I bought my first Iron Maiden record in 1982. “The Number of the Beast” garnered great reviews from the heavy metal community.
Here in America it also received threats from church officials as being an agent of satanism. Heavy metal music does a lot of satanic material. It just fits the genre so well. This kind of music is a tonic for many fans. I love complex guitar based music. Soaring vocals are a huge component as well.
Circus magazine wrote a response to the controversy. The article explained Iron Maiden are not devil worshippers, just devil-may-care.
I was a fan for life after that era. Their mascot Eddie, a re-animated ghoul, appears on every album cover. Created by Derek Riggs, he assumes different types and styles that fit each album’s themes and concepts.
From their eponymous debut in album to their first double studio album in 2015, the band’s music has evolved from traditional metal to a more progressive groove.
Their line-up changed several times. Original vocalist Paul DiAnno quit due to substance abuse. His replacement was Samson singer Bruce Dickinson who turned out to be their ticket to global stardom.
For two albums, Bruce was replaced by Blayze Bayley. Their 10th and 11th albums were as good as anything they had done before but fans did not like this change.
In the year 2000 the band made a huge comeback with Bruce’s return. Guitarist Adrian Smith also came back. This current line-up of the group proved to be their best.
Since the year 2000 Iron Maiden are Bruce Dickinson (Vocals), Steve Harris (Bass), Adrian Smith (Guitar), Dave Murray (Guitar), Janick Jers (Guitar), Nicko McBrain (Drums).
The past 20 years of a nearly 50 year career have produced critically acclaimed records like “Brave New World”, “A Matter of Life and Death”, “The Final Frontier”, and “The Book of Souls”.
This followed their now classic albums of the 1980’s: “Killers”, “The Number of the Beast”, “Piece of Mind”, “Powerslave”, “Somewhere in Time”, and “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son “.
A documentary film, “Flight 666”, follows Maiden on a record setting world tour in which lead singer Bruce Dickinson piloted the band’s plane called Ed Force One.
Around the world Maiden’s fan base grew not only larger but younger too. In my opinion Iron Maiden have the best fans.
In the past four decades you will have seen people wearing Iron Maiden shirts or patches or bracelets or hats.
In 1982, Eddie was a demon spawn. Then in 1983 he was condemned to the rubber room. In 1984 he was an entombed pharaoh. In 1986 he became a cyborg. In 1988 he became the Seventh Son of a Seventh Son.
Now in their fifth decade, Iron Maiden are nominated to the Rock Hall of Fame.
Not seeking this award, the band will continue to empower their massive audience that spans the globe with their upcoming seventeenth studio album.
Bassist Steve Harris founded the group on Christmas day 1975! He said at the end of each decade that Maiden had another ten albums in them. And their sixteen studio records all have songs that became big concert classics.
This is a snapshot song list of my favorites from the band’s ongoing career:
Murders In The Rue Morgue
Phantom of the Opera
Die With Your Boots On
The Number Of The Beast
Run To The Hills
Hallowed Be Thy Name
Flight Of Icarus
Where Eagles Dare
To Tame A Land (inspired by Dune)
Sun And Steel
Two Minutes To Midnight
Rime Of The Ancient Mariner
Sea Of Madness
Somewhere In Time
Stranger In A Strange Land
Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son
The Evil That Men Do
No Prayer For The Dying
Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter*
Public Enema Number One
Be Quick Or Be Dead
From Here To Eternity
Afraid To Shoot Strangers
Judas Be My Guide
Fear Of The Dark
Sign Of The Cross
Lord Of The Flies
Man On The Edge
Judgement Of Heaven
The Angel And The Gambler
The Educated Fool
Dance of Death
The Wicker Man
Brave New World
Out Of The Silent Planet
Brighter Than A Thousand Suns
The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg
Lord Of Light
Satellite 15…The Final Frontier
Isle Of Avalon
The Man Who Would Be King
When The Wild Wind Blows
If Eternity Should Fail
Speed Of Light
The Book Of Souls
Death Or Glory
Tears Of A Clown
Empire Of The Clouds
*The only single to reach #1 on the chart.
