Thursday, June 30, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: How the Hippies Saved Physics by David Kaiser

Charter members of the 'Fundamental Fysiks Group,' circa 1975. Standing, left to right: Jack Sarfatti, Saul-Paul Sirag, Nick Herbert; bottom corner: Fred Alan Wolf.

Story by Peter Dizikes, MIT News Office, MIT on Before It's News:

Every Friday afternoon for several years in the 1970s, a group of underemployed quantum physicists met at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, in Northern California, to talk about a subject so peculiar it was rarely discussed in mainstream science: entanglement. Did subatomic particles influence each other from a distance? What were the implications?

Many of these scientists, who dubbed themselves the “Fundamental Fysiks Group,” were fascinated by the paranormal and thought quantum physics might reveal “the possibility of psycho-kinetic and telepathic effects,” as one put it. Some of the physicists cultivated flamboyant countercultural personas. In lieu of solid academic jobs, a few of them received funding from the leaders of the “human potential” movement that was a staple of 1970s self-help culture.

Those of you who are also interested in breaking new ground in physics can find information about online universities. To become a scientist, a college degree is generally necessary.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

History of the Soul Train Music Awards

Walk on By became Warwick's second internation...Image via WikipediaBy Andy McCarthy

Soul Train began in 1971, as the first African American music variety show in the history of American television, with a format including a dance club ambiance playing the day's most popular urban music, complete with dancing men and women throughout the show, dressed to impress, along with hosts and performances from among major figures in Black entertainment.

Though it initially aired in only the seven cities of Atlanta, Cleveland, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and San Francisco, the show met with a successful start. Within seven months, the show had achieved its goal of airing in syndication in 25 major cities. The show had been the dream of Don Cornelius, the program's founder, producer, and host. His mission had been to establish a vehicle to offer recognition to Black artists who, in the 60's and 70's, did not receive much television air time on other programs that featured music.

The Soul Train Music Awards began in 1987 as a program for honoring each year's greatest achievements in Black music, and to generate more exposure and recognition for the overlooked artists and performers supported by Soul Train's mission. The first year, the award show's hosts included R&B legends Stevie Wonder, Luther Vandross, and Dionne Warwick, with performances from Run DMC, Whitney Houston, and LL Cool J.

Deriving its name from the show from which it sprang, the awards ceremony broadcast includes two hours of live performances by popular R&B, hip hop, and gospel artists. Winners are determined by a voting committee composed of active professionals within various fields of the music industry, including radio programming, music retail, music management, and notable recording artists (as determined by whether their records have reached approved music charts during the past year).

Since the very first year of the awards show, winners have not received traditional crystal awards, but trophies designed as African ceremonial masks, in representation of the heritage and culture from which Black music has derived.

Janet Jackson has received more Soul Train Music Awards than any other artist in the history of the awards, with eight, and is tied with R. Kelly for the record for most nominations, with nineteen. Categories honor best albums and singles of the year separately within the genres of R&B/Soul, Gospel, Jazz, and Rap, along with Best New Artist and a category called The Michael Jackson Award for Best R&B/Soul or Rap Music Video.

A category called The Sprite Award for Best R&B/Soul or Rap Dance Cut was introduced in 2005 and retired in 2007, with its only three winners being for the videos Yeah by Usher, Lose Control by Missy Elliot, and Chicken Noodle Soup by Young B & Webstar. Special awards categories include the Quincy Jones Award for Career Achievement, Heritage Award for Career Achievement, Sammy Davis Jr. Award for Entertainer of the Year, Stevie Wonder Award for Outstanding Achievements in Song Writing, Artist of the Decade Award for Extraordinary Music Achievements, and the Humanitarian Award.

After the show did not air for two years, in 2007 and 2008, in the aftermath of Don Cornelius' sale of his ownership over the Soul Train company to MadVision Entertainment, the show's return in the year 2009 marked the first time that the awards show took place outside of Los Angeles, held in Atlanta's Georgia World Congress Center that year.

The author of this article is 10 year veteran in the crystal awards and recognition gifts industry.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Yardbirds Exalted Drummer and Songwriter Shares an Afternoon With Me

Jim McCartyCover of Jim McCartyBy Ray Shasho

I spent a delightful Thursday afternoon chatting on Skype with legendary drummer Jim McCarty. McCarty is a gifted songwriter and a brilliant drummer who is best known as a founding member for British Invasion rockers The Yardbirds and also for pioneering progressive rock with his band Renaissance.

Besides being one of the most commercially successful and innovative bands in the 60's, the Yardbirds also produced three of the greatest rock guitarist on the planet with Clapton, Beck and Page. The Yardbirds were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1992.

It's ironic how the Brits were influenced by American R&B - while Americans were captivated by the Brits playing their electrified versions of American R&B music.

I found Mr. McCarty to be enchanting, ingenious and spiritual (and just a heck of a nice guy). Here's my interview with Jim McCarty.

First I'd like to say, thank you Jim for taking the time to spend a few moments with me today.

"It's my pleasure."

I've always thought that you were a great drummer. And if it were you that had been Led Zeppelin's drummer from the start, I believe you would have done just as good a job as Mr. Bonham.

"Thank you Ray that's very nice of you to say."

How long have you lived in France Jim?

"About seven or eight years now, I'm down in the South of France in Provence, we love it, very inspirational, makes it very nice to write music and songs."

First of all, I think the Yardbirds were in a class of their own and definitely way ahead of their time. The band had that bad boy image much like the Animals and the Stones. And it didn't hurt to have three of the greatest guitarists on the planet in the group.

"Funniest thing of those three guitar players that are big worldwide stars now, they were born within a radius of 20 or 30 miles from each other. Isn't that odd? They all played in the same band and became worldwide known."

Keith Relf and Paul Samwell-Smith were originally in a band called the Metropolitan Blues Quartet. Then you, Chris Dreja, and Anthony "Top" Topham joined in late May 1963. Did you have to audition for the band?

