Saturday, June 29, 2013

Who Is Bobby Z?

by Kathy Unruh

I like to refer to my favorite folk singer as Bobby Z (A.K.A. Bob Dylan) whose real name is Robert Zimmerman. He changed his last name to Dylan (after the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas) very early in his career.

One of his most popular songs, Knockin On Heaven's Door, was written for a movie score about Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid...

One of the reasons I like Bob Dylan, is because he isn't afraid to speak his mind. His lyrics can be painfully honest and very convicting too. They make an impact on the listener, often providing them with a different perspective to consider.

Bob often stuck his neck out on controversial issues during the Civil Rights movement and the Viet-Nam War era which caused a great divide among people. They either loved him, or hated him, but no one could ever ignore him.

He, himself doesn't really seem to care what anyone thinks. He just does his own thing and remains who he is. There is no hype.

Like all musician/songwriter's, Dylan's songwriting drew from people he admired, the most important influence in his early years being the American folk singer Woody Guthrie.

Woody was a man who cared about and spoke for the people of his generation through songs like This Land Is Your Land.

Woody's son, Arlo Guthrie, was a contemporary of Dylan's who also became famous during the sixties. Arlo wrote the song "Alice's Restaraunt" among others, and was one of the many well known rock icons who performed at the Woodstock festival.

In 1979 Dylan declared that he had become a "born-again Christian" and was heard playing harmonica on the album "No Compromise" with the popular contemporary-Christian recording artist Keith Green.

Dylan later went on to win his first Grammy Award that same year with a Contemporary Chirstian album of his own called "Slow Train Coming."

Bob Dylan's influence on the direction of popular music is legendary. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.

During the ceremony Bruce Springstein said Bob Dylan ... "broke through the limitations of what a recording artist could achieve, and changed the face of rock and roll forever."

Other notable artists such as Jimi Hendrix, The Byrds, Eric Clapton, Gun's and Roses, have covered Dylan's songs and re-created their own hit versions of ...

- All Along the Watchtower - Jim Hendrix
- Hey Mr. Tambourine Man - The Byrds
- Knockin On Heavens Door - Eric Clapton / Guns and Roses

Undoubtedly, the songs that Bob Dylan gave us will continue to inspire musicians and songwriters for years to come.

Free Guitar Lesson Video:
Knockin On Heaven's Door

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Friday, June 28, 2013

Keep Your Political Views Out of My Music! The Demise of Protest Songs

by Ahmed Salifou

Like most industrial operations, the business of creating and selling music is consumer-driven. That is to say, if music buyers want to have their cake and eat it too, music sellers must be able to whip up one mean Red Velvet in order to compete effectively.

Faced with a diverse clientele, individuals tasked with marketing and selling music have to meet an array of demands that encompass all sorts of musical preferences.

So, for instance, if demographic trends suggest that teenage girls respond more favorably to feel-good dance music (for lack of a more stereotypical example), it is up to marketing gurus to introduce them to what would surely be the next Katy Perry or One Direction radio hit.

Music consumers, depending on factors such as age, socioeconomic standing and gender, crave countless varieties of songs; however, if there is a certain musical species that has, over the years, become endangered due to waning consumer interest, it is that of protest music-the genre-less musical domain that, more or less, pushes for social change through political advocacy.

Protest music has left an indelible mark in the annals of music history courtesy of rebellious songs such as Bob Dylan's "The Times are Changing, Gil Scott-Heron's "The Revolution Will Not be Televised" and Public Enemy's "Fight the Power."

Unfortunately, over the past decade, such music has increasingly been passed over in favor of more lighthearted tunes-a phenomenon that has sparked the curiosity of many music critics, myself included.

There are many theories in circulation as to why music consumers are demanding less political inspiration from their favorite artists, most of which posit an overall decrease in political awareness on the part of younger generations.

But, before getting to the meat of such theories, it would be best to revisit the past as a way of getting a better understanding of the extent to which protest music - a melodic medium that once captured the essence of living in an imperfect world-has been reduced to nothing more than an antiquated form of expression.

WWII, Vietnam, Apartheid and Other Reasons to Condemn the Establishment

The WWII era would mark the emergence of protest music in America.

As growing pro-communist sentiments began to transform the political landscape of the mid 40s, musicians such as Woody Guthrie would further such transformation by composing politically-driven folk songs such as "This Land is Your Land"- a popular oldie whose vague lyrics often mask the anti-private ownership message that underlies it.

