Category Archives: Music

Bob Marley By The Numbers

Bob MarleyIn honor of Mr. Robert Nesta Marley’s 68th birthday, I thought a little numeric homage was in order. You know, for a man who rolled more numbers than the average Joe, if you catch my drift Mon.

So to the rescue, to the rescue, to the rescue
Awake from your sleep and slumber
Today could be your LUCKY NUMBER
Sun is shining and the weather is sweet –
Bob Marley, Sun Is Shining, Soul Revolution, 1971

And the countdown begins…

2-6-45 – Nesta Robert Marley was born (Jamaican Passport official later swapped his first and middle name, telling Bob’s mother that Nesta sounded too much like a girl’s name, thus giving us Robert Nesta Marley)

9-23-80 – Bob’s final live concert at the Stanley Theater, Pittsburgh, PA

5-11-81 – Bob passed away due to cancer in Miami, FL

1,000,000,000 – And a BILLION men a sparking. Rastaman Live Up lyric, Confrontation, 1983

1,000,000 – MILLION miles from reality. So Much Trouble In the World lyric, Survival, 1979 (see also, Stand Alone lyrics)

10,000 – I see TEN THOUSAND chariots, and they coming without horses – Midnight Ravers lyric, Catch A Fire, 1973

2313 – 2313 Tetsnell Street, Wilmington, Delaware. In 1966, the day after marrying Rita (Alpharita), Bob split for the states, alone, where he lived at this Wilmington, DE address with his mother, and worked at a DuPont plant for nearly 7 months earning money to finance his music career

2,000 – TWO THOUSAND years of history could not be wiped away so easily – Zion Train lyric, Uprising, 1980

1994 – Bob was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His induction speech was delivered by Bono. Jann Wenner had this to say:

Bob Marley was the Third World’s first pop superstar. He was the man who introduced the world to the mystic power of reggae. He was a true rocker at heart, and as a songwriter, he brought the lyrical force of Bob Dylan, the personal charisma of John Lennon, and the essential vocal stylings of Smokey Robinson into one voice.

1962 – Bob releases first single, Judge Not

400400 Years. Song title, Catch A Fire, 1973, written by Peter Tosh

100 – We bubbling on the Top 100, just like a mighty dread…Roots, Rock, Reggae lyric, Rastaman Vibration, 1976

56 – 56 Hope Road, Kingston Jamaica – Former home of Bob Marley, and now the home of the Bob Marley Museum

34 – 34 Ridgemount Gardens, Camdentown, London, England. Bob’s London address in 1972.

17 – Shows Bob Marley and the Wailers were supposed to open for Sly and the Family Stone in a US tour in 1973 (See 4 below)

12 – Age Bob moved to Trenchtown

11 – Number of Bob’s children according to Wikipedia and BobMarley.com (from 7 different women) – some sites list 13 children, and others speculate Bob fathered as many as 20

9 – NINE Miles (St. Ann Parrish) – Area in Jamaica where Bob was born and grew up

7 – And I hear the angel with the SEVEN seals… Rastaman Chant lyric, Burnin’, 1973

5 – FIVE days to go, working for the next day…Work song lyric, Uprising, 1980

4 – Shows Bob actually played before being fired – FOR STEALING SLY’s THUNDER! (Fans were actually chanting MAAARRRRLLLLEEEYYY during Sly’s set, and in some cases, more fans were in their seats for the Wailers’ opener than for the headliner)

3THREE little Birds. Song Title, Exodus, 1977

The I-THREES (three back-up vocalist beauties, one of which was Rita Marley, who joined the group after Tosh and Bunny Wailer left the group in 1974)

2 – Three Crows on top TWO is laughin’. Mr. Brown song lyric, song originally written by Glen Adams and released as a single

1 – A few contenders here…

ONE Drop. Song Title, Survival, 1979.

ONE Heart. One Love song lyric, Exodus, 1977

ONE bright morning when my work is over, Man will fly away home.  Rastaman Chant lyric, Burnin’ 1973

ONE good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain. Trenchtown Rock lyric, African Herbsman, 1973

But ONE true Champion:

ONE love, Song Title, Exodus, 1977

…..

And a nugget for the road (pun intended). Bob drove a BMW once he started making some money…and why? He used to tell whoever would listen that the letters stood for Bob Marley and the Wailers. He later got rid of the Beemer though, saying it caused him nothin’ but trouble. He bought a jeep.

Thanks for reading. Watch the documentary, Marley, on Netflix, if you haven’t already. Heart wrenching at times. Particularly his pre-show rendition of I’m Hurting Inside, just before his final show in Pittsburgh.

IDROS

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Entertainment, Music

This Is 50…And Counting…Happy Golden Anniversary To Mick, Keef And The Rolling Stones

From Rolling Stone Magazine

From Rolling Stone Magazine

Lezbeonest. I don’t care what it is (or who, for that matter). Doing it (or him or her) for 50 years…in a row…is worthy of significant celebration. It is a rare feat, celebrating a 50th anniversary of any kind. And the half century the Rolling Stones have endured and bestowed upon us is no exception. In fact, it borders on incredible…the stuff of myth. I mean, the band had to overcome the incarceration of its two primary songwriters (in 1967, Mick and Keith were jailed for drug possession and shortly thereafter were released on bail), the “firing” and subsequent death (by drowning but due to drug abuse) of a founding member and close friend (Brian Jones), the resignation of another band mate and talented guitarist (Mick Taylor), the ubiquitous shadow of the Beatles the Stones were relegated to live in (the band was basically labeled the “evil” or dark yang to the Beatles light, angelic yin and were viewed as ruffians parents should never let their daughters date, a characterization these well-schooled middle class musicians took a few years to fully embrace), the unfortunate and horrifying experience that was Altamont (where unruly, drunk and drugged up Hell’s Angels provided “security” (read: incited a riot) while a fan was murdered by throngs of out of control concert-goers and the band feared for their own lives), a self exile to the South of France for financial reasons (mostly exorbitant back taxes owed), a massive heroin problem that enveloped some members of the band (notably Keith) as well as many important crew members, and finally, the imprisonment in Canada of Keith for heroin possession (he faced a lifetime sentence, but was released upon a vow to go straight)…and that was all in the first 15 years of the band’s existence. The subsequent 35 years were similarly rife with highs and lows, the worst of it stemming from a tumultuous and deteriorating relationship between Richards and Jagger, the de facto leaders of the band.