"No. Paul had this blues group with Keith. Then myself and "Top" Topham the original guitar player and Chris Dreja we were starting another band because we all use to go see the Stones as well. We all use to listen to this blues music coming in from America, it was all very underground at the time and we were all very excited about it. Paul wanted me to come in and play drums; he knew I was more of a rocker. They wanted to extend country blues into a blend of rock R&B. That blues quartet - they were the forerunners of the band. Paul and I went to Hampton Grammer and played in the school group and we did the whole holiday camp thing ... and it was very funny. We put the two bands together, they joined up with our band and some of the guys had to go. We made one band out of two."

I heard that the name Yardbirds was an expression for hobos hanging around rail yards waiting for a train? Who came up with the name?

"Keith thought it up."

Original lead guitarist Anthony "Top" Topham left and in came Eric Clapton in 1963. Did you know Clapton prior to joining the band?

"No I didn't actually, Chris and Keith did because at the Art school where they went in Kingston (referring to Kingston University - Clapton did not graduate). I don't know how well they knew him. I didn't know him until he came to the audition."

Eric Clapton auditioning, that's a good one (we both laughed). John Bonham once said he was impressed by drummer Ginger Baker. Did you take up the drums to emulate one of your heroes?

"I use to be in a youth organization called the Boys' Brigade sorta-semi military, we set up a drumming band, so I use to play the snare drum and I always use to like making the noise. And we use to walk up and down the street and I use to play roles and these sort of marching drum solos. And then I heard early rock and roll - Buddy Holly and the Crickets and Elvis and all that stuff."

Who were some of your favorite drummers?

"I use to like early D.J. Fontana (Elvis' drummer) and all that and the old rock drummers and Jazz - Art Blakey and all those jazz people. I've always loved drumming. "Apache" was always a great drum song done by the Shadows."

We just lost a member of the Shadows recently.

"Yes, Jet Harris" (bassist of the Shadows).

Did you ever play skiffle music?

"We played skiff in our high school band. I suppose sort of early Johnny Cash wasn't far away either you know - Lonnie Donegan was the biggest skiffle star in England, he used to have hit record after hit record. Lonnie use to play ukulele with a trad (short for traditional) jazz band. And he started doing spots playing the skiffle and of course people loved that better then the trad band. He played with Chris Barber's Trad Jazz Band"

By the way, your You Tube drum instruction videos are wonderful; I didn't realize how many different variations there were in playing the drums.

"Oh you like those do you."

So Eric Clapton left the band after about a year or so. Then Clapton recommended Jimmy Page?

"I'm not sure if it was Clapton that recommended Page or our first manager Giorgio Gomelsky. Have you heard about our funny mad Russian manager? American people used to think he was Fidel Castro, he had that sort of image he had a beard and Russian accent. He wasn't totally Russian. But he new Jimmy Page and Jimmy Page used to come to some of our gigs. Of course he was playing all the sessions in London, so he wasn't really interested in joining us at that time. He was doing quite well as a session player and didn't want to go out on the road. Jimmy was a prodigy really."

Was Jeff Beck a referral from Jimmy Page?

"Jeff Beck was recommended by Jimmy. He used to do some sessions with Jimmy. He was an old friend of Jimmy's. He was like Clapton, he could play all the blues stuff and he could play something else as well. He had quite a wide range of styles. He's really taken off the last couple of years. He changed his manager a couple of years ago. Well his manager must have said the only way you're going to get on now is to play all the time. He seems to be playing all the time now. We actually did a track from our 2003 album in his house, the track "My Blind Life" (from Yardbirds Birdland) right around 2003 and he played on it and we recorded it at his house. We stayed there, had some food and drink and a bit of a party and it was fun."

Do you think the Beck-era was the most successful Yardbirds era?

"I think the lineup was probably the best lineup that really were while he was in the band, and of course he was in the band with most of the big early hits, and that sort of worked, the band worked well together, it's a combination in those days. We all put our ideas into the pot and that funny sound came out. And everyone had an interest on it. There were a lot of quite talented musicians in the band".

In 1966, Paul Samwell-Smith decided to leave the group and work as a record producer. Jimmy Page joined the group and played bass?

"He did. It's quite funny now isn't it? He joined the band on bass. After a while Chris swapped with Jimmy. He said this is a bit silly. Chris had never played bass before but actually played quite well at the end. So then the two of them played lead guitar (Beck and Page). It used to work now and then but not all the time. It would probably work better nowadays."

What was your favorite Yardbirds song?

"Favorite Yardbirds song? I suppose "Shapes of Things" was always very exciting for me and "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago," "Shapes of Things" was recorded in Chicago - right when we were at the very top, I like what it spoke about, a great guitar solo and a good performance by everybody. I reckon that was probably my favorite."

Was "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago" written by you and Keith and was it about reincarnation?

"We wrote the basic song. We thought we based it on that, meeting people along our way that we'd seen from another day. I think it was a little before its time."

Do you believe in reincarnation?

"Yea, I do really; I've been through sort of quite a lot of Buddhism. Not quite as serious as Richard Gere is. But it's sort of a basis of what I believe in."

I feel you're a very spiritual person.

"Yea, I'm interested in all that stuff you know. Last time we were over we went to Virginia Beach, to Edgar Cayce's place. It was very interesting; he wrote lots of books, they've got a library with all of his books and gave a talk about what he used to do. He used to do healings for people. He would fall asleep and dream about what they needed or something like that."

Is it true that Jeff Beck was actually fired from the band in 1966?

"Well I suppose it is really. We were doing a Dick Clark tour. Quite a grueling tour actually. Forty date tours- two venues a night, with all the other bands on a greyhound bus. Jeff only did a couple of the dates and he disappeared. He said I can't handle this and he went to California with some girlfriend out there. We ended up doing the whole tour without him. Touring was the only way we could make any money, no record royalties and such."

Talk about Mickie Most, how instrumental was he?

