more central to the album such as madness, violence, and death.

Questions such as, “When was the last time you were violent?” were followed immediately by “Were you in the right?” Roadie Roger “The Hat” Manifold was the only contributor recorded in a conventional sit-down interview, as by then the flashcards had been mislaid. 

Waters asked him about a violent encounter he’d had with another motorist to which Manifold replied "... give ‘em a quick, short, sharp shock.” Then when asked about death he responded “Live for today, gone tomorrow, that's me.” 

Another roadie, Chris Adamson, recorded the explicit diatribe which opens the album: “I've been mad for f**king years - absolutely years.” 

The band's road manager Peter Watts (father of actress Naomi Watts) contributed the repeated laughter during "Brain Damage" and "Speak to Me,” and his second wife Patricia “Puddie” Watts (now Patricia Gleason) provided the monologue about “geezers” who were "cruisin' for a bruisin'" used in the segue between “Money” and "Us and Them,” as well as the line "I'm not afraid of dying,” part of, "And I am not frightened of dying, any time will do, I don't mind. Why should I be frightened of dying, there's no reason for it, you've got to go some time." 

The closing statement, “there is no dark side in the moon, really. As a matter of fact it’s all dark,” came from the studios' doorman, Gerry O'Driscoll.

Paul and Linda McCartney were also interviewed, but their answers were judged to be “trying too hard to be funny” and were not included on the album. Wings band member Henry McCullough contributed the line “I don't know, I was really drunk at the time.”


Billboard Magazine
Pink Floyd Offical Web Site
The Dark Side of the Moon, the album
Images via:
Band shots and Abbey Road Studios via
Album via

Sunday, December 1, 2013

VIDEO: Jefferson Airplane Wakes Up New York; Jean-Luc Godard Captures It (1968)

by , Open Culture:

Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.

Just when you think you’ve seen everything Jean-Luc Godard has ever shot, something like this surfaces.

If you’re only now considering tucking into the feast that is Godard’s filmography, don’t let his abundance of uncollected odds, ends, clips, and shorts intimidate you.

Not only do they promise a little thrill down the road when you’ve already digested his major works, but they offer quick bursts at any time of the revolutionary cinematic zest with which the filmmaker took on the world.

With the man alive and working, I should perhaps say “the revolutionary cinematic zest with which the filmmaker takes on the world,” but that gets into one of the most fascinating conversations that swirls around him: has Godard still got it?

Some say yes, that his latest picture Film Socialisme presents the logical continuation of all Godard has ever represented; some say no, that the Godard to watch remains the scrappy star of the 1960s’ French New Wave.

In his study Everything is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard, New Yorker film blogger Richard Brody somehow makes both claims. In the chapter “Revolution (1968-1972)” he describes Godard’s improvised method of shooting a 1968 Jefferson Airplane concert:
He took over from the specialists and operated the camera from the window of Leacock-Pennebaker‘s office on West Forty-fifth street, shooting the band on the roof of the Schuyler Hotel across the street (Pennebaker recalled him to be an amateurish cameraman who could not avoid the beginner’s pitfall of frequent zooming in and out). The performance took place without a permit, at standard rock volume: as singer Grace Slick later wrote, “We did it, deciding that the cost of getting out of jail would be less than hiring a publicist …”.
Amateurish or not, a piece of the footage has surfaced on YouTube. Listen to the Airplane perform “The House at Pooneil Corners,” watch Godard’s dramatic swings of focus and zoom as he attempts to convey the spectacle of the band and the spectacle of countless surprised Manhattanites at once, and think for yourself about this peculiar intersection of two bold lines in the era’s alternative zeitgeist.

As Jefferson Airplane co-founder Paul Kantner said in a 1986 interview, “Just for a while there, maybe for about 25 minutes in 1967, everything was perfect.” But these seven minutes in November 1968, from opening shouts to inevitable arrest, don’t seem so dull themselves.