And yet here they are, fifty years later…mostly intact, and somehow still churning out the best soundtrack you are likely ever to hear at a Golden Anniversary party (not that there’s anything wrong with a one-man band’s rendition of In The Mood, The Way We Were, Unforgettable, I’ve Got The World On A String or any of Frank Sinatra’s great love ballads). So in anticipation of the American leg of the Stones 50 & Counting mini-tour, which will culminate with a Pay Per View-streamed performance on Saturday, December 15 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, I felt it was high time to give the original bad boys of rock and roll their due. Having already dedicated a post to that other mega-success story of a band from England, the timing couldn’t be better to roll out the red carpet, and fittingly paint it black, for the only other band in history besides the Beatles that arguably deserves its own wing in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Sure, scoff all you want. Insert a joke or two here under your breath regarding said wing that evokes images of a nursing home…the wing should be in Florida; its snack bar should offer an early bird special; hope there’s round the clock medical staff on call. Blah, blah, blah. If you could throw down on stage like the Stones at any age, you would, and you know it.

While I agree that the Stones are old (arguing this fact would be as foolish as arguing that water is not wet), the band’s two stalwarts, both nearly 70 years of age, continue to defy the odds. Mick, who inspired a song regarding his moves, has the energy of a man fifty years his junior, and the waistline of an anorexic supermodel. And Keith…what can I say? What can anyone say really? He is a medical marvel that continues to mystify… with blatant disregard for logic and the laws of science.  (To get a taste, I do recommend his autobiography, Life, if you haven’t yet read it.) So perhaps it isn’t such a conundrum that these relics continue to bring it while on stage.

So in honor of the centuries of combined rock experience that is the Rolling Stones, I felt a list was in order. Lists are great because they demand thought, from both the writer and reader(s). There is always room for debate, particularly in a good, well-reasoned list, but generally the conversation is lively and worthwhile. And that is why we’re here, right?  At least it’s why I’m here. Tapping on the keys like Thelonius Monk in the wee hours of the morning, eyes bloodshot, head pounding, but thoughts racing…ahh. And the Stones are incredibly list-worthy. Exile on Main Street could be its own list. So could Let It Bleed. So in the spirit, of Rob Gordon from High Fidelity, from whom music-themed lists seemed to flow like cheap beer at a frat party, we begin.

My top ten Stones tunes of all time (at least for today):

10) I had a hell of a time choosing among Miss You, Emotional Rescue and Salt Of The Earth, but for the sake of a clean list, I am going with Emotional Rescue. Perhaps my list would be different on any other day. I dig the disco influence. And the tune is catchy as hell. This is not your typical Stones song, but that doesn’t make it a bad song.

9) Sweet Virginia. Raw, gritty and heartfelt. This will not be the lone gem from Exile to crack my top ten, but a great tune in its own right.

8) As Tears Go By. An oldie but goodie. Penned by the Jagger/Richards dynamic duo, this classic was first recorded and released by Marianne Faithful in 1964, and then by the Stones a year later. Just a beautiful song, emotional and powerful despite the restraint that was a trademark of that era. I would put this tune up against almost any from the mid-60s, and it holds up well, even today.

7) Loving Cup. Just give me little drink. Please.

6) Shine A Light. Wow. Just Wow. Maybe this one should be higher on the list (probably), but the bottom line is, it needs to be on the list. Such a powerful message. Marty Scorsese named his 2008 Stones documentary after this tune, and we all know what Marty thinks of the Stones.

5) Gimme Shelter. That creaky floorboard percussion effect is eerie as hell. And speaking of Marty Scorsese, we all must thank him for recognizing the genius in the Stones in this tune, and for marrying its theme to your own particular genius (Scorsese used this song in 3 of his films…thus far). Violence and war is everywhere; not just on the battlefield, but on the mean streets of every city across the world.

4) You Can’t Always Get What You Want. Can’t help but think of The Big Chill opening here, but the message is clear and pure, and the melody is perfection personified. Interestingly, it seems Brett Morgen, the director of the most recent Stones documentary, Crossfire Hurricane, drew inspiration from Lawrence Kasdan as he used this song during his own post-death funeral procession music to honor Brian Jones’ passing.

3) Sympathy For The Devil. Perfection in capturing and breathing life into a theme by overlaying incredible lyrics on transcendent music. Timeless.

2) Waiting On A Friend. Profound emotional ballad capturing man’s need for companionship after his wild oats have been sown.

1) Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’? Here’s the thing…I love music. And even before this tune kicked off the great mini-mix on my iPod shuffle that ushered in the greatest day of my life, it would have topped this list. The meaning behind the song is murky, like the drug-addled paranoia some of the lyrics evoke. But if your ears could smile, this song could have that effect on them, from start to finish. The jam toward the end of that track is so incredible it has moved me to tears on numerous occasions. Everything was clicking there, from Keys’ blistering sax solo to Richards’ guitar. And then Mick Taylor steals the show with a completely improvised virtuoso performance lasting nearly 4 minutes to end the song. There are hints and influences of numerous other great musicians and musical genres intertwined in the rich, mellifluous orgy of musical delights. To quote Richards, “the band’s music was influenced by everyone from Mozart to Marley.” That is clearly evident in this song alone, a virtual microcosm of the Rolling Stones vast and impressive oeuvre. And make no mistake, Charlie gets the last “word,” which is quite fitting for a tune titled “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’?”

So that’s my list. Hope nobody was offended by my selections. I would love to hear some of yours, so feel free to share below.

As always, thanks for reading.

Happy holidays,

IDROS

Oh, and for another blogger’s take on the same subject matter, feel free to click here.

1 Comment

Filed under Entertainment, Music

My Silver Lining of the Anniversary of Jerry Garcia’s Passing

Jerome John Garcia (“Jerry”) died 17 years ago today. For me, and for throngs of Jerry fans everywhere, it is a sad day. August 9 will always carry with it a somber note, a tinge of the blues evocative of some of Jerry’s more melancholy tunes, like Morning Dew or Stella Blue.

