Saturday, June 29, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: "For Sake of Nation" by Terry Cerata - on the Kennedy Assassination

by Terry Cerata

Possibly no crime has been as written about, debated, or studied as the killing of John F. Kennedy, 35th president of the United States of America.

With the possible exception of his alleged slayer's murder no individual death has been as photographed, filmed and, possibly, audio recorded as well. In the long pantheon of historic acts his killing stands out. For many it's still viewed as an unsolved crime.

If there are any events which have received similar examinations, the Second World War, the American Civil War, for instance, they, though undoubtedly more significant in importance and influence have nonetheless not shared in the positively obsessive concern the JFK assassination has experienced.

Like Abraham Lincoln's murder the crime of November 22, 1963 has been told, repeated, told, and repeated again by legions of others for many decades, with no apparent end in sight.

Unlike the 16th president's demise, however, Kennedy's death has many radically different versions.

Whether or not John Booth and his ragtag cabal of misfits were independent players, mercenaries out to collect a bounty offered by a defeated confederacy, or mere pawns, Lincoln's manner of death has never been in dispute.

Whereas Kennedy's end is not only surrounded in a fog of enigmas from the who and the why, but the how as well. There's not even agreement on the number of bullets which struck the man, let alone the number of assassins.

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary since its occurrence.

And even with the tens of thousands of books, articles, documentaries, and movies espousing whatever angle their authors contrive, proclaiming to conclusively reveal the unadulterated details of this affair, it's apparent the murder's resolution is unresolved for most who still share an interest in it.

Five decades is quite a long time for something to remain a mystery. Particularly one of an event so public as this. Polls and surveys are periodically presented to the public on the Kennedy assassination, revealing a belief that some sort of conspiracy, or not, was behind it.

No more information than that, however. Nothing specific about exactly why such a faith, pro or con, persists, or what depth of knowledge the respondent actually possesses to justify such an opinion.

Merely "a majority of Americans believe this," or 70-odd percent are convinced of that. No more enlightening than chat room blogs. But of course it's never really meant to be.

When the topic of his assassination is highlighted on television, for example, invariably the aim is to ridicule those who harbor views contrary to the official conclusion of a lone gun killer, by the name of Lee Harvey Oswald.

Even if a substantial portion of the various eyewitnesses to events surrounding the crime had a very different story to tell. Kennedy's murder has largely been presented to the public by media reps for entertainment value, not for knowledge.

Simply a device to generate an audience for the purpose of pushing more snack foods and car wax. And that's the other reason this matter is still with us - the media and its collective lax of integrity.

Performers playing the role of journalists, to distract and misinform the ignorant masses. Almost from the beginning John Kennedy's murder was presented to the public as the awful but aberrant deed of some sad unfortunate ne'er-do-well with an ill-defined motive. A nutcase did it. End of story.

No literary presentation has genuinely satisfied the flocks with the definitive expression on the Kennedy killing, not even the work which essentially started it all: The Warren Report.

It appears whatever offering by whichever author on this matter will not fully convince everyone the truth has been revealed, be it by respected investigators, or by smarmy opportunists.

So why should you spend your valuable time wading through yet another tome on this well-trod topic by yet another author whom you've never heard of, and whose credentials may be suspect?

Essentially the answer by now should be self-evident: it isn't important who I am, or who anyone else is for that matter, but whether an honest and reasonable argument has been made which answers hard questions with either indisputable facts, or at the very least intelligent responses.

Earl Warren, Arlen Spector, and Gerald Ford are all well-known people; people whose version of the Kennedy assassination has been judged by most who know it as lacking integrity.

Likewise, authors of thick books on this crime who have name recognition in areas some may view as relevant to understanding how crimes, and particularly murders, are committed have also been scrutinized and have generally fared no better.

It's not reputations, but contributions. Not the messenger but the message is what matters most.

Numerous voices over the years have been quite vague on the explanation of who killed John Kennedy, starting with the panel of esteemed gentlemen for the Warren Commission, their view being that a man named Lee Harvey Oswald was the killer, yet never really ironed down who he was or what actually motivated him to slay the President, other than a meandering, foggy profile cut from the worst fevered fantasies that bunker-addled conservative Americans conjure.

He was a Marxist who worshipped Fidel Castro and espoused the virtues of the Soviet Union, and whose reason for doing it were somewhat unclear but as Oswald was unbalanced (never mind that there's no germane evidence supporting this) that's to be expected.

For the Warren reporters Oswald murdered simply for no reason at all, but what does it really matter as he was crazy.

Conspiracy adherents have not necessarily been any better with their indictments of groups delineated with comic book names like "the shadow government," or "the secret team," or "the powerful elite," without actually naming any specific person within these imagined coteries.

It's simply left to the reader of these writer's words to pick their poison. I'm surprised that "the dark empire" hasn't yet made the list. And of those few who do name names the connections are often an embarrassment in logic, or should be so for those making such claims.

Yet it must also be acknowledged that it has been largely a dedicated cadre of intelligent "nobodies" who are greatly responsible for the truths and facts about this murder which we can and have come to appreciate.

The obvious fact that Kennedy's throat wound was meant to be a head wound makes clear the plan was one bullet fired from a high velocity rifle through his skull. Had this projectile struck it's meant for target there would have been no need for more gunfire.

As the presidential limousine descended the slight incline and curve of Elm Street the bullet intended to blow JFK's brains out went instead through the automobile's windshield. The result of the gunman over compensating for the moving target, tracking his quarry too far down.

The missile then passed John Connelly, sitting directly in front of the President, before entering Kennedy's throat, never exiting his body.

That the bullet evidently hit its target after penetrating the thick windshield, and that there was no known nor reported bullet damage to the car's backseat or trunk, and no damage to the closely following Secret Service vehicle presents compelling evidence that a high velocity rifle fired a missile into the President, which then lodged in his upper torso.

Somewhat similar to the fatal injury suffered by Martin Luther King, but with considerably less devastation.

Observe the famous Abraham Zapruder home movie of the murder.

As the limousine emerges from behind the freeway sign, as Kennedy clutches at his injury, what is John Connelly doing? What does it really look like? A man responding to near fatal bullet injuries to the right of his body, as the official version assumes? Or a man reacting as if something has just passed his left arm?