As Guthrie and fellow folklorists, including renowned artists Alan Lomax and Lead Belly, popularized protest folk music in the 40s, artists such as Bob Dylan would take the sub-genre to new heights in the 60s.

In 1964, Dylan released what many critics consider to be the quintessential protest song: "The Times They Are-a Changing." The song, as the title suggests, serves as an admonition against rejecting the social change that transpired during the Civil Rights Movement.

And if Dylan redefined protest music in the 60s, Marvin Gaye would rejuvenate the very essence of the genre in the early 70s.

Released in 1971 and widely regarded as Gaye's magnum opus, "What's Going On" can be aptly described as a mellifluous commentary on not just the Vietnam War era, but much of the political and social turmoil that plagued an early 70s America.

By the 80s, the domain of protest music had transformed into a vast musical empire whose boundaries encompassed a variety of musical genres, from heartland rock, as Bruce Springsteen's "War" would suggest, to reggae, as evidenced by Bob Marley's "Redemption Song."

As the late 80s/early 90s arrived, the protest music empire would expand to even greater proportions with the emergence of politically-driven rap.

As legendary icons such as Public Enemy reproached police brutality and institutionalized racism with heated rhythmic rhetoric, most notably "Fight the Power," protest music would begin to exude a certain grittiness the likes of which had previously been a rarity in music.

Such grittiness would become all the more common in protest music when Tupac Shakur would steal the hip-hop limelight in the late 90s with the release of unforgettable hits such as "Changes."

As the 90s culminated in mainstream radio subsuming protest music, the 20th century would forever stand as a testament to the latent popularity of exercising free speech through songs.

As previously mentioned, politics has had an everlasting impact on the art of music; however, if there is one major difference between the protest music of today and that of the 20th century, it is that the latter gained the admiration, approval and acceptance of an increasing number of music consumers.

The former, however, since the arrival of the 21st century, has played a diminishing role in the mainstream media. Such phenomenon has struck the curiosity of many critics, including renowned songwriter Billy Bragg who condemned contemporary music for its political naivety.

"Look at what's happening in the world: the credit crunch; our young people getting maimed in a war that nobody knows how to resolve," opined Bragg in an interview with The Guardian.

"When I was first plying my trade, people were willing to talk about these issues. Now they'd rather write about getting blasted than changing the world," he added.

Bragg's sentiments are shared by many fans of protest music: The truth is protest music no longer appeals to music consumers as it once did.

But why? For one, it would not be implausible for one to argue that there is a positive correlation between political awareness and liking for protest music.

And considering the fact that the younger generation, which makes up a considerable portion of music consumers, is not as well-informed as previous generations, it also would not be implausible for one to theorize that an overall decline in political awareness among music buyers has contributed to the fall of protest music.

In the book Young People and Social Change, author Andy Furlong argues, "The trend towards less engagement in politics among the young appears to signal a generational change," adding, "Any decline in political participation among the current generation of young people has to be set against what was perhaps a relatively high level of involvement among the 'baby-boomers' generation who were particularly active in youth counter-cultures."

To the theorist, it is the younger generation's lack of political interest that has contributed to the fall of protest music.

But to the politically-attuned music listener, there is one truth and one truth only: Protest music is slowly sinking into oblivion ... and unless we, music consumers, demand it, music may never again serve as medium through which one can push for a righteous cause while bringing out your inner dancer.

Article Source:!-The-Demise-of-Protest-Songs&id=7816647

Thursday, June 27, 2013

June 1963: The Beatles Create "She Loves You" - and the World Goes Crazy

Police keeping back a crowd of young fans outside Buckingham Palace, London, as pop group the Beatles receive their MBEs.   (Image by Central Press/Getty Images)
Keeping back fans as the Beatles receive MBEs (Central Press/Getty Images)
Historical research can be a slippery slope. If one researcher transforms a generalization into a fact - or if one scholar relies solely upon the errant memory of a primary source - then generations of students are doomed to repeat a story that was never factual to begin with. 
Recently, in the process of writing volume three in my John Lennon series, She Loves You, I discovered just such a historical glitch: a myth about the way that the single "She Loves You" was composed. 
The Beatles 1963
The Beatles 1963
The standard, existing story is that the song was conceived somewhat miraculously.

Long-accepted accounts from distinguished Beatles scholars tell us that "She Loves You" was recorded on July 1st, 1963, and "composed in Newcastle-upon-Tyne the previous Wednesday," placing the song's creation on June 26th, 1963.