Up the Irons!
The list of songs above reflects how well Iron Maiden have covered their horror, science fiction, fantasy, and historical literary interests.
Their songwriting is done now by each band member. Steve Harris is their lead songwriter who composed epic songs lasting a minimum of six minutes on every record. Frontman Bruce Dickinson wrote the longest track in their history so far. “Empire Of The Clouds” runs 18 minutes!
Arguably the most epic of bands, I hope Maiden get elected to the rock hall of fame this year. They deserve this honor.
Dearest readers I leave you with a few of my favorite versions of mascot Eddie:
Edward Van Halen died this week from throat cancer.
His journey from Netherlands to Pasadena, California enabled him to prosper in a culture that became the LA heavy metal scene.
The first Van Halen record features real photos of each member during a gig at the famous Whiskey–A–Go–Go on the Sunset strip.
In 1978 Punk and Disco were exploding in popularity.
With its opening power chords the VH album was a fresh audio blast of serious but joyful rock.
Runnin’ with the Devil, the guitar solo Eruption, and the rest would change music forever.
The members of this group were great looking too. Eddie’s brother Alex, Michael Anthony, and David Lee Roth would rise to become the model for all the rock music to come flooding into the hearts and minds of young people all over the world.
Now called Hair Metal, the bands that bought Van Halen’s records are legion.
Eddie was an ingenious player. He could not read music but was able to play spot on by watching other musicians.
There were wonderful collaborations with Michael Jackson on the smash hit Beat It and his appearance on Brian May’s first solo effort Starfleet Project.
1984 is one of my favorite albums of all time. Featuring hits Jump, Hot For Teacher, Panama, and I’ll Wait. They were MTV’s most played act that year.
The changes to Sammy Hagar then Gary Cherone of Extreme yielded 8 years in which they released several #1 records including 5150, OU812, and For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.
Kiss were the band that VH opened for on their first national tour. Both bands would headline Britain’s Monsters of Rock festival.
Eddie Van Halen’s music still makes me feel great. I believe it’s timeless.
Although I only saw him in concert on their 2007 Tour, he went shirtless and played like the headliner he had always been.
The rockers of the 1980’s made their mark. Many of the bands from that era are still here recording and performing. Do not take them for granted.
Van Halen music is hard, heavy, melodic, harmonious, and the definition of great rock n roll.
I will miss Eddie Van Halen. He was such a huge presence in my life. Happy Trails…
“Endless unfolding of words of ages! And mine a word of the modern, the word En-Masse.
“I Contain Multitudes” opens the record with a reference to another epic poet whose work, “Song Of Myself”, celebrates every living creature on the planet. The title of this track is a Whitman quote. The ‘I’ is used here inclusively. Evoking the value in all living things.
The songs speaks to the experience of life. Loving and hating in equal measure. Composing, painting, eating, drinking, and our bodies as vessels that contain a universe.
I love Mr. Dylan’s end to this track. You can accept this line as just playing recordings of the classical giants or perhaps it is an expression that his final chapter maybe spent composing classical pieces:
“I’ll play Beethoven’s sonatas, and Chopin’s preludes…”
The cover image for this record is important. Presented in a cinematic letter-box format, anonymous couples are dancing. They are people of color. A solitary figure is hunched over the juke trying to decide what to play or in anguish over lost love or any number of reasons you could imagine.
For the first time Bob Dylan’s name does not appear on the cover! We listeners are to focus only on the image of a juke joint interior. The name of the record seems to pop-up from the floor in vivid technicolor. The color scheme applied is simply the best ever used in his catalog of 42 records.
Once again he is creating a mythic eden seeded in the past but brought into our present. A secret place where people of color went to actually express their humanity. The Queer folk also went to these type of places to do the same. Evoking Whitman’s celebration of humanity and non-humanity alike within the dark spaces of the juke joint where all can be free together.
American Folklore’s Rough and RowdyWays
His choice of title reference classic folk music by way of Jimmie Rodgers. The adjectives of Rough and Rowdy are masculine in nature. Playful but potentially dangerous like people themselves. A Dylanesque wink to the underlying violence packed within the culture. Dylan loves to use folklore and tall tales for referents to his lyrics. This album is more than worthy of his best works. His mystique is intact; here now his innermost troubles are laid bare.
