Tag Archives: Rock

Jimbo

19 Dec

Jimbo

by Daniel O’Connor

 

The knocking was more persistent now; a percussive accompaniment to the feverish doorbell.  The entryway camera hadn’t worked for weeks. Probably done in by a bullet; stray or otherwise. Things were getting worse each day and Jimbo had considered not answering the door anymore. He also understood that whoever was behind that fortified boundary had gone to great lengths to be there; lots of walking, some climbing, and more than a bit of slithering through rusty cuts of chain link.

He slid open the steel eye slot.

“Take three steps back, please,” urged Jimbo.

The man complied.  The visitor’s entire body was then in view, yet he could only see Jimbo’s eyeglasses, and they were quickly fogging.

“I…I was told to see you,” offered the man.  “They said you got the best stuff.”

Through the slot, the visitor could see Jimbo’s glasses come off, slip below view, and return, clear of fog.

“Who told you that?”

“A chick.  Liz.”

“Did she tell you anything else?”

“Uh, not sure,” replied the visitor, glancing around nervously.  It was a raw and overcast summer afternoon on Long Island.  The fellow had a hoodie pulled down tight, but not zippered.  A Ramones tee could be seen underneath.  He carried a bulging, tattered, cloth sack.

“Did this ‘Liz’ tell you to say anything else when you got here?”

“Listen, bro, I am scared shitless to be out here, but I need it, okay.  I fucking need it.”

The man picked at his matted beard.  Jimbo sighed, as he tried one last time, “Password. Did she give you a password?”

“Oh, oh, oh, um…the moon is up.”

“Close enough, I guess.  It’s ‘Moon is Up’.  No ‘the’.”

“Sweet.  Let me in.”

“Nice shirt you have.”

“Yeah.”

“Just for fun, can you name three Ramones songs?”

“I’m shittin’ myself out here, bro.  It’s dangerous.”

“Just three. Rattle ‘em off.”

“Fuck me.  Uh, ‘I Wanna Be Sedated’, ‘I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend’, ‘Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue.”

“Hmmm. All ‘Wanna’ songs. You know any others?”

“Did they? ‘Pet Fuckin’ Sematary’ okay?”

“Just stand still for a second,” replied Jimbo, as he momentarily stepped away from the door.

A faint hum emerged from somewhere outside the door.  It grew louder as Jimbo spoke through the slot again, “What’s your name, anyway?”

“They call me Dr. Jack.  What’s that noise?”

“Are you a doctor?”

“No.  I’m also not a Jack, but that’s what they call me.  What the fuck is that noise?”

It floated down into Dr. Jack’s view; a drone, with some cylindrical device attached.

“Relax,” said Jimbo, “That’s only Dewey.  He’s just going to scan you for weapons, etcetera.  Please open that bag, too.”

“It’s just cans of SpaghettiOs.  Lots of ‘em.”

“Not gonna lie,” answered Jimbo, “I was hoping for Beefaroni.”

The drone, operated by Jimbo, outlined Dr. Jack’s body, then tipped forward, permitting its camera to peer inside the sack.

“Just move the cans around a bit, please, Dr. Jack.”

The visitor complied, so that the drone cam could capture the bottom of the bag.

“Hey, there is one can of beef ravioli,” crowed Dr. Jack.

“Ravioli? That’s a horse of a different color! Come on in!”

The door opened. Dewey flew away.  Dr. Jack stepped inside.

“Horse of a different color,” he chuckled.  “Answering the door at Oz.  I get it.”

“Fantastic!” smiled Jimbo.  “I use that line a lot, and no one understands.”

Jimbo’s smile was broad, as was his living quarters.  Dr. Jack spotted the tongue.  Not the one behind his host’s smile, but the one on his shirt.  Faded red, with the matching lips.  The Rolling Stones.  Jimbo’s white hair exhibited a glow; the intensity of which often induced a double-take.

“It…it’s quiet in here.  Didn’t expect that,” said Dr. Jack, his voice echoing into the expanse behind Jimbo.

“Well, I keep it hushed by the doors and outer walls.  Interior rooms are better, and that’s where we are going.”

Jimbo led the way as his guest spoke, “I’ve been here many times,” offered Jack.

“Is that so?”

“Well, outside, I mean.  When things were happy.”

“Gotcha.  So, do you have a specific list or are you open to trying things?”

“Specific, bro.  I’m thirsty to forget about this world.”

Jimbo turned to Dr. Jack, twisted the knob on a heavy door in front of them, smiled broadly and quipped, “Let’s make it happen.”