"After Jeff left Mickey Most came in. We were just a 4 piece and really missed having Paul around and of course Jeff. We didn't still have that same nucleus of creative guys. Jimmy suggested Mickey - he was a hit man, he made all the hits. We went to him and to be honest we really didn't gel. No-one could argue with him, it wasn't an open discussion and that's it you know, take it or leave. Some of the songs I didn't even play on, or Chris, we'd come into the studio and there'd be whole lot of session people playing. He had an arranger working for him, and he'd tell us that I could easily teach you all the songs and they'd probably sound a lot better."

Sounds like the beginning of the end.

"We just didn't have the spark and ability to be able to create new songs. We were all very tired as well."

Peter Grant was your manager, what was he like?

"He was the manager yea. He was very good to us. He always made sure we got treated well and got paid. It sort of worked as a four piece. It was very professional and tight. We didn't have Jeff going mad. But then it didn't have that sparkle. And it didn't have that creative thing going on. A song like "Dazed and Confused" was the sort of song we needed - so we brought that into it. Lots of songs like that we brought into our act."

It seemed like at this point the band was transforming into Led Zeppelin? I mean Page was playing his guitar with his violin bow; Grant was your manager, playing "Dazed and Confused." Why wasn't it you behind the drums instead of John Bonham?"

"We got to the point where we just had enough, Keith and myself in particular. We needed a year off or something which is crazy or we had to stop. They really did a couple of our tours and played our set list. At that time it was all based upon a hit single and all the money was on the road. You couldn't afford to stop, it was only when Zeppelin started that the album market got huge. Zeppelin was in the right place at the right time, they had all the energy, they were fresh and they had the set list to start with."

So you and Keith left the band in 1968?

"We started Renaissance and we did a couple of albums with his sister and John Hawken and Louis Cennamo. We put an awful lot of work into it and we set it all up in my house when I use to live in Surrey. And we used to rehearse every day. We just planned on getting this hour set together. That's what we worked on. And we worked on that for quite awhile. And finally we had a whole set. We used to just go and play without stopping. We played it around London and people just loved it."

Renaissance may have been the catalyst for so many progressive rock bands. I'm reminded of bands like Gentle Giant, Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span, King Crimson, etc. Do you think Renaissance was an influence to other progressive rock bands?

"Yea I think so. In Renaissance we sort of put in bits of Beethoven. That's really good fun. That's really interesting. We were one of the first Prog (progressive) Rock bands."

Then after two fantastic albums, the band broke up - but it continues even today without any of the original members. How was that possible?

"It's pretty strange isn't it? We all dropped out. At first we didn't really worry about it you know. We saw it really wasn't working, the touring wasn't really happening, it was too hard. We sorta got into something we had been in before. Sorta that touring sequence. At first we didn't really mind. But somebody said you should have got a percentage or something. I'm not so good at holding onto things" (referring to leaving the Yardbirds and Renaissance).

I heard you didn't like to fly?

"I don't really like to, no. I'm a big claustrophobic. But I've gotten over it really. It's the only way to get anywhere isn't it; I've learned to get over it."

So you formed another band after you left Renaissance?

"I formed this little band called Shoot and did an album, just a band to play my own songs."

Then Keith formed Armageddon in 1975. Great album - I remember getting excited when I bought it.

"Yea, they all went to America and lived in California, I think they took over where Humble Pie left after they broke up. They became the new Humble Pie of A&M."

In May of 1976, Keith Relf was electrocuted.What do you remember about that day?

"Keith got electrocuted. He was going through a bad time with his wife at the time, his wife was an alcoholic, and he was looking after his two boys, having quite a problem dealing with them. At that time we were trying to reform Renaissance with all the original members. The records were still selling, we were all getting royalties. So we all started playing around, messing around with some ideas, and Keith was going through this very bad time with his marriage. And then I went out for a drink with him one night and then the next day I heard he was dead. He was electrocuted, he plugged in his guitar and he didn't have a proper plug, he plugged his guitar into sort of an early synthesizer, he didn't have a proper plug, he just stuck it in the wall and matched it sorta and got a belt and it killed him. I guess he was on his own, nobody could resuscitate him or whatever and also he had a weak system, he only had one lung. He's had some problems with his chest and emphysema, asthma and all that stuff. A great talent gone."

In 1977 you formed Illusion with past members of Renaissance. And then in 1983 the Box of Frogs was formed with members of The Yardbirds.

"Well that was fun. That was all to do with a reunion birthday at the Marquee (Marquee Club). An agent we knew said the Marquee was having its 20th birthday week and they would like the Yardbirds to play, so will you reform the band? We ended up with Paul, Chris and myself. We said this is all good fun. For a couple of nights we had Mark Feltham whose now in a band called Nine Below Zero. He's a very good harmonica player. And we had a guy called John Knightsbridge (guitars) who actually worked with me in Illusion that was a band that came out of that Renaissance reunion thing in the 70's. Then, from their Paul, Chris and myself started to write songs. We gradually built up these songs and then we met John Fiddler, he was in a band called Medicine Head. And John seemed a good singer for the project and got some songs together and it sort of grew. On the first album Jeff Beck played on about four tracks. We recorded in a recording studio down in Surrey. We stayed there and had a bit of a party atmosphere. We got various other guests, Steve Hackett (Genesis) played on it, Rory Gallagher, and on the second one Ian Dury actually sung a song. Jimmy Page also played a track (on the second album). All those albums have just been rereleased for Box of Frogs. The big song was "Back Where I Started," where Jeff played on."

The Yardbirds were then inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1992 - along with The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Booker T. and the M.G.'s, Johnny Cash, Sam & Dave, and The Isley Brothers. Keith's wife April and son Jason were there to honor him. How did it feel to be honored at the event?

"It was fantastic - great! It was great to be honored like that, very nice".

How is Keith's wife, have you seen her lately?

"I saw her about a month ago, we did a gig near London and she came, she was with Jane her sister. I saw John Hawken as well from Renaissance and the Strawbs. The Strawbs are going to be touring with the Zombies. We did a tour with them a couple of years ago in America."

We started talking about crop circles and unearthly events. We shared a common interest in the unknown

"I went in one once - it was quite odd (crop circles). Nobody knows where they come about."

