Monday, December 21, 2009

Big Brother guitarist, James Gurley (1939-2009)

Big Brother and the Holding Company guitarist James Gurley passed away yesterday from a heart attack. He was 69 years old and just two days shy before his 70th birthday. Big Brother are probably best remembered as the band that jump started the career of Janis Joplin. Joplin became lead singer of the band around 1966. Joplin, Gurley, guitarist Sam Andrews, bassist Pete Ablin, and drummer David Getz made up the line-up for their 1967 debut album. After playing at the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967, the band got bigger. A year later the classic Cheap Thrills album was released. Although Joplin left to pursue a solo career in late 1968, the band continued until 1973. Since 1987, the band had been playing in the nosalgia circuit.

Gurley and Joplin also had an affair, with Gurley still married. Nancy, James' wife, eventually forgave him and Janis. When Nancy died from a heroin overdose, Janis dedicated her I Got Dem Ol Kosmic Blues Again, Mama! album in 1969. For two years, James was blamed for injecting the heroin. James was later given probation time.

Rest in peace, James.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Rock N Roll Hall of Fame: Class of 2010

Yesterday, the inductees for the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame 2010 ceremony were announced. Of the 12 nominees, five got in (or will be in on March 15, 2010). There were some disappointments (Kiss) and sighs of relief (LL Cool J). Overall, I personally think that the Hall of Shame has actually done a good job for 2010. Let's go into the inductees, shall we?


Genesis
The progressive rock pioneers have finally gotten inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame. Original members Mike Rutherford (bass) and Tony Banks (keyboards) have both said they are a bit surprised by getting in but are honored. Both Rutherford and Banks stated that they have left March 15 empty but aren't sure whether they'll be performing or not. As to having Peter Gaberial and Steve Hackett reuniting with them, Rutherford and Banks still don't know. Phil Collins had surgery earlier this year which has made him unable to drum. Banks remarked that Collins may not be looking foward to playing early-1970's material (which means the material with Peter). As for Peter, Banks said they originally asked him to reunite with the band for their 2007 reunion tour. Gaberial was interested in performing all of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway but nothing came of it.



The Stooges
After being nominated eight times, the Stooges are finally in the Hall. Iggy Pop has remarked that the induction is an emotional one. Earlier in January, guitarist Ron Asheton suddenly passed away. This left the reunited Stooges (since 2003 or later) on hiatus. Now, Iggy and the band getting everything back together. Of the four original members on their 1969 debut album, Pop and Scott Asheton (brother of Ron) are the only surviving original members left. Replacing Ron will be guitarist James Williamson. Williamson is no stranger to the band as he joined the Stooges on guitar back in 1971 when Iggy, Ron, and Scott got back together (original bassist Dave Alexander had left. He later died in 1976). The Stooges will be on tour. According to Iggy, there'll be certain dates where the band will play all of the Raw Power album.

ABBA
Swedish pop sensation ABBA are another one of the five inductees for 2010. Benny Anderrson has stated he is shocked the group got inducted, being they make pop music, not rock. While Benny might be right, ABBA has made a impact on rock music. Don't be shocked: ABBA can be a guilty pleasure! As far as reuniting goes, Benny stated he says he doesn't think it will happen. The group have not performed in almost 30 years. Last year, the four were reunited for the Sewdish premire of Mamma Mia!





The Hollies

The Hollies have also made the cut this year. Graham Nash says that he and the other members are honored to be inducted.




Jimmy Cliff
Lastly, Jimmy Cliff will be inducted. Don't feel alone: I didn't know who this guy was at first! Cliff is a reggae singer. He's probably best known for appearing in the cult classic movie The Harder They Come.






Other inductees include Geffen Records owner David Geffen, Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil, Ellie Greenwich & Jeff Barry, Jesse Stone, Mort Shuman, and Otis Blackwell. The ceremony, once again, will take place on March 15, 2010!
I'll later compare the poll results...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

John Lennon: Still shocking 29 years after & timeline

John Lennon
October 9, 1940-December 8, 1980

Today, Beatle fans celebrate the life of John Lennon. Now 29 years after his death, the music he created by himself and with the Beatles are as fresh as they were when they first came out. The death of John Lennon isn't only an important part to music history but also pop culture itself. Musicians don't get murdered. Presidents or people of high power do. This prooved to be wrong on December 8, 1980 when Lennon was murdered by a crazed fan at around 10:50 pm. By 11:20 pm, Lennon was pronouced dead. The news, at first, was sent out instantly. Early reports just stated that Lennon had been shot a few times and was in critical condition. Sportscaster Howard Cosell was one of the first to report the news on John Lennon's passing. Cosell made a short annoucement during Monday Night Football. By night, fans stormed out to the Dakota and held candles. Some sang Beatle songs or blared them from a radio.