For those that don’t like Jerry/The Grateful Dead or understand the appeal, I can only offer one possible line of debate. When you turn on the radio, depending on the station, you hear the same songs over and over again. And what’s worse, generally speaking, you hear the same boring version of said song. Top 40 is the worst offender, bordering on criminal (how many times can you listen to the same friggin’ Adele, Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj or Cold Play song?), but all genres have a standard cue of 50 to 100 songs that their affiliated stations play non-stop, on a virtual continuous loop.

The Grateful Dead offer a song catalog of nearly 700 songs. This doesn’t even include the songs side project bands such as the Jerry Garcia Band (JGB) add to the mix. Furthermore, because the Dead are a touring band that played more than 2,300 shows, pretty much every song in that catalog has many versions.

So Sirius/XM radio station 23 is incredible because they play the full archives of a band that amassed the thickest songbook in the industry. Even though you are wont to hear Sugar Magnolia, Playin’ In the Band, Truckin’ or Jack Straw (among others) quite often, chances are, each time you hear the song in a given month, or even year, it will be a unique version of the song. How you like me now Ryan Seacrest?

And Jerry and his bands were intriguing A) because they played great music; and, B) because you never knew what they would play when you saw them live due to their vast catalog and fearless approach to both writing original songs and covering artists across all genres of music.

A few notes:

Jerry played nearly 3,200 live shows over the course of his lifetime as part of 12 separate entities. Not one of these live shows ever fell on August 9. This is amazing considering the date had no real relevance to Jerry (though it certainly does now to his fans, family and friends) and that he played enough to have just about crammed 9 different shows into every date. So not only is August 9 a terrible day in Grateful Dead history for the obvious reason, but also was a rare date that never had any positive Dead “spin.” And keep in mind that attending even the worst Dead (or JGB) show was better than pretty much anything else you could have done on any particular day.

If you want to troll the net to prove my claim wrong, you may come across two separate shows Jerry may have played, one on August 9, 1969 as part of the New Riders of the Purple Sage, and the other on August 9, 1974 with Merl Saunders. Please note the fine print in the links I attached to each date above (the lostlivedead blog offers a decent argument that the New Riders played a run of shows at the Matrix in 1969 but not conclusive evidence that August 9 was among the show dates, and under the Notes section of the 1974 Merl show, pay attention to the fact that this show was likely played a day or two later, and again, no substantial proof has ever materialized to prove otherwise).

Last but not least:

My wife’s birthday happens to fall on August 9. Since we met, her happiness has always taken precedence over the anniversary of the death of one of my idols. As upsetting as the date once was to me, the fact that the love of my life was born on that same date has changed everything for me. There is positive significance to this date, and I recognize that my life is better because of August 9. You see, my wife is my silver lining of August 9…Jerry was the touch of grey…and we all will get by, and we’ll survive.

And just for fun, I encourage you to read this article.

Have a great day and thanks for reading,

IDROS

46 Comments

Filed under Music

100 Guitar Riffs Tells a Bigger Story Than History of Rock Music

https://i2.wp.com/b.vimeocdn.com/ts/301/495/301495523_640.jpg

Let me begin by stating that Alex Chadwick’s recent viral video is amazing.

In case you haven’t yet seen it (because you are incredibly busy and don’t have 12 minutes to spare; or, you have been living under a rock, or, in the words of the late great Nora Ephron, spoken by Billy Crystal, trapped under something heavy; or, perhaps you just don’t love music…or Rock & Roll in particular)…please do yourself a favor and click this link.

Hypothesis: Alex Chadwick’s 12-minute amalgamation of 100 of the greatest Rock & Roll guitar riffs throughout history and its viral aftermath seem a telling metaphor of everything that is wrong with American society today.

(A quick aside: The last time someone named Chadwick remotely caught my attention was when this guy coached pretty boy Dean Youngblood against violent goon Racki. You may be wondering what that piece of trivia has to do with this post, or with anything for that matter. The truth is, not much. But I can offer you this: The three most notable actors in Youngblood – Rob Lowe, Patrick Swayze (RIP) and Keanu Reeves (yes, he was actually in that flick…seriously…watch it again if you don’t believe me) – all have at least one guitar related credit on their respective resumes.

Rob Lowe is known for his wielding of a different instrument…that sax he laughably pretends to play as Billy in St. Elmo’s Fire. But he also played a role in the movie version of Wayne’s World, which features two guitar playing teenagers…better still, Alex Chadwick and his NPR interviewer, David Greene, reference the classic SNL movie in this recent interview.

The late Swayze, who appeared with Lowe in The Outsiders as well as Youngblood, played a memorable cooler in Roadhouse to a live soundtrack provided by slide guitar phenom Jeff Healey. Many of the artists and songs featured in Alex Chadwick’s 100 licks were played by Healey in that film as well as in Healey’s set lists as a touring musician.

And finally we come to Neo Johnny Utah. We all remember him as Theodore Preston, trying to play the guitar in the cult classic Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure alongside the Lost Boy that Edgar Allen Corey Frog killed in the cave coffin in that great 1980s Vampire flick. (Sure, we know…according to the late George Carlin, Bill and Ted’s guitar music would become crucial to the survival of future generations.))

But I digress…as usual. Wow did I digress this time.

As I postulated, Alex Chadwick’s 12-minute amalgamation of 100 of the greatest Rock & Roll guitar riffs throughout history and its viral aftermath seem a telling metaphor of everything that is wrong with American society today.

We live in a hyper-critical world, and just as talented people across all walks of life now have countless platforms to reach an audience in the blink of an eye, so too do masses of talentless, ignorant, lazy and gutless drains on society have the ability to sit on their couches (or, likely, their parents’ couches), inhaling thousands of calories of high-fat snacks while they peruse endless media outlets such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, et al. Anonymous people, with a veritable smorgasbord of soapboxes at their fingertips, are free to comment on and critique anything they want, voicing opinions on subjects spanning politics, entertainment, finance, society, sports, medicine, etc.

I love that Chadwick’s video went viral. I love that I can turn on my computer and within seconds, have access to something as beautiful, creative, intelligent and thought provoking as this 12 minute stroll down memory lane via modern rock history. And the vast majority of the populace loved it too, which is echoed in the video’s massive reception throughout the interweb in recent days. Even the comments have ranged from emoticon rich smiles to glowing praise. “Love this,” is one of the more frequent comments associated with the link.