There are some slight variations on the story, but they all focus on the "miraculous, one-night conception" of the song.

But both John and Paul offered facts that conflict with this idea. So when exactly did the Beatles begin the composition process for "She Loves You," and how long did it take them to create the song?

Paul McCartney in The Anthology talks frankly about the time he and John spent together on a tour with Roy Orbison (from May 18th to June 9th, 1963) writing the song.

He says, "At the back of the bus, Roy would be writing something like 'Pretty Woman,' so our competitiveness would come out, which was good.

He would play us his song, and we'd say, 'Oh, great, Roy. Have you just written that?' But we'd be thinking, We have to write something as good. And we did. It was 'From Me to You.' "

Beatles clipping

A student of Beatles history immediately sees the glitch here: "From Me to You" was recorded on March 5th, 1963.

Therefore, the song that they would have been working on during the Orbison tour could not have been "From Me to You." It clearly would been their very next creation, "She Loves You."

Indeed, both John and Paul tell us that the song's development was not a bit of good luck, but rather a process of suggesting, culling and compromising on themes and gimmicks, and then finally taking the best of those concepts to produce a final result.

This process took place during the 22 days that they spent together on the Orbison bus - the very setting that Paul inadvertently refers to as the birthplace of "From Me to You." Here is a glimpse at that process:

In The Playboy Interviews, John admitted, "I remember was Paul's idea: Instead of singing 'I love you' again, we'd have a third party. That kind of detail is in work now where he will write a story about someone, and I'm more inclined to just write about myself."

She Loves You

And Paul, in The Anthology, concurs. He states, "I'd planned an answering song where a couple of us would sing 'She loves you,' and the other one would answer, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah.' We decided that it was a crummy idea as it was, but at least we had the idea for a song called 'She Loves You.' "

Beginning with Paul's original plan for a call-and-answer song, the two musicians began to make tactical alterations. Martin Goldsmith in The Beatles: Coming to America tells us that John objected to the simple call-and-answer technique already employed in so many of their cover songs. "We can't be always borrowin' the American thing," John pointed out. And Paul relented.

Next, the two musicians decided to use the "woooo" technique that the Isley Brothers had popularized in their version of "Twist and Shout."

It was the same "wooooo" that singer Kenny Lynch had objected to so vehemently earlier in the year, when Paul and John had discussed using it in "From Me to You."

Lynch had insisted that singing, "wooooo" would make the Beatles seem "like a bunch of poofs." But John had dismissed him summarily with, "What d'ya mean? It'll sound great. We're puttin' it into the act."

Now, the boys did as John suggested. They inserted the much-debated "wooooo" into their new creation, "She Loves You."

The final "gimmick" added to the song was their use of the "yeah, yeah, yeah."

In The Anthology, John acknowledges that it was added almost as an afterthought, after the song had already been planned and written. "We'd written the song, and we needed more, so we had 'yeah, yeah, yeah,' and it caught on."

This piece de resistance, however, almost failed to make the record. Paul's father, Jim, found it inappropriate. "Son, there's enough Americanisms around," he had protested. "Couldn't you just sing, 'Yes, yes, yes!' for once?"

But Paul, sure of the final touches that he and John had selected for the song, stood firm. "You don't understand, Dad," he'd replied. "It wouldn't work."

From the simple concept of a call-and-answer song in the third person to a fully developed hit with hooks and gimmicks, "She Loves You" was finally committed to paper on the night of June 27th in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. But it was weeks in the making.

After a succession of numbers composed separately, the Beatles had now successfully created two songs together. "From Me to You" was written in more rapid-fire fashion, but "She Loves You," was carefully constructed - "custom built," Paul calls it. Not surprisingly, its impact on audiences was unparalleled.

The Beatles became inexorably linked to the "yeah, yeah, yeah" refrain, and to the head-shaking "woooooos," as well. And the third person song - the "true collaboration" carefully penned during the early summer of 1963 - skyrocketed to number one.

It is exciting to think of this song as "dashed off" in a miraculous fashion on one magical night. But history tells us that the song was the product of planning and revision, as was most of the Beatles' career.

In The Anthology, Paul summarizes the Beatles experience thusly: "It was never an overnight success."