A through-and-through bullet hole in the car's windshield was detected by numerous onlookers at Parkland Memorial Hospital minutes later.

Some with weapons experience insisted that the hole indicated a bullet shot into the limousine from the front (Secret Service representatives would subsequently display a series of images of several shattered limousine windshields in an effort to discredit eyewitness claims of a single hole).

There's at least one photograph made public showing the windshield purportedly before its removal from the limousine with what appears to be a large crack. Not a complete hole. This photo isn't particularly clear however.

Evalea Glanges, then a second year medical student - and avid hunter, stated the hole was clean through, without cracks, as would be the result from a "high velocity bullet."

The hole was so small that she hadn't immediately noticed it, even after visually searching the body of the car for quite a while.

Some federal agents, Dallas Police, Ford Motor Company technicians, and other eyewitnesses would likewise reveal to researchers that they too saw something similar to Ms. Glanges observation.

Plainly if what witnesses stated and this photo suggest is accurate, a bullet hole just slightly left and near even to the rearview mirror (from JFK's perspective), Kennedy's and Connelly's respective postures to that hole, the angle and location of the car's position on Elm Street at the moment JFK is hit, places a rifleman left-front (southwest) of the limousine.

Undoubtedly many of you will disagree with this premise. I simply ask again, what is Connelly actually doing at exactly the same instant Kennedy reacts to his trauma?

As tragic as John Kennedy's murder was it is necessary still to see the Zapruder film of it in order to get a reasonably factual appreciation of this crime.

Otherwise you allow yourself to be at the mercy of others and their agendas (including mine), describing what they think - or want you to think, is revealed in it.

Such as attempts to convince you that if Kennedy was sitting and tilted a certain way, and if Connelly was turned and bent another way, than one bullet could have done what the lone-nutters insist it did.

Or that the minor difference between elevations of JFK's and the governor's seats made a Texas School Book Depository building trajectory feasible. Theories be damned. Seeing the film for yourself matters.

You'll witness how others in the limousine behave the instant bullets strike. In particular you'll see the actions, or lack thereof, the two Secret Service agents seated at front display. Which may give you reason to question the missile through the windshield claim I've made.

These trained bodyguards appear to notice nothing as presumably noticeable as a bullet smashing through the windshield. I'll give you that.

However, you might also observe how these professional protectors seem pretty much oblivious of anything else shortly afterward as well: of Governor and Mrs. Connelly screaming immediately behind them, for example.

One, John Connelly, heard by several bystanders, yelling in terror, "My God! They're going to kill us all!" And Jacqueline Kennedy shrieking, "No, no, no!!" More sharp noises. In addition to a fellow agent running desperately after them from behind. You know, someone else might have easily construed these as clues.

As a minor digression, one of the legends which has grown around the Zapruder film is that it was first shown to a national American audience on "Good Night America," a television talk show on ABC hosted by Geraldo Rivera.

He and others have claimed, and continue to claim, that Rivera was the first to air this movie nationwide. Those with poor research skills have repeated this fiction.

I guess this is an example of one of the benefits of age, since I personally remember Tom Snyder was in fact the first to air this historic film coast to coast on his late night/early morning talk show "Tomorrow" on NBC in 1975.

Little mention was made it would be showing, as my memory serves. I didn't see it then.

The second person to present this essential piece of evidence was Lou Gordon, who hosted a nationally syndicated late night talk show based in Detroit. This is when I first viewed it, and I particularly remember the gasps from his live audience when the instant Kennedy's death occurred.

I lived in San Francisco at the time, so this was by definition "national." The second time I experienced that same televised response from an audience was from Rivera's show (maybe the distinction was originally meant to be understood as the first "primetime network" airing).

At best he was the third person to air the film nationwide.

It's impossible to know with absolute certitude when or in what sequence subsequent bullets were fired, other than the death bullet, in my opinion.

The projectiles which followed Kennedy's throat wound, not necessarily in the order presented here, came from the Dal-Tex Building, directly across Houston Street from the Texas School Book Depository Building, behind and high from the two gunmen situated at the rear of their prey.

Based on what do I make such an assertion?

The evidence from my perspective is no better than the evidence others have claimed which contradicts it, by "proving" the bullets paths cleanly back to where Mr. Oswald was said to be, by the Warren Commission defenders.

I could show you photos, draw lines to buildings, and do the many other routines you may have come to expect from people discussing this subject. But it really wouldn't prove a thing.

Even if you took surveyor's tools and personally measured what you could at the actual murder site, you'd only get a little closer to the truth, but no more. My main testimony is in what makes more sense to me than not.

It's time to get real. Nearly all of the actual evidence related to this matter was abused through purposeful neglect, and apparent destruction long, long ago. You honestly can't make your case without the tangible items people have talked and talked about over these many years.

A conspiracy can't be proven. But neither can the single gun theory. What can be done is to make a very persuasive presentation which doesn't require exaggerated notions, or ridiculous lies. Or any lie.

This was after all simply a murder. By an orchestrated ambush, but still just a murder. Beings from another galaxy didn't happen to involve themselves in this crime with their big brains, and technology beyond the grasp of puny Earthlings.

This homicide is not all that complicated, aside from the demonstrable subterfuge and deceit by certain others. It's truly not so difficult to understand.

Excerpt from the book "For Sake of Nation" by Terry Cerata, available on Amazon Kindle here at

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Friday, June 28, 2013

The Best Velvet Underground Songs and the Reasons Why

by John O'Malley

It is quite the daunting task to make an argument for the best Velvet Underground songs. They had a very small catalog of albums, only four major releases, and most of the songs are absolute gems.

Though everyone in the world has an opinion on this matter, I have an interesting take on the opinion at hand. I'm not sure how many people discover new music that they fall in love with. Maybe, a friend hands you a CD and it immediately connects with you.

I had just started listening to music when I first heard the Velvet Underground at seventeen years old. As of yet, I did not really break into any great, uncharted territory. "The Doors" was the only band I listened to at the time.

However, being at my sister's one night changed my life forever. We were drunkenly sitting in her living room, sipping Whiskey, when she popped out some vinyl and stumbled over to the record player.