Unfortunately, for as much love and praise as Chadwick rightfully received, there were and continue to be far too many “buts” lingering just beneath the love and praise. People repost the link, or comment on the link because they truly believe it is noteworthy and deserving of additional views by their friends and loved ones, but so many of those re-posters and commenters take the opportunity to critique Chadwick’s journey through rock history.

Sure, my own video would have included riffs from artists such as Bob Marley, Jane’s Addiction, The Clash, Elvis Presley, Lou Reed, Steely Dan, Prince, Peter Frampton, The Kinks, Phish, Radiohead and the Talking Heads…and my version likely would have also omitted some of the artists included or repeated in Chadwick’s list.  I may have even chosen different licks from certain artists. But that’s the thing. For one, I can’t play the friggin’ guitar. But even if I could, criticizing Chadwick for his own taste and hard work is inexcusable and unacceptable.

Go out and create your own musical list. Or create something in your own wheelhouse that might be similarly beautiful and inspiring. And if you must criticize, if that itch just has to be scratched, then save it for those who deserve it…those who never even tried, or who completely failed when everyone…or anyone…was counting on them.

Petty criticism is far from a new phenomenon. People criticize what celebrities wear to movie openings and award shows, and how coaches and players execute down the stretch in games. People criticize how their politicians behave in and out of office and how stupid the endings of groundbreaking television shows are (Lost, The Sopranos).

You know why American Idol and Dancing With the Stars and shows like them are so popular today? It’s because most people alive possess little or no talent in what are deemed to be glamorous fields (music, acting, athletics, art…even cooking, inventing, writing and politics). So today, even the vast majority of us have access to those fields…as critics. These shows empower us all to participate, unqualified as most of us are, and we relish the opportunity. We fork over money to vote, we rant and rave in chat rooms and all over the blogosphere, and we feel it imperative to comment all over the social media world, wasting our own time, and likely the time in lost productivity of our employers, to feel like we are part of something glamorous for a brief moment in time.

This 12-minute viral video captures it all in a nutshell. Alex Chadwick invested thousands of hours learning and practicing the guitar, and then had an idea to compile a list of his own personal favorite 100 rock guitar riffs. Then he practiced his musical list, making sure everything flowed, until it felt right. And then he rehearsed. And when he felt ready to capture his list on video, I am sure he played quite a few takes before getting right, or at least error free enough to publicize.

What took Chadwick a lifetime of practice and countless hours to assemble, posted to the general public in seconds. And hours later, it was simultaneously praised and ripped to shreds. Sure, most people genuinely enjoyed, praised and recommended it to others. But a vast majority if not all of those who have watched and listened to the video all had at least one criticism. For some, this was their first thought upon watching it. For many others, it was perhaps the second thought, shortly after “cool,” or “wow.”

Criticisms primarily centered on what was omitted from the list, in terms of a general who (which artists and bands were not included but should have been), and even entire genres of music that were left out or at least were unfairly represented relative to others. Some criticisms I came across thought the list was too evenly distributed across decades and eras of rock music, others complained about which particular songs by certain artists were and weren’t included. Some found sexist and racist issues with the list and still others felt Chadwick played certain riffs longer than others, which discriminated against certain songs unfairly.

The point is, nearly everyone had a complaint or criticism of some sort. And the tragedy of it is, this is someone else’s list and hard work. There are 300 million people in the United States. All have different tastes in music. And when it comes to rock music, every one of us has a different take on what defines it, who should be included and what eras and artists were/are more significant.

There is a big election coming later this year. Let Chadwick’s incredible video be a lesson to us all. Don’t sit on the sidelines and critique. Listen to the music; appreciate the hard work and personal choice that went into its arrangement. Then take his video as inspiration to create something on your own…to affect change, to get involved, or even simply to get off the damn couch and vote in the upcoming election.

There are more problems than solutions in our world today. I promise these problems will not be solved by people (or even by government candidates and officers) who do no more than criticize others and their efforts. The era of passive criticism must end.

Thanks for reading,

IDROS

2 Comments

Filed under Current Events, Entertainment, Humor, Movies, Music, Politics

This Israel: For those who bleed blue and white, and more so for those who don’t

As the London Olympics 2012 approach, and the 40th anniversary of yet another monumental and horrifying chapter in Jewish world history is more or less swept under the international community’s proverbial rug, I wanted to write a blog entry focused on Israel.

It is difficult to articulate what Israel means to me. I know I get just as emotional and animated when I read or watch news stories involving Israel as I do for similar coverage regarding my own home nation. Maybe even more so at times.  Leave it to celebrities to drive this point home.

In an era where everyone has a soapbox, I can sometimes appreciate when the Hollywood elite and other famous personalities rally around a pressing issue or criticize our US government (think The Dixie Chicks, Sean Penn, George Clooney, etc.); other times I downright loathe celebrities using their fame as a platform to demonstrate just how vapid and ignorant and truly awful they really are beyond their stage personae (think Hank Williams Jr., Ted Nugent, David Tyree and of course, Mel Gibson). Sure, my own personal politics determine, to some extent, which celebrity opinions are relevant and which are complete rubbish. But the point is, I care enough about my own country, its policies and its leadership (questionable as the latter two may be) to give a rat’s ass what people say about them…especially famous people. (Sadly, I actually do care what celebrities say because of the rise of the Kardashian empire, Jersey Shore and other similar blights on society that catapult brain-dead nobodies into our homes and lives each day and the terrifying fact that so many people watch and listen to every word some of these reality troglodytes have to say…and I fear that these naïve people, who have the same right to vote that I do, will actually heed or adapt some of the scarier political and societal “ideals” espoused by tabloid fodder that couldn’t name one Supreme Court justice, their own State Governor or the last president etched on Mount Rushmore if you spotted them the first three).

Oddly, I am even more sensitive to what celebrities say (and do) regarding Israel, its government and its policies than what they say about the United States. So in the spirit of the coming London Olympics, two recent examples come from celebrities living in none other than Jolly old England. First, the Material Girl opened her most recent MDNA tour in Israel and created quite a stir. (Yes, she is American…never accused her of being anything else. But Madge does live in England, and she has conducted most interviews and speaking engagements since she moved across the pond with an inexplicable British accent). Two noteworthy nuggets made headlines and dominated YouTube following her tour opener:

1)      Before playing her first song, she greeted the crowd with an eloquent, heartfelt, non-partisan speech that basically was a prayer for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. I loved what she had to say (watch it here).