Friday, November 29, 2013

VIDEO: Thelonious Monk Bombs in Paris in 1954, Then Makes a Triumphant Return in 1969

by , Open Culture:

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Thelonious Monk’s popular image as the hippest of the hip in mid-century bebop is well-deserved, but his career trajectory was not without its lame notes, including the loss of his cabaret license for several years after a 1951 drug bust in New York with Bud Powell.

The incident forced him to leave the haven of the Minton’s Playhouse after-hours jam session scene and strike out for new venues and new outlets, such as recording the seminal two-volume Genius of Modern Music in 1952, which featured some of the earliest, most boisterous versions of Monk compositions like soon-to-be standard “Well, You Needn’t.”

In 1954, Monk arrived in Paris where he performed at the Salle Pleyel to an audience that mostly didn’t know him. Patrick Jarenwattananon at NPR describes the night:

[H]e had almost no public profile in France apart from the most hardcore of modern jazz fans; he was nervous and probably drunk; and he followed an enormously popular Dixieland band on stage. Critics in attendance panned him, confused by his unique dissonances and agitated stage behavior. The gig was, as biographer Robin Kelley described it, a disaster.

To make matters worse, Jarenwattananon writes, Monk - used to rhythm players like Art Blakey and Al McKibbon - was apparently “assigned a local rhythm section which was probably unfamiliar with his music.”

You can hear Monk above from a recording he made during that trip, without said rhythm section, playing “Round About Midnight” in his expressively percussive piano style.

Monk’s style, famously described by Philip Larkin as a “faux-naif elephant dance,” was rapidly developing as he came into his own as a bandleader and composer.

But although perhaps a personal milestone (Monk met lifelong friend, patron, and devotee Pannonica de Koenigswarter that night), the Paris gig of 1954 was a bust that haunted the innovative pianist.

And so it was that fifteen years later, Monk returned to the Salle Pleyel with his own quartet. This time, Jarenwattananon tells us, he arrived as an “international star.”

The concert was televised, and, on November 26th, it will be released as an audio recording and DVD simply called Paris 1969 (see Monk’s quartet play “I Mean You” in an excerpt above).

For a short time, you can preview and pre-order individual tracks from the recording or listen to the whole concert straight through at NPR’s site.

It’s a mellower Monk than his mid-fifties incarnation, without a doubt, not the “tap-dancing, elbows-on-the-piano Monk of yore,” writes Jarenwattananon: “But it’s Monk doing Monk, swinging intensely through severe rhythmic crevasses” and generally exuding the confidence and panache of his hero Duke Ellington.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Songs You May Have Thought the Beatles Wrote, But Didn't

Beatles Concert Ticket
Beatles Concert Ticket (Photo credit: b.reynolds)
by James R. Coffey,

While nothing does an old child-of-the-60s heart more good than to see yet another generation of youth embracing the Beatles and their music, in recent months, numerous articles have appeared on sites like Factoizd, referencing supposed “Beatle” songs, that actually weren’t written by the Fab Four at all.

Here is a little clarification as to what the Beatles’ actual contribution to music was - and wasn’t. 

I think I speak for many of my generation when I say that nothing does an old child-of-the-60s heart and soul more good than to see yet another generation of youth around the world embracing The Beatles and their music.

For those of us who lived through that era - from their momentous appearances on the Ed Sullivan show to the announcement of their break-up - we know well the monumental impact they had not only on the world of music, but culture, religion, politics, as well as many of the seeds of change that have come to fruition over the last forty years.

While I certainly don’t wish to in any way dampen that ongoing and resurgent enthusiasm for the band that by most definitions was the greatest and most influential musical force of the 20th century, I have read numerous articles in recent months on sites like Factoizd and Associated Content, mistakenly referencing “Beatle” songs that while performed by the Beatles, and in many cases are most memorable by the Beatles, actually weren’t written by the Fab Four.

And I feel that I would be remiss as both a musician and representative of the 60s if I didn’t provide a little factual clarification as to what the Beatles’ actual contribution to music was - and just as importantly, wasn’t.

This would seem best achieved by singling out those songs many believe the Beatles wrote, but in fact, didn’t. In that the Beatles respected these songs and their creators enough to do cover versions, it seems unlikely that they would want credit for their creation.

