Oct 092014

One of my close, personal Facebook friends posted this clip on his feed today. I watch this every other year or so, which indicates how often I watch Beatles- and Lennon-related documentaries, not just this clip in particular. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t particularly attracted to the cult-worshiping aspects of this scene:

This footage never fails to give me chills – on many levels. What’s really got me going now is the link I followed from the YouTube posting to a Dick Cavett appearance of, possibly, the same guy. If that’s in fact the same guy you’ve got to wonder what was going through his mind when Mark David Chapman completed his twisted act of fandom.

Sep 042011

Who remembers that guy Paul Harvey? He used to do that radio series The Rest of the Story. He’d give the story behind the story, often in an O’Henry kind of way.

There seem to be lots of rock & roll stories where it would be good to have Paul Harvey give us the rest of the story.

Consider John Lennon & May Pang.

So, John was acting…something…and Yoko sent him off with May Pang to…something. And then John came back after his lost weekend…cured.

Anyone want to speculate on the real story here (real or fictional)? What other rock & roll stories are there of which you wish you knew the “rest of the story?”

Jul 192011

Et tu, Eddie?

Has any rocker ever made music of merit wearing a sleeveless shirt? Not while making music bare-chested or wearing a tank top, not bare-chested under a vest, but specifically making music while wearing a sleeveless shirt.

If you’ve clicked these opening links you’ll see that U2 drummer Larry Mullen has been known to wear the sleeveless shirt. I’ll grant that an argument can be made that U2 made some music of merit while Mullen donned such a gun-bearing fashion atrocity, but he’s a drummer. In past style pieces on Rock Town Hall, drummers have gotten a pass for all sorts of questionable fashion choices, including performing in barefeet and wearing shorts. We make some allowances for rock’s driving forces based on matters of comfort. For the purposes of this survey, we’ll give sleeveless drummers a pass. Beside, I want no part of George Hurley.

Granted, as a guy who’s never expressed his vanity through his forearms (as if I could), the whole sleeveless shirt thing mystifies me. It’s to be expected that the poster boy of Rock Town Hall’s Unfulfilled Fashion Ideas series, Alan Vega, would go sleeveless, but the style would spread to some of the coolest of the cool. How much comfort does a man need to be a rock legend? How much do we really need to know about him? Sure, sometimes even the President of the United States has to stand naked, but did Bob Dylan really need to play sleeveless?

Sleeveless shirt, leather pants, two pairs of shorts...Jerry wins this battle of Best Stage Look!

I don’t know when the sleeveless shirt craze took over, but do a search on a number of rock artists with the date “1985” following their name and I’d bet you can come up with as many shots of them sleeveless as I just did with Dylan. (BTW, I didn’t realize he was into the Bare-Chested Vest Look as early as the mid-’70s, for that Renaldo and Clare movie.) You don’t believe me? Try these:

Strummer, for all his late-period Clash fashion faux pas shouldn’t surprise me, but seeing him in sleeveless shirts still hurts. Make it stop already!

Even a search on Rock Town Hall’s patron saint of mediocrity, “Bob Seger 1985,” turns up this. I pray that’s a bare-chested hippie vest shot and not what it seems.

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Jun 112011

Following up on the recent Phil Spector thread… I will posit this:

Instant Karma” is TOTALLY overrated.

The reasons: the drum sound is horrible and sloppy, like they couldn’t get drums but decided to bang on big cardboard boxes. Lennon’s Elvis-like singing, which is a big smirk. The lame piano playing, as if Billy Preston forgot the soul that made him Billy Preston. Harrison on guitar? Is the guitar plugged in? And the overall production and playing is sloppy — it sounds like a demo, and not a demo tinged with wonder (The Modern Lovers come to mind) but a demo they were obviously too high to do another take on. You can actually hear them lagging behind and trying to catch up. And did I mention the drumming, which has some of the worst — THE WORST — fills in the known musical world.

I know the whole “written for breakfast, put out for dinner” mystique — but it’s bad. And don’t get me started on the song itself: bumper sticker lyrics with no melody. The song goes nowhere except to get to the big chorus — oh wow, the manager is singing along too. And the hand claps — the lame hand claps.

If anyone but Lennon had put this out, it would never have seen the light of day. It’s trite ’70s coked-up crap.

Thank you and goodnight.

Jun 102011

Because of the series in which this post is being framed I run the risk of being perceived as inflammatory for no good reason—or naive or even outright idiotc. I like my share of Phil Spector‘s works; own his box set, Back to Mono; and know more than enough about his influence on The Beach Boys and beyond, including the reach of his studio cats, The Wrecking Crew.  That said, I am tempted to call bullshit on Spector and his Wall of Sound, or maybe more accurately the degree to which it’s praised.

I unabashedly like probably a baker’s dozen Phil Spector productions. The Ronettes were the best of the bunch who worked under him. Ronnie Spector has personality out the whazoo. The Crystals had some winners. He cowrote “Spanish Harlem,” which is, as Lenny Bruce put it, “so pretty, man!” His Christmas album is charming, although a couple of years ago I had my fill of it and have done my best to leave the house whenever my wife wants to play it by the yuletide. Like a lot of Spector’s work, it grows cloying over repeated listens.

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Sep 042008

As a huge Beatles fan who has identified with John in particular, I’ve long struggled with this question: Is John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band a great album?

Thinking about the album in its context, the answer is certainly Yes!

Listening to the album in its context, including its anti-Beatles simplicity and in-your-face production, the answer is Yes!

But just listening to the songs on the album, in sequence, I’m not so sure.
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