The people born after 1980 should know of Lennon's death. However, they don't know how shocking this was at the time. Lennon was a healthy 40-year-old man celebrating the release of his new album with wife Yoko Ono, Double Fantasy. He was one of the nicest people one could ever meet in a lifetime. So when the news came around that this man was dead, people had a hard time believing he was gone. I wasn't around then but just knowing about this still brings tears to my eyes. There was plenty of sadness when Lennon's former band mate, Georoge Harrison, passed away on November 29, 2001. However, Harrison had been ill with cancer for years by then.

On June 25 of this year, Michael Jackson suddenly passed away. I can remember hearing the news and not believing it. This man couldn't be dead. He just couldn't. The more I compare Lennon and Jackson, I can see that the reaction was very much the same. Jackson was looking foward to some comeback shows and he suddenly passed away. So for those you don't know what it felt like when John Lennon died, think about how you felt when Michael Jackson died.

As a huge Beatles fan, I would like to remember the man John Lennon was rather than focus on his death so much. So, I've copy and pasted a timeline on the life of John Lennon that I wrote a year ago. I hope you enjoy reading it.

Rest in peace, John.

John Lennon Timeline: Life of a Beatle

October 9, 1940- John Winston Lennon is born in Liverpool to Alfred and Julia Lennon.

c.1943-1945- John’s parents split. John, only a kid then, wanted to be with his father but when he saw his mother cry, he ran back to her and decided to stay with his mother. John would rarely see his father in his life ever again. Sometime later, Julia meets and marries another man. She felt as if she couldn’t take care of him. So, she has her sister Mimi and her husband take care of John.

c. 1950- When John turns ten, his uncle gives him a harmonica.


c. 1954-1956- By this time, John’s uncle has died. Aunt Mimi is left a widow and in charge of the teenage Lennon, who is now obsessed with the newest craze: rock n roll. The leader of it all was Elvis Presley, who John looked up to the most of anybody. John is also a trouble-maker and his school can’t take any more. With that, John is kicked out and goes to Art College. While John hated it, he met his friend Stuart Sutcliff and his soon-to-be girlfriend Cynthia Powell. Also during this time, Julia tries to renew a relationship with her son. Sadly, Julia is killed by a drunk driver in 1957.

July 17, 1957- John’s skiffle band, the Quarrymen, play a gig. Watching the show is James Paul McCartney, who is known as Paul McCartney. Paul meets John after the show. Paul decides to play music for John and plays “25 Rock” by Eddie Cochran. John is impressed and knows he has talent. Sooner or later, he asked Paul to join. According to John, he said yes the next day.

c.1958-1959- John and Paul form a new group. Paul suggests to John to have his friend, George Harrison, to play guitar in the band. John is reluctant at first, complaining he’s too young. Paul doesn’t give up and one night, the three are on a double decker bus. George had his guitar and that night, John changed his mind. Stuart is also made bassist of the band, despite his lack of knowledge on how to play.

c.1959-1961- Johnny and the Moondogs become the Beatles. Long story short, Pete Best becomes drummer and then the band tour Germany. The tour is a successful but Paul, George, and Pete are all deported for different reasons. George was too young to play at one club while Paul and Pete got in trouble for burning a condom to a hotel wall. John goes back home but Stuart stays to marry Astrid Kirster, a girl who had given the boys their "mop-top" hair cut. Stuart later dies in 1961.

c.1961-1963- Paul switches to bass. The band is eventually discovered by Brian Epstein, who becomes their manager. After a few record labels, the band is finally signed to EMI records. Producer George Martin loves them although he produces classical music. However, Pete Best is sacked for not being a good drummer! Ringo Starr takes his place and the rest is history.

c.1963- It is thought that both John and Brian went on a holiday. It has been rumored that the two experimented/engaged in homosexual acts, as Brian was gay. Over the years, this rumor has been denied. In an interview, John said he let Brian "have a whack" (or masturbation). This has been talked about for many years and even was made into a movie later in the 1990’s.

1963- John and his girlfriend, Cynthia Powell, had been together for some time. One day, Cynthia tearfully reveals to John that she’s pregnant with John’s child. John immediately insists that they get married. John and Cynthia do marry and on April 8, 1963, Julian Lennon (born as John Charles Julian Lennon) is born.

1963-1966- Beatlemania takes off. With the release of the song “Please, Please Me” and an album of the same name, the Beatles become instantly popular. However, it isn’t until 1964 when “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” hits the chart at #1 in America. The Beatles go to America in February and appear on the Ed Sullivan show. The show draws up to 70 million viewers. Besides releasing albums and hit singles, the band appears in two films about them. The first is A Hard Day’s Night (1964) and the second is Help! (1965). Both films are directed by Richard Lester. John also tries to write poetry. His first book is In His Own Write and the second is A Spaniard In The Works. By 1966, touring takes its toll.