The door opened.  There was the music, in both sound and vision.  The Beatles’ “It’s All Too Much” filled the room.  It enveloped from everywhere; not from some single-speaker, wireless, glorified coffee can that was all the rage before things turned from crap to shit, but from woofers, tweeters, and mid-range monsters that were married to thick, golden cables.

A thick sliding door began to rumble.  It moved purposefully along its track, revealing shelves of uniformly stored compact discs.

“Woah,” murmured Jack, having never seen anything like it.  “This is sick, Jimbo.”

The door continued to roll down the length of what was really too large to be called a “room”.

“That’s just the ABBA section,” replied Jimbo, as the door glided on.  “The vinyl is in a separate room.”

“Box sets?”

“Further along.  Is that what you want?”

“Yeah.  That Bowie one with the Berlin years.”

“Ahh, A New Career in a New Town.  Brilliant.  The thing is, you want an 11 disc set in exchange for some canned pasta?”

“It’s all I could…I mean, I could do some handy work for you, or if you need any plumbing done…it’s just that the box has the German and French versions of ‘Heroes’, and that’s my favorite song ever, plus the live Stage album and…”

“Your favorite song is ‘Heroes’?”

“Always has been.”

“You can have the box set.  Take good care of it, Dr. Jack.”

“Wow!  Jimbo, you rule.”

“Think nothing of it.  Feel like a drink?”

“Sure!  Maybe a Mojito?”

“Sorry. I meant like a Pepsi or Mountain Dew.”

 

They sat in the box set room.  Dr. Jack sipped his Pepsi as he stared at all of the rock star photos on the walls.

“Part of the deal,” said Jimbo, “is that you tell no one about me or this place.  Liz seemed to have trusted you, and I trust her completely, so please honor that.”

“A hundred percent, bro.  Why would I help the scumbags to shut you down?  They took away our lives.”  Dr. Jack downed the last of his cola and crushed the can in his hand.  “But – if I may ask – are you like super wealthy or something?  I mean how…?”

“The billion dollar question,” grinned Jimbo, as he cast his gaze on the hanging photos.  Rolling Stones, Beatles, The Who, Led Zeppelin; dozens of others.  “I had a best friend.  Geelan.  I don’t know what’s become of him.  When this…war…began, he told his friend about me.  This friend was a record producer.  There wasn’t much that he could do on his own, but he told that guy.”  Jimbo was pointing at a photo of a legendary rock star.

“Get the fuck…”

“Yeah, and he told that guy, and that guy told that guy,” continued Jimbo, as he pointed to some of the biggest stars in musical history.

“Did you get to meet them?”

“Most of ‘em, yeah.  They came to my house – my old actual house in Oceanside – before all of this.  They saw my personal collection of maybe 25,000 CDs, asked me some questions, listened to music, drank Pepsi – just like you – and said they’d get back to me.”

“And…?”

“Well, look around.  They pooled their money, hired people they trusted, transformed this whole place, stocked it with untold thousands of CDs, vinyl, DVDs, Blu-rays, books.  I mean, I must have fifty copies of that Bowie box alone, but each one is precious.  Now more than ever.”

“How do you care for this whole place?  What about security?”

“I have friends who help me.  As for security?  Well, I could never hurt a fly, and I mean that literally, but there are technological measures that have been put in place to protect me, and more importantly, the physical media.  Short answer: Don’t try and harm me, Dr. Jack.”

“Never, my friend.”

“So, what are your best memories of this place, from before the country turned?”

“Man, so many,” declared Jack, “Run-DMC, Kid Rock, and Aerosmith was pretty epic.”

“I was there!” exclaimed Jimbo.

“What about No Doubt, Lit, and Black-Eyed Peas – before they had Fergie?”

“Killer,” replied Jimbo.  “The B-52’s, Go-Go’s, and Psychedelic Furs!”

“No shit?”

“Yeah.  July 21, 2000.  Amazing show.”

 

Two Pepsis later, and after giving Dr. Jack a homemade CD-R labeled Jimbo’s Hard-To-Find ‘80s, it was time to go.

“Be careful, Jack,” warned Jimbo, as he watched a monitor feed of his camera drone.  “Looks clear, but sometimes they come in packs – both sides.”

Jimbo opened the door, and two figures stood before them.

“Oh, fuck!” yelled Dr. Jack.

“Be cool,” said Jimbo, “these are the friends I told you about.”

Imwan and Captain Ice had arrived, crates in hand.

 

The Jones Beach Marine Theater opened on the south shore of New York’s Long Island in 1952.  It sat on Zach’s Bay, which led to Jones Inlet, and out to the Atlantic Ocean.  It went through numerous renovations, expansions, and name-changes over the decades.  It suffered severe damage during Hurricane Sandy, and was officially closed when music was outlawed.