For convenience and continuity, I have listed them chronologically in order of the American albums on which they appeared. This does not cover the dozens of cover versions they performed in concert or ended up on bootlegs, or those albums released in Britain.

*Meet the Beatles:


"Till There Was You" is a song written by Meredith Willson for his 1957 musical play The Music Man, and which also appeared in the 1962 movie version.

*The Beatles Second Album:


"Roll Over Beethoven" is a 1956 hit single by Chuck Berry originally released on Chess Records. The lyric of the song mention rock & roll and the desire for rhythm and blues to replace classical music. The song has been covered by many other artists, with Rolling Stone magazine ranking it #97 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

"You've Really Got a Hold on Me" is a 1962 single by Smokey Robinson and The Miracles for the Tamla (Motown) label.

"Money (That's What I Want)" is a 1959 hit single written by Barrett Strong for the Tamla label, written by Tamla founder Berry Gordy and Janie Bradford, and became the first hit record for Gordy's Motown enterprise.

"Devil in His Heart" is a song written by Richard Drapkin, who recorded under the name Ricky Dee. The song was originally recorded as "Devil in His Heart" by The Donays for Correc-tone Records. The song was later picked up by the New York City label Brent and was re-released in August 1962 as "(There's a) Devil in His Heart" with the B-side "Bad Boy,” another Beatle cover.

"Long Tall Sally" is a rock and roll 12-bar blues song written by Robert "Bumps" Blackwell, Enotris Johnson, and “Little” Richard Penniman, recorded by Little Richard in March 1956.

"Please Mr. Postman" is the debut single by The Marvelettes, written by William Garrett, for the Tamla (Motown) label, notable as the first Motown song to reach the number-one position on the Billboard Hot 100 pop singles chart.

*Something New:


"Slow Down" is a 12-bar blues written by Larry Williams.  Released as a single in 1958, it was a rhythm and blues hit that influenced the growing Rock & Roll movement (including John Lennon and Paul McCartney) of the time. It was released by The Beatles in 1965 as a single along with "Dizzy Miss Lizzy," in 1964..

"Matchbox" is a Rock-a-Billy song written by Carl Perkins and first recorded by him at Sun Records in December 1956 and released on February 11, 1957 as a single on Sun Records. It has become one of Perkins' best-known recordings although many Beatle fans aren’t aware Perkins actually wrote it.

*Beatles ‘65:


"Rock and Roll Music" is a song written and originally recorded by Chuck Berry which became a hit single in 1957, reaching #8 in the U.S. charts, and was later covered by both The Beatles and The Beach Boys.

"Mr. Moonlight" is a song written by Roy Lee Johnson, but best known as a cover version by The Beatles which first appeared on the 1964 albums Beatles for Sale (United Kingdom) and Beatles '65 in the United States. The first known recording of the song was by blues pianist Piano Red, recording as "Dr. Feelgood and the Interns.”

"Honey Don't" is a song written by Carl Perkins, originally released on January 1, 1956 as the B-side of the famous "Blue Suede Shoes." It has been covered by more than 20 other artists, including The Beatles, Ronnie Hawkins, and Johnnie Rivers.

"Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby" is a song composed by Carl Perkins adapted from a similar song by songwriter Rex Griffin in 1936. Perkins recorded the song in 1957, changing the music and adding his own lyrics.

*Beatles VI:


"Kansas City" is a 12-bar rhythm and blues song written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller in 1952.  The song was first recorded by Little Willie Littlefield that same year, under the title, "KC Lovin'.”

"Bad Boy" is a song written by Larry Williams, one of several The Beatles covered during their career. Along with "Dizzy Miss Lizzy,” "Bad Boy" was recorded by The Beatles on May 10, 1965, (Larry Williams' birthday), and was originally intended for a solely American release.

"Words of Love" is a song written by Buddy Holly and recorded by him on April 8, 1957. Though it was not a notable hit for Holly, both The Diamonds and The Beatles made considerable hits of it.

"Dizzy Miss Lizzie" is a song composed and sung by Larry Williams in 1958, sharing many similarities with the Little Richard song “Good Golly Miss Molly” (John Lennon was especially fond of this song and frequently performed it during his solo concerts).