2)      During one of her new songs “Nobody Knows Me,” the video screen on stage showed French politician Marine Le Pen with a swastika emblazoned over her face for a millisecond..subliminal stuff. Known to be a vocal anti-Semite, Marine’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen was convicted of condoning Nazi war crimes earlier this year. Seriously, Jean-Marie, the French equivalent of Mel Gibson’s father, came very close to winning the French Presidential election in 2002…that’s right, a friggin’ Nazi-sympathizer came unacceptably close to attaining the highest office of a nation with a SECURITY COUNCIL VOTE in the UN! WTF? No wonder France rolled out the red carpet for Adolf 70 years ago, and anti-Semitism continues to run rampant between the Alps and the Pyrenees. And now, 10 years after her fascist father won, Marine garnered nearly 20% of the popular vote in the wake of Sarkozy’s scandal-ridden term, setting the stage for the daughter of a Nazi to muster votes for her party’s parliament hopefuls.

*The best part of Madonna’s clever and opinionated “photoshopped” commentary was the reaction it received from France, whose right-wing party (Marine’s party) warned the pop icon that if she tried any of that bullsh$t in France they would sue the crap out of her highness. (Read this for more)

On the other end of the spectrum, Emma Thompson and her recent infantile attempt to grab headlines reeked of putrescence. I have no problem if a celebrity (or anyone, really) has a well-reasoned, educated argument against Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians (there are very few…and I mean both acceptable arguments and people who have voiced them over the years). I don’t agree with everything Israel’s government, army and citizens do when it comes to that difficult and tension-filled situation. However, I have a serious problem with snaggle-tooth Thompson’s take on the matter. You see, Israel’s premier theater company, Habima, was set to participate in a Shakespeare festival at London’s Globe Theater last month. But Ninny McPhee vocally joined and spearheaded a list of debatably impressive theatrical stars in boycotting Habima’s participation. And why? She and her lackeys claim it was because Habima failed to participate in a boycott of a “controversial” cultural center opened in Ariel, a West Bank settlement, in 2010. So, in other words, a boycott of a group that failed to boycott. In actuality, Kenneth Branagh’s cuckqueaned ex-wife and others simply do not like Israel or the Jews. There really can’t be any other explanation. Chinese theater groups were not boycotted, and China’s long tradition of stellar human rights policies was never questioned. And adding insult to injury, a Palestinian theater company, Ashtar, was invited to participate and met no similar resistance.  Ironically, Habima was slated to perform Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice,” a work notable for its anti-Semitic undertones, at the festival. (Another irate voice)

But I digress….

So what does Israel mean to me?

Here are seven words that immediately come to mind:

Pride: You know when you walk down a street full of run-down properties, where tall grass and weeds dominate the yards, the driveways are cracked, litter is strewn all over and the houses are all dilapidated…save for one. One home that stands proudly in spite of those that surround it; one home whose owners consider it a sacred, meaningful source of personal pride?

Appreciation:  You know when you see true heroes acknowledged, whether in person or in books, movies or the news? Like Captain Sully, or Oscar Schindler, or all of the fire and police men on 9-11. People whose bravery and courage are undeniable and inexplicable in the face of grave danger; people who you want to hug and tell them “thank you,” even if their acts do not directly affect your own life. And the kicker is, you don’t really understand these people, how they can be so incredibly selfless and unflappable in the face of evil and unimaginable events. And yet, you are eternally grateful that people like that exist, your faith in humanity is restored or confirmed, and you know the world is a better place because of them.

Admiration: Who doesn’t like a great underdog story? Ever since David slew Goliath (and likely even before that), the thrilling prospects of an upset have tantalized our sensibilities as humans; we sympathize with and even favor those with fewer assets and resources, facing monumental and improbable tasks, to somehow prevail against all odds. What if there was an outcast in your high school, someone who few people liked (or at least were willing to admit they liked publicly); someone with limited strength, intellect and charisma? And what if this person worked tirelessly, in the library, in the gym and with a life coach, and humbly rose to achieve impressive accolades in numerous areas of his or her high school’s (and community’s) academic, social and athletic arenas? This person probably wouldn’t realistically hijack an 80s movie and become captain of the football or cheerleading team, valedictorian of his or her class, king or queen of the prom and class president; but what if this person graduated in the top five percent of his or her class, earned varsity letters as a meaningful contributor to three athletic teams, won top honors at the science fair, was elected to class office, secured a leading role in the school musical, had a part time job helping his or her school district clean up its parks and playgrounds and also volunteered at the local hospital, improving the lives of cancer patients?  (“Student’s” full resume here)

Sanctuary: Have you ever played Musical Chairs? What if, for millennia, in a global version of the game, whenever the music stopped, it was always one specific group of people who were left without a seat? Then, one sad but hopeful day, what if a plush seat was proffered, a comfortable old easy chair that had historical and traditional significance? Providing the unconditional love of a family, the security and comfort of a home and the acceptance and understanding of an old friend, said seat opens its arms and footrest (read: heart) to an often persecuted and much maligned and misunderstood group of people, regardless of  geography, economic strata and dedication to and observance of religious scripture and tradition. Best of all, this “chair” remains eternally open, unlocked and unchained to a road-weary people who have wandered with nowhere to rest for too many years.

Hope: You know when you’re watching a sporting event…any sport…and the team or player you are rooting for has been getting crushed for the entire game, but suddenly there is a spark, or a noticeable change in momentum? You almost turned off the television, or left the stadium, but you didn’t. There is a lot of ground to make up, but the possibility for something remarkable, something special begins to seep into your consciousness.

Frustration: Does it bother you when you hear negative rumors about someone, something or somewhere you care about? What about when you know the rumors are vicious, nasty lies spread by stubborn, ignorant or just plain stupid people? What if seemingly everyone that hears or reads these rumors believes them? What if the victim of said rumors has been abused, bullied, libeled and slandered since the day he or she had been born? What if the vast majority of those around the victim simply ignore the constant injustices being promulgated? Furthermore, what if most people, and worse, the global media, even piled on with undue rhetoric and even tacit praise and assistance of the bullying and terrorizing? What if the verbal abuse and rumors lead to violence? And most mind-boggling of all, what if the most virulent and hate-filled rhetoric and abuse is hurled by parties with access to game-changing technology that could literally destroy the victim and anyone close to him or her?