When, on June 26th, the boys sat down together in that Newcastle-upon-Tyne hotel room to finalize their plans for "She Loves You," that creative session was the culmination of weeks of discriminating, deliberate and intentional Lennon/McCartney groundwork. And you know that can't be bad.

Jude Southerland Kessler is the author of The John Lennon Series, a nine-volume biography of the musician. She can be reached at

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits By The Numbers

Bob Dylan holds a cue card in the music video ...
Bob Dylan holds a cue card in the music video for "Subterranean Homesick Blues" (Wikipedia)
by Garrett Sawyer

You'd think that with a legendary career like Bob Dylan's that he would have an extremely long "greatest hits" list.

Ironically he hit Billboard's American Top 40 a grand total of only twelve times.

For anybody new to Dylan here's a rundown of the few songs that actually charted, in reverse order from lowest to highest:

Subterranean Homesick Blues, #39 in 1965

His first hit, it contained the classic line, "You don't need a weather man to know which way the wind blows."

George Jackson, #33 in 1971

This was a tribute to the Black Panther leader, George Jackson. Jackson had been shot and killed by guards at San Quentin Prison on August 21, 1971. The famous Attica Prison riot was partially attributed to the shooting.

Hurricane, Part 1, #33 in 1976

This was the first portion of Dylan's eight minute leadoff song from "Desire" about how Rubin "Hurricane" Carter was allegedly framed for a 1966 triple murder in Patterson, New Jersey.

Just Like A Woman, #33 in 1966

Rumored to be about Edie Sedgwick this was a song whose lyrics Dylan, according to historian Sean Wilentz, improvised in the studio by singing "disconnected lines and semi-gibberish". Don't you wish you could improvise like this?

Tangled Up In Blue, #31 in 1975

With his marriage to Sara Lowndes falling to pieces Dylan penned this epic allegory of their relationship, how they came together, fell apart, came back together and fell apart again.

Gotta Serve Somebody, #24 in 1979

Dylan became a born-again Christian in the late 1970s, recorded two albums of gospel music, and lost a few fans (again). This was Dylan's way of reminding everybody (perhaps himself included) that no one is ever totally their own master.

I Want You, #20 in 1966

Rolling Stone declared "Blonde on Blonde" to be the ninth greatest album of all time. It yielded this hit.

Knockin' On Heaven's Door, #11 in 1973

Isn't it nice when you can star in a movie and get a hit song out of it? That's exactly what happened when Dylan starred in Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid.

Positively 4th Street, #7, charted for 7 weeks in 1965

Laden with imagery of retribution this was supposedly Dylan's response to so-called "friends" from the folk community who, from the sound of it, stabbed Dylan in the back (figuratively, of course).

Lay Lady Lay, #7, charted for 11 weeks in 1969

Suddenly Dylan lurched country, recording with Nashville musicians and doing a duet with Johnny Cash.

Rainy Day Women #12 and 35: #2 for one week in 1966

He practically laughed all the way through this gleeful litany of a double entendre. Everybody's got to get stoned, like the adulterous woman in the Gospels nearly was, only to find that he's probably talking about getting high the whole time.

Like A Rolling Stone, #2 for two weeks in 1965

There's not much you have to say about this song. Rolling Stone proclaimed it the single greatest song of all time. In an era when hit songs weren't supposed to run for more than about three minutes or so Dylan's accusatory anthem ran on for over six unprecedented minutes.

And these are just the ones that charted! All this goes to show is that innumerable terrific songs don't necessarily sell, make it to the Top 40 charts or get the radio airplay they genuinely deserve.

The rest of Bob Dylan's "Greatest Hits", if you judge by the quality of the songs themselves, would doubtless make a list that would run several pages.

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Fleetwood Mac Story

by RetroKimmer:

There are  three  Fleetwood Mac lineups. One of them is the blues-oriented band of the late sixties, which arrayed three guitarists (Peter Green, Jeremy Spencer and Danny Kirwan) around the rhythm section of Mick Fleetwood and John McVie

Green inspired B. B. King to say, "He has the sweetest tone I ever heard; he was the only one who gave me the cold sweats".

Green was eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia and spent time in psychiatric hospitals undergoing electroconvulsive therapy during the mid-1970s. Many sources attest to his lethargic, trancelike state during this period.

Early in 1971, a born-again Jeremy Spencer abruptly left the band during a U.S. tour to join the Children of God.

The second key configuration found Fleetwood, McVie and Kirwan joined by keyboardist Christine McVie (born Christine Perfect, she’d married bassist McVie) and guitarist Bob Welch, a Southern Californian who became the group’s first American member and a harbinger of new directions.

