Abbey Road Studios: not for sale!

22 02 2010

Here’s a bit of good news (unless you were a prospective buyer.)


My year in music

31 12 2009

The year started out with a bang.  I had just seen Oasis in mid December and was quite interested in the current British music scene.  Before January was up, I got my hands on both Fratellis’ albums, two from the Kooks and Arctic Monkeys’ Favourite Worst Nightmare.  Credit for these finds goes to magazines like Mojo and Q, which I was reading heavily at the time.  I did my level best to get my hands on Fleet Foxes’ self-titled album from the local library, but that took until Spring.

Luckily, Dennis Wilson’s revived classic Pacific Ocean Blue got a lot of love late 2008, early 2009, particularly from the Brit mags.  That has been one of the best albums I’ve bought in years.  I cannot recommend it highly enough.

February was also quite interesting because the Beatles’ Take 20 of “Revolution” surfaced, and exploded across the ‘net.  EMI and/or Apple Corps made sure, within a day or so, that it vanished from some of the more notorious sites like youtube.  I wasn’t immediately convinced it was an authentic Beatles track – seemed possibly to be a mash-up of some kind – but “Beatles historians” roundly came out with opinions that it was the real deal.  That it was squashed within 48 hours of hitting the world wide web seemed to be good evidence that it was the real thing.  It’s a very cool track.  It’s basically “Revolution No. 1″ from the White Album, with loops and audio bits that ended up on “Revolution No. 9.”  As a big Beatles fan, I’m not one for second guessing them, but I think, in retrospect, “Revolution Take 20″ (let’s just call it that) would have fit better on the album than having two separate Revolutions.  No. 9 is just too long and goes nowhere.

The Beach Boys are frequently in my playing rotation (though not at the moment.)  Last Spring, I really wanted to go back and full up my collection from their post-Smile late 60’s, early 70’s catalog, but never quite got around to it.  I did dig out my copy of Good Vibrations: Thirty Years of the Beach Boys, and played discs 2 and 3 quite a bit for a few weeks.  I came to love Dennis Wilson’s “Little Bird” from the album Friends.

Speaking of Beach Boys and Wilson brothers, Brian Wilson’s performance of Smile from a few years was an amazing surprise.  I’ve had the bootleg tracks (and songs from the box set) for years, but his performance of the aborted album from start to finish is something special.

Virtually out of nowhere, I felt this draw toward bass guitar.  My six string had been in the case for years; I played it a bit and decided I wanted to be a bassist.  In March I picked up my Dean EABG and jumped right into it.  I got Bass Guitar for Dummies and started playing (or learning) quite diligently.  In April I bought a 1997 Epiphone Accu-Bass and a Kustom 80 watt bass amp from a pawn shop in Detroit.  I have not played the electric much, but it’s there if I need it.

Late spring and early summer came.  I still played quite a bit of bass, taking my acoustic with me on family trips and weekends out of town.  I didn’t quite finish Bass Guitar for Dummies, but I’m planning a return to the book.  Because of my love for bass, anything with excellent bass found its way into my rotation.  I picked up What It Is! Funky Soul And Rare Grooves (1967-1977), an absolutely fantastic 4 disc set put out by Rhino.

Midsummer my MP3 player completely crapped out.  I couldn’t replace the battery for it, either.  We traveled a lot on weekends so my daughter had frequent requests for the Beatles or the Beach Boys, so that’s most of what I heard.

Christmas came early, on 09/09/09 in fact.  Apple Corps released the Beatles’ entire catalog, remastered, in stereo and mono (at least up through 1968.)  I got the Beatles in Mono box set before the stereo set.  I burned the CDs and put ‘em back in the packaging immediately.  I never even looked at the booklets, liner notes etc.  I got the stereo set a few days later, but still have not opened it.  September and October were Beatles-filled months.  Even now, at year’s end, I’m listening to bits of Abbey Road quite a bit, mostly because I’ve picked up the bass again and am trying to learn some of the licks.

Noel Gallagher “quit” Oasis but, surprisingly, this didn’t bother me a bit.  I’d love to see them make music forever; but if it ends it ends.  Noel’s the heart and soul of the band and he could go on making great music without his pesky little brother.  Here’s to a solo career that he will hopefully launch…and soon.

They never made sense to me in 38 years on this planet, but I finally gave in and got a few Pink Floyd albums, The Wall and The Dark Side of the Moon.  I would never have bought them at the store, but they’re at our public library, so I’ve given them a whirl.  I have to admit that I quite like both of those albums.  I’m not quite convinced that I like PF enough to start buying up their other albums, but I certainly am at least open to considering a bit more exploring.

The burden of sick loved ones and the “death” that comes in late Autumn probably put me in something of a slight funk.  I found solace in U2’s song “40.”  I think God wanted me to hear that when I did.