As the static transformed in "Sunday Morning," the very first song off of "The Velvet Underground and Nico," I was immediately transported to a time and place I have never known.

This song is such an interesting choice for the first cut on the album, as they have very few songs that even remotely sound like it.

In addition, whereas the rest of the album has such a biting and droning tone, "Sunday Morning" has one of the most calming effects I have ever heard. However, it is the next song on the album that I believe is the best Velvet Underground song.

After the calm and surreal experience of the first track, we are thrown head first into the fire that became the VU's trademark sound. "Waiting For The Man" showed that this was not just another cookie cutter band from the 60's.

This was something completely unique and different from anything anyone had experienced. The song's raunchy lyrics about waiting for drug dealers in dangerous New York immediately distinguished the band from anything that was going on at the time.

Even the song's arrangement of driving, distorted instruments was something the musical landscape had not witnessed yet. This is the reason why many people attribute the Velvet Underground as the first punk rock band.

The final song I believe is one of the best Velvet Underground songs is "The Gift." No one has ever come close to emulating this song. It is more of a musical story than a song.

The music sounds mostly improvised and is accompanied by John Cale, the bassist and viola player, relating a tale about a man and a woman having relationship problems.

This song showed that this band was full of musicians who not only understood music theory quite well, but could also articulate full stories that were equally interesting and haunting.

I have only covered the tip of the iceberg, but I hope I gave you a glimpse into why this band is so important to me.

John O'Malley wrote this article about the Velvet Underground and has been writing about music for 15 years. If you like the Velvet Underground, he thinks you will enjoy The Next New Nothings.

Click Here to get a copy of their latest single for free.

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Thursday, June 27, 2013

How To Wear The Swinging Sixties

by Sisi S Tsoi

Regimented, angular and shaped or ethereal, gentle and graceful, no matter what your style, the swinging 60s will inspire you.

If there was one word to sum up the entirety of the sixties, it would of course have to be, on-going. Whether you're more interested in what the movie stars wore or what the musicians were rocking, the 60s was a time of great fashion and fun.

The Beatles rose to fame and Rosemary's Baby was released, if there weren't two more prominent and distinctive moments in fashion history we don't know what else could be.

Mia Farrows pixie crop paired with a fantastic array of peter pan collars, floral nightgowns and a hat collection so large it could rival Justin Biebers, we can ignore the fact it's a gruesome flick and focus on what's really important, the clothes.

Although an all male band, The Beatles were responsible for some of the great fashion highlights of the 60s. If it wasn't their versatility and fluid approach to sexuality in regards to style, it was their ability to portray a sense of pride over an androgynous and supple look.

Finding a vintage style sixties dress is perhaps one of the most challenging but equally rewarding shopping trips you might ever be faced with.

Britain in the 60s was all about the mods and the rockers, short dresses, check print and sharp bobs, where as across the pond in America and parts of Europe, the look was very dainty and free spirited.

As soon as you've picked what 60s look you're trying to channel whilst wearing your vintage style dress, your job will be much easier.

Pleated skirts and knitted jumpers for the evening when you're wrapping up warm and pretty paisley and plaid vintage style dresses for when you're out and about during the day. Both outfits can be coupled with a pair of super sweet Mary Janes or a simple pair of ballerina flats.

If you'd like to gravitate towards the ethereal hippie look taking the world by storm over in America, a pair of patterned bell bottoms with thick platforms can give you height and slim out your silhouette, add a wide brimmed fedora and you're sorted! Woodstock here you come!

New York or London, regardless of where you're taking inspiration from, make sure you're rocking a 60s vintage style dress and you're wearing it with the style we know you have!

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Story Behind Simon And Garfunkel's Greatest Hit Songs: "Homeward Bound"

English: Singer-Songwriter duo Simon & Garfunk...
Simon & Garfunkel in Dublin (Wikipedia)
by Garrett Sawyer

Over the years many songs have been written about the varied experience of life on the road.

Many examples come to mind including Grand Funk Railroad's "We're an American Band" ("Out on the road for forty days, last night in Little Rock, put me in a haze") and Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Travelin' Band" ("Take me to the hotel baggage gone oh well").

There's also Dan Fogelberg's "Same Auld Lang Syne" ("I said the audience was heavenly but the traveling was hell."). And of course there's the desolation, quiet fury and desperation of Bob Seger's "Turn the Page" ("And you always seem outnumbered. You don't dare make a stand").

But none capture the loneliness of touring as well as Simon and Garfunkel's "Homeward Bound".

Bear in mind that this song was recorded somewhat hastily after "The Sounds of Silence" became a surprise smash hit in early 1966 without either Simon's or Garfunkel's knowledge.

They had split up by then, Garfunkel having returned to college and Simon touring England as a solo folk artist. Needless to say, they reunited in a hurry.

So who was he writing it for and where was he when he wrote it?

The first question is easier. After moving to England in 1964 in the wake of the failure of Simon and Garfunkel's acoustic folk album "Wednesday Morning, 3.A.M." Simon met Kathy Chitty at his very first club date he played, the Hermit Club in Brentwood Essex.

Chitty, who was only 17, worked there part-time selling tickets. A picture of her can be found on the cover of the solo acoustic album Simon recorded while in England, "The Paul Simon Song Book". Simon and Chitty fell for one another

Kathy was in London when Simon wrote the song but where was Simon? In a railway station, of course. But which one? That's debatable.

But in an interview with SongTalk magazine in 1990 Simon recalled, "That was written in Liverpool when I was traveling. What I like about that is that it has a very clear memory of Liverpool station and the streets of Liverpool and the club I played at and me at age 22. It's like a snapshot, a photograph of a long time ago... ". So Simon claimed Liverpool.

Garfunkel thought it was in the vicinity of Manchester. However, if you go to the rail station at Widnes in Cheshire county in the northwest of England you'll find a plaque commemorating the song displayed on the Liverpool bound platform.

Simon once said of the Widnes railway station that if you ever saw it you would understand why he'd been so eager to quickly return to London.

And so Simon wrote these memorable lines:

"Every day's an endless stream of cigarettes and magazines.
And each town looks the same to me, the movies and the factories."