This configuration produced a pair of ethereal pop masterpieces, Future Games (1971) and Bare Trees (1972). Kirwan, who was having personal problems, was asked to leave in August 1972.

The remaining foursome, joined by new recruits Dave Walker (vocals) and Bob Weston, recorded Penguin (1973); sans Walker, they cut Mystery to Me (1973).

Drummer Fleetwood heard a tape of theirs at a studio he was auditioning, and the pair were drafted into the group without so much as a formal audition. This lineup proved far and away to be Fleetwood Mac’s most durable and successful.

Finally, the platinum edition of Fleetwood Mac came together in 1975 with the recruitment of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. The San Francisco duo had previously cut an album together as Buckingham-Nicks.

In addition to the most solid rhythm section in rock, this classic lineup contained strong vocalists and songwriters in Buckingham, Nicks and Christine McVie. Male and female points of view were offered with unusual candor on the watershed albums Fleetwood Mac (1975) and Rumours (1977).

Monday, June 24, 2013

You Aren't Like Them: Timothy Leary

by Retro Kimmer:

“Admit it. You aren’t like them. You’re not even close. You may occasionally dress yourself up as one of them, watch the same mindless television shows as they do, maybe even eat the same fast food sometimes. But it seems that the more you try to fit in, the more you feel like an outsider, watching the “normal people” as they go about their automatic existences.

For every time you say club passwords like “Have a nice day” and “Weather’s awful today, eh?”, you yearn inside to say forbidden things like “Tell me something that makes you cry” or “What do you think deja vu is for?” Face it, you even want to talk to that girl in the elevator.

But what if that girl in the elevator (and the balding man who walks past your cubicle at work) are thinking the same thing? Who knows what you might learn from taking a chance on conversation with a stranger? Everyone carries a piece of the puzzle. Nobody comes into your life by mere coincidence. Trust your instincts. Do the unexpected. Find the others…”. - Timothy Leary.

Thanks to Paul Metler for reminding us ...

Friday, June 21, 2013

ALBUM REVIEW: A Retrospective Look Back At Neil Young's "Harvest", Part 3

Black and white photo of Neil Young singing at...
Neil Young, 1976 (Wikipedia)
by Garrett Sawyer

Neil Young's "Harvest" closes out with the following songs, in order ...


This is the companion piece to "Southern Man" from the "After the Gold Rush" album. They have the same instrumentation and even the same tempo.

Though lyrically not as direct and in-your-face as "Southern Man" was this quiet diatribe nonetheless is another obvious challenge to southern racism.

(Sample lyric: "Alabama, you got the weight on your shoulders that's breaking your back. Your Cadillac has got a wheel in the ditch and a wheel on the track").

The Needle and the Damage Done

Recorded in front of a live audience at Royce Hall, UCLA in January of 1971 this is the only live track from the album.

This is not the only song in the rock universe that deals with the tragedy, havoc and devastation caused by heroin addiction (U2's terrific "Running to Stand Still" from the classic "Joshua Tree" album comes to mind).

But Young captured it as well as anyone before or since with this stark, spare tune about his firsthand experience seeing the "damage done".

Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten was the first. Whitten was a close friend of Young's. But when he brought Whitten and the rest of Crazy Horse in for rehearsal for the 1971 tour that he was planning one session was enough to show Young that Whitten, who was still trying to kick his heroin habit, was in terrible shape.

Whitten couldn't remember anything. He couldn't even hold his guitar. Young fired him on the spot, gave him a plane ticket back to Los Angeles and $50 for rehab.

Whitten, heartbreakingly, overdosed that very night on Valium (which he was taking for severe arthritis of his knees) and alcohol, which he was using to treat himself for his heroin addiction. He died on November 18, 1972.

Young felt responsible for Whitten's death. It took him years to stop blaming himself. Unfortunately, Whitten was not the last heroin victim to touch Young's life.

Bruce Berry, another friend and a roadie for the band, came next, dying from a heroin overdose only a few months later. Berry's death would inspire "Tonight's the Night", which would become the title track of Young's 1975 album of the same name.


Again, what the heck is he talking about here? And who cares when the song sounds this good? In the instrumental he displays a John Lennon-like ingenuity with the key signature, using an unusual 11/8 time instead of the standard 4/4.

