Jimi

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This is a picture of me with my son on the site of the original Woodstock stage where Jimi once famously played the Star Spangled Banner. We were swept up in the moment. What better place for a jumping air guitar salute? “None more better place” is the answer.

Starting a series on icons of rock- I am starting with Jimi Hendrix.

There were guitars that screamed and guitars that jangled. And then came Jimi and the guitar would speak clearly of pain and of joy…..huh?….what?

Jimi and the guitar were one-he slept with his guitar because he was his guitar. When he had nothing as a small boy-he had a broom that he pretended was his guitar and it was his only friend.

Like Tom Hanks in Castaway with Wilson-unnatural bond of person to object.

And I forgot to mention-the best rock guitarist ever to walk the face of the earth. Period. No discussion needed.

[Since this is a blog –allow me to go on a bit more]

Especially for you kids that are new to rock music.

Rock is blues based.

This is a basic timeline.jimi-3

For purists only-this can sound a little rough as we cannot go back to the 1930’s and imagine how it would feel.  We can’t walk on those dusty roads and hitch a ride to the next town with 12 cents in our pocket.

Robert Johnson arrived and let the world know that something was going on in the delta. The best blues music is always someone going on a rant with their guitar about how things are in their world. You could say that about the best rock music, the best country music or the best hip hop music.

The truth thrown out there in a compelling way.

T-bone Walker added some fire to the guitar- he started doing things that no one else could.

“They call it stormy Monday, but Tuesday is just as bad.”

There are other songs that I should pick to show off the virtuoso in action—-but this is sooooo smooooooth.  It just dances and tickles the music palette before seeping gently into your soul.

Jimi ran all that energy and inspiration in one big liftoff that reached orbit. We got great guitar players now-we don’t have a name that I can place next .

Jack White is close if you make me force a choice. Close still does not fit. Like a giant stone used in the pyramids-it has to ease in there perfectly. I am still waiting.

And here is where we finish for now.

I am going for less fire and more heart in these tunes and want to end with one of the greats in that next group to follow. SVR spent his whole career chasing down Hendrix-he even carried one of the master’s wah wah pedals on this journey. I am not going to throw a link here-but I do write about a show where I was lucky to catch him with his boots on this pedal early in my blogging days.

Maybe lucky is not the right word- Let’s try blessed.

Cave Olympics -Classic Rock

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Cave Olympics -Classic Rock

No messing around-nothing fancy- Straight ahead Rock n roll songs that still have plenty of rubber left on the tires.

I am not picking the usual worn out suspects for the cave medals.

Anybody and their un-house trained dog can pick  ‘Back in Black” or “Satisfation” as the top rock songs of all time.

I went with songs I love that still have plenty of juice.

Like a big pack of energizer batteries with an expiration date of “never”.

Here we go

The Bronze:

Lynyrd Skynyrd.Call me the Breeze

J J Cale wrote it and they put it on one of the best sophomore albums of all time and just kicked the dry excrement right out of it. What a song and what an original line up of whoop-ass.

The Silver:

Pretenders.Mystery Achievement

Another great effort by another short lived line up. This first Pretenders record always gets forgotten when we talk of the greats. You can call it punky new wave if you like. I call it straight ahead Rock music with feeling and with conviction.

The Gold:

Rolling Stones.Gimme Shelter

This song has relentless timeless power.

This is rock n roll.

Pete Seeger

venus-sunset-flat-straight

So long Pete,

You loved everyone-A true man of the people-you lived long enough that we kind of forgot about you-that is our fault.

I never was a fan of your music but I am a big fan of a life filled with conviction.

And you lived on my river.

In fact, you really loved the Hudson River and fought to get it clean.

We have lost a consistent voice for freedom and the river has lost a friend.

The world is not better without you.

Thank you

Do you ever yearn?

Do you ever yearn?

Yearn: to have a strong desire for somebody or something, especially when the desire is tinged with sadness.

That is really what all these unrequited love songs are about.

Maybe it is all this rain gently washing away the January snow that has me in this yearning funk.

I don’t know… but the best way to deal with it-is to find some great songs and let them rain in on my soul.

There is something always pure about something that is unattainable-if you can’t get it then it follows that you can never diminish it. It stands there in all its glory and remains just out of reach.

Mix it with talent and music and magic happens.

These songs are all great and I am just scratching the surface.

Howard Jones. No one is to blame

Bonnie Raitt I can’t make you love me

Cake. The Distance

James Blunt.You’re Beautiful

And for George and his constant craving:

Bobby McGee Deconstructed

Bobby McGee deconstructed-

 

We start with nothing:

“Busted flat in Baton Rouge, waitin’ for a train”

We end with nothing:

“Nothing and that’s all that Bobby left me”

We’d give anything to do it all over again:

“I’d trade all my tomorrows for a single yesterday”

This is deeper than just a typical little folk/country/rock song- Kris Kristofferson has hit on something profound.

An adventure starts in Louisiana rain and goes through “Kentucky coal mines to the California sun”. This is a song that can be appreciated by the broke majority in “all kinds of weather”.

“I pulled my harpoon from my dirty red bandana”

The Bandana: The symbol of the outlaw, cowboy or counter culture.