Although he longed to be back with Kathy in London their relationship was fated not to last. Together they revisited America touring mostly by bus. Kathy went back to England by herself with Simon following a few weeks later.

Simon then came back to America when "The Sound of Silence" hit #1 on the U.S. charts but Kathy, a shy girl by nature, didn't want to have anything to do with Simon's new-found fame. They soon parted ways.

While I tip my hat to the examples I quoted at the beginning about what the experience of the performing musician is like I don't think anyone has ever preserved for us the feeling of isolation like Simon and Garfunkel's "Homeward Bound", where the singer is yearning for the freedom of his own thoughts, the music he enjoys, and the girl he loves.

If you like Simon and Garfunkel's "Homeward Bound" then you'll like a song inspired by the story of a young soldier who returned from Iraq. For a limited time only you can download that song for  FREE by clicking HERE.

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

ALBUM REVIEW: Jeff Beck's Guitar Shop: The Best Jeff Beck Album?

Jeff Beck at the Palais, Melbourne, Australia ...
Jeff Beck, 2009 (Wikipedia)
by Elmo J Karjalainen

I was asked which is the best Jeff Beck album by one of my students.

I bang on about his playing on a regular basis and my student wanted a quick way into the world of Mr. Beck.

He (Beck, not my student) is, after all, one of the true greats of the guitar.

So naturally, which his best album is, should be of some interest.

I thought I'd approach the question by comparing "Guitar Shop" to the rest, since it intuitively seems to have it all.

So is "Guitar Shop" the best Jeff Beck album? He's made a few, to say the least, so there is a lot of competition. And the competition is really stiff.

Just think about "Wired", which starts with Narada Michael Walden's absolutely insane drumming on the song Led Boots (one of my all time favourites). The album also includes the classic "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat".

The album also features Jan Hammer, the man who went on to make the theme music for Miami Vice, on all things key. Then there's "Emotion and Commotion", again featuring a beast of a drummer in Vinnie Colaiuta.

Beck's playing on this album is some of his best, with the phrasing on "Nessun Dorma" second to none. Other tunes that became instant classics for yours truly include "Hammerhead" and "Never Alone". It truly is a great album.

Then there are the slightly more experimental albums. These might not be everyone's cup of proverbial tea, but they are good albums, and they include some of Jeff Beck's best moments. Just think of the tune "Nadia" from "You Had It Coming".

These albums, however, are a bit more uneven than the two albums mentioned above. But if I was to look for a favourite, I would have to go with "Guitar Shop".

Again there's a drummer of the highest order in Terry Bozzio. It features Jeff Beck playing at his best. He also has great tone (well, to be fair, he always has great tone), and the album features great songs.

Actually what sets it apart for me from the rest is that there's not a single on that I ever feel like skipping when listening to it. As if that weren't enough, there's also the stunningly beautiful "Where Were You".

It's a Jeff Beck classic, and the prospect of playing it reduces us mere mortal guitar players to tears. The bends, the harmonics, and especially the tremolo work are unparalleled by anyone.

So all in all the best Jeff Beck album is "Guitar Shop", at least for me. It has great tunes, great playing and everything else. It's the highlight of the career of one of the best guitar players ever to have graced this planet. I think I'll give it a listen now.

If you like Jeff Beck, then you might also check out Elmo Karjalainen. He also plays instrumental guitar music, and it is at times quite influenced by Jeff Beck's amazing playing.

Click here to get two of Elmo Karjalainen's songs for free!

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Monday, June 24, 2013

The Roots and Growth Of Reggae

Lee "Scratch" Perry
Lee "Scratch" Perry
by Andy J Wilson

Ska developed in Jamaican studios in the late 1950s, born of the earlier genre known as Mento.

It is often recognized by its quarter-note walking bass-lines, accentuated guitar or piano rhythms played offbeat, and a drum pattern that emphasizes the 3rd beat in the bar.

The jazz-influence can be heard in the exuberant horn-riffs that are so characteristic of the ska-genre.

The music became a staple for Jamaican and international youth, outside of Jamaica most notably the UK Mods.

Lively, fast-paced and vibrant, ska-music was played at a slower tempo by some musicians. It is believed that this trend had begun when the singer Hopeton Lewis had been unable to pitch his vocal when recording the hit-song "Take It Easy" at a ska-tempo.

By 1968 this trend had caught on with the release of a single by the artist Alton Ellis, which defined and established what became known as 'Rocksteady' as a distinctive genre in itself.

The new genre sounded similar to what we recognize now as reggae but lacked the emphasis on social conscience, protest and spirituality that permeated the early form of reggae.

To its early protagonists, reggae was seen as a progression from rocksteady that had a more grass-roots appeal than it's' more pop-oriented forbears.

Reggae developed from mento, ska, R&B and jazz in the 1960s. The shift from rocksteady was illustrated by the use of the 'organ-shuffle' technique pioneered by Jamaican musicians such as Jackie Mittoo and Winston Wright.

It can be heard in singles such as 'Say What you're Saying' (1967) by Clancy Eccles, and in 'People Funny Boy' (1968) by Lee "Scratch" Perry. "Long Shot (Bus Me Bet)" (1968) by The Pioneers is cited as being the earliest example of the new, slowed-down rhythm that became reggae.

In 1968, a series of genuine original reggae hit-songs were released, notably "Nanny Goat" by Larry Marshall and "No More Heartaches" by The Belltones.

The American artist Jonny Nash had a hit with "Hold Me Tight" which is credited with introducing reggae to the American public. The influence of reggae had by now reached as far as The Beatles, who adopted some of its techniques for their hit-single "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" the same year.

Perhaps the best known and loved example of the authentic reggae pioneers is The Wailers.

Formed in 1963 by Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, they were to transit the whole range from ska, rocksteady to reggae. Their contemporaries include Prince Buster, Desmond Dekker and Ken Boothe.

Besides the musicians who made it happen, were the notable producers such as Coxsone Dodd, Lee "Scratch" Perry, Leslie Kong, Duke Reid, Joe Gibbs and King Tubby.

Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records in 1960, had relocated to the UK by 1962. He was an important figure whose promotion of the reggae genre did much to consolidate its appeal among UK pop and rock fans.