For your amusement, when everything was recorded and it was time to mix the tracks part of the job was done at Young's personal ranch home where he had the engineer rig the right hand speaker to his house and the left hand speaker to his barn.

Then Young, David Crosby, and Graham Nash would sit outside between the one and the other and listen to the playback. At one point when asked how it was going Neil Young said "More barn!"

If only the reviews had been as lighthearted. Rolling Stone critic John Mendelssohn insisted he had listened to "Harvest" a dozen times before penning a less than complimentary review, finally concluding that Young's touching vocals were the only positive thing he could say about the album. He further claimed that Young had lost touch with what made his music unique.

As far as I'm concerned I don't think Mendelssohn listened to the album enough. If he had he would have discovered what legions of Neil Young fans (as well as most of the rock world) learned... that Neil Young's "Harvest" was his best work up until that time and possibly ever since.

If you like Neil Young's "Harvest" 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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ALBUM REVIEW: A Retrospective Look Back At Neil Young's "Harvest", Part 2

Cover of "Neil Young - Heart of Gold"
Neil Young - Heart of Gold
by Garrett Sawyer

It's not always easy being Neil Young. You release a record as good as "Harvest" it gets lukewarm reviews. Continuing with the songs in order ...

Heart of Gold

Neil Young's only solo #1 hit. Recording it was almost serendipitous.

James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt just happened to be in Nashville, where Young recorded the album, to appear on The Johnny Cash Show.

Ronstadt recalled that when they sang their part at the end of the song that she had to get up on her knees to be at the same height as the tall, lanky Taylor.

At one point, Young handed Taylor a banjo to play. Unfortunately, it was the first time Taylor had ever held one.

Taylor and Ronstadt sang all night, finishing at dawn. The drummer on the song, Kenny Buttery, didn't particularly like the way Young arranged songs, saying "He hires some of the best musicians in the world and has them play as stupid as they possibly can." Maybe, but it's hard to argue with the result.

Not everybody loved this song, however. Thirteen years after "Heart of Gold" topped the charts no less than Bob Dylan himself in an interview with Spin Magazine said that he considered the song a rip-off of his own sound, how he hated the song every time it came on the radio.

Although he liked Neil Young, Dylan claimed, "... that's me. If it sounds like me, it should as well be me ... it seemed that someone else had taken my thing and run away with it."

Are you ready for the country

A quirky little quasi-blues number this song featured his sometime band mates David Crosby and Graham Nash on vocals.

Old man

This was the only other chart hit from "Harvest". In 1970 Young had purchased the Broken Arrow Ranch in Northern California. The two caretakers of the ranch were a husband and wife name Louis and Clara Avila.

One day Louis took Young for a ride in an old blue Jeep to an elevated point on the ranch where there was a lake which fed the nearby pastures.

Surveying the landscape Louis asked Young, "Well, tell me, how does a young man like yourself have enough money to buy a place like this?" Young replied, "Well, just lucky, Louie, just real lucky." To which Louis said, "Well, that's the darndest thing I ever heard." Young subsequently wrote "Old man" for him, comparing Avila's life to his own and suggesting that they're not so different after all.

There's a world

It would be difficult to imagine Neil Young backed by the London Symphony Orchestra if it didn't work so well. I haven't the foggiest idea what he's talking about in this song but it's so well arranged and played that I really couldn't care less.

In my final installment I'll finish my retrospective of the last few songs on Neil Young's "Harvest", including one of the most haunting songs ever written about the devastation caused by heroin addiction.

If you like Neil Young's "Harvest" 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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ALBUM REVIEW: A Retrospective Look Back At Neil Young's "Harvest", Part 1

Cover of "Harvest"
Cover of Harvest
by Garrett Sawyer

Neil Young obviously must be one of those artists who grow on you.

More than once in his career he's released albums that are panned by the critics and then, years later, show up on "Best" lists.

You have to have a thick skin to make music this way since it can be hard on you ... unless, that is, you were born with the exceptional patience necessary to wait (sometimes for years) for the world to realize how good your record really is.

"Harvest" was one of those records. Released in 1972 it got decidedly mixed to unflattering reviews.

In recording "Harvest" Young turned a lemon into lemonade. He recorded this album using acoustic guitar because of a back injury that had him in and out of hospitals in the two-year gap between "After the Gold Rush" and "Harvest".

He simply couldn't physically play an electric guitar during this period. Most of the "Harvest" recording sessions saw Young in a brace.