Do you believe in life in other universes?

"Of course, you can't really say that there can't be."

Your latest solo project Sitting On The Top Of Time is a magnificent composition with inspirational messages of positivity, hope and peace. You wrote and sang all the songs on the album, played acoustic guitar, drums and percussions. There are also many other brilliant musicians showcased on the album like pianists Donald Quan and Lou Pomanti, flautist Ron Korb, Canadian bassist George Koller, your friend Steve Hackett (illustrious guitarist from Genesis), French progressive/jazz guitar virtuoso Jean-Michel Kajdan and Toronto-based cellist Anne Bourne. I thoroughly enjoyed the album.

"Steve Hackett is a big Yardbirds fan. He always goes on about the Roger the Engineer album. It's all about being positive, loving and kind."

And what is it like working with young Yardbirds now?

"We have two musicians in the band in their 20's. They're very energetic, the kind of energy Chris (Chris Dreja) and I need to keep going. They're all very good musicians what else can you need."

You'll be headlining Zep Fest soon on May 27th through 29th at National Harbor near Washington DC with Vanilla Fudge. Are there any other upcoming U.S. shows for the Yardbirds?

"Zep Fest seemed a bit strange since we weren't really a Zeppelin tribute band. It seems to be quite organized though and they asked us, and we're going to do it. We planned to tour with John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers but maybe only a few dates. The Yardbirds are going to tour all over beginning in September."

Important note - check the Zep Fest website - the event was recently cancelled!

Thank you Jim, it's been a pleasure talking with you today. If you're ever in Florida, please feel free to be my guest.

"Well, I've got your Skype number now; don't be surprised if you see me ringing in."

I look forward to it Jim.

I want to thank Anne Leighton of Leighton Media. This interview would not have been possible without her generosity.

Visit for tour date information. You can order Jim McCarty's latest solo album Sitting On The Top Of Time at

And don't forget to order my new book called Check the Gs - The True Story of an Eclectic American Family and Their Wacky Family Business - at - It's My Big Fat Greek Wedding with a Rock & Roll twist!

At an age when most kids are just getting rid of the training wheels on their bicycle, Ray Shasho entered into a crazy world of secret lingo and bullying sales tactics at the Chin Lung Art Gallery, his father's retail store on the corner of Thirteenth and F Street in Washington, DC. Check the Gs is the true story of how this bizarre family business changed his world forever. Raised by a Cuban Catholic mother and Syrian Jewish father, Shasho made his first sale at the age of six and never looked back. Life in the family business (and in the Shasho family) was never boring. From FBI interrogations to angry mobs, each new day at the Chin Lung Art Gallery brought with it new adventures. Check the Gs tells a story for everyone who is proud of their family and heritage but not afraid to laugh at its many eccentricities, and for anyone who has ever worked in retail and experienced its humorous situations and misadventures.

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Sunday, June 26, 2011

The 70's: Storytellers, Rockers, and Disco

Stevie WonderCover of Stevie WonderBy Jim Serf

The '70's rolled in and pretty much took up where the '60's had left off. The turbulent '60's had seen the assassination of president John Kennedy and soon after, the shooting of his brother, Robert, an unpopular and seemingly no win situation with the war in Vietnam, and another assassination of a man who was trying to bring about great change, Martin Luther King Jr. But there was light at the end of the tunnel for the U.S. In May of 1969, the first manned moon landing took place.

Not only did America beat the Soviets to the lunar surface, but we did it within the time frame that President Kennedy had proposed some eight years earlier. With all this going on, the music was there throughout.

Accredited online schools are an option for people who have a passion for history. Whether for your personal interest or with the goal of finding a history-related career, history courses can be fascinating.

Music would take a hard shot as well, however, right at the opening of the new decade. After six years of creating and playing music that changed and made history, the Beatles went their separate ways. After about four years of artistic, financial, and personal differences, John, Paul, George, and Ringo called it quits. Their fans were devastated. Their last no. 1 hit was Paul McCartney's, moving 'Let It Be'. All four would have success on their own, but the chemistry and charisma that was the 'Beatles', was gone.

A huge gear was missing in the machine that was rock 'n' roll, but the machine wasn't broke. How could it be? There were still so many great artists that were and had been there. Not to mention new stars that were on the horizon. The hard rocking Led Zeppelin got mellow and poetic with '71's No. 1 smash, 'Stairway to Heaven'.

Singer/songwriters like Elton John, James Taylor, Carly Simon, Neil Young, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, and the late great Jim Croce were filling the airwaves with songs that told stories that spoke to us all, then and now. Black Sabbath, along with front-man Ozzy Osbourne introduced the music to 'Metal Rock'.

Hard-driving, in-your-face, and with no apologies, it struck a very loud core with listeners. Love it, hate it, face it, Metal was here and impossible to ignore. African American artist like "the godfather of soul", James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Al Green, and Sly and the family Stone, were educating and bringing folks of different races together, as well as entertaining. Marvin Gaye's unforgettable classic, 'What's Going On', spoke to rising poverty and crime of the inner-cities.

A new word, "funk" was being used more and more to describe the music that was coming from the black artists of the day. Stevie Wonder expertly mixed soul, funk, and a little touch of rock with mega-hit, 'Superstition' (challenge you not to move to it).

Another genre of rock was developing and growing popular, especially with southern listeners. A combination of country and rock, this new sound was known as 'Country' or 'Southern' Rock. Leading the way were bands like .38 Special, the Almond Brothers, Bad Company, and the legendary, Lynyrd Skynyrd. Their huge classic, "Freebird", is probably being sung along to by partially inebriated, enthusiastic, rednecks as I write this. God knows I have.

Another band with a 'country' twang was the Eagles. Always just a little more rock than country, songs like, "Take It Easy", "One of These Nights", Best of My Love", and the ultra-classic, "Hotel California", along with an almost perfect melodic harmony between the members, made the Eagles one of the most popular, influential bands in pop-music history.

