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.
Anne Frank, the Jewish teen diarist who documented her experiences hiding from the Nazis during World War II, would have turned 86 today. Her work inspired me to purchase my first diary. We were soul mates; both of us dark-haired and dark-eyed, yearning to be free, wrapped up in our writing as a form of escape and self-therapy. Like Anne, I will continue to write till my stoney end.
So, you’re trippin’ with your blue-jean baby down a marijuana-scented street, wearing your tie-dyed shirt, love beads and huaraches, when you hear an announcement blaring from a packed tour bus: “Now, ladies and gentlemen, if you look to your left you’ll see a hairy hippie passed out in front of the Phật Phúc Noodle Bar. Ahead on the right you’ll notice a parade of shaved-head Hare Krishnas — such a happy lot, wrapped in their orange gauze! Oh, and do you see those scraggly kids carrying signs that say ‘drop acid, not bombs’? They’re the pinko-loving, un-American war protestors. Now, just up ahead on your left is a store where stoners buy things called zig-zag paper and roach clips. They call it a ‘head shop’….don’t ask me why!” Ah, what better way to take in the sights, sounds and aromas of the Summer of Love than to book a reservation on a Greyhound Bus Line “Hippyland Tour” of the famous Haight-Ashbury district!
“This man is not a role model.” So proclaimed my 5th grade teacher Mr. Kuntz as he held up a ‘Life’ magazine featuring photos of New York Jets’ star quarterback Joe Namath swilling Scotch with adoring groupie dolls and cigar-chomping minions at his Upper East Side Club, Bachelors III. Joe Namath, a media-hungry playboy? I was taken aback by that indictment, at a time when I too young to even understand what ‘taken aback’ meant! Today is Joe’s 72nd birthday, and here’s a look back at his groovy unsportsmanlike style.
One of the most unusual and innovative new performers of the day chooses you for his band, insists you wear eyeliner, satin, and 6-inch platform boots, and then proceeds to engage in deviate sexual activity with your guitar while you stand on stage churning out searing licks. Sound demanding? Well, it’s all in a day’s work when your name is Mick Ronson and you’re making rock-n-roll history with David Bowie. Mick was an arranger, producer, songwriter and classically-trained multi-instrumentalist who became the most recognized super guitarist of the glam rock era. Bowie may have ushered in a whole new brand of performance art with his space-age song themes and colorful alter egos, but it was Mick who legitimized the spectacle with his rock solid musicianship.
Images of the old American West and scenes of Southern country life have inspired countless British rock recordings through the years, none more so than the early albums of Elton John. And no wonder. His lyricist Bernie Taupin was in love with romantic visions of Americana…scenes of cornfields and cattle towns, frisky colts and fringed-front buggies, gunslingers and Pinkertons, field bosses and chain gangs, Roy Rogers and Geronimo. All of Elton’s songs began in the mind of Bernie, who turns 64 today. He wrote the lyrics that the pianist-showman set to music – creating vivid sound portraits of days gone by.
In the early 1970s I was rounding out my collection of Beatles LPs, when I stumbled upon one called “The Beatles Featuring Tony Sheridan – In the Beginning, Circa 1960.” I considered this a real find! I hadn’t been aware of any pre-1963 Beatles recordings, and I had never known the boys to collaborate on vinyl with anyone. Who the heck was Tony Sheridan? Well, if you’re a follower of Fab Four history, don’t miss this chapter on one of The Beatles’ early, influential mentors, who was born on this date in 1940.
Who was the youngest person to perform on a U.S. top ten hit record? Thinking Michael Jackson or Jimmy Osmond? No, it was Susan Cowsill, 56 today, of The Cowsills – a family band that proved you could make psychedelic music even while promoting milk for the American Dairy Association. Susan had just turned 9 when she sang background vocals on the group’s “Indian Lake,” which reached #10 on the Billboard charts in 1968. The Cowsills featured siblings Bill, Bob, Barry, John, Paul and Susan, plus mom Barbara. The band was the inspiration behind the ’70 TV sitcom “The Partridge Family.”
“Pete Townshend’s suicide note” is how music critic Roy Carr once described The Who’s October 1975 release “The Who By Numbers. “The band’s founder, songwriter and lead guitarist bared his tortured soul on this LP like no other. Yer blogger bought the record at the height of her teenage existential crisis…and needless to say, she loved it.
Man, I can’t tell you how many times my shrink has had to listen to me recount this dream: I’m strutting down the street decked out like Joan Jett — carrying a guitar/amp/tambourine/harmonica – when a car pulls over and a famous, seasoned musician asks me to stop by a recording studio and rehearse with him. Instant stardom, based on nothing more than IMAGE. Hey, it’s no more far fetched than grabbing 15 minutes of fame by being anointed “star du jour” by the glam-bam-thank-you-ma’am “American Idol” judges. Being swept off the street by a rock star may be nothing more than a wet dream for yer blogger, but this really did happen to a young violinist named Donna Shea, better known as Scarlet Rivera.