Going over the songs in order ...

Out On The Weekend

The album opens with this laid-back country-flavored ballad laced with steel guitar and Young's trademark harmonica. It's a wonderfully melody about quietly trading in both home and lady for a weekend escape.


The title tune. Personally, I don't think people notice how with a single word Young sets the feel for the entire record. The word "Harvest" implies the Fall season.

The inner album photo is simple but ingeniously clever: a close-up of a polished doorknob in a wooden door with Young reflected in the knob, standing in an empty field of a hilly ranch. Together they create an atmosphere of early autumn when the weather is still warm but you can feel a touch of coolness in the air, especially at night.

The song itself is a slow, lazy drawl of a tune in Young's typical introspective, questioning style. For a song that asks a lot of questions but gives few answers it sure is effective.

A Man Needs a Maid

To clear up one point of confusion there's a double entendre here. When Young refers to a "maid" he's singing of both the maid that cleans your house and a maid in the mediaeval sense (e.g. Maid Marion).

This lavishly orchestrated song was written for actress Carrie Snodgress, famous for starring in the movie Diary of a Mad Housewife. Young had fallen for her after seeing her in a movie on television (sample lyric: "I fell in love with the actress. She was playing a part that I could understand").

Soon after that Academy Award nominated performance Snodgress settled down with Young and had a son, Zeke, who was thought to have cerebral palsy but was found to have suffered from a brain aneurysm prior to birth instead. Young and Snodgress separated years later.

In my next installment I'll continue going over the songs on Neil Young's "Harvest", including the two chart hits from the album.

If you like Neil Young's "Harvest" 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.

Download your free song at:

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Mods Versus Rockers: Brighton, 1964

Battle of the Mods & Rockers. Hastings 1964.
Battle of the Mods & Rockers. Hastings 1964. (Photo credit: Phil Sellens)
by Andy J Wilson

The Mods, with their sharp Italian suits and parkas, contrasted totally with the leather-coated and long-haired rockers.

The mods regarded the rockers as old-fashioned, grubby and oafish, while the rockers regarded the mods as being effeminate, snobbish and weedy.

There is a clear contrast between the metropolitan and the rural shades of Britain which the mod/rocker dichotomy illustrates.

The musical tastes differed markedly too. Mods favored Jazz, Reggae and Soul while the rockers revered the giants of the rock n' roll era such as Elvis Presley and Eddie Cochran.

Throughout the early 1960s, mods and rockers would engage in brawls in many of Britain's seaside towns, particularly along the South coast. Towns such as Margate, Bournemouth, Brighton and Clacton were the scene of much gang-warfare at this time.

In 1964, news-stories appeared which gave the impression of a full-scale war between the two tribes. The media's role in the conflict was central from the outset.

Consequently the mod/rocker war became a subject of interest for the sociologists, psychologists and other society-pundits.

Some saw the conflict as typical male-youth behavior while others regarded it as a new phenomenon; this being relevant when we consider that the growth of technology and the economy had now made possible mass-ownership of scooters and bikes.

The mod scene had been noted for its sophistication and fashion-savvy; it now found itself somewhat unfairly recast as the tribe for deviants and hooligans.

Battles between the two often occurred where territories overlapped, or where rival factions happened on one another. As noted, there was an urban-rural split, meaning that the groups could only fight if brought together by some co-incidence.

Most often, such a scenario would involve an encounter at one of the seaside towns; the getaway destination of choice for British youth in an era before mass air-travel.

In these battles, mods would often be armed with fish-hooks and razors which they had sewn into their jacket-lapels to shred the fingers of an assailant. This was a common tactic of the Teddy Boy gangs of the late 1950s.

Weapons were used by both sides of course, including flick-knives, coshes and bike-chains. The various brawls and conflicts escalated throughout the early 1960s, culminating in Clacton in 1964 during the Easter weekend.

The second round of the violence that began in Clacton occurred a month later during the Whitsun weekend break, when large numbers of rocker and mod gangs descended on Margate, Brighton and Broadstairs, each side unaware they had decided on the same rallying destination.

The rival gangs were openly fighting, often tearing up deckchairs or whatever breakable objects came to hand. Brighton saw the worst of the violence, which raged for two days before moving on to Hastings.

It then spilled back into Brighton where one group of rockers had become trapped on the beach there. Despite attempts by the police to protect them, they were assaulted by gangs of mods.

