Tag Archives: Rock

A Day in the Life; The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper” turns 50.

22 May

I’d known of the Beatles for a few years.  My lovely older cousin Pat used to teach me how to dance to their music.  That began when I was four years old, and I had just lost my mom.  When I was five, Pat wanted to take me to see the band when they played at New York’s Shea Stadium.  She worked hard at it, but she was only a teenager herself and my grandma said “Patsy, the boy would be trampled!”

Of course Mama was correct, and I never got to see the Fab Four in concert.

Then, I turned six.  Things were changing; the world, the Beatles.  The boys started to look different.  My brothers, Ed and Kevin, both about a decade my senior, looked different too.  They looked more like the Beatles.

I finally owned my first full length lp.  I’d had a bunch of 45rpm singles given to me by Pat and my brothers, but owning an album was big time for me.  It was the North American release entitled, BEATLES ’65.  It was already over a year old, but it was new to me.  The three songs that opened that album weren’t in the happy-go-lucky “She Loves You” mold.

“No Reply”, “I’m a Loser”, and “Baby’s in Black”.

The titles tell the story.  That third track always reminded of how everyone had dressed at my mom’s funeral.

Then, Dad died.  It was right as I began first grade.

The Beatles stopped touring.  No one would ever see them in concert again.  They wanted to concentrate on making the best music possible, rather than just keep singing “She Loves You” to screaming fans.

As first grade came to an end, I was feeling accomplished – the way most of us do when we think we are getting “big”.  I lived with my grandma; my four older siblings resided together with our aunt.

One day, toward the end of that first school year, my big brothers came to visit.  They had a new album with them.  Ed was beginning to look a whole lot like Paul McCartney, especially the way Macca looked on that colorful new record sleeve.  We were going to experience, for the first time, SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND.

Something seemed different as my brothers got set to play the record.  EVERYONE came into the room to listen; cousins, Aunt Peggy and Uncle Henry.  Hell, even Mama, almost 80, sat back in her chair as the needle dropped.  I, at age six, had no idea why everyone was suddenly interested in the Beatles.  I mean, Uncle Henry?  I recall he took quite the teasing as we listened to “When I’m Sixty-Four”.  He was probably just over fifty – and younger than I am now – but he laughingly took all of the “64” jabs with grace.

He took some shots about “Henry the Horse” as well.

As PEPPER played, I just wanted to get my hands on that record jacket.  It looked like it had so much; all kinds of people, lyrics, colors, and maybe even…clues.

I don’t have too many memories from when I was six years old, or younger, but oddly, most of the ones I do have revolve around the Beatles.

Rather than recount that initial playing of SGT. PEPPER via the bits and pieces of my foggy memory, I will include an excerpt from my novel, SONS OF THE POPE.  I used my actual experience to create a scene where a young special needs boy named Joey got to enjoy, with his family, the recent masterpiece by the band he loved so.  Joey had received the album as a Christmas gift, six months after its release.

“Hey, Joey,” said Kathy. “I got you something.”

She knelt beside him and took the brightly colored album

jacket out of the thin bag. The first thing Joey noticed were

the colors and the images of all the people. He recognized

W.C. Fields because Peter would always watch his movies,

but he didn’t immediately connect with anyone else—except

for the four lads in the kaleidoscopic military garb. They held

brass and wind instruments instead of guitars, and though

Joey could not read what was spelled out by the red flowers

at their feet, he knew.

Beatles.

Kathy helped him remove the shrink-wrap. She had

already taken off the Woolworth’s price sticker.

“Ooooh,” yelled Mary. “He’s gonna love that! We buy him

the little records, but those big ones are expensive. You

shouldn’t have done that, Kathy.”

“I know he loves the ‘Strawberry Fields/Penny Lane’

single; this album is like that.”

Joey’s grin was wide as he stared at the record cover. He

opened the gatefold and got a closer look at his favorite band

in their vivid garb.

“Let me lower the television set. Put the record on for

him,” said Mary.

As Kathy placed the record on Joey’s portable turntable,

Mary turned down the Christmas music. The yule log still

burned, though—a constant loop that reset every twenty

seconds.

“He loves that music, and it’s okay ‘cause he’s always with

me and can’t do any harm to himself, but I think this music

can lead kids to bad things. You know, the drugs and all,” said

Mary.

“Maybe, but it doesn’t have to. I don’t think drugs are

needed to expand the mind,” replied Kathy. “I think a needle

in the groove beats a needle in the arm any day.”

The family sat there as the recording began. They

eventually met Billy Shears and Lucy. Mama left her chair to

make some coffee, but the rest remained. They were taken

away to a color-splashed circus. Kathy flipped the record over

and they arrived in India, only to be quickly transported to a

1940s dance hall. It was at this time that Sal began thinking

of the old music that he loved so much. Mama returned in

time to hear a chicken cluck morph into a guitar pluck. The

military band that had unleashed this animal were now trying to

get it back in its cage. There came an incredible crescendo

that sounded as if all the music they’d ever heard was being

played at once. Then it stopped—but not before a thunderous

piano chord that seemed to echo into eternity. Mary wanted

to speak but wasn’t sure when to start, fearing another

explosion of sound. Peter beat her to the punch.

“Wow!”

“These are the same fellas that sang ‘I Want to Hold Your

Hand’?” Mary asked.

“Hmmmm,” replied Joey before another could answer.

“What did ya think, Ma?” asked Mary.

“Nice boys. But I like the Italian music. I wish them luck.”

Of my real family, from the factual version of my first exposure to SGT. PEPPER, I am the only living member who was in that room on that evening in June, 1967. I dedicate this memory, with love, to all of them.

Life goes on within you and without you.

SONS OF THE POPE is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other fine retailers. Also on Kindle, Nook, and Audiobook.