Then, in 1977, the film, "Saturday Night Fever", opened up in theatres. Creating a mega-celebrity out of 23 year-old star, John Travolta. The movie's soundtrack introduced America to the 'Bee Gees' and 'Disco'. The Bee Gees, hit 'Staying Alive' was the no. 1 hit of that year. Lasting only 4 years the "disco era", made stars out of artist like, Donna Summer, Gloria Gaynor, Chic, and, at the top of the totem-pole,the Bee Gees. A pulsing rhythmic beat, along with a soaring choir of instruments like trumpets, the music was 100% dance driven. Although it's reign was short, disco's legacy has out-lived it's sound. Whenever you hear today's dance-club music, your listening to disco, (slightly evolved), but still there.

For just regular, good old-fashioned rock 'n' roll, there was Paul McCartney and his band,' Wings'. The former Beatle was pumping out hit tunes like, "Band on the Run", "Juniors Farm", "With A Little Luck", and the simplistic but very catchy, "Let 'em In". Newcomers', Fleetwood Mac and their ground-breaking album, "Rumors", swept the airwaves in 1976. In 1979, Pink Floyd built an album and called it, "The Wall". It became an instant classic. Blondie sang about a "Heart of Glass", the Kinks met "Lola", but stayed just friends, and Queen promised, "We Will Rock You".

In 1977, an unexpected tragedy occurred. Legendary performer, and the 'King of Rock 'n' Roll', Elvis Aaron Presley died in a Memphis, Tenn. hospital at the age of 42. He had been found unconscious in the bathroom of his Graceland home. Prescription drug abuse was the primary cause.

An entire nation mourned the once dynamic singer's passing. 24-48 hr. musical tributes on the radio and constant television coverage. One got the feeling that some head of state had died, and the truth was not far off. Elvis Presley, it seemed had touched so many people with his music, movies, and his down-home country, manner. He is greatly missed to this day. "Long live the King".

The '70's. Some musical genres came and stayed, some came and went. We regretfully said good-bye to performers that were dearly loved like, Elvis, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Croce, and Janis Joplin. But like the Righteous Brothers sang, "If there's a rock 'n' roll heaven, you know they got a hell of a band"!

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Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Newport Jazz Festival: RI's Historical Improvisation for Jazz Appreciation

Joe Lovano, Newport Jazz Festival, 7/14/05Joe Lovano, Newport Jazz Festival, 2005 - Image via WikipediaBy Eva Pasco

Jazz has been an integral part of African-American culture for over one hundred years. Its strong rhythmic understructure, bit o' the blues, solos, call-and-response patterns, and melodic improvisation bequeath this musical genre with a built-in sexiness or sax appeal!

No surprise, early jazzmen said "to jazz" was to fornicate. Trumpeting a higher note, many literary scholars argue the term originated with Chaucer and Shakespeare. However, musician and songwriter, Clarence Williams, declared he was the first to use the word "jazz" in a song.

Before Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, and Billie Holiday defined jazz on their own terms, the genre's roots can be traced back to slavery on southern plantations. According to "The History of Jazz": To keep up a productive rhythm in the fields, spiritual work songs were created in the style of "call-and-response" where a song leader would call out a line, and the workers would respond to the call.

At the turn of the 20th century, the spiciness of New Orleans homogenized blues, ragtime, and marching band to a style of music formally called "jazz." As African-Americans migrated to northern cities such as Chicago and New York during the Roaring Twenties, jazz took root and sprouted mightily through the 50s until rock n' roll ruled. The Civil Rights movement of the 60s influenced black jazz artists to take greater control over their music, predisposing the genre to reinvent itself which brings us to the origin of jazz appreciation in Rhode Island.

The state of Rhode Island's historical improvisation for jazz appreciation resulted in the establishment of the Newport Jazz Festival, a noteworthy event featuring famous artists from the jazz scene, currently held every August as a three day event at Fort Adams State Park in Newport. The Festival's coming to fruition as a cherished institution on Rhode Island soil is tinged with a bit o' the blues:

History of the Newport Jazz Festival

In 1954, socialite Elaine Lorillard and her husband established the Newport Jazz Festival, billed as the "First Annual American Jazz Festival," held at the Newport Casino of Newport, Rhode Island. The first event featured academic panel discussions and live musical entertainment on the lawns of the Casino, graced with performances by jazz greats. Over the course of two days 11,000 enthusiasts attended the event, whereby major newspapers hailed the festival as a success.

The following year the Casino opted not to host the festival because its lawn and other facilities did not hold up well to the magnitude of such an event. The Lorillards then purchased Belcourt, a large estate built during the Gilded Age, so the show could go on. The neighborhood wasn't too keen on the idea, foreseeing public disturbances.

To put it bluntly, Newport's established upper crust opposed the festival for lack of jazz appreciation, whereas younger members of the elite participated in organizing it, attracting hordes of commoners to the city. Traffic congestion became a big concern. Sufficient lodging not forthcoming, many camped outdoors with or without tents. Since many of the musicians and fans were of African-American descent, racism also factored heavily in the denunciation of future jazz events. Nevertheless, with a little improvisation, the 1955 festival was held at Freebody Park, while workshops and receptions were held at Belcourt.

1956: Duke Ellington performed "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue"

1957: Performances by Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and Carmen McCrae were incorporated in an album released in 1958 - "Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday at Newport"

1958: Sets by Dave Brubeck, Ray Charles, and Miles Davis appeared on subsequent albums - "Newport 1958," "Ray Charles at Newport," and "At Newport 1958"

1960: Performances by Muddy Waters and Nina Simone were released as albums entitled - "At Newport 1960" and "Nina Simone at Newport." That same year the National Guard was called in to quell unruly spectators, so the Newport Jazz Festival was not allowed to happen in 1961. Improvisation procured a replacement billed as "Music at Newport," though it proved unsuccessful.

1962: The festival resumed at Freebody Park. George Wein, an astute businessman hitherto associated with fest ventures, took over the not-for-profit organizational venue, and incorporated the festival as an independent business venture of his own. This festival was documented in a film whose performers include Lambert, Hendricks and Bavan, the Oscar Peterson Trio, Roland Kirk, Duke Ellington, and the Count Basie Orchestra.