1966- An out-of-context quote made by John causes an uproar in America. John says in the statement that the Beatles are more popular than Jesus Christ. Radio stations start to ban the Beatles and hold record burnings. John does apologize but it doesn’t do much. The Beatles play their last concert to the public this year in Candlestick Park. The band then takes a break. John gets to star in the Richard Lester film How I Won The War.

November 9, 1966- John goes to an Indica Art Gallery, which is done by Japanese artist Yoko Ono. John enjoys the art but Yoko has no idea who he is. John is still married but it won’t be long…

1967- The Beatles, all sporting mustaches now, record their next two singles “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane”. Both songs are related to John as he lived near these places as a kid. The band then record Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which is critically praised. John even writes what is probably the most complex thing ever done by the Beatles: “A Day In The Life”

1967- The Beatles meet the Maharishi Yogi but Brian Epstein suddenly dies. The band direct a film and an album called Magical Mystery Tour. The film is only shown in the UK on Boxing Day and shown in black and white. The film is panned while the music is actually great!

1967-1968- The Beatles go to Rishikesh to meet the Maharishi again but leave after a few weeks. The band even makes a record label: Apple. Before this, Yoko Ono comes to England to promote her short film Film No.4, which infamously is just pictures of over 300 butts. Yoko remembers John and asks for music for her next film. Long story short, John and Yoko begin to have an affair until Cynthia discovers this. John and Cynthia divorce in 1968. Cynthia remarries and is left to care for five-year-old Julian, although John shares custody of him. With this John brings Yoko to the studio during the recording of the album The Beatles, better known as The White Album. That album is released the same year.

1968- John and Yoko released an avant-garde album called Two Virgins. The album consists of weird sounds and noises hours before the couple made love for the first time. The cover causes quite a controversy as it depicts a picture of John and Yoko completely naked. Despite the album being covered in a paper bag, the album doesn’t do anything.

1969- The Beatles work on what will become the 1970 Let It Be album. Tensions are high during this time. The Beatles even perform on the roof of Apple, which lasts for only a half hour before the police arrive. John and Yoko are still close. In March, the couple gets married. On their honeymoon, the two decide to sit in bed. This is the beginning of many bed-ins, in protest to stop the war in Vietnam. Some think John and Yoko are nuts but they manage to make a great single called “Give Peace A Chance”. By the end of this year, Abbey Road is the last Beatles album recorded.

1970- The Beatles are now managed by Allen Klien, who managed the Rolling Stones (but the Stones hated him). Klien screws up both the band and Apple Records all together. In April 1970, Paul issues a statement that he has quit the band. Not only this but he’s also filed a lawsuit to end the partnership. The Beatles are no more.

1970- Even before this year, John and Yoko form the Plastic Ono Band. The band consists of guitarist Eric Clapton, bassist Klaus Voormann (friend from Germany years and also the artist for the Revolver album cover), and future Yes drummer Alan White.

1970- Both John and Yoko release albums called Plastic Ono Band. John’s album is a personal one. The album opens with “Mother”, a slow song that deals with John’s dead mother and his missing father. “Working Class Hero” becomes infamous for using the word "f**k" twice. John refuses to edit it when asked to. John’s first album is critically praised.

1971- John releases his next album Imagine. The album and the self-titled track are both a success. On the Imagine album, the song “How Do You Sleep?”, which was a hate song written to Paul. Ironically, George Harrison plays on the song! Paul tried to resolve the tension with a song called “Dear Friend” on his album Wild Life with his new band Wings. This year also sees the start of John’s fight to stay in the US, which I won’t go into too much detail about.

1971-1972- John and Yoko start posting billboards reading “War Is Over! If You Want It”. This was in protest to stop the Vietnam War and to promote their new single, “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”. Today, the song is still seen as a Christmas song.

1972- John and Yoko attend a protest to free war-activist, John Sinclair, who was convicted of using marijuana. John wrote an original song called “John Sinclair” and as a result, Sinclair was let go of the next day! This song and many other political songs appear on Sometime In New York City. This was John and Yoko’s collaboration with a New York band called Elephant’s Memory. The album received poor reviews and still does today.

1973- Mind Games is released. Tired of John’s antics, Yoko splits from John. The couple does not divorce. Instead, Yoko puts John on a plan to get him sober in a Japanese tradition (I didn't make this up. Larry Kane said it!). Since he wouldn’t have a partner, Yoko pairs John up with her friend May Pang. The next 18 months of John’s life are often referred to as his so-called "Lost Weekend".

1974-1975- John releases Walls And Bridges. John slowly starts to get sober. Part of this plan was to have him make up old relationships. May Pang often tried to have Julian come over and spend time with his dad, which rarely happened before. They spent one day in Disneyland, with Cynthia present. The pairing worked somehow as Julian plays drums on the song “Ya-Ya” from the Walls And Bridges album. In 1975, John releases Rock N Roll, a tribute to the music he grew up to. During sessions, John meets Paul in person for the first time in years. It’s not really known what went on but bootlegs of the old friends have been spread around. The last time John and Paul meet is in 1975. John also collaborates with Elton John on “Whatever Gets You through the Night”, which went to #1 in the Billboard charts. John had told Elton if the song went #1, he'd play on stage with him. This happens and becomes the last time John Lennon performs live.