A 10 stanza poem that could have been a part of Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass.” In the sixth stanza he invokes the ‘I’ in repetition:
“I searched the world over, for the holy grail, I sing songs of love, I sing songs of betrayal. Don’t care what I drink, I don’t care what I eat, I climb the mountain of swords On my bare feet.”
Mr. Dylan is baring his soul like never before throughout this record. In the verse quoted above you here his artistic declaration of mission. He once again invokes his religious beliefs too. Willing to climb a mountain of swords in bare feet is a form of stigmata.
“My Own Version Of You”
Expressing his heart’s desire to create his own Frankenstein—like creature in his image to be able to assign it the qualities he feels are required to balance the world. The lyrics here are macabre yet have a restless play about them:
“I’ll take the Scarface Pacino and The Godfather Brando Mix it up in a tank and get a robot commando “
Using fictional toughs from the 1970s in ‘The Godfather’ and 1980s in ‘Scarface’ as his character ingredients expresses the raw masculine imagination at work. A modern American ethos is applied here.
Dylan appeals to Julius Caesar, St. Peter, Mr. Freud, and Mr. Marx. As usual for the Ancients to connect to the Moderns as the basis for a new brain. Politics, Religion, and Philosophy—these are the areas of human endeavor forever swirling around in Mr. Dylan’s grey matter too.
“I wannabring someone to life, turn back the years Do it with laughter and do it with tears“
The strongest desire of all seems to be the return of older values and ideas. The masks of comedy and tragedy must always balance the equation of reality and fiction.
“I’ve Made Up My Mind To Give Myself To You“
The love poem of the album is addressed to an unknown woman (or perhaps every listener). A nice ballad delivered pretty straight and dry. In contrast to all of the other songs here this track stands out as the least grim.
“I’m giving myself to you, I am From Salt Lake City to Birmingham From East L.A. to San Antone I don’t think I can bear to live my life alone“
Mr. Dylan has had two marriages that produced 2 grown sons. His declaration here becomes clear. He wants to give up his lonely wandering.
A 5 verse poem that reinforces letting go of youthful recklessness. The doppelganger of violent intent is warned to release its grip or be hacked to pieces. The song is the simplest one here.
“Goodbye Jimmy Reed”
A 6 verse poem expressing Mr. Dylan’s goodbye to the blues. Mr. Reed is the most influential bluesman who passed back in 1976. He is the connective blood and tissue to Mr. Dylan’s other friends, Elvis and The Rolling Stones who covered Mr. Reed’s songs.
“Mother of Muses”
A poetic prayer expressed with a selfish desire to have the top muse all to himself.
Mother of Muses, wherever you are I’ve already outlived my life by far
In seeming desperation he lays his soul out for her to see. That life has now gone on too long. He needs her injection of spirit. Perhaps to fill the void if he lets go of his former life.
“Crossing The Rubicon”
Reinforcing his connection with the Ancients via Julius Caesar again, here to express a dedication to a new and risky course. This is a 9 verse poem that Dylanologists will love parsing among themselves. The densest work in this collection. Great poetic phrasing with just the right dose of abstraction.
“Key West (Pirate Philosopher)”
4 Verses of philosophy; 4 choruses describe Key West. This is the second longest track here. It serves as Prelude to Disc 2’s opus, “Murder Most Foul”.
In such simple verse Mr. Dylan crystallizes his ways. Key West is flat land where he can keep his feet planted firmly and listen closely to a pirate radio signal for inspiration and peace.
My favorite lines make up Chorus 4:
“Key West is the place to be If you’re looking for immortality Key West is paradise divine Key West is fine and fair If you lost your mind, you’ll find it there Key West is on the horizon line”
Throughout his years writing songs Bob Dylan embraces places real and imagined as Eden–like. Key West is now his present flashpoint in life. It represents his cohorts: Ginsberg, Corso, and Kerouac; his greatest influencers: Louis, Jimmy, and Buddy.