The final refurbishment began under the guise of it becoming a museum, paid for by a company formed by the world’s most legendary rock stars.  No matter what its official name, no matter the year, attendees always called it the same thing: Jones Beach.  Some might just say, The Beach.

But now, in a country divided; in a nation ravaged by its second civil war, it was where Jimbo lived.  It was where he became caretaker of the music.  The fifteen thousand seats remained empty, but there behind the stage, in the bowels of the former backstage area, sitting on, and surrounded by Zach’s Bay, was the cavernous, and technologically advanced final renovation.

Tit for tat.

That’s really what started it all.  An enormous pissing match.  One side took down historical statues, the other tampered with environmental safeguards.  One took steps to minimize women’s rights, the other came to confiscate firearms.  This snowballed into the destruction of a country.  Independents were forced underground; sometimes literally.  There were only two sides, and when one was in power, they pummeled the other into the ground.  One of them removed the letter Q from the alphabet.  After the next election, it was reinstated.  Eventually, sometime after the legalization of cocaine and the criminalization of the straws used to inhale it, physical media was banned.  Two years later, music, in any form, was outlawed.  Movies and books, too.

The war began in middle America and fanned out toward both coasts.  Long Island became the final frontier.  Jimbo, and his archives, were in grave danger.  Backs up against the water.

 

The Marx Brothers’ Monkey Business filled the big screen in the main living area.  Jimbo guffawed at the 1931 comedy, a crossword puzzle still on his lap – completed in ink.  Evening had fallen, and Imwan and Captain Ice enjoyed their dinner over a game of Scrabble, pausing to laugh along with Jimbo while merely listening to the film they’d already seen many times.

“You know, Jimbo,” said Imwan, her dark hair sweeping across her darker shoulders, “I taught you how to repair that front door cam two weeks ago.  Are you trying to outlast me and force me to do it?”

“Not at all.  You are so much better at that stuff.  I’m all thumbs.”

“I could fix it using only thumbs,” she laughed.

“So you should!”

“Don’t get lazy on us, now.  Ice and I may not always be here to help.”

“Correct!” added Captain Ice though his split-toothed grin.

Ice and Imwan were both roughly half of Jimbo’s age, but they possessed the wonderful talents required to train and guide him.  They’d been hand-picked by the agency contracted by the rock stars.  The duo was part of the team that set the whole plan in motion.  They helped design the restructuring of the Jones Beach Amphitheater, and they continued to train Jimbo in areas of which he needed to master – quickly.

They learned much from him, as well.  They now knew infinitely more about the history of music and film than they’d ever previously imagined, and they were fast becoming crossword puzzle scholars. The determination to preserve the art in America became the food of their souls.  No one was legally permitted to enter or flee the war-torn 48 states, so though music, film, and literature continued to be the norm in most of the free world, this might be their last stand for the red, white and blue.

The problem was that there were heavily-armed opposing armies slaughtering each other, and anyone in their paths, and they were getting closer by the hour; and the only guardians left standing for popular music were Jimbo, Imwan, and Captain Ice.

“I wanna see your dad’s records, Imwan,” pleaded Ice.  “ Don’t you, Jimbo?”

“Of course.  When she’s ready.”

“We just risked our necks to go and get them, so I wanna see them!”

“I know,” answered Imwan.  “I just wanted to steel myself a bit.  I lost my family to this insanity.”

Captain Ice took her soft hand into his calloused and ruddy paw, “As did I, and Jimbo.  When you’re ready, we’re ready.”

Imwan stared down at the Scrabble tiles.  After a deep breath, she spoke, “Funkentelechy vs. the Placebo Syndrome.  ‘Sir Nose D’Voidoffunk’.”

“Come again?” prompted Ice.  Jimbo’s grin was already broad.

Imwan’s throat tightened, “Dad’s favorite album.  Parliament.”

Jimbo walked to her side, though his attempt at comforting words might differ from those of others, “Parliament and Funkadelic – and even Bootsy’s Rubber Band – were basically identical groups releasing albums under different monikers.”

Grasping Jimbo’s hand, which sat upon her right shoulder, Imwan sniffled and looked up at her pop culture mentor.  “Who the hell uses the word ‘moniker’ in everyday speech, Jimbo?”

The laughter helped.  They were soon gathered around Imwan’s record crates.  Earth, Wind & Fire, James Brown, Ohio Players, Stevie Wonder.  They weren’t preserved in thick plastic, such as the vinyl in Jimbo’s archives.  The faded covers sported ring wear and the occasional cigarette burn, some of the lps were moderately scratched, one or two of the jackets were empty – the records once held within now lost to the echoes of time.