1975- At the Grammy Awards, John and Yoko are seen together in public for the first time since 1973. John is now sober and he and Yoko were in love again. It came to the point when Yoko was pregnant. This wasn’t the first time Yoko was pregnant with John’s child. Back in the late 1960’s, Yoko suffered from two miscarriages. After the second, she was told she’d never have any more children. Yoko did have one daughter from husband Tony Cox. Her name is Kyoko. She was seen with John and Yoko during the Bed-In. Kyoko went missing after her father took her. Yoko wouldn’t see her until 1998. Anyway, John was excited to be a dad again.

October 9, 1975- John turns not only turns 35 but Yoko gives birth to Sean Taro Ono Lennon that day. Also on the same day, John is finally accepted to live in the US. John was extremely happy. However, he wanted to be with his new son. Beatlemania was at its height when Julian was born, leaving no time for John to be with him. John didn’t want to repeat history. So in 1975, John announced he was retiring from the music business all together to be with his new family.

1975-1980- For five years, John Lennon remained out of the spotlight and lived in an apartment at the Dakota in New York with Yoko and Sean. John referred these years as his "fatherhood years" as he was taking care of Sean. The family would take vacations and on occasion, Julian spent time with his father and his new family. Over this period in time, John and Yoko are writing new material for a new album. John sends the songs on a tape to producer Jack Douglas. Douglas liked the songs and in 1980, John begins working again.

October 9, 1980- John turns 40 years old while Sean turns five years old.

November 1980- John and Yoko’s new album, Double Fantasy, is released. The album is praised for the effort put into it. John, at this time, starts thinking of a tour. However, no one is prepared for what is to come.


December 8, 1980- (CAUTION: This part might get intense and a bit graphic. For those of you who are very sensitive, you’ve been warned.)

In the morning, John and Yoko go to a photo shoot to have a picture taken for the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. The cover has the couple lying on a bed. Yoko is clothed while John, naked, is in a fetal position kissing her. Later that day, the couple stop by the studio by the Record Plant studio. Yoko is working on her newest single “Walking On Thin Ice”. In the studio office, a radio station interviews John and Yoko. John is in high spirits and after the interview, the couple leaves. In the limousine, John doesn’t want to go out to dinner. He wanted to go back home to kiss Sean goodnight. So, the limo pulled up by the Dakota at around 10:50 pm. Yoko got out first and while walking, she noticed a man. The man nodded to her as he had met her earlier that night. She nods back. John then walks and sees the man and remembers him too. John keeps walking until a voice asks, “Mr. Lennon?”

John slightly turned his head around. Suddenly, the man had whipped out a gun and fired seven bullets. Five of them hit John in the back. John stumbled his way up the stairs yelling “I’m shot!” and collapsed on the ground. Yoko screamed, asking for someone to call 911.

The police arrive to arrest the man and to also get John to the hospital quick. The police car drove to the Kennedy Hospital, where doctors were shocked that it was actually John Lennon who was the patient. Doctors tried their hardest to cure John. They even massaged his heart by opening his chest. The doctors then saw there was no hope: one of the bullets had pierced John’s aorta, which cause him to lose more than 50% of his blood. By 11:20 pm that night, John Winston Ono Lennon was pronounced dead on arrival from gunshot.

John’s death was a shock to everyone, even to the three other Beatles. A couple of days later, Yoko Ono announced there wouldn’t be a funeral for John. All she asked was for ten minutes of silence in memory of John. Lennon’s killer was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison. He was viable for parole four times, most recently in August 2008. He was, of course, denied all four times. He’ll be up again for parole in 2010. As a fan, I wish that no one mentions the name of John’s killer. He is a bastard for what he did and gets no love from me at all.

AFTERLIFE

Ever since that terrible day, John Lennon has been remembered all around the world in so many ways. Paul, George, and Ringo reunited in 1994 for the Anthology project. Sadly in 2001, George Harrison lost his battle with cancer. Yoko Ono has made a memorial for John in Central Park. It’s called Strawberry Fields, named after the place John used to go to in Liverpool as a kid. For music listeners, the place is better known as one of the Beatles' hits. A huge circle that says IMAGINE in the middle has been the gathering place for all Beatles fans during the 9/11 attacks and George’s passing. Many just visit because they love the music.
John’s sons, Julian and Sean, have both followed in the footsteps of their father and have released some great music. In 2007, Yoko unveiled the Peace Tower in Iceland. This tower will shine a light every year on his birthday and on the day of his death.



Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Rolling Stones at Altamont: 40 years since the violence

Picture: Snippet of a newspaper article. Picture is pointing out Meredith Hunter, who was murdered two songs into the Stones' set.
It was supposed to be the next Woodstock. It was supposed to be peaceful. Instead, it was a nightmare. On December 6, 1969, the Rolling Stones played a free concert at the Altamont Speedway. No one was prepared for what was going to happen.
The Rolling Stones were one of the the most successful rock group in 1969. Despite the death of Brian Jones in the summer, the band was still rocking. Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts, and their new guitarist Mick Taylor were touring the US. In late November the band released Let It Bleed. By the end of the summer, the band planned to organize a free concert in San Francisco. Originally, the gig was supposed to be at Golden Gate Park. When that didn't work, the band's management were able to book a free gig at the Altamont Speedway. The Rolling Stones would be there as would Jefferson Airplane, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and the Grateful Dead. Also, motorcycle gang Hell's Angels would be providing security. The Angels were asked to be paid in bottles of beer.
As seen in the 1970 documentary Gimme Shelter, there were problems with Altamont before it started. The venue lacked public restrooms and wasn't enough to have people park their cars. After asking for property by several landowners and even switching to to Altamont on the night of December 4 (originally Sear Point Raceway), it was all set. It was much like Woodstock. There were plenty of hippes and junkies. As seen in Gimme Shelter, there were many people who were on bad acid trips. Like Woodstock, there were births. Sources say that four babies were born that day. The Angels were also there, intoxicated and aggressive. Stones road manager Sam Cutler introduced The Flying Burrito Brothers and everybody was having a good time. After the band played one song, violence erupted. The crowd was told to chill out but it would take more than that.
Jefferson Airplane took the stage and almost got through one song. There are many different stories to how the Angels got so aggressive. Wikipedia cites that the crowd had (probably accidentally) toppled motorcycles belonging to Hell's Angels. During Jefferson Airplane's performance, it's hard to see exactly what caused the violence. After watching the movie Gimme Shelter, it looks like a majority of the crowd were on bad acid trips. The Angel's were armed with sticks, beating anybody who touched them. This got singer Marty Balin pissed off. According to a Rolling Stone article, Balin had told one of the Angels to f*** off. Balin was knocked out stone cold. Guitarist Paul Kantner then thanked the Angels for beating his band mate.
"You got to keep your bodies off each other unless you intend love" suggested Grace Slick.
Although not seen in Gimme Shelter, Santana and CSNY played their sets. The Grateful Dead arrived at Altamont but refused to play after hearing about the violence and of Balin's injury. The Rolling Stones waited until sunset for the audience to calm down. When the Stones did get on stage, Mick Jagger said smiling,
"Poor babies. There are so many of you!"
The band then went into "Sympathy for the Devil". By the time Mick got into the chorus, the crowd was going nuts again. Mick tried to calm to audience down by saying "Brothers and sisters!"
"Something very funny happens when we play that number" said Mick.
The band restarted the song and got through it, despite a few outbreaks of violence. Mick was able to stay focused on performing, even when a dog (possible owned by one of the Angels) walked across the stage.
"People. Why are you fighting...and, uh, what for?" asked Mick. "I mean, who wants to fight?"
Keith got pissed at one guy saying if he didn't stop it, they won't play. Doctors were called to the stage. Mick went further into preaching to the audience and once that was heard, the band went into "Under My Thumb". The band gave a slow rendition of the song but considering the stress they were under, it sounds really good.
As soon as the song ends, the crowd screams. This is not because they like the music but because a young black man in a green suit is trying to defend himself...with a gun. Angel Alan Passaro stopped him by whipping out a knife and stabbing the man in the back. This is clearly seen towards the end of Gimme Shelter. Passaro is seen stabbing the man, later identified as Meredith Hunter, in the back two times on screen. Passaro apparently stabbed him a few more times as other Angels stomped on him till he died. The Rolling Stones were unaware of this and proceeded with the concert without any chaos. The band even played "Brown Sugar" for the first time. Hunter wasn't the only one who died. Two people were killed after being hit by a car and another person died after drowning (most likely from an acid trip).
When the band learned of the murder, they were obviously stunned. In Gimme Shelter, someone is showing Mick all the footage from the tour. When it comes to Hunter's death, Mick is speechless as the clip is played slower. An autopsy revealed that Hunter was high on meth. Hunter's girlfriend, Patty Bredahoff, is seen crying and not believing he's dead.
There are certain stories to what cause the chaos at Altamont. The topic that gets the most brought up is that of the death of Meredith Hunter. It's been rumored that Hunter was at temping to run to the stage and kill Mick Jagger. One book I've read states that supposedly, a seer sent a letter to Mick warning him he was the next rock star to die, as he was a part of a so-called "JI curse" in which the rock star has the two letters in his first and last name. Another thought is that Hunter could have been defending his girlfriend, who was white.
No one knows for sure why Altamont turned out the way it did. What is known is that December 6, 1969 will be remembered as the day when the hippie movement or the 60's itself was over.
PS: I highly recommend for anyone reading this to go and rent Gimme Shelter. It's not only one of the greatest rock n roll movie ever made but one of the best documentaries ever made . The movie is on DVD, although out of print. If you use Netflix or Blockbuster, you may find it. The movie should be out on Blu-Ray very soon or even now.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

You Can Bleed on Me- Let It Bleed 40 years later

Picture: The Rolling Stones on July 5, 1969 playing at the Hyde Park free concert. This was just two days after Brian Jones passed away. As you can see, butterflies were released right after Mick made his speech.