Act Naturally" is a song written by Johnny Russell and Voni Morrison, originally recorded by Buck Owens and the Buckaroos, whose version reached number 1 on the Billboard Country Singles chart in 1963.

*Yesterday and Today:


"Act Naturally" is a song written by Johnny Russell and Voni Morrison. (See Help!.)

*Let it Be:


"Save the Last Dance for Me" (“Rocker”) is the title of a popular song written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, first recorded in 1960 by Ben E. King with The Drifters.

Personal Beatles Album Collection (links)
Images via personal collection and

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

VIDEO: Gallery Talk - Duane Allman's 1959 Gibson Les Paul Guitars

Duane Allman's prized 1959 Gibson Les Paul
by Rock Hall, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:

Few guitarists made as lasting an impression in such short order as Duane Allman.

Beyond his work with the his namesake group and principal architects of Southern rock, the Allman Brothers Band, Duane was an in-demand session musician.

A fixture at Muscle Shoals, Duane's playing can be heard on records by Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett, among others, and he famously traded licks with Eric Clapton on Derek and the Dominos' 1970 release Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs.

This 1959 cherry sunburst Gibson Les Paul was acquired by Duane in the fall of 1970, after he fell in love with the instrument jamming with a band called the Stone Balloon in Daytona Beach, Florida.

The guitar can be heard on the seminal Allman Brothers Band live concert recording At Fillmore East.

Recorded at the famed NYC concert hall on March 12 and 13, 1971, sprawling jams such as "Whipping Post," inspired blues including a cover of "Statesboro Blues" and fiery, jazz-inspired epics like "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" showcased Allman's near-singular dexterity and versatility as a true guitar virtuoso.

Recently, the Gibson Custom Shop visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland with guitarist and Country Songwriter Hall of Fame inductee Lee Roy Parnell to research Duane Allman's '59 Gibson Les Paul.

After extensive interviews with historians, previous owners of the guitar and friends of Allman and his band, Parnell concluded that "this particular guitar was the one that Duane used most often to record and perform live."

In 2013, Gibson Custom released a limited edition, painstakingly recreated version of the Duane Allman cherry sunburst '59 Les Paul. That original '59 Les Paul as well as another '59 Les Paul delivered to Duane on June 25, 1971 have long been part of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's collection.

Both 1959 Gibson Les Paul guitars were loaned to the Museum by Duane Allman's daughter Galadrielle. The Allman Brothers Band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

INTERVIEW: Flashback from 1975 - The Rebellious Neil Young

Nearing 30, Neil Young is the most enigmatic of all the superstars to emerge from Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young
His often cryptic studies of lonely desperation and shaky-voiced antiheroics have led many to brand him a loner and a recluse.
Harvest was the last time that he struck the delicate balance between critical and commercial acceptance, and his subsequent albums have grown increasingly inaccessible to a mass audience.

Young's first comprehensive interview comes at a seeming turning point in his life and career.

After an amicable breakup with actress Carrie Snodgrass, he's moved from his Northern California ranch to the relative hustle and bustle of Malibu.

In the words of a close friend, he seems "frisky ... in an incredible mood." Young has unwound to the point where he can approach a story about his career as potentially "a lot of fun."

The interview was held while cruising down Sunset Boulevard in a rented red Mercedes and on the back porch of his Malibu beach house.

Cooperative throughout, Young only made a single request: "Just keep one thing in mind," he said as soon as the tape recorder had been turned off for the last time. "I may remember it all differently tomorrow."

Why is it that you've finally decided to talk now? For the past five years journalists requesting Neil Young interviews were told you had nothing to say.

There's a lot I have to say. I never did interviews because they always got me in trouble. Always. They never came out right. I just don't like them.

As a matter of fact, the more I didn't do them the more they wanted them; the more I said by not saying anything. But things change, you know. I feel very free now. I don't have an old lady anymore. I relate it a lot to that.

I'm back living in Southern California. I feel more open than I have in a long while. I'm coming out and speaking to a lot of people. I feel like something new is happening in my life.