Fear: Imagine sending a beloved child away to school, or camp or any other activity away from home. Now imagine you receive word that your child is being mistreated, bullied, tortured or abused. What if any attempts you make to talk sense into the school or camp directors, to negotiate a non-violent, peaceful experience for your son or daughter are met with resistance, general refusal to negotiate or worse still, the directors casting all blame upon your child? You would pull your child out of said camp or school, obviously…but what if you couldn’t? And what if the legal team or security detail you hire to help to protect your child is the only friend or ally your child will ever truly have? And what if even that “ally” becomes corrupted by new leadership that is more interested in appeasing the camp or school directors and the other campers and students than in the safety and well-being of your child?

Happy Flag Day,

IDROS

1 Comment

Filed under Current Events, Entertainment, Movies, Music, Politics

And in “The End” an iconic band broke up…Reflections on the final song recorded by The Beatles

It was the worst of times for Rock and Roll’s greatest act. But even as their dissolution hung ominously over the Fab Four, they decided to put their differences aside and head into EMI Studio on Abbey Road for one last hurrah, just like they had so often in the good old days of the preceding eight years and eleven albums.* (Please reference footnote below for more historical context)

The Beatles’ grand finale, Abbey Road, was just the bittersweet opus fans, critics and band-mates alike would universally agree delivered a fitting encore to perhaps the greatest Rock and Roll act to ever grace a stage or studio. A sweeping and ambitious album comprised of two stylistically different sides, Abbey Road showcased the greatest strengths of the band, individually and en masse.

Most notable in Abbey Road was that the four distinct personalities that came to define John, George, Paul and Ringo shone brightly throughout the album, musically, lyrically and stylistically. This was most evident, and perhaps most hauntingly appropriate, in the song that would close the album (or at least was initially supposed to), the final segment of the epic Side B medley, aptly named “The End.”

The Beatles’ public personas were encapsulated early on in their careers with nicknames that emerged:

John: The smart/witty one

George: The quiet one

Paul: The cute one

Ringo: The funny one

But there was more to each of them, obviously, and their personalities became more defined as Beatlemania enveloped the world. John was intelligent, but he also was a rebel and a dreamer, deeply profound and affected by the world around him, the more creative and less overt leader of the band. George was quiet and shy at times, but also was mysterious and spiritual with a jocular side. Paul, though known for his “puppy-dog eyes,” was seen as a clean- cut, romantic, perfectionist – the driven, technical leader of the band. And Ringo was funny, though no more so than John or George by all accounts. Ringo was a people pleaser, the consummate team player and the veritable backbone of the band.

Tom Robbins, in his 1980 classic, Still Life With Woodpecker, opined through his eponymous anti-hero, that you can derive pretty much all you want to know about a person by asking them who their favorite Beatle is and listening to their answer: “Bernard Mickey Wrangle had developed a psychological test of his own. It was short, simple, and infallible. To administer the test, merely ask the subject to name his or her favorite Beatle. If you are at all familiar with the distinct separate public images of the four Beatles, then you’ll recognize that the one chosen reveals as much about the subject’s personality as most of us will ever hope to know.”

Just as the Woodpecker’s test has proven its merits over the years in our own armchair psycho-analyses of the people in our lives, Abbey Road’s release revealed the album to be a Rorschach test or dream interpreter in its own right. The album was like a compilation of inkblots or dreams that revealed a great deal about the personalities of each Beatle. And if Abbey Road was a dream interpreter, judging by its opening lyric, “The End” was the key dream interpretation on that test that led to a major breakthrough.

“The End” emerged as a virtual highlight reel of the great band from Liverpool, stunningly crammed into just over two minutes of smile-coaxing, heart-warming musical genius. The song’s central theme, love, is a running theme throughout the Beatles’ vast songbook. But the structure and free-spirited curtain call nature of the tune set it apart.

As the final song recorded collectively by the four principles of the band, “The End” provided a forum for each of their individual personalities and musical strengths to shine in one last masterful performance. Each Beatle has at least one solo, during which his own distinct style radiates. Even Ringo, who always maintained a vehement aversion to solos, preferring instead to target his percussion toward whoever sang or played the melody in a particular performance, has a stand-out solo sequence on the record. Apropos to Ringo’s personality, his solo was actually recorded with tambourine and guitar accompaniment, and the other instruments were later muted during editing to give the effect of a Ringo drum solo. Ringo Starr was true to himself even as “The End” showcased a “hypocritical” moment, leaving listeners with a stunningly honest portrayal of Starr despite being tainted by a bizarre feeling that something is amiss.

And John, George and Paul perform a rotating sequence of three two-bar guitar solos which flow out of the “Love You” chorus about a minute into the song. Each solo echoes the personality of its artist, and in three separate two bar segments (about twelve cumulative seconds of virtuoso wailing for each of them), the listener can truly differentiate who is playing. Paul comes in with flawless, stinging licks reminiscent of his guitar work on earlier tracks such as “Another Girl” and “Taxman.” George uses a technically advanced slide technique that was becoming his trademark as he plays off of Paul’s lead in each go around. John‘s contribution was rhythmic but heavily distorted, a nod to his guitar work on “Revolution,” and signifying his growing dissociation with his band mates and his “former life.”

Truly eerie in their guitar solo sequence (and I apologize for this morbid correlation) is the order in which they play. Paul takes the lead, followed by George with John closing each sequence. And in their true “end,” it was John exiting first, George following and Paul, still with us, who will bow out third. Paul did get the “last word” in “The End” by penning a lyric to close the song (and the album…at least in its original layout). Drawing inspiration from one of his heroes, Paul decided to write a rhyming couplet in the style of the Bard. Its message is timeless.