The Rolling Stones
Let It Bleed
1969
Rating: *****

You Can Bleed on Me: Let It Bleed 40 years later…

1969 will always be seen as the end of the 1960’s. Bands were cranking it up at countless festivals and trying to sound louder than all the others. The Rolling Stones were hard at work. In 1969, the band would release Let It Bleed. The album is now seen as the second of four great studio albums the band made with producer Jimmy Miller. For this writer, Let It Bleed is the best album the band has ever made. Next to Abbey Road, Let It Bleed is my second favorite album by anybody.

The Rolling Stones had really progressed as a band. The band, formed by guitarist Brian Jones in 1962, had been part of the British Invasion. With Jones, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bill Wyman, and Charlie Watts together the band were seen as the bad boys of rock n roll. In 1968, the band matured with Beggar’s Banquet. However, the band couldn’t get through to Brian Jones as he wasn’t interested in rock music and instead, world music. Depending on who you ask, Brian was either fired or left. On July 3, 1969, Brian Jones was found dead in his swimming pool. The house he had died in was owned by author A.A. Milne. Two days later, the Rolling Stones played a free concert at Hyde Park. Shocked by the sudden death of Brian, Mick Jagger read a poem and dedicated it to Brian. Hundreds of butterflies were released as the band blasted into their set. Replacing Jones was guitarist Mick Taylor. This was Taylor’s live debut as a member of the Stones. Jimmy Miller and the band put the final touches on Let It Bleed, which was released on November 28, 1969.

Track by track review

1. Gimme Shelter- An eerie guitar riff starts off the album, with Jagger vocalising. The song gets rougher and tougher soon after. Jagger cited years later that he wrote this song about trying to find shelter from the Vietnam War. Signing with Jagger is Merry Clayton. Her verse of “Rape, murder” still brings shivers and chills. Jagger can also be heard on percussion. Overall, “Gimme Shelter”could quite possibly be the best song by the band.

2. Love in Vain- This old Robert Johnson song showcases how great of a blues band that the Stones were. Jagger’s vocals blend into the bluesy guitars. This one is often a live favorite and once again, another great song.

3. Country Honk- This country-rocker may sound familiar due to its lyrics. In short, this is a country version of “Honkey Tonk Women”. While it can get annoying after a while, the song still fits on this album. You got to love the violin in this track. Had the band chose to put “Honky Tonk Women” in place of this song, the final outcome of this album would’ve been much different. Mick Taylor plays on this song.

4. Live With Me- The Stones get down and dirty in this raunchy rocker. The song suggests that there’s a better place for you in between the sheets. The sax solo from Bobby Keys on this song is killer. This is the last song to feature Mick Taylor on the album. Due to the sexual content in the lyrics, the London Bach Choir asked to be credited for contributing to the album’s last song. A live favorite, for sure.

5. Let It Bleed- If there was one Stones song that oozed bodily fluids, it would be the title track for this album. The song is a simple acoustic-electric rocker. Mick sings in a low raspy voice. The chorus of “Well we all need someone to bleed on/ And if you want it/ Well you can bleed on me”. The verse of “There will always be a space in my parking lot” has innuendo in it. It’s been said that this part refers to Mick’s then-girlfriend, Marianne Faithful.

6. Midnight Rambler- The Stones go stone cold bluesy in this rocker about a murder. Mick asks the listener if they’ve heard of the midnight rambler. Somehow, Brian Jones is on his song playing percussion but can’t be heard. The song ends graphically when Mick sings “I stick my knife right down your throat, baby/And it hurts”. This song has live favorite written all over it.

7. You Got The Silver- For the first time, Keith Richards finally takes lead vocals on a full Stones song. This song is overlooked too much. The raw blues of this song is killer. Keith’s voice may not be the best but it fits in with the song oh so great. Some sources say that there’s a lost version of this song with Mick singing it.

8. Monkey Man- Nicky Hopkins plays the spine-tingling piano intro to this killer song about junkies. The piano cues in time with the rocking beat while Mick sings about a junkie. “I’ve been bitten and tossed around by every she-rat in this town” sings Mick, “Have you, baby?” The bluesy tone in this song is too much. You gotta love it when Mick is screaming in the end!