I'm really turned on by the new music I'm making now, back with Crazy Horse. Today, even as I'm talking, the songs are running through my head. I'm excited.

I think everything I've done is valid or else I wouldn't have released it, but I do realize the last three albums have been a certain way. I know I've gotten a lot of bad publicity for them.

Somehow I feel like I've surfaced out of some kind of murk. And the proof will be in my next album. Tonight's the Night, I would say, is the final chapter of a period I went through.

Why the murky period?

Oh, I don't know. Danny's death probably tripped it off. Danny Whitten [leader of Crazy Horse and Young's rhythm guitarist/ second vocalist]. It happened right before the Time Fades Away tour. He was supposed to be in the group.

We [Ben Keith, steel guitar; Jack Nitzche, piano; Tim Drummond, bass; Kenny Buttrey, drums; and Young] were rehearsing with him and he just couldn't cut it. He couldn't remember anything. He was too out of it. Too far gone. I had to tell him to go back to L.A.

"It's not happening, man. You're not together enough." He just said, "I've got nowhere else to go, man. How am I gonna tell my friends?" And he split.

That night the coroner called me from L.A. and told me he'd O'Dd. That blew my mind. Fucking blew my mind. I loved Danny. I felt responsible. And from there, I had to go right out on this huge tour of huge arenas. I was very nervous and ... insecure.

Video: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Tom Waits and Neil Young, Darlene Love and Bruce Springsteen, All Star Jam

Why, then, did you release a live album?

I thought it was valid. Time Fades Away was a very nervous album. And that's exactly where I was at on the tour. If you ever sat down and listened to all my records, there'd be a place for it in there.

Not that you'd go there every time you wanted to enjoy some music, but if you're on the trip it's important.

Every one of my records, to me, is like an ongoing autobiography. I can't write the same book every time. There are artists that can. They put out three or four albums every year and everything fucking sounds the same. That's great.

Somebody's trying to communicate to a lot of people and give them the kind of music that they know they want to hear. That isn't my trip.

My trip is to express what's on my mind. I don't expect people to listen to my music all the time. Sometimes it's too intense. If you're gonna put a record on at 11:00 in the morning, don't put on Tonight's the Night. Put on the Doobie Brothers.

Time Fades Away, as the followup to Harvest, could have been a huge album ...

If it had been commercial.

As it is, it's one of your least selling solo albums. Did you realize what you were sacrificing at the time?

I probably did. I imagine I could have come up with the perfect followup album. A real winner. But it would have been something that everybody was expecting.

And when it got there they would have thought that they understood what I was all about and that would have been it for me. I would have painted myself in the corner.

The fact is I'm not that lone, laid-back figure with a guitar. I'm just not that way anymore. I don't want to feel like people expect me to be a certain way.

Nobody expected Time Fades Away and I'm not sorry I put it out. I didn't need the money, I didn't need the fame. You gotta keep changing. Shirts, old ladies, whatever. I'd rather keep changing and lose a lot of people along the way. If that's the price, I'll pay it.

I don't give a shit if my audience is a hundred or a hundred million. It doesn't make any difference to me. I'm convinced that what sells and what I do are two completely different things. If they meet, it's coincidence. I just appreciate the freedom to put out an album like Tonight's the Night if I want to.

You sound pretty drunk on that album.

I would have to say that's the most liquid album I've ever made. [Laughs] You almost need a life preserver to get through that one.

We were all leaning on the ol' cactus ... and, again, I think that it's something people should hear. They should hear what the artist sounds like under all circumstances if they want to get a complete portrait.

Everybody gets fucked up, man. Everybody gets fucked up sooner or later. You're just pretending if you don't let your music get just as liquid as you are when you're really high.

Is that the point of the album?

No. No. That's the means to an end. Tonight's the Night is like an OD letter. The whole thing is about life, dope and death.

When we [Nils Lofgren, guitars and piano, Talbot, Molina and Young] played that music we were all thinking of Danny Whitten and Bruce Berry, two close members of our unit lost to junk overdoses.