I’ve kind of fallen in love with music again in the last week or so.  I recently replaced my MP3 player and loaded it with really great stuff.  Of course it’s got all the Beatles stuff.  But I really love that I’ve got a few Miles Davis albums, Elvis in Memphis, a great two-disc set from his 1969 work, Little Richard and Ray Charles compilations/anthologies, Johnny Cash’s Personal File and a bunch of his compilation discs, and the new Black Crowes double album, Before the Frost…Until the Freeze.  I almost can’t take my headphones off these days.  I’ve already used up all 8 gig on this player and I like everything on it.

It’s hard to say what next year will bring.  If I’m going to resolve to do anything, one of those things will be to play more bass.  Perhaps instead of listening to and writing about other people’s music, I’ll make more of my own in 2010.

Tommy n’ Pink

27 09 2009

As  Who fan for 20-some years, I’ve been quite familiar with what is arguably the seminal rock opera, Tommy.  By contrast, I’ve only recently discovered Pink Floyd’s The Wall.  By radio play alone, I’ve heard and was very familiar with perhaps as much as half the The Wall’s songs.  But listening to it all the way through and reading up on it, I was surprised at the similarities in themes and even some of the plot between these two, which are among the most revered concept albums ever made.

To try to get a grip on these similarities, I did some extensive searching for summaries or synopses of the stories told by each album.  The following were, I feel, the simplest but most helpful.


British Army Captain Walker is reported missing in action during World War I, and is not expected ever to be seen again. Shortly after his wife, Mrs. Walker, receives this news, she gives birth to their son, Tommy.  Approximately four years later, Captain Walker returns home and discovers that his wife has found a new lover. Captain Walker confronts the two and kills the lover. Tommy witnesses this through his mirror. To cover up the crime, Tommy’s parents tell Tommy that he didn’t see it, didn’t hear it, and he will say “nothing to no one ever in [his] life”. A
traumatized Tommy becomes deaf, dumb, and blind.

Tommy’s subconscious reveals itself to him as a tall stranger dressed in silvery robes, and the vision sets him on an internal spiritual journey upon which he learns to interpret all physical sensations as music.

His thoughtless parents leave him to the care of his cousin, Kevin, who tortures him and later to the care of his uncle Ernie, an alcoholic child molester.  Uncle Ernie, like Kevin, takes abuses Tommy (in this case sexually) knowing he will not be caught.

Tommy’s brilliance at pinball is discovered, and quickly defeats the game’s tournament champion, making him an international celebrity, really like a rock mega-star.

His parents find a medical specialist to once more try to understand and cure his symptoms. After numerous tests, they are told that there is nothing medically wrong with him, and that his problems are psychosomatic. However, as they are trying to reach him, Tommy’s subconscious is also trying to reach out to them.  Tommy’s mother continues to try to reach him, and becomes frustrated that he completely ignores her while staring directly at a mirror. Out of this frustration
she smashes the mirror.  The smashing of the mirror snaps Tommy back into reality. Tommy’s cure becomes a public sensation and he attains guru-like status. Thereafter he assumes a quasi-messianic mantle and tries to lead his fans to an enlightenment similar to his own.

Tommy opens his own home to anyone willing to join him, and urges them to bring as many people with them as they can.  His home ultimately turns into a “holiday camp” run by Uncle Ernie, who is apparently motivated by greed and not spiritual enlightenment.  Tommy demands that his followers play pinball and blind, deafen and mute themselves in order to truly reach their spiritual height, but the heavy-handedness of his cult and the exploitation of its followers by his family and
associates cause his followers to revolt against him. Abandoned by his followers and worshipers, Tommy gains a new enlightenment.

Adapted from


From the outset, Pink’s life revolves around an abyss of loss and isolation. Born to a war-ravaged nation that takes his father’s life in the name of “duty,” and an overprotective mother who lavishes equal measures of her love and phobias onto her son, Pink chooses to build a mental wall between himself and the rest of the world so that he can live in a constant, alienated equilibrium free from life’s physical and emotional troubles. Every incident that causes Pink pain is yet another brick in his ever-growing wall: a fatherless childhood, a domineering mother, a country whose king signs his father’s death certificate with a rubber stamp, the superficiality of stardom, an estranged marriage, even the very drugs he turns to in order to find release. As his wall nears completion, each brick further closing him off from the rest of the world, Pink spirals into a void of insanity, cementing in place the final brick in the wall. Yet the minute it is complete, Pink begins to realize the adverse effects of total mental isolation, helplessly watching as his fragmented psyche coalesces into the very dictatorial persona that antagonized the world during World War II, scarred his nation, killed his father, and thereby defiled his own life from birth. Culminating in a mental trial as theatrically rich as the greatest stage shows, the story ends with a message that is as enigmatic and circular as the rest of Pink’s life. Whether it is ultimately viewed as a cynical story about the futility of life, or a hopeful journey of metaphorical death and rebirth, the Wall is certainly a musical milestone worthy of the title “art.”