This song closes out Disc 1. Key West is defined by Dylan as a tonic for life. The epic track on Disc 2 acts as counterpoint to the divine.
“Murder Most Foul” is a nation’s fall from grace as well as an individual’s reckoning.
Due to the length and depths of that track I gave an entire blog entry over to it.
Bob Dylan is that rare artist who continues to be inspired by the myriad roads travelled and the places he has seen. At once worldly and still forever in deep love with his own country, he is able to imbue his work with just the right amount of ambiguity and self—worth. He has become a true Renaissance man. I am a grateful listener.
American Elegy—Our Nobel Laureate Publishes Another Masterpiece
In a career now spanning six decades Bob Dylan has been through numerous phases in a life that has itself become the stuff of living legend.
Now revealed that this song is the third side on his upcoming, Rough and Rowdy Ways, he continues to inspire and write brilliantly about history.
His ability to connect our ‘modern times’ with the ancient culture that brought it about, specifically the Romans, enabled his new life as a Nobel Prize recipient.
Murder Most Foul is Mr. Dylan’s longest song. if you take the time to listen to this track you will learn a lot about this wonderful country and its brutal past and present.
You will also discover an underlying feeling of hope in the soft accompaniment with its piano, light timpani, and strings.
Dylanologists are going to have another great track to explore for many years to come. There are a ton of deliberate references to all kinds of cultural arcana in this track. Too many in fact for a single blog entry.
But herein I will discuss some of my takes on this peerless work. The closest thing to a spoken word song or a revival of the beat poet in the vast Dylan catalog.
It was a dark day in Dallas, November ’63 A day that will live on in infamy President Kennedy was a-ridin’ high Good day to be livin’ and a good day to die Being led to the slaughter like a sacrificial lamb He said, “Wait a minute, boys, you know who I am?” “Of course we do, we know who you are!” Then they blew off his head while he was still in the car Shot down like a dog in broad daylight Was a matter of timing and the timing was right You got unpaid debts, we’ve come to collect We’re gonna kill you with hatred, without any respect We’ll mock you and shock you and we’ll put it in your face We’ve already got someone here to take your place The day they blew out the brains of the king Thousands were watching, no one saw a thing It happened so quickly, so quick, by surprise Right there in front of everyone’s eyes Greatest magic trick ever under the sun Perfectly executed, skillfully done Wolfman, oh Wolfman, oh Wolfman, howl Rub-a-dub-dub, it’s a murder most foul
Here in the beginning of the poem we are explicitly told how Mr. Dylan feels about the day President John F. Kennedy was murdered.
Using a phrase as his title, he frames the dreadful event as a Murder Most Foul. As the track continues there will be an evolution or rather a de-volution through the following decades as America’s culture and politics slowly decays.
The great hope of a young, handsome, and brilliant leader is cruelly blown off the face of the Earth. The promise of a new frontier delayed by his killing.
Mr. Dylan further frames the President’s murder as that of a lynching. Mr. Kennedy was white on the surface, but he was also the nation’s first Catholic elected to the Presidency. In Bob Dylan’s view he was ‘led like a lamb to the sacrificial slaughter’.
The first verses also make clear how this crime was such an American scene. Committed in broad daylight in front of the world; ‘greatest magic trick ever under the sun’.