Reggae's appeal was also big in America. In 1972 reggae had found its' way into the influential and prestigious US Billboard Hot 100 chart, with the band Three Dog Night having had a hit with their cover of The Maytones' "Black and White".

By the end of the year Johnny Nash was at number 1 with "I Can See Clearly Now", whose clear reggae/calypso influences were plain to hear.

By 1973, Jamaican culture/music as a valuable pop-cultural asset was very much in its ascendancy. The film "The Harder They Come" starring Jimmy Cliff, did much to introduce foreign audiences to Jamaican culture.

Although the film achieved cult-status, its success could in no way match that of Eric Clapton's song "I Shot The Sheriff" which became a global hit.

It had been produced using all the trickery and technology available in professional music-production and managed to retain some of the original reggae-techniques.

The song, although superficially something of a comical pastiche, nevertheless paved the way for the commercial success of Bob Marley and The Wailers and others.

By the mid-70s, DJs such as John Peel were giving air-time to reggae dub plates and specials. He continued to promote reggae throughout the remainder of his career.

The Jamaican culture from which reggae had emerged was further promoted by UK film-maker Jeremy Marre who documented the Jamaican music-scene in his film "Rock Roots Reggae".

In the late 70s the reggae scene had become a significant, if unlikely element of the then growing UK Punk scene. The DJ Don Letts would often play reggae songs along with punk rock anthems at clubs such as The Roxy.

Established punk bands such as The Clash, The Ruts and The Slits played many reggae-influenced songs. As if taking a leaf from the UK punk scene, UK reggae at this point became more protest/politically-oriented.

Bands such as Steel Pulse, ASWAD and UB40 were typical of this return to a more grass-roots form of the genre.

Steel Pulse, with their public-performances of songs such as the satirically-scathing "Klu Klux Klan", were regarded as being too provocative by the Birmingham reggae scene from which they had emerged.

To get exposure, Steel Pulse became involved with the punk-driven Rock Against Racism movement, often double-billing with notable bands such as The Stranglers.

Come the 1980s, successful pop-acts such as The Police and (to a lesser degree) Culture Club were adopting reggae techniques and molding them into a new, mainstream pop-culture where reggae's inherent easy-on-the-ear sound could flourish in a commercially-lucrative fusion with the UK New Wave.

Bob Marley was by now a huge global star. Steel Pulse are still active and touring. Like other significant movements such as Rock n' Roll, reggae has evolved from parochial grass-roots to become a major global-mainstream genre, profoundly influencing other genres along the way.

The author owns and runs an online clothing shop that specialises in reggae t shirts We have a wide range including Bob Marley, Lion Of Judah, Jah Love and Ska t shirts.

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Friday, June 21, 2013

A Brief History of Rock Legends Led Zeppelin

Cover of "Led Zeppelin IV (aka ZOSO)"
Cover of Led Zeppelin IV (aka ZOSO)
by Martin P. Coleman

When you think of hard rock music, heavy metal or guitar driven music, it's not long before you'd think of Led Zeppelin.

Formed in London during 1968 as the brainchild of legendary guitarist Jimmy Page, Zeppelin was a ferocious touring band until 1980 when the band dissolved after the untimely death of drummer John Bonham.

Jimmy Page was an accomplished studio musician in London, England during the 1960's.

Page's guitar work appeared on a wide variety of tracks and hits from artists like the Who, Joe Cocker, the Rolling Stones, Donovan, Brenda Lee and Van Morrison.

Through this studio experience, Page absorbed and took in all he saw, and in 1965 began producing as well.

Towards the middle of the decade, Page was growing tired of life in the studio, and was unsatisfied playing on some of the more mundane muzak style tracks that came along. While the pay was great, he yearned for more.

So in 1966, Page joined the Yardbirds to replace their bass guitarist Paul Samwell-Smith. Page played electric bass for a bit before switching over to co-lead guitar with his friend Jeff Beck.

Page had actually been offered a spot in the Yardbirds a few years prior to replace Eric Clapton, but turned it down due to his career as a session musician. It was Jimmy Page who suggested that Jeff Beck join the group instead of him.

A few years later, Page would be sharing the stage with Beck. Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page ... all came up through the same group. Simply amazing.

Once Jeff Beck left the Yardbirds, Jimmy Page was then the default lead guitarist. Page and Beck appeared on three Yardbirds recordings together, one of which was "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago".

This track also featured a session musician on bass named John Paul Jones. Jones would also play with Page and Beck on Jeff Beck's solo track 'Beck's Bolero', which also featured Who drummer Keith Moon.

This session gave page an idea to form a supergroup, featuring himself, Moon, Beck and Who bassist John Entwistle.

Keith Moon suggested the name 'Led Zeppelin' for the project based on some comments from Entwistle. The group never materialized, however, due to contracts and scheduling conflicts. However, Jimmy page would still get his supergroup in another way.

The Yardbirds stayed a foursome after Jeff Beck left, and recorded the album 'Little Games' with Page as the main guitarist. The album was a flop, but during this time the Yardbirds live performances were becoming spectacular.

Page excelled at improvisation on stage, and began experimenting using a violin bow on his guitar during the song 'Dazed and Confused', which he would bring with him into the Zeppelin repertoire.

In 1968, the Yardbirds split up after the departure of Keith Relf and Jim McCarty. However, there were still some contractual obligations to fulfill for shows in Scandinavia, and Page needed a band.

Jimmy Page's first choice for a singer was Terry Reid, who declined due to a commitment to go on tour with Eric Clapton's Cream as an opening act. However, Reid suggested Page seek out a young singer named Robert Plant, who fronted the Band of Joy.

Plant had the looks to compete with the other blonde haired frontmen of the time, like Daltrey and Rod Stewart. When Page recruited Plant, Plant convinced Jimmy Page to check out his former bandmate John Bonham to become their drummer.

Page agreed, and was blown away by Bonham's prowess behind the kit. When John Paul Jones heard about Page's new group, he phoned Page and asked to get in on the action.

After one jam session, the band knew it had something special. The first song they played together was 'Train-kept-a-rollin', and all 4 members felt the magic in the air.