9. You Can’t Always Get What You Want- The opening choir is too bizarre for some listeners. Have no fear, Mick is telling us another story. This soulful song has Mick backed up by the Stones, who sound like they could be in Blood, Sweat, and Tears (ironically enough, Al Kooper is on the keyboards). The line with Mr. Jimmy is referring to producer Jimmy Miller. When Mick first played this song to Miller, he said it sounded dead. You gotta love it when Mick is screaming again backed up by London Bach Choir. This song brings the album to a rocking end.

A few days after the album was released, the band played a free concert at the Altamont Speedway in California. The event was supposed to be the West side version of Woodstock. Instead, it ended in violence as the security guard, Hell’s Angels, beat members of the audience. One of them even got murdered…right before a camera filming the event.

The Rolling Stones produced three more studio albums with Jimmy Miller. Let it Bleed is loved by all Stones fans. For me, this is my favorite album by them. Without it, I would’ve never been a Stones fan. If you haven’t heard this album, go listen to it now. Trust me. If you try sometime you just might find, you’ll get what you need!

Note: I know I'm late on the album's birthday. I got a little confused with the US release date. Still, it's just a couple of days since the anniversary. I'm still good! Wait on Sunday for an article on Altamont.

Deep Bands- W.A.S.P.

Picture: Guitarist/Singer Black Lawless rocks the stage in Norwich, 2006

Deep Bands: W.A.S.P.

For this installment of Deep Bands, we’ll be looking into a different kind of band. I’ve covered the psychedelic rock of Spirit and the power pop of Badfinger. This entry, I’m going the opposite way.

They were hated by the critics, parents, and everyone else. Their name was W.A.S.P. At a time when rock bands were going the glam route, W.A.S.P. went heavy into sex, partying, and later politics. After 25 years, they are still here.

W.A.S.P. was formed by Steven Duren, aka Blackie Lawless (bass/vocals). Lawless was in the New York Dolls for a very short time before forming the band, Sister. When Sister broke up, Lawless formed his own band in 1982. Along with Lawless were guitarists Chris Holmes and Randy Piper, and drummer Tony Richards. As for a band name, they called themselves We Are Sexual Perverts or for short, W.A.S.P. The band, in their early shows, were considered shocking. Lawless would throw raw meat into the audience and during the show; there was the whipping of a semi-naked woman. W.A.S.P.’s antics got them a record contract with Capitol Records in 1984. That same year, their self-titled debut album was released. Although the album didn’t really take off, it cotained the future classics “I Wanna Be Somebody” and “LOVE Machine”.

1984 would also seee the release of a controversial single/song. The inspiration for the song came after Blackie Lawless saw Sam Kinson performing. In one of Kinson’s jokes, he said that when he gets home to his wife, she f***s like a beast. Lawless took this idea and wrote the infamous “Animal (F*** Like a Beast)”. The lyrics foamed with sexual content (“I got pictures of naked ladies/Lying on their bed”) and used the F word a few times. The following year, Tipper Gore and a group of White House wives formed the PMRC. The PMRC were a group of mothers that were concerned with the rock music their children were listening to. On a list called “The Filthy Fifteen”, W.A.S.P. were on it with “Animal”. Luckily, the controvery made the band more famous.

In 1984, Tony Richards called it quits and was replaced by Steve Riley. In 1985, The Last Command was released. The album was a commercial success with MTV-friendly videos for the songs “Wild Child” and “Blind In Texas”. Randy Piper left shorty left and was replaced by bassist Johnny Rod, which put Blackie at guitar/vocals. 1986’s Inside the Electric Circus wasn’t well received by fans or critics. Today, Lawless thinks it’s one of the worst albums ever made. Live…In the Raw was released in 1987 and that same year, Steve Riley left. His replacement would be former Quiet Riot drummer Frankie Banali. For the band’s fourth studio album, Lawless decided the next album should be different musically and lyrically. That album, The Headless Children, was released in 1989 and proved to be one of W.A.S.P.’s strongest. The lyrics focused less on sex and more on society and politics. The band also appeared in the documentary The Decline of the Western Civalization Part II: The Metal Years. The most infamous scene in the movie was when Chris Holmes was interviewed, in a swimming pool along with bottles of vodka. His mother sat in the background while Holmes declared himself a drunk and poured a whole bottle of vodka down his mouth.

By 1990, Chris Holmes had left the band along with Johnny Rod. Around this time Blackie Lawless, with Frankie Banali still in the band, annouced he was making the next album a rock opera. Lawless was low on members so the line up in the studio was Banali, Stet Howland (drums), Bob Kulick (guitar), and himself. The final product, The Crimson Idol, was released in 1992 and received positive reviews. The story dealt with the life of a rock star named Johnny Steele. For the tour Lawless had Johnny Rod recruited, Howland, and guitarist Doug Blair. After the tour finished up in 1993, Lawless annouced that W.A.S.P. was over. Despite the annoucement, Lawless kept doing W.A.S.P. projects. A compilation was released in 1995 and new album, Still Not Black Enough, was released the following year. Originally, the new album was supposed to be Blackie’s solo album but with the Crimson Idol line-up recording, it ended up as a W.A.S.P. album.