“Sorry for their condition,” said Imwan to Jimbo.

“Are you kidding?  He obviously enjoyed the heck out of these albums.  I can see some of those scratches being caused by your mom dancing and bumping into the turntable.”

“Or falling into dad, knocking the Marlboro from his mouth onto that KC and the Sunshine Band record cover!” laughed Imwan.

“Seems it’s not so much about the records as the moments they produce,” offered Captain Ice.

“Wise words from the guy with the worst musical taste!” chuckled Imwan.

“Hey now, I’m just more of a movie guy.  Come on now, Jaws, Mutiny on the Bounty, The Hunt for Red October…all so great.”

“All based on novels, brother.  You need to crack a book,” added Imwan.

“Wiseass.  Let’s see you reel in a 500 pound tuna.  Even Jimbo will soon be a better fisherm…er, fisherperson than you.”

“Not likely,” asserted Jimbo.  “My stomach turns at the mere sight of Charlie the Tuna.”

“You will adapt, Jimbo.  You must.”

 

They were staring at the dog-eared cover of Parliament’s “Aqua Boogie” twelve inch single when they heard it.

The door bell.

They instinctively scanned the monitors.  Broken door cam, right.  The dark of night had taken hold and they had previously decided against the use of any outside lighting, as to remain as close to invisible as possible.  Jimbo reached the door and opened the steel eye slot.  Before he could part his lips, the pair of visitors spoke in unison,

“Moon is up.”

“Uh, okay,” replied Jimbo, reaching for his flashlight.  “Can you take like three steps back and…”

“Fl-ash-light,” whispered Imwan in song, as she and Ice stood nearby, eavesdropping.

Outside, the pair – a guy and a girl – late twenties, couldn’t stand still.

“We came for some records.  Dr. Jack hooked us up.  But now we’re scared.  You hear that?”

Jimbo turned an ear toward the slot.  There was some rumbling, but nothing he could clearly identify.

“Stay calm,” he said.  “We get skirmishes out there, beyond the seats, but so far…”

“This is for real,” snapped the female, eyes wide.  “They’re killing each other out there.”  She turned to her companion, “But you just had to hear fucking Collective Soul tonight.”

“How was I to know?” he answered.

Jimbo trained the flashlight on the pair.

“I’m going to fly a small drone to scan you guys.  He’s known around here as ‘Dewey’.  It only takes a minute.  Did you bring something to trade or…”

“Please just let us in.  We brought baseball cards,” said the young woman.

“Not practical,” suggested Captain Ice from behind the door.

“Yankees?” asked Jimbo, ignoring his friend.

“Yeah.  Reggie, Thurman, Goose,” replied the nervous man, placing his arm around the girl.  “We’ve got some really mint…”

There wasn’t much sound to it – a bit of a swoosh, followed by a couple of thuds against the steel door – but, as Jimbo scrutinized their precious Yankee declaration, the heads of both visitors simply toppled off.  Clunking and rolling to the concrete below.  Sliced at the necks.  It almost looked phony, as if in some B-movie he’d seen a dozen times, but this blood was real.  The bodies collapsed onto each other, baseball cards spilling to the ground, milling with the two heads, and forming little islands in the fresh crimson pool.

Chakrams.  Two of ‘em.  Serrated discs made of brass.  Flying guillotines.

Jimbo was dizzy.

“What’s going on?” yelled Imwan, as she and Ice had no view of the outside.

“Some attack…” began Jimbo, as he spotted four or five shadowy figures approaching from the dark seating area.

“Someone’s looking out that door!” yelled one of the attackers.

“I fucking knew it,” said another.

Just as Jimbo was about to close the eye slot, the whole lot of approaching marauders promptly exploded.  The grenade came from a larger group behind them, stampeding in from the tunnels that would’ve produced excited concert-goers in days gone by.

This posse possessed more than chakrams.  Gunfire erupted, rattling off the concrete and steel structure that housed Jimbo and his crew.

As if shedding skin, Jimbo transformed from the fun-loving, crossword-playing, music-obsessed pacifist into something else.  His jaw tightened along with his resolve.  His vertigo vanished.  These crazed looters weren’t getting to the art.  He took to the far wall, opened a panel, and flipped a switch that could have been right at home on an old tube amplifier.

An enormous horn speaker arose from the top of the stage cover.  It resembled a gigantic Gramophone speaker straight out of the 19th century; all it needed was the dog beside it.  Then, it ascended too.  Maybe seven feet tall, sitting right next to the speaker.  Nipper.  White with black ears and collar.  The lights activated as well, all around the theater.  Almost like during the old concert days.