The foursome toured Scandinavia first as 'The New Yardbirds', but received a cease and desist letter from former Yardbird Chris Dreja, stating that Page could not use that name. So, the group then became Led Zeppelin officially.

Along with tough manager Peter Grant, Zeppelin foraged ahead, and recorded their first album in just 9 days without any record company backing. Page acted as producer, and Grant then was able to secure an advance from Atlantic Records based solely on Page's reputation.

Record companies were snatching up British Blues Rock acts at that time, and Zeppelin seemed like a home run to Atlantic. Grant secured a deal for Zeppelin that was unprecedented at the time.

The group would get complete control over all of their recordings, including the frequency. They also got complete control over all album artwork and freedom on album promotion.

Led Zeppelin I would be released in the US during January 1969, and featured songs like "Dazed and Confused", "Communication Breakdown", a take on Joan Baez's "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You", and the epic "How Many More Times".

The album was a commercial success, and boosted Zeppelin's concert attendance. Their live shows were spectacular right from the start, and the band would jam out on many of these songs from the first album, adding in new parts, improvising and giving audiences a unique experience at every show.

Zeppelin I was followed up by Led Zeppelin II during the same year. Zeppelin II was recorded during their extensive North American touring schedule, and they'd find free days and open studios where and whenever they could in order to complete the record.

The efforts paid off and Zeppelin II reached #1 on the Billboard charts, knocking out the Beatles Abbey Road, and catapulted the group into stardom.

Hits like "Whole Lotta Love", "Heartbreaker" and "Livin' Loving Maid" made Zeppelin II a success, while the bluesy riffs of "Bring It On Home" and "the Lemon Song" offered fans more blues based rock like Zeppelin I.

For their 3rd album, Plant and Page took time off from touring to settle into a country cottage called Bron-Y-Aur in Wales. The album is mainly folk and acoustic in nature, and showed that Zeppelin was more than just a hard rock act.

Led Zeppelin III surprised many fans and critics, as most were shocked that the group had strayed from its heavier side.

Tracks like "Gallows Pole", "Tangerine", and "Friends" showed that the group was coming into its own, and the opening track and single "Immigrant Song" showed fans that Zeppelin was not abandoning their electric side.

The album artwork for Zeppelin III featured a functioning spinning wheel.

During the 1970s, Led Zeppelin became one of the world's biggest groups. They enjoyed massive commercial success, set concert attendance records, toured in a private jet, and started their own record label Swan Song. The group began to develop a reputation

In November of 1971, Zeppelin released their fourth album. Recorded at Headley Grange, the album artwork featured no mention of their name, only 4 mysterious symbols that represented each member of the band.

This album is often referred to as Led Zeppelin IV, Zoso, Zofo, Four Symbols or Runes. The album became Zeppelin's biggest to date, and featured "Stairway to Heaven", widely considered their most popular songs, and perhaps one of the most played songs in FM radio history.

Other hits like "Rock-N-Roll", "Black Dog" and "When the Levee Breaks" are still stalwarts of classic rock radio today. The band would tour on this album for nearly 2 years.

In 1973, the foursome came back with the release of Houses of the Holy, which was recorded at Mick Jagger's estate on the Rolling Stones' mobile studio. It was Zeppelin's first album to feature an official title that wasn't Led Zeppelin (insert number here).

The album was another chart topper across the globe, and songs like"The Song Remains the Same" and "The Ocean" became concert favorites. Zeppelin also paid homage to the Godfather of Soul James Brown with their take on his funky style on the track "The Crunge".

Houses of the Holy also showcased the keyboard virtuosity of John Paul Jones. "No Quarter" became an ever evolving canvas for Jones to show his skills. The track also featured one of Jimmy Page's most hypnotic and slinky guitar riffs.

Houses was followed up with a double album entitled Physical Graffiti.

It was released on Zeppelin's own Swan Song label, and features the hits "Kashmir", which was influenced by a trip Page and Plant took to Morocco, "Trampled Underfoot" and the song "Houses of the Holy", which was recorded earlier for the album of the same name but left off. Physical Graffiti also featured the epic blues jaunt "In My time of Dying", with Page playing some nasty slide guitar leads.

Zeppelin took a brief holiday in 1975 and planned to get back on the road later that year. However, plans went awry when Robert Plant & his then wife Maureen were injured in a car accident.

This put Zeppelin on hiatus from touring until 1977, but allowed the band to finish its concert film 'the Song Remains the Same' featuring video footage from a 1973 Madison Square Garden performance.

The film was not well received, but still allowed many new fans to embrace the band that may not otherwise have been able to get to a concert. The hiatus also afforded the band a chance to write material for their next album Presence.

Presence featured one of Jimmy Page's finest guitar performance on "Achilles Last Stand", and not to mention some serious drumming from John Bonham on the same track.

Other notable tracks off presence include "Hots on for Nowhere", and an old blues number reinvented called "Nobody's Fault But Mine". The production on Presence still sounds crystal clear, like it was recorded 30 years later.

Led Zeppelin hit the road again in 1977, and set a record for attendance at their show at the Pontiac Silverdome on April 30.

The rest of the tour was troubled, and included John Bonham and several of the Zeppelin road crew being arrested for fighting. The tour then had to be cut short when Robert Plant learned that his 5 year old son had passed away.

Led Zeppelin returned to the studio in 1978 to record In Through the Out Door. It is widely rumored that this album was largely influenced by Plant and Jones, because Page and Bonham were battling with substances.

However, Page's playing is masterful on this record after a close listen, and his solo on the hit song "Fool in the Rain" speaks to that directly. Plant penned the emotional "All of My Love" for his lost son Kerac, and it remains one of Zeppelin's most heartfelt songs years later.

Zeppelin's final triumph may have been their 2 headlining shows at the Knebworth Music Festival in 1979. The shows marked their return to the stage in England.

On September 24, 1980, tour manager Benji LeFevre and John Paul Jones found John Bonham dead in his room. Bonham died from asphyxiation from vomit while he slept after a night of extreme alcohol consumption.

Following Bonham's death, Zeppelin announced they could not go on without their friend. Years later they would reunite for a few performances with Bonham's son Jason filling in for his old man.

The album Coda was Zeppelin's final studio album released in 1982, and was filled with outtakes from their past records.

