Even if Bob Dylan hadn’t introduced The Beatles to marijuana at New York’s Delmonico Hotel, the boys would have lit up soon enough. From that August 1964 night onward, “let’s have a laugh” quickly became their code phrase for “let’s have a toke.” And laugh they did. At least until they began getting busted for smoking that wicked weed. It turns out that Paul, not the controversial John, was the most prolific pot puffer of all, leading the band in number of arrests.
The theater darkens. The 20th-Century Fox logo flickers on. Then, two very red lips on a black background fill the screen. The theme music begins and the lips sing, “Michael Rennie was ill the day the earth stood still, but he told us where we stand. And Flash Gordon was there, in silver underwear, Claude Rains was the Invisible Man.” You’re immediately drawn in by the tune, the lyrics and the fab falsetto of the singer. The lips continue singing for several verses while the opening credits appear. The theme song, like the movie, is an homage to early science fiction movies, B horror movies, and early rock-n-roll. Soon, people in the audience start wielding strange objects in the theater and talking back to the actors. By now you’re starting to wonder: just exactly what did I wander into? “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” of course. When I first saw this film in the mid-1980s it was like nothing else I’d ever seen. I was titillated, shocked, and rapturously seduced! An article by contributing writer Janet Daniels.
Forty-five years ago this month I was eating Pillsbury Space Food Sticks, building my own mini lunar module from a kit, and drinking Tang — the beverage of astronauts! Like the rest of the world, I was caught up in Apollo 11 moon-landing mania, as Neil Armstrong took that first giant step on July 20, 1969. The event spawned national pride, crackpot conspiracy theories, and countless innovative spinoff technologies. It also inspired an androgynous young British performer to release a song that would define his career.
Which rock star has an asteroid named in his honor? Brainy guitarist/astrophysicist Brian May, of course! The musician best known for his work with Queen turns 67 today. I could always recognize his distinctive style. He used his custom-built “Red Special” guitar to produce sounds that mimicked all kinds of instruments, such as trombones and piccolos. In 2012, readers of Guitar World magazine voted him the 2nd greatest guitarist of all time, and Rolling Stone pegged him at #26 in their list of Top 100 guitarists.
Woody Guthrie, born 102 years ago today, is best known as the dust bowl balladeer who wrote many of America’s most beloved songs, including “This Land Is Your Land.” He was a free spirit and a sprite, a vagabond minstrel who spent his 55 years on earth using music to empower the common man. He wrote of the roads he traveled and the characters he met, of “dusty old dust” and the places he lived on “the wild, windy plains.” He also wrote about a land and a culture far removed from his Tom Joad roots, a place “where the halvah meets the pickle, where the sour meets the sweet.” Yes, folks, it turns out that Woody Guthrie had a Jewish mother-in-law! And folk culture is all richer for it.
A friend who had the misfortune of being born a bit too early to experience full frontal Beatlemania once said to me, “Ringo wasn’t one of the more important members of the group, was he?” To a rubber-souled, revolver-raving, fanatical Abbey Roadster like myself, this was among the greatest blasphemies ever spoken. If you said that Chico wasn’t important to the Marx Brothers, that Fredo wasn’t important to the Corleones, that Donny wasn’t important to The Big Lebowski, I’d simply overlook your lack of film savvy or question your taste. But to suggest that Ringo was less than essential is the ultimate fallacy. It is, in the jargon of the Brits, a complete load of BULLOCKS!
When the cops finally busted Madam Marie, the young ne’er-do-well knew it was time to leave the seaside carnival life forever. Riding Tilt-a-Whirls and chasing factory girls underneath the boardwalk…cruising the circuit with switchblade lovers and open-shirted casino boys…it was all kid’s stuff. Someday he’d look back on those barefoot slacker days and sex-seeking nights, and rage against the dying of the pier lights that once cast a protective cover, like a soft beach blanket, over his body and hers. But now, as the fireworks hailed over his Little Eden on that 4th of July, he determined it was time to move on. And, taking a page from that ancient tome, “Seduction Tactics 101,” he made his plea to sweet “Sandy Girl:” Love me tonight, for I may never see you again. Ah, Mr. Springsteen! How I miss your beach life lullabies and city-sidewalk serenades! Songs like “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)” are among the most visual and desperately romantic works in Bruce’s catalog. And this one, in particular, is as beautiful and wistful as they come.
“Swan song” is a term that refers to a final effort or performance. But, when I think of swan song as it relates to The Beatles, their early hit “She Loves You” comes to mind. By September 1963, the band was fast becoming a phenomenon in England, but couldn’t manage to grab the attention of a major record label in the U.S. Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein finally turned to the small Philadelphia-based Swan Records to release the single that was flying off the shelves in the U.K.
The popular music of North America is seasoned with the blood and sweat of every race and nationality: Anglos, Africans, Hispanics, Jews…rockers of all ethnic mixes. But what about the native peoples of North America? Many rock fans know that Cher, Rita Coolidge, and Robbie Robertson have native roots. But when was the last time you heard anything about a rock band comprised predominantly of indigenous peoples from the U.S. or Canada? Well, they’re out there! Some have been making music for decades; others are new to the scene. And while many aren’t headliners (yet), they’re recording, touring, winning awards, and selling lots of music online. Thanks to YouTube and iTunes I’ve recently become familiar with a number of talented bands that are really catching fire.
When The Rolling Stones released the album “Their Satanic Majesties Request” in December 1967, they probably never imagined their twice-busted lead singer would one day hobnob with majesties of a very different sort. Ah, but rock-n-roll is an ever-evolving beast of beauty. And so it went that 35 years later – on June 9, 2002 – newspapers began reporting that Queen Elizabeth II would appoint Mick Jagger a Knight Bachelor for “services to music,” despite the fact that she never cared for the singing, swinging sexpot and his liaisons with her libertine sister, Princess Margaret.