1964: Jazz appreciation had outgrown Freebody Park. Wein hosted the 1965 event at Festival Field where Old Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra, played the joint, causing attendance to soar. "Let's fly, let's fly."

1969: A year that will live in infamy, the fest was an experiment in fusing jazz, soul, and rock. Excess crowds with thousands unable to get tickets resulted in major disturbances. In 1971, more of the same ensued as the location could not accommodate all attendees.

1972: Jazz left Rhode Island when Wein decided to move the festival to New York City, renaming it, "Newport Jazz Festival-New York." This gala production consisted of 30 concerts with 62 performers such as Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck, Ray Charles, and Roberta Flack. Though successful, Wein missed the outdoor aspect.

1981: Wein brought the Newport Jazz Festival back to Newport, this time to Fort Adams State Park. Its seaside location afforded a free view of the event to yachtsmen. A daytime-only, alcohol-free format was adopted, and till this day - three stages are used.

Today, Newport trumpets a different tune from its earlier disdain, quite receptive to the continuance of the Newport Jazz Festival in its own backyard as a boost to tourism. In 2007, Wein sold his Festival Productions Company in a merge with producer, Shoreline Media. He took over the reins again in 2009.

"Come fly with me where there's a one man band to toot his flute for you" so to speak, and check the artist lineup of performers scheduled for three days each August at the Newport Jazz Festival website. Meanwhile, residential and out-of-state jazz enthusiasts can enjoy the musical genre of jazz and live performances all year round at the following establishments:

Aspire Restaurant (311 Westminster St., Providence): Considered the capital city's latest hot spot and A-bar, Aspire was the recipient of RI Monthly's 2008 "Best Restaurant and Lounge." Live jazz is featured every Friday night.

Bovi's Tavern (287 Taunton Ave., East Providence): Established in 1947, Bovi's has been the place to come and listen to jazz. Every Monday night, the John Allmark 16 piece jazz band is featured. Live bands perform every Friday and Saturday night.

Chan's Fine Oriental Dining (267 Main St., Woonsocket): "Home of Eggroll, Jazz, and Blues," Chan's has been a RI and national institution since 1905. Its 150 seat Four Seasons Jazz and Blues Club continues to host some of the finest local and international artists, earning a reputation as one of the premier jazz and blues clubs in the country.

Two Jerks Pub and Grill (336 Waterman Ave., East Providence): Every Wednesday night the pub hosts one of the area's best jazz jams.

Jazz continues to evolve and pulsate through its structural elements of rhythm, blues, solos, call-and-response patterns, and above all-melodic improvisation. Rhode Island's Newport Jazz Festival continues to evolve as a cherished institution through improvisational planning to attract great musicians, while accommodating an ever expanding fan base who dig all that jazz.

From its inception in 1954 until the present, numerous masterpieces performed live at the Festival have been preserved in documentary films, albums, or CDs. Whether or not you're able to attend the three day event held annually at Fort Adams State Park-you can improvise by listening to Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Count Basie or perchance Ray Charles playing alto sax for "The Spirit-Feel" (1958), preserved as a Festival blues print, for enjoyment within the confines of home sweet home.

Eva Pasco - Author

A Midlife Journey of Self-Discovery: Winding past Rhode Island's affluent coastal communities, prominent landmarks, cherished institutions, and olive oil spills of the underworld.

FREE EXCERPT (Chapters 1-3)/Convenient Ordering: eBook or Print

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Friday, June 24, 2011

The Group That Changed The World - The Beatles

beatles - abbey roadImage by oddsock via FlickrBy Seth Frank

In 1960, in Liverpool, England, four young men joined together to form one of the most accomplished bands of all time. They would go on to become inspirational to all other bands that came after, leaving a legacy as legends of rock. They continue to find more listeners every day and changed the face of music as we knew it.

Officially making them international stars, all four members of the ensemble were welcomed by Queen Elizabeth II when they were given the highest honor as she knighted them in 1965. From that point on, their unreal popularity only grew and they continued to extend their fan base around the world.

Fans loyally support the remaining members to this day, and even although they were only together for 10 years, The Beatles each worked steadily after the band's disbandment. On December 8th, 1980, when John Lennon was murdered, fans all around the world were saddened and mourned his loss as a whole. The remaining Beatles all took part in musical tributes to their fallen comrade in arms, and though they hadn't formally been a group in 10 years, Lennon's death hit them all very hard.

The next Beatle was lost on November 29th, 2001, when George Harrison fell to lung cancer, leaving only Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr to carry on the legacy of The Beatles. Even after all this time, their esteem has never faltered and still to this day, Beatles vinyl is some of the most enjoyed on the market.

The Beatles were one of the most successful groups of all time, winning an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score for the film 'Let It Be' in 1971, and have also received seven Grammy Awards and fifteen Ivor Novello Awards. They have been earned 6 Diamond albums, 24 Multi-Platinum albums, thirty-nine Platinum albums, and forty-five Gold albums in the United States alone, on top of the four Multi-Platinum albums, 4 Platinum albums, 8 Gold albums, and one Silver album in the United Kingdom, selling more record albums than almost any other band in history.

The Beatles have inspired films, as well as countless other bands, and have proved to be over multiple decades. Although they have been apart for over forty years, they still hold a special place in hearts all over the globe, sculptors have even dedicated pieces of art to the band. Even as their fans continue to age, their songs continue to stay true, entertaining crowds everywhere without fail and setting the bar for all other groups that follow, The Beatles really are legends of rock and roll.

SoundStage Direct, LLC is an online independent store based in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. SSD has the largest selection of Beatles vinyl online. You don't want to miss amazing closeout deals available at our LP outlet! We have record albums for everyone and a variety of genres and formats available and ready to be shipped at your doorstep.