Led Zeppelin still reigns supreme today. Their records continue to sell, and their songs continue to be heard. Their influence can be heard in many acts that still grace the stage today. In 1995, Led Zeppelin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Martin Coleman is a Led Zeppelin fan from Western New York, and runs the site To see the lyrics to stairway to heaven please be sure to visit the site. Thanks.

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Remembering the Music of the 60s

English: Original oil painting by Pappi, 2008.
Original oil painting by Pappi, 2008 (Wikipedia)
by Anna Mundo

In today's era of Justin Bieber and K-Pop sensations, it is rarely that we find a child or teen who knows the music of the 60s.

For those who do, they definitely belong to a family who takes listening to the oldies music on a lazy Sunday a weekly habit.

The 1960s is the year where pop and rock and roll music are soaring. This is also the year where an all male pop group called The Beatles started to flourish and sweep all the girls off their feet.

Their pop-rock music has invaded the world and became the most requested songs. They are popular not just in United Kingdom but all over the world.

As time goes by, other pop artists like Cliff Richard, The Shadows and Dustry Springfield as well as Tom Jones and Petula Clark hit the music scene with their pop music too.

Along came mid-60s when the music has evolved again and folk music was introduced. Folk music utilizes traditional music and new compositions in a traditional style. It is usually played on acoustic instruments.

Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger are just among of the famous artists who pioneered this kind of music.

In 1965, rock music has emerged in different forms. Such forms include Psychedelic rock, Garage rock, Blues and Roots rock as well as Progressive Rock and Surf Rock which is considered as its most famous kind.

Surf Rock is characterized by being nearly entirely instrumental and by heavy use of reverb on the guitars.

Meanwhile, Garage Rock is a term for perception that many of the bands rehearsing in a suburban family garage. The Beach Boys, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin are just few of the well known rock icons in the industry.

During these years, the music from Brazil called Bossa Nova hit the airwaves too. The origin of this music is from the upscale neighborhoods of Rio de Janeiro and it is known as a fusion of samba and cool jazz.

Some notable artists of Bossa Nova include Antonio Carlos Jobim, Joao Gilberto, and Astrud Gilberto.

The 60s was also the era for R&B and soul music. The record label Motown has several artists and songs that became so popular of which most of the songs are still being revived up to this day.

This is also the time where they have several songs topping the Billboard chart. Artists such as The Supremes, The Temptations as well as The Miracles, The Jackson Five, The Four Tops and James Brown are just some of the most celebrated R&B singers during that time.

It is said that the music of yesterday defines what we have today. As time passes by, the music continues to evolve and it will never stop even after the next generations. For whatever we have today, we truly owe it to yesterday's great musician with immeasurable passion for music.

Anna M is an active contributor of the magic sing and magazine subscriptions blogs. Her topics of interest also includes music in general.

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Monday, June 10, 2013

ALBUM REVIEW: Bob Dylan's "Desire": Gypsies, God, a Volcano, and a Divorce

by Garrett Sawyer

Cover of "Desire"
Cover of Desire
Bob Dylan's "Desire" had songs that wandered all over the map. What follows is just a sample of the wide variety of topics Dylan tackled in just one album.

It's still amazing to think that most of this album was recorded in a single tequila-ridden session in a New York studio.

One More Cup of Coffee

Dylan never seemed to run out of ways to write about his disintegrating marriage to Sara Lowndes. It could be argued that this was another.

In this song, a duet with Emmylou Harris which was written at a corner table in the Greenwich Village Other End nightclub in the summer of 1975, the singer is having a transient relationship with a girl from a family of gypsies.

He finds her intoxicating ("Your breath is sweet. Your eyes are like two jewels in the sky") but she does not return his affection because, it appears, she doesn't give her allegiance to any man.

He's about to leave her to "go to the valley below" (wherever that is) and they're pausing before he leaves, (ergo, the titled "cup of coffee"). He finds her desirable but incomprehensible ("... your heart is like an ocean, mysterious and dark").

Dylan seems to have an unusual talent for idolizing a woman in one line then criticizing her, sometimes sarcastically, in the next.

Oh Sister

How do you use God to court a girl? Dylan shows you how. Invoke the Big Man's name in your cause, implying that He would disapprove if she rejects you.

Heck, suggest that it might even be dangerous for her to cause you sorrow if He's watching. This never worked for me. Guys, I wish you better luck.

Romance in Durango

This lazy, laid back, South-of-the-border ballad is tantalizing but a bit ambiguous. He and his young lover are on the run in Mexico because he killed a man.

He doesn't explain why or what the circumstances are but he's matter of fact about the whole thing ("... what's done is done"). He's optimistic about his chances of escape and is vividly imagining how, once they've escaped, there will be drinking and celebration.

He intends to marry her in the local church. But at the last minute he's shot. He implores his love to take his gun, aim and fire where the bullet appears to have come from. Dylan leaves it up in the air whether he lives or dies, or what her fate is.

Black Diamond Bay

This song is definitely coming in from left field. A cast of colorful characters are going about their business at a tiny Island resort while, unbeknownst to them, a nearby volcano is about to blow its top.

Futility is everywhere. The casino is running full blast as one fellow with terrible luck finally wins it big but he doesn't realize that soon there'll be no place to spend his spectacular winnings.

A foreigner is busy composing his suicide note preparing to hang himself in dramatic fashion even though the volcano will soon obviate his efforts. A soldier proposes to a lovely lady just before lava insures that neither will ever have a life, together or separately.

And as a dull finale to it all the narrator (Dylan in a state of ennui, perhaps?) in the final verse watches news coverage of the complete and total destruction.

Is he affected by all this catastrophic loss of life? No. He simply turns the TV off, dismisses the story as insignificant, helps himself to a beer and laments that he was never going to go that particular Island anyway.


Dylan had written many oblique songs about his failed marriage to Sara Lowndes. This time, for once, he addresses her directly and candidly. She was even in the studio as he recorded it.

In the song he praises her as he loses her, finally pleading with her not to go. Simple, direct, straightforward and heart-wrenching. She filed for divorce a year later in March, 1977.