The Tonight's the Night sessions were the first time what was left of Crazy Horse had gotten together since Danny died. It was up to us to get the strength together among us to fill the hole he left.

The other OD, Bruce Berry, was CSNY's roadie for a long time. His brother Ken runs Studio Instrument Rentals, where we recorded the album. So we had a lot of vibes going for us. There was a lot of spirit in the music we made.

It's funny, I remember the whole experience in black and white. We'd go down to S.I.R. about 5:00 in the afternoon and start getting high, drinking tequila and playing pool.

About midnight, we'd start playing. And we played Bruce and Danny on their way all through the night. I'm not a junkie and I won't even try it out to check out what it's like ... but we all got high enough, right out there on the edge where we felt wide-open to the whole mood.

It was spooky. I probably feel this album more than anything else I've ever done.

Why did you wait until now to release 'Tonight's the Night'? Isn't it almost two years old?

I never finished it. I only had nine songs, so I set the whole thing aside and did On the Beach instead. It took Elliot [manager Elliot Roberts] to finish Tonight's the Night.

You see, awhile back there were some people who were gonna make a Broadway show out of the story of Bruce Berry and everything. They even had a script written.

We were putting together a tape for them and in the process of listening back on the old tracks, Elliot found three even older songs that related to the trip, "Lookout Joe," "Borrowed Tune" and "Come on Baby Let's Go Downtown," a live track from when I played the Fillmore East with Crazy Horse. Danny even sings lead on that one.

Elliot added those songs to the original nine and sequenced them all into a cohesive story. But I still had no plans whatsoever to release it. I already had another new album called Homegrown in the can. The cover was finished and everything, [laughs] Ah, but they'll never hear that one.

Okay. Why not?

I'll tell you the whole story. I had a playback party for Homegrown for me and about ten friends. We were out of our minds. We all listened to the album and Tonight's the Night happened to be on the same reel. So we listened to that too, just for laughs. No comparison.

So you released 'Tonight's the Night.' Just like that?

Not because Homegrown wasn't as good. A lot of people would probably say that it's better.

I know the first time I listened back on Tonight's the Night it was the most out-of-tune thing I'd ever heard. Everyone's off-key. I couldn't hack it.

But by listening to those two albums back to back at the party, I started to see the weaknesses in Homegrown. I took Tonight's the Night because of its overall strength in performance and feeling.

The theme may be a little depressing, but the general feeling is much more elevating than Homegrown. Putting this album out is almost an experiment.

I fully expect some of the most determinedly worst reviews I've ever had. I mean if anybody really wanted to let go, they could do it on this one. And undoubtedly a few people will. That's good for them, though. I like to see people make giant breakthroughs for themselves. It's good for their psyche to get it all off their chests, [laughs].

I've seen Tonight's the Night draw a line everywhere it's been played. People who thought they would never dislike anything I did fall on the other side of the line. Others who thought "I can't listen to that cat. He's just too sad,"or whatever ... "His voice is funny." They listen another way now.

I'm sure parts of Homegrown will surface on other albums of mine. There's some beautiful stuff that Emmylou Harris sings harmony on. I don't know. That record might be more what people would rather hear from me now, but it was just a very down album. It was the darker side to Harvest.

A lot of the songs had to do with me breaking up with my old lady. It was a little too personal ... it scared me. Plus, I had just released On the Beach, probably one of the most depressing records I've ever made.

I don't want to get down to the point where I can't even get up. I mean there's something to going down there and looking around, but I don't know about sticking around.

Read more:

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

SPECIAL NOTICE: Experience Hendrix Tour Rides Again

Poster for 2014 Experience Hendrix Tourby , Psychedelic Sight:

Billy Cox once again leads the Experience Hendrix Tour on a nationwide swing beginning in March.

The lineup will be familiar, but vibrant nonetheless.

Notable Hendrix tour veterans include Buddy Guy, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Dweezil Zappa, Jonny Lang, Eric Gales, Eric Johnson, and Cesar Rosas and David Hidalgo of Los Lobos.

Cox, a longtime friend of Jimi Hendrix and a member of Band of Gypsys, provides authenticity on bass.