Seth Frank
SoundStage Direct, LLC

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

VIDEO: 1960s Montage

Hey readers,

Here's a great montage of the 1960s - images of the 60s ... The Black Panthers, Jerry Rubin, Woodstock, Abbie Hoffman, and random hippies - all to the tune of "Give Peace a Chance".

Enjoy! And bring back some memories!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bob Dylan Albums - Which Are The Best?

Cover of "Slow Train Coming"Cover of Slow Train ComingBy Jim A. Byrne

I was drinking at the local bar last week when someone asked me this question: "If you were to be isolated in a jungle and could only bring 3 Bob Dylan albums, which ones would you choose to bring?"

This had me thinking - I couldn't give an answer right away, and not just because I already had a good buzz from drinking 5 bottles of beer. I was perplexed because I am a big fan of Bob Dylan. Let me rephrase that, I REALLY LOVE BOB DYLAN!

If you are even remotely aware of American pop culture over the past 4 decades, then it would be really hard to miss the great impact of Bob Dylan's songs. He is considered as one of the greatest dynamic artist in modern American history music. Yes, I need more time to get back in touch with all things D-Y-L-A-N!

I had to admit, I spent an entire week revisiting all my Dylan's CDs to get a compilation of the Top 3 Bob Dylan's albums that I would like to have with me, should I be deserted in a jungle.

Here's my list:

1. Slow Train Coming - Bob Dylan's 19th album. Considered as his 1st attempt since he has become a born again Christian; with songs stressing the importance of Christian philosophy and teachings, and where he expressed his personal faith. Here, Dylan has done the unexpected. The single from this album "Gotta Serve Somebody" became his very first hit in 3 years. Most songs have a Christian theme to it, but you don't need to be a Christian to enjoy it. With the release of this album, a lot of Christians were drawn to his fan base.

2. Blood on the Tracks - This album marked Dylan's return to Columbia after 2 album detours with Asylum Records; considered as the greatest comeback collection of all time. Most of the lyrics in the album tells about anger, heartache and loneliness and is now seen as one of his greatest albums.

3. Blonde on Blonde - Dylan's 7th album released by Columbia records. This album is purely modern rock; and marked the end of the rocking/electronic period for Dylan. The songs have his brand of rock and blues with surreal lyrics and eclectic sound. This album earned the double-platinum.

With this list of Bob Dylan Albums I hope I have introduced the genius of Dylan, especially to those who haven't yet had the privilege of listening to his best work.

Jim A. Byrne is a musician and recording artist who has been writing songs for over 30 years. As well as writing songs for his own Folk and Country Blues albums he has written songs with other people including the pop star Marti Pellow of Wet Wet Wet and Jazz singer Carol Kidd MBE. Visit Jim's website for more tips and to download two of Jim's latest songs for free:

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Best Bob Dylan Albums Ever

Cover of "Basement Tapes"Cover of Basement TapesBy Jim A. Byrne

I cannot forget Bob Dylan's famous quote: "I consider myself a poet first and a musician second. I live like a poet and I'll die like a poet."

True enough, almost all Bob Dylan albums were a reflection of a great poet, as he was one of the first rock artists to infuse social and political commentary into his songs. Most of his music was associated with the anti-war and civil rights movements in the 1960s.

Most Bob Dylan albums include songs that were heavily laden with influence from his exposure to blues, folk and country music.

I have been an ardent Dylan follower for over 30 years since I was introduced to his songs by my music teacher back in grade school. I was instantly hooked to his songs, and found myself spending my evenings listening to his recordings; enraptured by his original, strange and compelling music. If you are a big Dylan fan like me, then you probably are a big fan of these albums, which give a glimpse of his greatness:

1. The Basement Tapes - This is considered as one of Dylan's most influential recordings, and was one of rock and roll's imaginative albums. This album tells a tale, as it all began with Dylan's motorcycle accident back in 1996. Following the incident, he and his band, the Hawkes, began working in a homemade studio in a house basement which they fondly call the "Big Pink." The album was released by Columbia almost 10 years after the songs were laid down.

2. Time Out of Mind - Dylan's 41st album saw him teaming up with multi-instrumentalist and producer Daniel Lanois. The release of this album market a significant moment in his career as this is where he finally discovered a common ground between the folk vibe and blues-rock that he pioneered.

3. Bringing it All Back Home - one of the Bob Dylan Albums that is notable for its 2 sides - acoustic and electric. This album further separated him from his peers in the folk music community, and gave birth to the folk-rock movement.

If you are a Bob Dylan aficionado, then you know too well that there will never be another artist like him - just like there will never be another J.D. Salinger or Woody Allen. In fact, the release of a new Dylan album is an event unto itself. Yes, we are in the midst of greatness.

Jim A. Byrne is a musician and recording artist who has been writing songs for over 30 years. As well as writing songs for his own Folk and Country Blues albums he has written songs with other people including the pop star Marti Pellow of Wet Wet Wet and Jazz singer Carol Kidd MBE. Visit Jim's website for more tips and to download two of Jim's latest songs for free:

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Monday, June 20, 2011

One of the Best Bob Dylan Albums

Blonde on BlondeImage via WikipediaBy Jim A. Byrne

Bob Dylan has created so many great albums in his time; it is a big task to choose the greatest Bob Dylan albums ever made. All of his albums differ, giving his listeners a glimpse of the pride of Hibbing, Minnesota.
Below are my top 3 picks:

1. Bringing it All Back Home - This is a great compilation of all songs electric. Have you heard a more inspired way to go electric?

2. Blonde on Blonde - Considered as one of Dylan's most ambitious creations. It has a sporadic nature that keeps it from being totally accessible with sonic valleys and hills. A sterling example would be "Just Like a Woman" or "Rainy Day Woman."

3. Highway 61 Revisited - Dylan sets the stage with an organ-driven kaleidoscope of images that takes you on a trip to his consciousness for six incredible minutes with "Like a Rolling Stone." This album says everything: no home is ever complete without this collection of songs.

These Bob Dylan Albums show that he was really on a roll!

A lot of people would probably say that The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan or Slow Train Coming should be included in the list; but I am just stating my opinion; and I have listened to Dylan's songs practically all my life. But then again, to each his own.