Bob Dylan wouldn't make another album like "Desire" for years to come. Rolling Stone would eventually rank it #174 on its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

If you like Bob Dylan's "Desire" then you'll like a song inspired by the story of a young soldier who returned from Iraq. For a limited time only you can download that song for FREE by clicking HERE.

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Friday, June 7, 2013

ALBUM REVIEW: Captain Beefheart - Trout Mask Replica

by Adrian M Denning

Trout Mask Replica (1969, UK pos 21)
Frownland / The Dust Blows Forward N The Dust Blows Back / Dachau Blues / Ella Guru / Hair Pie: Bake 1 / Moonlight On Vermont / Pachuco Cadaver / Bill's Corpse / Sweet Sweet Bulbs / Neon Meat Dream Of A Octafish / China Pig / My Human Gets Me Blues / Dali's Car / Hair Pie: Bake 2 / Pena / Well / When Big Joan Sets Up / Fallin' Ditch / Sugar N Spikes / Ant Man Bee / Orange Claw Hammer / Wild Life / She's Too Much For My Mirror / Hobo Change Ba / The Blimp / Steal Softly Thru Snow / Old Fart At Play / Veteran's Day Poppy

You know sometimes, when two old friends get together? Two old best friends, and they have this little 'thing' between them and are able to bring out certain aspects of each others character?

Well, Captain Beefheart hooked up with his old chum Frank Zappa again, and although would later complain of being marketed as 'a freak', the process of writing, recording and releasing 'Trout Mask Replica' was, if nothing else, hugely artistically successful.

Speaking of producer Frank Zappa's influence, well. Captain Beefheart has reportedly said something along the lines of ... "he just sat in the chair and fell asleep whilst we recorded the album" ... which may actually be true.

There are reports the album was recorded in two four hour sessions, flat out. That may very well be true. There are other rumours the album was written AND recorded in something like twelve hours, which isn't true at all.

The release of the 'Grow Fins' box set revealed 'Trout Mask Replica' rehearsal material, the material here was heavily rehearsed, it had to be for music so strange, challenging and complex.

The entire Magic Band, along with Mr Captain Beefheart, all hooked up in a house for a year or so - with little food, and only one band member was allowed to go out and get supplies at a time.

It was a case of mind control, well, a case of 'control' on the part of Beefheart. Not only that, during 'Fallin Ditch', when Rockette Morton tells us "I run on beans" - he's actually partly telling the truth.

A quote from Drummer/Guitarist John French, aka 'Drumbo' tells us the following ... "I remember once going for a month and all we had to eat every day was one four once cup of soya beans". So, there you go!

The way Beefheart wrote was normally on piano, but seeing as he wasn't really a piano player, he'd only be able to play short phrases. These short phrases were then translated to the rest of the band onto guitar, drums, etc. Which explains partly the fractured, seemingly cut-up then stitched back together again nature of the music, on 'Trout Mask Replica' in particular.

Let's take the opening song 'Frownland'. You've got the sound of a drummer seemingly falling over his drum kit whilst he attempts to play it.

You've got two guitars - neither of which sound like they are played by a musician, rather some chubby fingered oaf who only just that minute had picked up the instrument for the first time in his entire life.

On top of all of this, we have Beefheart himself, seemingly ignoring completely the music behind him - but still managing to fit on top of it, all the same.

Back to the Zappa influence. The field recordings of speech and spoken word, 'semi' music, stuff like 'The Dust Blows Forwards' were likely influenced by Zappa. Zappa was always taping everybody, no matter what they were doing or where they were.

The crude lo-fi, cut-up nature of 'The Dust Blows Forwards' is clearly deliberate, and the words Captain Beefheart sings/speaks out, totally surreal - but the intention of the piece becomes clear with lines such as "the wind blowing up, me" - it's humour, total surreal humour.

Arriving after such a quiet, field recording, 'Dachau Blues' is just scary as all anything. Loud, fractured - then moving off into nearly sensible flowing phrases of graspable melody. Then, a farting trumpet sound arrives. Oh, but of course.

And, the good Captain just seemingly ignores everything and does what the hell he damn well pleases over the backing track. 'Dachau Blues' is a total highlight - the sound is very dark and confusing, the way the music moves off in ten directions at once.

'Ella Guru' showcases the 'Trout Mask Replica' duel guitar sound very well, layers and layers and layers of short melodic phrases played amidst challenging and different time signatures.

Does it really sound like each musician is playing a different song? Well, sometimes it does, sometimes it sounds as if everybody is playing in a different studio oblivious to the other musicians and parts. But, everything eventually falls together, and during certain phrases or sections, the band are playing together and sounding just so f*cking glorious that it beggars belief.

'Moonlight On Vermont' is my favourite ever Beefheart recording. The guitars are biting and aggressive and full of great melodic phrases, the vocals here are just astonishing - and the way the song progresses with so many different sections and short phrases and parts, yet still sounds totally together after repeated listening, just amazing.

'Moonlight On Vermont' is aggressive and scary and meaningful too, the lyrics contain layers and layers and layers of meaning to seemingly be unravelled. And, oh my good god, that "Gimmie that old time religion" section is just so glorious I nearly fall out of my chair every time I hear it.

It fades, the sound of Beefheart plugging back into the blues, into Howlin Wolf mode, but Howlin Wolf never EVER sounded as astonishingly brilliant as this.

I've mentioned but a few of the songs on this album, but believe me when I say that all twenty eight songs on this 70 minute plus album are of the same calibre.

It's tough going at times, the relentless assault can dull your ears, but keep listening and something like the very catchy and almost pop melody of 'Sugar N Spikes' will pop up. Well, a pop melody broken into a dozen pieces then thrown seemingly randomly back together again, but it sounds like the only way anybody should ever make music once you get used to it.

'Trout Mask Replica' is so intense, so full of the character of Don Van Vliet - that it proved a hard act for him to follow.

It generally sounds like somebody throwing around nails and falling over drums and breaking guitar strings and scratching blackboards - against the sound of random nonsense ranting vocals on a first listen. Even on a fourth of fifth listen.

Usually I'd hesitate to give such an album a perfect score, but perseverance reaps especially immense dividends with 'Trout Mask Replica', more so than any other album I can think of.

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