Performers do songs in the spirit of Hendrix, most of them written by the master. The artists get solo spots, sometimes with other billed performers supporting them.

The axemen won’t all be stars. Experience Hendrix LLC is running a talent contest with the top prize a slot on the tour, all expenses paid.

Key stops are Dallas (March 11), Chicago (March 14), Buffalo, N.Y. (April 1) and Detroit (April 3). No West Coast dates have been announced.

The Experience Hendrix Tour dates back to the summer of 1995, when the Hendrix family hosted a tribute performance at a Seattle music festival. Three years later the concept morphed into the Jimi Hendrix Electric Guitar Festival, also in Hendrix’s hometown of Seattle.

A three-date West Coast tour came in 2004, with Carlos Santana and Paul Rogers among the top-billed performers, and appearances by Hendrix band veterans Billy Cox and Mitch Mitchell.

2007 saw a six-city Experience Hendrix Tour, with Buddy Guy, Robby Krieger, Hubert Sumlin, Robert Randolph and the rhythm section of Cox and Mitchell. Nationwide tours began in 2008.

Other players booked for the 2014 tour so far include Doyle Bramhall II, Chris Layton and Zakk Wylde.

The 2013 guitar competition’s jury will be headed by Janie Hendrix (the sister of Jimi) and engineer/ producer Eddie Kramer. Also aboard is Dave Stewart of Eurhythmics fame. The wannabe site Talenthouse is handling details.

Would-be stars must submit a video of themselves performing a Hendrix track. The deadline is Jan. 15.

The winner gets to perform a song on the tour. Five runners-up receive some modest swag, including a cheap Strat.

Here’s where you can enter the Hendrix tour competition.

The Experience Hendrix Tour dates:

Dallas: Verizon Theater on March 11
St. Louis: Fox Theater on March 13
Chicago: Chicago Theater on March 14
Ames, Iowa: Stephens Auditorium on March 15
Milwaukee: Riverside Theater on March 16
Louisville, Ky.: Whitney Performing Arts Center on March 18
Charleston, W. Va.: Clay Center on March 19
Pittsburgh: Benedum Theater on March 20
Glenside, Penn.: Keswick Theater on March 21
Atlantic City, N.J.: Harrah’s Resort on March 22
Wilkes Barre, Pa.: Kirby Performing Arts Center on March 23
Red Bank, N.J.: Count Basie Theater on March 25
Hampton, N.H.: Hampton Beach Casino on March 27
Albany, N.Y.: Palace Theater on March 28
Waterbury, Ct.: Palace Theater on March 29
Washington, D.C.: Lincoln Theater on March 30
Buffalo, N.Y.: Center For Arts on April 1
Northfield, Ohio: Hard Rock Theater on April 2
Detroit: Fox Theater on April 3

Saturday, November 9, 2013

VIDEOS: The Music, Art, and Life of Joni Mitchell Presented in a Superb 2003 Documentary

by , Open Culture:

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Washington, DC. Follow him at @jdmagness

I grew up with the music of Joni Mitchell often playing in the background of my home life.

For me she blended with the voices of Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Carole King, and other sixties folkies; my mother - who played instruments like dulcimers and autoharps and could not sing or keep time - loved these women. I will confess, I did not.

Familiarity did not breed contempt so much as indifference, and I mistook the softness of the music for cheap sentimentality. This careless listening lead me wrong, especially in the case of Mitchell, whose songwriting is perhaps as poetic, complex, and yet as honest as it gets.

In songs like the absolutely wrenching “Little Green” and the stunning, imagistic “The Hissing of Summer Lawns,” Mitchell’s jazz-inflected compositions demonstrate these qualities in such abundance that they make me shudder.

Her visual imagination is particularly on display in the latter, and that enduring quality comes from a lifelong engagement with art, her own and others.

Mitchell, we learn in the 2003 CBC documentary above, had a childhood ambition to become a painter. She tells us in voice-over “I always had star eyes; I was always interested in glamour.” Music, for her, was a hobby.