These Bob Dylan albums definitely have their own tale. His album "Bringing It All Back Home" was created when he evolved from acoustic folk to electric. "Blonde on Blonde" was where he pushed the limits in folk-rock; and if you ask me, this rockin' double album doesn't have a distasteful song in it. "Highway 61 Revisited" was made when was just transitioning to folk-rock.

For my listening pleasure "Blonde on Blonde" is unparalleled. For me, there has never been a more compelling album or a greater personification of an art form. In addition, the lyrics are simply and naturally brilliant! The list of songs from this exceptional double album continues to amaze me until today. Just try listening to the harmonica intro and the sinister horn of "Most Likely You Go Your Way" or the folk-rock and gentle Mowtown accents of "Visions of Johanna," kicking off with the drunken swagger of a band. I listen to them over and over, even after all these years. They should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I rest my case.

Jim A. Byrne is a musician and recording artist who has been writing songs for over 30 years. As well as writing songs for his own Folk and Country Blues albums he has written songs with other people including the pop star Marti Pellow of Wet Wet Wet and Jazz singer Carol Kidd MBE. Visit Jim's website for more tips and to download two of Jim's latest songs for free:

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Sunday, June 19, 2011

BLAST FROM THE PAST: Butley - Simon Gray's Classic Re-Imagined

Cover of "Butley"Cover of ButleyHi all,

Here's a real blast from the past - does anyone remember Butley? Feel free to leave comments about your memories!

Butley - Simon Gray's Classic Re-Imagined
By Adrian J Willings

It's been 40 years since Butley was first written by Simon Gray back in the early 1970's and it is safe to say that it's probably his best known play to date. As a testament to that fact, an anniversary production of the award-winning play is now showing at the Duchess Theatre in London, directed by Lindsay Posner and designed by Peter McKintosh. It's a thoroughly excellent and darkly humorous play with a fresh insight into the modern academic.

Dominic West, famed for his role in HBO's The Wire fills Butley's shoes with the same dark humour and vile tongue as his predecessors - delivering sharp one-liners and snide put-downs just as Simon Gray intended with the original character. It's always nice to see such a well-known star in the West End and it is no different this time.

Some critics have said that West's performance is lacking and he plays too much on the one-line quips, but he certainly adds his own personal touch to the Butley character. Those that remember West from The Wire, will no doubt appreciate his acting skill, changing role so simply to create a believable character that you both love and hate.

For those not familiar with Butley, the story centres on Ben Butley - an alcoholic English University lecturer with problems; A rocky marriage, broken friendships and a never-ending disgust for his students. Butley is in full self-destruct mode and he's taking everyone with him.

The story essentially follows Butley as he spirals into the abyss - losing everything and everyone he loves on the same day. Yet he is a thoroughly intelligent man and it is very rare that you'll see such a character lose it all. Which is where the magic of Butley lies.

"The extraordinary thing about Butley, it still seems to me, is that the play gives us a character who hurls himself towards the destruction while living, in the fever of his intellectual hell, with a vitality and brilliance known too few of us." (Harold Pinter)

Butley is a clever, witty, black comedy which the majority of people will enjoy, but academics and students will revel in. Dominic West adds his own spin to the character, adding a new edge and welcome style.

You'll both love and hate Butley and in all likelihood will leave the theatre feeling doubtful whether he'll ever get his life in order or might these demons become the weapons of Butley's own self-destruction? After all, with all the alcohol, his estranged wife having taken up with the most boring man in London and his friend leaving him, there's not much left in Butley's life.

The supporting cast gel well and the whole play comes together magnificently - a homage to Simon Gray's original work. Yet another thoroughly enjoyable night out at the theatre. Butley is a typically British work, very dark in its humour and clever in its wit.

Find out more about Butley on Simon Gray's website, see the official Butley site or follow the play on Twitter - @ ButleyLondon. Butley is only showing for a strictly limited season at the Duchess Theatre in London between 31 May - 27 August so be sure to book your tickets now so you don't miss out! You won't be disappointed. To save money on Butley tickets visit the UKs leading theatre ticket comparison site where you could save up to 50% on the ticket price.

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

BREAKING NEWS: Spoken word blog tour of new novel - HUCKLEBERRY MILTON and a free giveaway!

Hello to all you hippies out there,

Welcome to the spoken word blog tour based on the new experimental stream-of-consciousness novel HUCKLEBERRY MILTON by Bradley J. Milton which has just been published.

To promote the novel, we're doing a live spoken-word Blog Tour where I read from parts of the novel. It's lyrical, musical, bizarre and bites into everything - four decades of pop culture and hippie music - and it's a barrel of fun.

Here's some info on Bradley and the book.



Businessman and former hippie Huckleberry Milton, his robotic sidekick Jerry Garcia, and a new Jim Morrison look-alike find themselves together on a trip back to the Silicon Valley of the late 1960s in search of a solution to save 21st century America's failing economy.

Can a robotic Jerry Garcia revive the Grateful Dead, playing ad-hoc (and continuous) concerts at local shopping malls, schoolyards and Subway restaurants, jump-starting a sinking economy and leading the way to a new, highly profitable American Dream?

This is the question and struggle as businessman and former hippie Huckleberry Milton, his robotic sidekick Jerry Garcia, and a new Jim Morrison look-alike find themselves together on a trip back to the Silicon Valley of the late 1960s in search of a solution to save 21st century America's failing economy.

Huckleberry Milton, the new psychedelic stream-of-consciousness novel by Bradley J. Milton, is available on Amazon Kindle and all other standard formats.

On the BJM LIVE! Summer Blog Tour, Bradley J. Milton reads excerpts from the book, recorded live and exclusively for the blog.

Here is reading number one from the novel - enjoy!


Here's the coupon link. The first three 1960s Psychedelic Hippie Culture and Music readers can order the book in whatever format you like from this page:

Once the book is in the cart, use coupon code CJ22E and the book will be delivered instantly for free. It expires on July 3.