The newspapers lapped it up, describing the battles as being of "disastrous proportions". The mods and rockers were labeled as "sawdust caesars" and "louts".

Many newspaper editorials fanned the flames of hysteria, with the Birmingham Post in 1964 warning that the mods and rockers were "internal enemies" in the UK. If unchallenged, it went on, they (the mods and rockers) would "bring about the disintegration of a nation's character".

The magazine Police Review argued that the mods and rockers purported lack of respect for law and order would cause violence to "surge and flame like a forest fire".

Some sociologists argued that as media-hysteria about knife-wielding violent mods increased, the image of the fur-collared parka and scooter was bound to provoke punitive reactions among the public.

As a result of the media-coverage, two British MPs visited the seaside areas to survey the damage. This lead to MP Harold Gurden calling for a resolution of intensified measures to control hooliganism.

Prosecutors in the trial of some of those arrested during the fighting in Clacton had argued that neither faction had "serious views" and lacked respect for law and order.

However, there was some suspicion that the media had in some cases used false photographs, interviews and fictional characters to get mileage from the events, many proving unrelated to the mod/rocker issue.

When the media had exhausted real news items, they would publish deceptive headlines with loaded sub-headers such as 'Violence'; often above a report which contained no description of violence at all.

This constant branding by free-association to all things violent and criminal, saw the mods and rockers linked with any critical social issue of the day, such as teen-age pregnancy, drug-abuse and violence.

In this light, the events of Brighton in 1964 can be seen as being a huge media-hype of a situation that had not been planned for, in marked contrast to what was implied by the stream of press-reports at the time.

Its effect was to tarnish the mod image of sophisticated cool with an altogether more sinister aspect; totally distracting from the enormously significant impact that the mod-scene had on British pop and fashion culture; enriching it and paving the way for a more diverse and multicultural society.

The author operates an online clothing shop that specialises in mod t shirts. We stock a large selection of designs including scooter and mod target roundel t shirts.

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Monday, June 10, 2013

Neil Young's "After The Gold Rush": The Review From Hell

Cover of "After the Gold Rush"
Cover of After the Gold Rush
by Garrett Sawyer

I want you to imagine for one moment that you've just released an album.

It's a solo album for which you used a backing band.

It's not your first album. It's your third solo album and the seventh album total if you include other bands you've recorded with in the last few years.

Now imagine that your bright, shiny new album just got reviewed. And the reviewer said the following:

*That your fans will be kidding themselves if they try to convince themselves that your new album is good.
*That most of the songs were not ready to be recorded when you took them to the studio.
*That your backing band never really got behind the songs.
*That you had trouble singing many of them.
*That the best song on your nice, new album is one of the best songs you ever wrote but your backing band played sloppy, that the instruments never really come together.
*That you sound like pre-adolescent whining.
*That you're singing a half octave above your highest acceptable vocal range and that because of it...
*The reviewer can't listen to your vocals at all.

OK, show of hands. How many of you, upon reading such a review of your labor of love, would be either reaching for some Prozac or calling up your therapist in a panic? Thought so.

Well, guess what? This actually happened to Neil Young. The above comments are straight from the review of "After The Gold Rush" written by Langdon Winner for no less than Rolling Stone (it appeared in the October 15, 1970 issue).

If it will make any of you Neil Young fans feel any better Winner wrote a very uncomplimentary review of the album Young played on just before "After The Gold Rush": the 1970 Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young classic "Deja Vu".

In his review of Neil Young's third solo album he concluded his uncomplimentary observations by observing that "After The Gold Rush" continued where "Deja Vu" left off.

And that "best song" Winner was referring to? That would be "Southern Man", the anti-black racism standard-bearer of the rock era.

Not only that but this album yielded Neil Young's first solo chart hit, "Only love can break your heart", written for sometime band-mate Graham Nash as a result of the latter's breakup with Joni Mitchell. It reached #33 on Billboard's charts by the December after release.

Happily, it will amuse you to know that Rolling Stone changed its mind ... and not just slightly, either. By 1975 a review of Young's then newest album "Tonight's the Night" referred to "After The Gold Rush", in retrospect, as a "masterpiece".

And they would go on to rank it as #74 on its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time (they changed their mind about "Deja Vu" as well, ranking it #147 on the same list).

To all of you out there who are struggling in whatever endeavor you are involved in remember Neil Young's "After The Gold Rush" whenever you get criticized or castigated. And remember where it ended up.

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