The Second Section
Hush, little children, you’ll understand The Beatles are comin’, they’re gonna hold your hand Slide down the banister, go get your coat Ferry ‘cross the Mersey and go for the throat There’s three bums comin’ all dressed in rags Pick up the pieces and lower the flags I’m goin’ to Woodstock, it’s the Aquarian Age Then I’ll go over to Altamont and sit near the stage Put your head out the window, let the good times roll There’s a party going on behind the Grassy Knoll Stack up the bricks, pour the cement Don’t say Dallas don’t love you, Mr. President Put your foot in the tank and then step on the gas Try to make it to the triple underpass Blackface singer, whiteface clown Better not show your faces after the sun goes down Up in the red light district, they’ve got cop on the beat Living in a nightmare on Elm Street When you’re down on Deep Ellum, put your money in your shoe Don’t ask what your country can do for you Cash on the barrelhead, money to burn Dealey Plaza, make a left-hand turn I’m going down to the crossroads, gonna flag a ride The place where faith, hope, and charity died Shoot him while he runs, boy, shoot him while you can See if you can shoot the invisible man Goodbye, Charlie! Goodbye, Uncle Sam Frankly, Miss Scarlett, I don’t give a damn What is the truth, and where did it go? Ask Oswald and Ruby, they oughta know “Shut your mouth,” said a wise old owl Business is business, and it’s a murder most foul
The last lines of these first 2 sections of verse connect to reinforce this crime as foul cold-blooded murder. ‘Rub-a-dub-dub, it’s murder most foul; Business is business, and it’s a murder most foul’.
The actual neighborhood near the crime scene of Kennedy’s death is referenced following the pop culture explosion of The Beatles who became a salve for the real pain young people felt at the time. Deep Ellum, the arts and entertainment hub of Dallas, TX had a rise in crime too.
Referenced in the song’s second section above: ‘When you’re down on Deep Ellum, put your money on your shoe’.
‘Don’t ask what your country can do for you’, the famous Kennedy line to demand public service of youth is juxtaposed to remind people now trapped in poor communities not to expect any government assistance. The social contract was murdered too.
Explicitly calling out Woodstock and Altamont and the Age of Aquarius with the mythology of free love and the violence of Altamont. America has always created myths to soothe the wounds of very real crimes.
The reality of the made up summer of love is the real slaughter of men, women, and children in Vietnam. The daily death toll were surely murders most foul.
Mr. Dylan performs a conjuring trick as well raising the original sin of race hatred in a line that also references his hit “Hurricane”. Blackface singer, whiteface clown Better not show your faces after the sun goes down Up in the red light district, they’ve got cop on the beat Living in a nightmare on Elm Street
Also quite cleverly references a Wes Craven horror film released in the decade that followed his hit song about boxer Ruben ‘Hurricane’ Carter.
The name covers Dallas’ real murder of a President and the fictional murders of teenagers in a genre called the slasher film. The cruelty on display in Dallas would continue to resonate for the decades that followed.
The Third Section
Tommy, can you hear me? I’m the Acid Queen I’m riding in a long, black Lincoln limousine Ridin’ in the back seat next to my wife Headed straight on in to the afterlife I’m leaning to the left, I got my head in her lap Hold on, I’ve been led into some kind of a trap Where we ask no quarter, and no quarter do we give We’re right down the street, from the street where you live They mutilated his body and they took out his brain What more could they do? They piled on the pain But his soul was not there where it was supposed to be at For the last fifty years they’ve been searchin’ for that Freedom, oh freedom, freedom over me I hate to tell you, mister, but only dead men are free Send me some lovin’, then tell me no lie Throw the gun in the gutter and walk on by Wake up, little Susie, let’s go for a drive Cross the Trinity River, let’s keep hope alive Turn the radio on, don’t touch the dials Parkland Hospital, only six more miles You got me dizzy, Miss Lizzy, you filled me with lead That magic bullet of yours has gone to my head I’m just a patsy like Patsy Cline Never shot anyone from in front or behind I’ve blood in my eye, got blood in my ear I’m never gonna make it to the new frontier Zapruder’s film I seen night before Seen it thirty-three times, maybe more It’s vile and deceitful, it’s cruel and it’s mean Ugliest thing that you ever have seen They killed him once and they killed him twice Killed him like a human sacrifice The day that they killed him, someone said to me, “Son The age of the Antichrist has just only begun” Air Force One comin’ in through the gate Johnson sworn in at 2:38 Let me know when you decide to throw in the towel It is what it is, and it’s murder most foul
I set the third section above in big bold type since at this point forward the song becomes full and explicit. Brimming with anger at President Kennedy’s demise, whom Mr. Dylan likens to a King as the Kennedy White House became Camelot, then in a blink ‘his eyes, nose, and ears were filled with blood.’
The Zapruder film in some way becomes America’s first slasher film, only it’s real.