Sure, the song’s powerful ending lyric seems to speak to society at large, a philosophical directive to which all of us could and should relate and adhere. But even more so, the equation set up by Paul’s couplet – “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make” – resonates as the defining credo, even epitaph, of four men who forever changed the musical landscape of our world. For ten years, they put everything they had into their music. Malcolm Gladwell’s ten thousand hours in dark clubs throughout Europe, and thousands more in the studio and on arena and stadium stages around the world. And in return, they received the love and adulation of a worldwide fan base that literally could not get enough. The Beatles’ music was love: love of being musicians, love of creative freedom, love of women, love of spirituality, love of rock and roll, love of rebellion, love of their fans and certainly, at one time, love of one another. We as fans all felt that love, and continue to feel it even today every time we hear one of their songs. We felt their love and loved the band right back. And if their continual popularity and relevance in today’s art, culture, literature and of course, music is any indication, we still love the Beatles today as much as ever.

*Historical background leading up to the release of Abbey Road:

Friction already created a poor showing on their tenth album, The Beatles, now highly regarded as the White Album, but critically lambasted upon release as disjointed and sloppily performed and generally dismissed as ego-driven solo efforts thrown together in a mish-mash of discontinuity. (And that, in a nutshell, proves how incredible the band truly was, because The Beatles has come to be included among the greatest albums of all time in all critic and fan-based music-themed articles, rankings, research and analyses that matter.)

And their twelfth album, Let It Be, though released after Abbey Road, was recorded, in large part, before Abbey Road had been. Originally slated to be released before Abbey Road in mid-1969 as Get Back, the Beatles were displeased with the sound and feel of the cut and shelved the effort. By all accounts, bad vibes, discontent and a general festering of acrimony boiled over throughout the recording and editing of Let It Be. Some of the songs from the Get Back recordings were released as singles before Phil Spector came in and re-edited and mastered the album, renaming it Let It Be. Let It Be drew mixed reviews at the time of its release and to this day is seldom included among any short list of the band’s greatest albums. A film of the same name was also released, and has gained mass notoriety for vividly capturing a number of conflicts among band members during the making of the album, and has often been referred to as a documentary intended to highlight the making of an album, but instead diagrammed “the break-up of a band.”

The “why” is debatable. Perhaps it was all Yoko’s fault, as many Fab Four fans like to opine. Maybe creative differences ran amok and were the culprit. Undoubtedly, Paul and John had a very different approach to music and leadership, which helped to inspire the varied styles and depth of musical genius throughout the band’s impressive oeuvre, but also laid the foundation for the Beatles’ demise as well. A grueling tour schedule and constant in-your-face idol-warship that accompanied Beatlemania took its toll on everyone, particularly George, who was retreating more and more into a spiritual lifestyle in the late 1960s. And the demands of fame in general were exhausting, from financial negotiations to promotional obligations. Finally, these are four people who, along with their few trusted insiders such as Brian Epstein (whose accidental overdose and death in 1967 caused problems of its own), and George Martin, spent a great deal of time together throughout the 1960s. So much time, in fact, that any petty disagreements, differences and moments of weakness that emerged became magnified exponentially.

Regardless of reason(s), in mid-1969, the four principles knew the end was nigh. After the disharmony and infighting that plagued the band’s previous two recording efforts, Paul went to George Martin, long-time producer and music arranger for the band sometimes referred to as the Fifth Beatle (though Paul maintained “if anyone was the Fifth Beatle, it was Brian [Epstein]”), and basically pleaded that the band needed to end on a high note and get together to make an album “the way they used to.” Martin agreed, and Abbey Road was born.

Additional sources and fun links:

1970 Rolling Stone Interview with John Lennon

1980 Playboy Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono

1971 Life Magazine Interview with Paul McCartney

1969 Interview with George Harrison in Apple Offices

1977 Interview with Ringo Starr

2007 Review of “The End” by Richie Unterberger

1 Comment

Filed under Entertainment, Music

Onions! And Other Musings on the Madness of March…

Most of us who work in an office love this time of year. Even if we didn’t attend a college with a competing interest in the NCAA tournament, we all have a favorite or two. And gambling makes sure this is true. Hard core fans (read: gamblers) suddenly come down with some rare strain of influenza or Montezuma’s revenge or laryngitis that renders them incapable of making it into the office for the first Thursday and Friday of the big dance, and they sit on their couches or head out to the local sports bar and medicate their “ailments” with beer and chips and wings as they devour twelve hours of hoops each day in absolute heaven.

OR, for those less fortunate (read: those who have too much responsibility to bail on work, those who frivolously used up their personal/vacation days in the first two months of the year, or those who fear getting fired in such a bad economy), millions of other fans of college hoops sit in their cubicles or offices, glued to their computer screens, toggling between their work and every sporting website their office firewall allows them to open, following the action as best they can, counting down the hours till five, when they too can join the throngs in front of the boob tube.

That time of year has arrived when productivity hits a wall, where focus is completely lost and a lack of effort likely erases whatever progress or momentum had been achieved in January and February. Even the most anti-sports and/or unknowledgeable or ambivalent about anything sports related has a fighting chance, or more accurately, is among the favorites to win their respective office pools. They pick based on uniform colors or school mascots, or let their six year old children fill out their brackets…and invariably, much to the testosterone-fueled sports nuts’ chagrin in every office across the USA, they win the pool. (Read this recent article about How to Intelligently Talk About March Madness – Even If You Sort of Don’t Care)

I remember during my time in a past life, working in a Wall Street office that loved to gamble on anything and everything. We had a pool for every sporting event, including golf. We had pools for office eating contests, including one horrific Friday where the brass bought like a thousand White Castle sliders and the winner of the bacchanalia (whoever ate the most) took half of the pot…the other half went to those who bet on the correct “victor.” We even had pools within pools, or allegorical pools as I fondly recall christening them.

One day, one of the elevators in our building got stuck during lunch time. Two of our staff were on board during the mishap. This was before cell phones, mind you. We got a call from the lobby that an elevator lost power between the 15th and 16th floors, and that they believed two of our employees were among the stranded (they got a call from the elevator phone relaying the info). Anyway, of course this bit of bad luck for the two on the elevator quickly morphed into opportunity for the rest of us. We started a pool for picking the precise time the elevator would be fixed and our colleagues would make it back into the office…Price Is Right rules, closest to the time either of our men stepped into the office without going over would win the pot. I did not win. They finally emerged, together, three hours and 23 minutes later, at 3:36pm. I had wagered on 2:50. Oh well.