In 1997 Blackie Lawless reunited with guitarist Chris Holmes. Also in the line-up was Stet Howland and guitatist Mike Duda. K.F.D. (stands for “Kill, F***, Die”), was released that year. The band was playing in smaller venues but that didn’t stop the fans from attending the shows. Double Live Assassins followed while the poorly received Helldorado came out in 1999. After the release of 2001’s Unholy Terror, Chris Holmes left once again along with Howland. Ever since this 1997 “reunion”, Lawless and Duda have remained in the band and still do today (for those line-ups, read the line up chart for more information). W.A.S.P. still makes music today. As of 2009 the current line up consists of Blackie Lawless, Doug Blair, Mike Duda, and Mike Dupke. In October 2009, Babylon was released.

Recommended albums: W.A.S.P., The Last Command, The Headless Children, and The Crimson Idol

Personal thoughts on albums: The debut album wouldn’t be a bad place to start but at the same time, The Crimson Idol is a classic.

Recommended songs: Animal (F*** Like a Beast), I Wanna Be Somebody, LOVE Machine, Sleeping In The Fire, Wild Child, Blind In Texas, Shooting From The Hip, Scream Until You Like It, The Real Me (cover of the Who hit), The Headless Children, Forever Free, Invisible Boy, Chainsaw Charlie (Murders in the New Morge), The Idol, Hold On To My Heart

Recommended compilations: There are only two available. The first is First Blood…Last Cuts. This has a good song selection although I’m not sure about the remixes I’m reading about. The other is The Best of the Best 1984-2000. The song selection on here isn’t that good as it excludes a lot from 1986 to 1992 and more of the then recent material. It also has a new cover of Elton John’s “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting”.

Line-Ups (with small comments on each album. *=I own)

W.A.S.P. I (1982)

Blackie Lawless- guitar/vocals

Randy Piper- guitar

Rik Fox- bass

Tony Richards- drums

W.A.S.P. II (1982)

Blackie Lawless- guitar/vocals

Randy Piper- guitar

Don Costa- bass

Tony Richards- drums

W.A.S.P. III (1983-1984)

Blackie Lawless- bass/vocals

Chris Holmes- guitar

Randy Piper- guitar

Tony Richards- drums

Albums

W.A.S.P. (1984)*- Classic debut from start to finish.

W.A.S.P. IV (1984-1986)

Blackie Lawless- bass/vocals

Chris Holmes- guitar

Randy Piper- guitar

Steve Riley- drums

Albums

The Last Command (1985) *Second album is slightly more commerical but still rocks

W.A.S.P. V (1986-1987)

Blackie Lawless- guitar/vocals

Chris Holmes- guitar

Johnny Rod- bass

Steve Riley- drums

Albums

Inside The Electric Circus (1986)

Live...In The Raw (1987)

W.A.S.P. VI (1988-1990)

Blackie Lawless- guitar/vocals

Chris Holmes- guitar

Johnny Rod- bass

Frankie Banali- drums

Albums

The Headless Children (1989)*Great mature album. Very dark.

W.A.S.P. VII (1991-1992)

Blackie Lawless- guitar/vocals

Bob Kulick- guitar

Frankie Banali- drums

Stet Howland- drums

Albums

The Crimson Idol (1992)*One of the most overlooked concept albums. Brilliant!

W.A.S.P. VIII (1992-1993)

Blackie Lawless- guitar/vocals

Doug Blair- guitar

Johnny Rod- bass

Stet Howland- drums

Hiatus (1994-1995)

W.A.S.P. VIIa (1995-1996)

Blackie Lawless- guitar/vocals

Bob Kulick- guitar

Frankie Banali- drums

Stet Howland- drums

Albums

Still Not Black Enough (1995)

W.A.S.P. IX (1996-2002)

Blackie Lawless- guitar/vocals

Chris Holmes- guitar

Mike Duda- bass

Stet Howland- drums

Albums

KFD (1997)

Double Live Assassins (live, 1998)

Helldorado (1999)

The Sting (live, 2000)

Unholy Terror (2001) *Frankie Banali on drums also

W.A.S.P. X (2001-2006)

Blackie Lawless- guitar/vocals

Darrell Roberts- guitar

Mike Duda- bass

Stet Howland- drums

Albums

Dying For The World (2002)

The Neon God- Part 1: The Rise (2004)*- Blackie’s second rock opera, released in two parts. It’s okay

The Neon God- Part 2: The Demise (2004)

W.A.S.P. XI (2006-present)

Blackie Lawless- guitar/vocals

Doug Blair- guitar

Mike Duda- bass

Mike Dupke- drums

Albums

Dominator (2007)

Babylon (2009)