Harpoon: slang for harmonica …this is groovy man….the good ol’ harmonica and echoes of first person blues sung on the road. This goes all the way back to the origins of rock music and fitting that it starts on the edge of the Mississippi delta.

Pink can’t mess this song up- it is that good.

“Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.”

 

There are iconic lines in rock music, I don’t know how many (maybe a future post?) but I do know this one gets thrown on the rough draft and makes it through all revisions with no argument.

Freedom is a cool thing but this has me thinking a different way.

Freedom is the last option for the desperate among us.

Freedom is a benefit that remains when all else has been lost in America.

Or…whatever interpretation of this line you want to add based on your own life and experience….go ahead- try one-this line can take it. As in all great art—it holds up under all kinds of light and still shines in any darkness.

The Voice

Janis Joplin sings like a tiger escaped from a circus

Dangerous but beautiful- Sad but truthful. Tamed enough to perform, but still wild. I hear echoes of those Kentucky coalmines. I hear the brooding downpours of the Louisiana rain. I feel the California sun burning in that voice.

The combination of great song writing with this vocal instrument makes this an essential work. Without this song -Janis Joplin could easily be remembered like Mama Cass as just another casualty of the 60’s-

With this song she becomes a legend.

And speaking of legends-here is “The Killer” Jerry Lee Lewis with a version

And finally- I am hanging on to the hope that Bobby McGee actually did find that elusive “home’ when he/she (or both, whatever works for you today, we don’t judge at the cave) slipped away near Salinas.

 

Loudness.Crazy Nights

So much Metal at the height of its power- big hair and Marshal amps, maybe some boots and make-up to go with them sleek sexy guitars and it takes over the entire world.

Loudness could have only happened when the saturation of this genre was complete. This song is a true relic that gets forgotten when metal fans talk of the good ol’ days.

I love this song- pure attitude and flash with all the offensiveness sanitized out as it is washed to brilliance in the eastern sun. American metal gets transposed into a cartoon of itself and sent back to us in a bright package of innocent excited exuberance. Metal at its best is cartoony music with monsters and superheroes competing on stage with guitar gods and devils. Right back to the beginning with Black Sabbath dragging Ironman from a cheap comic and Lemmy dealing cards with evil in the “Ace of Spades”.

 “The beat kicks you in the head”

It can make us old men feel like a 14 year old boy again. And let’s face it….this was (and is) always the target audience of metal music. Like pro wrestling and video games…it is just a little creepy if we indulge in these vices as we hit half a century.

But……”The beat kicks you in the face” and “We are the heroes tonight”

I have to admit that I did enjoy the slight trip back and thank you “Loudness”

Led Zeppelin.Immigrant Song

Immigrant Song

My favorite Zeppelin song changes for reasons I can’t fully explain. It could be the seasons or moods or just the way we all evolve with the passage of time.

This one has got me now

It makes me feel like a Viking…the rain is dripping off the horns on my helmet-the wind is numbing my rough and weatherworn face. I taste the salt of the cold northern sea as waves crash against my wooden vessel, there is no safe coastline in sight.

“Hammer of the gods; drive our ships to new lands”

The yelling and screaming keeps me at my oars-it is compelling me to destiny.

The rhythmic guitar riff is like the wind and lightning of the storm that rages.

The baseline is the beating of the rain.

The drums are coming up from the frothy depths to smash the fragile planks underfoot; ready to take me with any misstep.

I FEEL THIS SONG!

And enjoy

Wonder #6, Woodstock, Thank a Hippie today

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By the time we got to Woodstock we were in White Lake in Bethel.

Woodstock is not the home of the famous Woodstock- The actual site is in Bethel, N.Y- but how cool does Bethel sound? “Hey man, everyone is going to Bethel this summer”.

And maybe not all of the 480,000 concert goers in 1969 were hippies…but they damn sure started it!

Wonder #6 -The site of the original 1969 Woodstock

Monument at original Woodstock location
Monument at original Woodstock location

Quick recap:

Two young guys with lots of money and zero music industry experience wanted to put on a rock show. They chose Woodstock because famous musicians like Bob Dylan and the Band lived there.

The town of Woodstock would not allow them to do it.

They were in big trouble finding a spot – Before the thing completely collapsed- a farmer in Bethel, N.Y named Max Yasgur allowed the use of his dairy farm for the event.

Max Yasger's farm
Max Yasger’s farm

They had to make it free or risk a riot.

There was rain that made mud. They ran out of things like food.

There was also political strife, free love, drugs and great music. Thank the hippies for keeping it peaceful enough to happen. No other group in any other generation could have made history without serious trouble, especially considering the overwhelming strain on limited resources they faced.

Every big outdoor music festival after this is compared to this. This is like Michael Jordan to basketball or Babe Ruth to baseball- Much bigger than the game itself. It transcends its genre to become an iconic cultural moment in time.

Thank you Hippies!

Flowers and fence looking down to stage site
Flowers and fence looking down to stage site

There were two original hippies guarding the monument and graciously dispensing information when I made a visit to this shrine of Rock n’ Roll. They pointed me in the direction of the original stage site where I went with my family to take a few pictures.

The museum on the site is also worth a visit. Great trip for all.

My son jumping at the site of original Woodstock stage
My son jumping at the site of original Woodstock stage

Thank you to all the original hippies for changing the way we think about music.

monument close up
monument close up

And Peace to all