Is it just me, or are there some amazing similarities?  Here are those that jumped out at me.  Both Tommy and Pink lose their fathers who fight for Britain in a world war.  Tommy’s father is only presumed dead so long for his mother to take a new lover; Pink’s father is forever lost.

Most startlingly, the cruelty of parents, relatives and authority figures in general twist and warp the minds of the characters.  Tommy’s parents, indifferent and distant at best, turn him over to be tortured by a bully cousin and sick and twisted uncle.  Doctors torture him with ineffective “cures.”  Pink endures his overbearing mother and viciousness of wicked teachers.

Stardom is the temporary salvation, or at least solace, of each character.  Their celebrity, Tommy’s as a “pinball wizard” (really a rock star) and Pink’s as a rock star, bring them the fame and glory, make them little gods.  As is often the case in real life, that glory eventually becomes their emotional and psychological undoing.

While both arrive at their end point by extremely divergent paths, both cult-like figures, are taken down by their followers.  Tommy’s holiday camp attendees overthrow him.  Pink is “tried” in some fashion of a court for what in essence amount to war crimes.   Tommy is booted from his throne.  Pink’s wall is torn asunder.

At the risk of overstating the importance or depth of these works, there’s no doubt a more scholarly look at them might find more interesting and detailed similarities.  I’m neither a music nor literature expert.  My eyes are untrained to find themes, moods, tone and so on.  Nevertheless, there appear to be enough points of likeness between Tommy and The Wall to merit mention.  I’d love to read anything others might have said on the subject and welcome lots of feedback.



Finally one of the cool kids

22 09 2009

It only took 20-some years of fighting it, but I finally became one of the cool kids.  I broke down and picked up a few Pink Floyd albums.  No, I didn’t pay for them.  I got ’em from the local library.  I’ve listened to bits of Dark Side of the Moon and I am listening to The Wall as I write.

I could never tell you why I never even gave Pink Floyd a chance.  I just didn’t.  The closest thing I had to a reason was that there were just “not my style.”  It’s not as if I’d never heard them.  They’re a staple of rock radio.  I’ve heard a few dozen songs on radio alone and probably bits and pieces of albums that friends have played.  But I never sat down and listened to a single album start to finish.  No, I didn’t even try to watch The Wall synced with The Wizard Of Oz.  Since I’ve never been a head, I suppose I never felt the need to really pay much attention.

Lately, though, I’ve felt like I’ve run out of good rock and roll.  I’m a Beatles fanatic but I’m trying not to OD on the new mono and stereo remasters, which have been in heavy rotation at home, work and in the car for 2 weeks.  I need to pick up the new Black Crowes album and that will quench my rock thirst. . . for a time.

For now, though, let’s see how I like the Floyd.


Wyman, Mason spot on about music games

11 09 2009

Bill Wyman and Nick Mason talk about their dislike of music video games, and they both make the same point with which I happen to strongly agree.  Instead of spending hundreds of dollars and who knows how many hours to play fake instruments, why not learn how to actually play real music on your own instrument?

Just because it’s good enough for The Beatles doesn’t mean it’s good enough for everyone.

In an interview with the BBC, ex-Rolling Stone bassist Bill Wyman expressed his general displeasure with music games, claiming they distracted kids from rocking properly.

“It encourages kids not to learn, that’s the trouble” he told the BBC. “It makes less and less people dedicated to really get down and learn an instrument. I think it’s a pity so I’m not really keen on that kind of stuff.”

Interestingly, Wyman’s mini-tirade came during a break from a recording session at the legendary Abbey Road studios, where the longtime Stones member was laying down tracks for a charitable Beatles cover song. Anticipated music game The Beatles: Rock Band launches this week.

Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason was also on hand and offered a few no-so-gentle words of his own.

“It irritates me having watched my kids do it,” he said of playing music video games. “If they spent as much time practicing the guitar as learning how to press the buttons they’d be damn good by now.”

The two join the likes of Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, The White Stripes’ Jack White and the one and only Prince as some of music video gaming’s most famous critics.

However, Wyman’s griping is a bit bizarre considering that the Stones have appeared in both Guitar Hero and Rock Band before, including the just-released five-song Rolling Stone Track pack for Guitar Hero. He also seems to be missing the fact that music games can turn people on to playing real-world music.

Uncomfortably numb

21 06 2009

I hurt my back at the gym yesterday.  Since then I’ve been in near-constant pain.  The only “relief” is Flexiril, a muscle relaxer.  It doesn’t provide pain relief as much as it seems to keep the back flexible.  It also makes me loopy, edgy and a tad crabby.  It definitely dulls me.

That feeling made me think of this song.  I’m sure it’s about trippier experiences than mine, but it fits the fog — the I’m-not-myself-feeling — I’m living in at the moment.