Nonetheless, she made a name for herself locally in Calgary as a folk-singing art student in the sixties, “mimicking” Joan Baez and Judy Collins songs at a coffeehouse called The Depression.

A pregnancy - ruinous at the time - thwarted Mitchell’s desire for an art career and, as she puts it, forced her “on the bad girl’s trail, a trail of shame and scandal.”

She gave birth to a daughter (the subject of “Little Green”) and, out of desperation, began to birth her music - through an ill-considered misalliance with first husband and musical partner Chuck Mitchell.

These painful early experiences pushed Mitchell to write, to “develop her own private world,” she says above. A line from “Little Green” captures the emotional nuances of that world: “You’re sad and you’re sorry but you’re not ashamed.”

Watch the full documentary (with Spanish subtitles) to get more insights into Mitchell’s development as an artist and a person. Mitchell is open, lively, and reflective, as you might expect.

She’s as lively as ever as a 69-year-old grande dame of folk music, as you can see in the CBC interview above, taped at her home, where she talks at length about the paintings that line her walls and her songwriting process, while unrepentantly smoking like a chimney.

Friday, November 8, 2013

VIDEO: Joni Mitchell: "Woodstock"

by BenevolentVideos

I came upon a child of god
He was walking along the road
And I asked him, where are you going
And this he told me
Im going on down to yasgurs farm
Im going to join in a rock n roll band
Im going to camp out on the land
Im going to try an get my soul free
We are stardust
We are golden
And weve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

VIDEOS: In One of his Final Interviews, Frank Zappa Pronounces Himself “Totally Unrepentant”

by , Open Culture:

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness.

In a year that marks some significant pop culture 20th anniversaries - Wired magazine, Nirvana’s In Utero, The X-Files - one in particular may get somewhat less press.

This coming December will be twenty years since Frank Zappa died of prostate cancer at age 52, after achieving infamy, notoriety, and finally, actual, run-of-the-mill fame. The latter he didn’t seem to cherish as much, and certainly not during his sickness.

Nevertheless, Zappa sat for a Today Show interview, one of his last, and discussed his current work and failing health.

A young chipper Katie Couric gives Zappa an ambivalent intro as the “bizarre performer with a penchant for lascivious lyrics.” “What few know,” she goes on to say, “is that he’s also a serious and respected classical composer.”

Zappa’s bona fides as a “serious” artist seem to grant him a pass, at least for a bit, from interviewer Jamie Gangel, who begins asking about the successful performances of his work in Europe, where he “sells out concert halls.”

Zappa responds respectfully, but is obviously quite bored and in pain. He’s subdued, downbeat, guarded. Then the inevitable grilling begins.

“How much do you think you did for the sound and how much for the humor?” asks Gangel. “Both,” answers Zappa, “The goal here is entertainment.”

Zappa pronounces himself “totally unrepentant” for his life. In answer to the question “is there anything you’ve done that you felt sorry for?” he simply says, “No.”

And why should he confess on national television? There are many more interesting things to discuss, such as Zappa’s stand against Tipper Gore’s Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) during the legendary 1985 Senate Hearings (along with Dee Snider and, of all people, John Denver).

When the conversation turns to that history, Zappa learns a fun fact about Gore that genuinely catches him off-guard.

The interview goes to some very sad places, and while Zappa hangs in there, it’s not particularly entertaining to see him staunchly refuse to view his condition through Gangel’s lenses. He clearly doesn’t see his illness as theater and won’t play penitent or victim.

A much more lively interview, by a much better informed interviewer, six months before Zappa’s death, is with Ben Watson for Mojo. In both of these moments, however, Zappa insists on the only label he ever applied to himself: he’s an entertainer, nothing more.

Whether touted as a “classical composer” (a phrase he doesn’t use) or thought of as an artist, Zappa to the very end dodged any hint of serious moral intentions in his music, which perhaps makes him one of the most honest musicians in all of pop culture history.

He saved the serious intentions for an arena much more in need of them. His PMRC hearing testimony contains an eloquent statement of his ethos: “Bad facts make bad laws. And people who write bad laws are, in my opinion, more dangerous that songwriters who celebrate sexuality.”