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Who Says A White Guy Can’t Like Funk Music?

25 Feb

I have been enjoying Black History Month in the way that most excites me.

Sure, I appreciate the African-American scientists, inventors, civic and political leaders – but the innovators who pluck my strings the most are the musical masters. Yes, my 3 favorite bands of all-time are the pale, but prolific, Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Led Zeppelin – but I know quite well that they all formed out of a love for black music. Most everything we listen to today has come by way of Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Chuck Berry and Little Richard.

Right now, though, I want to express my thoughts on one particular genre;
BIG, FAT, BONE-RATTLING, FUNK.

There are many sub-genres within funk. I want to focus on the nasty stuff from the early 1970s through the early 1980s.

Full disclosure: On the outside, I am very white. An Irish-American former New York police officer. About as far from Rick James as a person can get.  However, funk is all about the feeling.  It’s inside you. I feel I am qualified to write a few words on the subject because
A) I have yet to meet a person who owns more funk CDs and vinyl than I. They number in the thousands.  You, the reader, may indeed have more, and if so, I can only hope we will meet someday.
B) I can name a whole lot of folks who have been members of Parliament/Funkadelic, and not just the obvious ones.
C) I am well aware that the Commodores could bring some of the ugliest (in a good way) funk to ever fill a wax groove, yet most of the world knows them for the syrupy ballads. I still own my original 45rpm single of “Machine Gun”, and it is in mint condition.
D) I have been retweeted by George Clinton, Bootsy Collins and Freekbass.

I also will not be trying to gain false credibility by peppering this blog with terms like “thang”, “dat”, and “y’all”. I feel the funk, but I don’t really write the funk.  To do so would be disingenuous.

Over the past 25 years or so, I have heard very little “new” funk of the type I like, the aforementioned Freekbass being a notable exception. Not sure why this great musical monster has all but vanished, but I hope that somewhere, some kids are listening to the classics and putting their own spin on them.

For those kids, I humbly offer a few tips on what would get this funk lover (and countless others) to give their songs/albums a listen.

What follows is a bit of goofy fun, but is also oddly true. So, let’s get “on the one”, shall we?

SONG TITLES. Featuring some of the following in your song names, would have me greedily snatching up your music:

Use parentheses. A song title that follows this theme: “This is our song (but this is what you probably call it)” is pure gold.

Toss in a title that ends in “A-Zoid” or “Zilla”.

Mention creatures such as worms, maggots, birds, mice and dogs.

Use the wonderful apostrophe. Movin’ – not Moving.

Exxtra letters are funkalicious. Toss in a “Bbam” or a “Ffloor”. Bonus points for multiple Z and X use. “Foxxy” tops “Foxy”, and the triple X “Foxxxy” is the nastiest of all.

Name a dance after your song.

Have a part 1 and part 2. Pure brilliance.

Make a song a “Theme From” record. There need not be anything tangible that the theme is actually from.

Toss an abbreviated year in your title. “Mudd Splatter” is not nearly as cool as “Mudd Splatter ’74”

Don’t limit yourself to “funk”. “Fonk”, “Funck” and “Fungk” are just the tip of the iceberg.

Write a song about the tip of an iceberg.

Exhaust all possibilities of outer-space references. Name things after planets, stars, galaxies, basically anything celestial. When you run out of space junk, start on the underwater stuff.

In addition to aliens and aquatic life, fill your record with munchkins, elves, chipmunks, grannies, and clueless, straight, bean-counters. Every creature in your funk world should be able to speak.  The voices will range from the deepest bass to shit only a dog can hear.

The following words are like precious metals: Sticky, Sweaty, Nasty, Greasy, Gooey, Chunky, Fat, Hot, Smoke, Jam, Thump, Stuff, Robot.  Add additional letters as desired.

Instruct your listener to do something.  It can be Dance, Work, Ride, Jump, Hump, or another thousand different things.

Incorporate any variation of traditional Universal Studios monsters into your song/album/band name. Dracula, Frankenstein (or his Bride), Wolfman, or Mummy.

Make a song title one long word. “Can’tgetmyjamoncauseIgotnobread”. Feel free to use that one.

Multiple exclamation points make for bad prose, but hot song titles. Use them!!!

Name a song after a Disney character.

OTHER STUFFF: Wear colorful clothing; from African-inspired garb to Martians on acid – just bring the color! Black cowboys are good too.

Consider donning something along the lines of a long dinosaur tail, big yellow chicken feet, pastel hair and/or a gargantuan hat.

Have a guitarist who sounds like he could comfortably play in a major rock or metal band.

Have a bassist who sounds like he has at least 12 fingers.

Individuals might consider a single, descriptive name.  Bootsy, Sly, and Sugarfoot have already been claimed.

ADVANCED CLASS: Create a large family of side projects.

WHEN YOU HAVE “MADE IT”: Have two identical groups, with all of the same members, recording brilliant albums for two different record labels, under different band names, at the exact same time.

Well, there you have a list of funk tips from a white guy who can’t play a single instrument. You’re welcome.

It is also important to remember that, before anyone was “Gangsta”, they were “Gangster”. The latter term was proudly used in song and album by funky masters such as George Clinton, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, and the man who broke down all barriers, Jimi Hendrix. Hell, even Heatwave used “Gangster” in their groove!

Your pallid funkateer (me) knows a little about Gangsters too, and I’ve written a book about them. You can grab a FREE peek, and see some great reviews and big name praise by following the link below. If a book can have the funk, I promise you that Sons of the Pope has it.

It’s on the one.

http://www.amazon.com/Sons-of-the-Pope-ebook/dp/B00ALI11WM/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1357272093&sr=8-2&keywords=sons+of+the+pope