(This article highlights some other humorous office pools some have participated in over the years)

But I digress. I love March Madness. It’s a great sporting event that truly mimics the entropy of real life. Anything can and does happen. Every year, millions root for one of many underdogs, and we all get rewarded. And every year we get amazing match ups with heart-stopping finishes. And we get to gamble…and lose…to a person we know in our office that has no business winning.

So, in honor of March Madness, please find my unofficial list of all things that evoke images of Madness from the annals (two “n”s for the sick-minded) of pop culture, sports, politics and general trivia. I wanted to make a bracket so you all could pick match ups and crown an eventual winner, but alas, I am a simple blogger with very little technical know-how. So I give you a list, ranked from least madness inspiring to most. Feel free to make your own brackets. Or print it out and use it as kindling. Or completely ignore it. As usual, the order of our entries is debatable, and I welcome friendly discourse:

26) Mad Cow Disease – A horrifying scourge worthy of the most pessimistic writers of Hollywood and fiction novels alike, it gave us quite a scare back in 2001 and still lurks in the darkest corners of civilization as some of the best fodder for the anti-carnivorous set and even companies like Chick-Fil-A.  So awful, in fact, that it couldn’t make the top 25 of this list;

25) Mad Dog – that awful vomit-inducing budget pseudo liquor some of us were unfortunately introduced to in our college days, and a staple of many a homeless drunk;

24) Reefer Madness – 1936 film which dramatized the evils of Mary Jane. But what about the evils of this film, or those hypocritical politicians who continue to hide behind the Constitution when it comes to guns, but fail to recognize that our forefathers, the same brilliant men who wrote and fought for that very document, also grew and smoked chronic themselves?

23) This blog article called Lent Madness from 2010 (you need to scroll down a little);

22) Or this one about My Little Pony Madness  – actually, some of the inventions captured here are pretty cool;

21) It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World – 1963 star-studded comedy not unlike the Cannonball Run/Gumball Rally movies about a race for a large sum of money – in this case, stolen money.  It features Spencer Tracy, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Buddy Hackett, Ethel Merman, Mickey Rooney, Buster Keaton, Peter Falk, Jimmy Durante, and many more;

20) Space Madness;

19) Mad Love – 1995 film starring Chris O’Donnell (fresh off his Scent of a Woman acclaim) and Drew Barrymore. Not a bad account of mental illness wrapped up in a love story if you are into that sort of thing.

18) Mad Dog and Glory – 1993 film starring Bill Murray, Robert DeNiro and Uma Thurman. Underrated, in my opinion, but still, not in the respective top five films of any of the principles.

17) Mad Money, now in its eighth season, is a finance television program featuring the frenetic histrionics of Jim Cramer. I am not a big fan, but realize some of you might be and thus this ranking is up for debate;

16) Madmortigan – Val Kilmer’s warrior in the notable George Lucas semi-flop Willow. Love hearing the eponymous dwarf’s genuine awestruck giddiness as he says, “Madmortigan, you are great!”

15) Mad About You – One of very few successful tunes a drugged out Belinda Carlisle was able to muster without her other Go-Go girls (from her first solo album, Belinda, released in 1986, and topping out at #3 on the Billboard charts).

Also, a moderately successful if over-hyped sit-com featuring Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt. I prefer Carlisle’s tune to this schlock, but judging from its 7-year run during NBC’s glory years, millions would probably disagree.

Finally, Mad About You is a lesser known track off of Sting’s album, The Soul Cages;

14) This blog entry on top movie descents into madness, even though it fails to mention Apocalypse Now, Barton Fink and Falling Down….so wrong. It’s a good list, but greatness eludes it for what it fails to recognize. Omitting those three films on a list of descents into madness is the very definition of madness;

13) Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters – Elton John song from 1972 Honky Chateau, in which Bernie Taupin lyrically recalls his first visit to New York City, during which he hears a gun go off near his hotel window, and responds to a Ben E. King song called “Spanish Harlem” with a negative bent;

12) The oddity that is the Mad Martian Museum of Modern Madness;

11) Madness, the 1980s British band that brought us “Our House” (and fittingly, also had an album named Mad Not Mad);

10) This collection of journal entries, “March Mad-NESS,” from Funny or Die;

9) The Madness of King George, another of 1994’s incredibly rich stable of films, starring Nigel Hawthorne and Helen Mirren, who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. The film also won the Oscar for best adapted screenplay;

8) M.A.D.D. – Big ups for mothers who care. Hard not to side with moms on this one. As a one-time member of S.A.D.D. myself, I debated putting this one higher on this list. So yes, this was a hard-eight;

7) Mad Max – Mel Gibson is a douche. But in 1979 we didn’t know that. So if you can take yourself back to that simpler time, pre-anti-Semitic meltdown, and marvel at the genius of the character, you have to admit Mad Max was a post-apocalyptic bad-ass;

6) Mad World – Perhaps my favorite Tears for Fears song, chillingly remade by Gary Jules for the movie Donny Darko, and also covered most recently by surprise phenomenon Susan Boyle;

5) Mad Dogs and Englishmen – Joe Cocker’s 1970 live album of mostly cover songs, including The Rolling Stones (Honky Tonk Women), Traffic (Feelin’ Alright), The Beatles (She Came in Through the Bathroom Window), Leonard Cohen, Isaac Hayes and Otis Redding;

4) Mad scientists: Portrayed in hundreds of books, movies and television shows, from Dr. Frankenstein to Dr. Jekyll to Dr. Moreau to Jeff Goldblum’s Brundle in The Fly (check out this link…and this one);

3) Mad Men;

2) The Mad Hatter – One of Lewis Carroll’s most frighteningly awesome characters, Carroll never actually dubs The Hatter with the crazy modifier. Rather, both the Hatter and March Hare are referred to as “both mad” by the Cheshire Cat. Both characters first appear in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, in the seventh chapter titled “A Mad Tea Party.” The phrase “mad as a hatter” pre-dates Carroll’s works; and,

1) MAD Magazine – Always a reminder of my care-free youth, this ad-free humor mag featuring Alfred E. Newman, Spy vs. Spy, celebrity lampooning at its infantile best AND…my first foray into centerfolds, takes me back to days at summer camp, when a care package filled with candy and a few issues of MAD proved just how lucky I was to have the best parents ever.

See you in April,

IDROS

2 Comments

Filed under Entertainment, Humor, Movies, Music, Sports