“Stay back!” ordered Jimbo, via the speaker, his voice echoing throughout the venue.  The attackers froze.  “We are peaceful,” he continued, “but we will defend ourselves to the fullest.  Turn and exit via the way you came in.”

“And buy a fucking tour program on the way out,” mumbled Imwan, as she steadied herself behind several computer screens.  Captain Ice had already bolted toward another section of their haven.

Outside, the raiders thought things over.  Coming to a decision, they tossed a batch of grenades toward the roof.  Nipper and his speaker were blown to pieces.

“Crap!” yelled Jimbo, as he turned to Imwan.  “Do it,” he said.

In three keystrokes, they were activated.  Distant cousins of the lasers that had scanned data within the legion of CD players that had graced Jimbo’s existence, they came to life with an ominous hum.  Crisscrossing the area between the marauders and Jimbo’s refuge – bright red beams.  The perfect spiderweb.

Again, the invaders paused.  Except for one.

“This here is full-on spoof!” he yelled, as he reached his arm out into the path of one of the beams.  He yelled even louder as that appendage was instantly sliced off, leaving both sides of the detachment smoking.  Jimbo’s drone was flying in the shadows, providing an aerial view for Imwan.

“Just hit the source lamps with grenades,” commanded one of the attackers.  “That’ll disable ‘em.”

The militia did just that, destroying some of the mechanisms, but sending others spinning, turning formally static laser cutters into uncontrollable slicing machines.  Virtual rotating machetes.  The unbridled carvers turned twenty invaders into forty fragments before losing functionality.

Jimbo and Imwan studied Dewey’s video feed.

“That was the best laser show ever,” said Jimbo.  “Except maybe for ELO at the Garden.”

“We’re out of defenses,” warned Imwan.

“I was hoping they’d retreat, but they are still coming.”

“Those explosives will do us in,” she responded.

“Imwan, we all figured this day was coming,” he cautioned, with a hand on her shoulder.

“Should I tell Ice?”

“Yes.  Immediately.”

She accessed the interior communications system.

“Captain Ice, as per Jimbo, Operation Emotional Rescue is now live.  Repeat: Emotional Rescue now!”

“Copy that,” came the reply. “You guys will need to come up here, then.  Oh, and hang on.”

 

Captain Ice sat at his control station.  The panoramic windows looked out onto the dark swirling waters of Zach’s Bay.  His touchscreen main station offered up the solutions he required.

Disengage.  Power up.  Forward. Lights.

Jimbo and Imwan grabbed the walls as they hurried toward Ice.  Everything rocked.

Outside, the militia fired bullets and tossed grenades as the entire venue shook.  Jaws dropped as the entire structure – from the enormous covered stage to the furthest backstage sections – detached from the seated area of the theater.  Massive telescopic push rods shoved Jimbo’s entire vessel out into the bay.  The inboard diesel engines roared.

For the most recent upgrades to the Jones Beach Amphitheater; the clandestine ones – courtesy of the rock stars – the time had come.

When Jimbo and Imwan reached the bridge, Captain Ice was scanning available functions.  He and Imwan had trained extensively for this, and Jimbo was their prized pupil.

Solar Panels.  Wind Generator.  All ready for eventual use.

The newly-launched vessel motored toward Jones Inlet, leaving their attackers back amongst 15,000 empty seats.  Jimbo, Imwan, and Captain Ice found themselves in a quiet moment, just eyeballing each other.  There was some disbelief that the moment had actually arrived.  Ice worked a control panel, and from what was once the imposing stage roof, came a rumbling.  Just forward of where the large speaker and Nipper statue had been blown apart, arose three grand and gleaming sailing masts.

Imwan sat at another section of the control center, eyes on screens.  Ice, from his seat, did a final program check on the masts.  Jimbo stood between his friends, focused on the night’s crashing waves, which were illuminated through the front windows.

“We should probably play some tunes,” he asserted, with a smirk.  He grabbed an old school remote and aimed it at a CD player.  Then, he turned to Ice.

“Captain,” he commanded, “set a course for international waters.”

Through the murky inlet it roared, toward the churning expanse of the Atlantic Ocean.  Remotely guided by Imwan, and trailing the ship by roughly the distance from home plate to the right field porch in Yankee Stadium, buzzed Dewey, gaining ground, red light blinking.

The Rolling Stones’ “Till the Next Goodbye” played as Dewey reached home base, touching down on the damp deck that was once a shimmering stage.  Below it, the newly-revealed stern brandished what Jimbo might refer to in everyday speech as the vessel’s “moniker”:

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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.

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