Thursday, May 22, 2008

Great Balls of Fire!

This is a special two-for-one holiday weekend edition of “We have All Been Here Before,” in which I examine rock and roll scandals and a well-known rock and roll drummer.

Big day in rock and roll history, fans! On this date, Fats Domino had one of his live appearances cancelled in 1955. Police were worried that the show at the Connecticut Ritz Ballroom might turn into a “rock and roll dance.” (Really? A rock and roll dance? Scandalous!) The authorities referred to a similar occurrence at a New Haven arena where near riots had to be broken up. “Ain't It a Shame” had just debuted on the R&B charts. Also, Jerry Lee Lewis had 34 of his 37 concert dates in the U.K. cancelled in 1958 when it was discovered that his new bride with him was also his 14 year old cousin. The Killer’s career was all downhill from there. When rock and roll was in its infancy, with black R&B “race music” making the transition to a wider acceptance with white audiences, these “scandals” were numerous and all too common. Remember the Alan Freed payola scandal? And Chuck Berry being jailed under the Mann Act for “smuggling” an underage girl in from Mexico? Parents didn’t like to think of their precious little teens writhing around the dance floor, listening to suggestive lyrics, because it smacked too much of – dare I say it – sex!? And ol' Jerry Lee just couldn’t help himself – could be that, down in Loosiana where he hailed from, marrying your 14-year old cousin was an accepted practice, but the world recoiled in horror at the impropriety of it all. Nowadays, a good scandal can be counted on to sell lots of records and concert tickets, but not in the uptight ‘50’s. Here’s a little sample of the Killer in his prime.

On this date, Ringo Starr released one of his very best albums in 1992. Time Takes Time featured outstanding tracks like “Weight of the World”, “Golden Blunders” and “Runaways.” It was his first studio album since Old Wave, which wasn't even released in most countries. Since 1990 when the All-Starr concerts began, Ringo has been recording and touring on a regular basis. My good bud Mr. Whoamus and I and our spouses took in an All-Starr band concert back in ’01, and we would both agree that it was one of the finest events we’ve ever had the pleasure to attend. Ringo had a knack for bringing together second-tier rock stars who, by themselves, probably couldn’t sell out an arena; put ‘em all together, and you’ve got an interesting evening of eclectic entertainment that promises something for everyone. Here’s a sample from one of Ringo’s All-Starr tours. Thanks, as always, to for the info, have a safe and happy holiday weekend, and keep on rockin’!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Jammin' At Renegade's

Wednesday nights your host can usually be found at the open mic rock and blues jam at Renegade's in Burnsville, hosted by Dave Lambert's Road House band. I usually play drums, but I screwed up my courage the other day to play some guitar and debut a song I wrote, "Million Dollar Chords," with the Renegade's crowd. Here are a couple of brief samples of a couple of the jams. Sorry for the low quality of the vids - I did a quick transfer of a larger file, and it didn't come out too well, but you get the idea...Thanks to Dave, Tiger, Howie, Dan and the whole Renegade's crew, and we'll see you there next Wednesday. Keep on rockin!

Wouldn't It Be Nice...

Today in rock history, the Pet Sounds “masterpiece” by The Beach Boys was released in 1966. It contained “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “Sloop John B.,” “God Only Knows,” “Here Today,” “Caroline No” and other songs. A box set of the recording sessions of Pet Sounds was released by Capitol Records in the 1990s. How many times have we heard that Paul McCartney picked it as one of the best albums of all time? It is doubtful that without McCartney’s endorsement, the album would have received as much attention as it did. I don’t remember paying too much attention to it at the time: I had dismissed the Beach Boys as a washed -up surf band past their prime by 1966. How wrong I was! Well, with or without McCartney’s nod, it is by anyone’s definition a great album; as a matter of fact, it has been ranked the #1 best album of all time by the New Musical Express, The Times, Mojo Magazine, and Pure Pop; and #2 in the best albums of all time by Rolling Stone magazine. “God Only Knows” received notice as the first pop song with “God” in the title. Brian Wilson (who had stopped touring with the group by late 1965) actually recorded the majority of the backing tracks with the help of studio musicians Barney Kessel, Carol Kaye and the ubiquitous Hal Blaine, among others (part of LA’s infamous “Wrecking Crew” of studio musicians, who showed up on hundreds of pop songs, jingles, and commercials), while the rest of the band was on a three-week tour of Hawaii and Japan. He also pioneered multi-track recording, using one of the first available 8-track recorders of the time. The majority of the music-buying public in those days probably never realized that it wasn’t their faves playing the backing tracks on their favorite recordings; it was this group of veteran studio musicians cranking them out. That explains why the drum sound was often the same on a lot of these recordings; it was usually Hal Blaine poundin’ the skins! At any rate, let’s relive the genius of Brian Wilson with this track from “Pet Sounds.” Thanks to and for the info, and keep on rockin’!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


On this date in rock history, Keith Relf, former lead singer for The Yardbirds, died in 1976. He was electrocuted at home while tuning his guitar. The image of the guitarist getting a shock while simultaneously touching the guitar and microphone is a familiar one – remember the scene in “Almost Famous” when this happened to Billy Crudup’s character on stage? I think it had something to do with the old tube amps of the day not being grounded properly and when you touched the guitar and mic stand at the same time, you completed the circuit and zap! – you got a jolt. It happened to my fellow bandmates in my high school bands enough that to this day I can’t stop myself from approaching an open mic with trepidation. But to get electrocuted like Relf did – man, he must have been tuning his guitar plugged into a half-stack Marshall turned up all the way, while sitting in a metal chair in his swimming pool during an electrical storm! Well, to dispel that image, let’s watch some vintage Yardbirds, and observe a moment of silence for the unfortunate Mr. Relf. Thanks, as always, to for the info, and keep on rockin’ – safely!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

"Four Dead In Ohio..."

Today in rock history, four students were shot and killed by the National Guard at Kent State University in Ohio during an antiwar demonstration in 1970. Neil Young reacted to the senseless slayings by writing and recording the song, “Ohio,” with Crosby, Stills & Nash, the very next day. “Four dead in Ohio...,” David Crosby apparently wept, as the recording of the song faded out. It was a tragic time; I was a freshman in college at the time and remember seeing many grim faces among my friends (after all, it could have been any one of us) as we vowed to "Kill the pigs!" We didn't, of course; youth needs to have an outlet whenever a wrong has been committed, even if it's tough talk and no action. Here CSN&Y performing the song in 1974, and you can still feel the anger, the hurt and the betrayal in their performance...Thanks to for the info and say a prayer for the fallen...