Mr Dylan describes the piece which he claims to have seen over 30 times, as ‘vile and deceitful’.
That first piece of social media created an infinity of conspiracy theories. I see it as a reflection on his own youth. In his youth the repetition is easily performed. Now, at 79 Mr. Dylan only needs a single reading.
Freedom, oh freedom, freedom over me I hate to tell you, mister, but only dead men are free
This is my favorite line in the poem/song. Using Whitmanesque phrasing to connect Lincoln with Kennedy. Both men were after all the great hope of a wounded nation. Slavery in Lincoln’s era and Vietnam/Racism in Kennedy’s time. Both men were victims of murder most foul.
Mr. Dylan has undergone phases of life where he composed Christian influenced records. He has deep personal beliefs that crop up nicely here.
Declaring, ‘the Age of the Antichrist’ has just begun following the Kennedy assassination the nation saw a steep rise in cult activity, the crimes of Charles Manson, and satanic music also came into being in American culture.
Echoing the conventional wisdom that the nation had lost its soul are Mr. Dylan’s lyrics describing the Kennedy post mortem: ‘No soul was found where it should be.’
The Fourth Section
What’s new, pussycat? What’d I say? I said the soul of a nation been torn away And it’s beginning to go into a slow decay And that it’s thirty-six hours past Judgment Day Wolfman Jack, he’s speaking in tongues He’s going on and on at the top of his lungs Play me a song, Mr. Wolfman Jack Play it for me in my long Cadillac Play me that “Only the Good Die Young” Take me to the place Tom Dooley was hung Play “St. James Infirmary” and the Court of King James If you want to remember, you better write down the names Play Etta James, too, play “I’d Rather Go Blind” Play it for the man with the telepathic mind Play John Lee Hooker, play “Scratch My Back” Play it for that strip club owner named Jack Guitar Slim going down slow Play it for me and for Marilyn Monroe
It’s Mr. Wolfman Jack to you. Bob Dylan has reached a point in his career that he can compose a poem that includes 1970’s icon Wolfman Jack.
This is a reference to the alter—ego creation that he underwent in the 1960’s, Robert Zimmerman became Bob Dylan; Robert Weston Smith became Wolfman Jack.
Also in the new age of the antichrist men were literally becoming beasts. It’s in this section that Mr. Dylan begins to recommend recordings using the word ‘play’ as a command.
It references his 2 years as a D.J. himself on satellite radio. Using famous titles/lyrics from the era’s violent refelctions include “Only The Good Die Young”, published in 1977, the year of the Son of Sam killings in New York.
Bob Dylan makes his listeners do a lot of history homework. I strongly believe this is why his work ranks so high.
Playing up the description of President Kennedy’s car of choice, ‘a long black Cadillac’, itself a coffin on wheels.
Take me to the place Tom Dooley was hung Play “St. James Infirmary” and the Court of King James If you want to remember, you better write down the names
For my take these 3 lines set up why Bob Dylan has become such a master at connecting seemingly disparate ideas.
You see the ‘place where Tom Dooley was hung’ is in North Carolina, where the Wolfman took his last breath.
Being white, Wolfman Jack died of a heart attack not a lynching. Tom Dooley became the subject of many folk songs, a genre that gave artistic birth to Bob Dylan.
Tom Dooley is part of a sad American tradition known as Appalachian Murder Ballads. A murder most foul.
St. James Infirmary references blues music. An alternate title for the song was “The Young Man Cut Down in His Prime”) about a soldier who uses his money on prostitutes and then dies of venereal disease. The theme ties in with Kennedy’s death.
Then closing the section with a simple notation of why the name checking will continue unabated for the rest of the piece—to remember with clarity write down the names.
Only an artist of Bob Dylan’s caliber tells the listener his intent in writing this or any other song/poem is to preserve it for the ages to come beyond his mortal years.
The Fifth Section (Conclusion)
Play “Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” Play it for the First Lady, she ain’t feeling any good Play Don Henley, play Glenn Frey Take it to the limit and let it go by Play it for Carl Wilson, too Looking far, far away down Gower Avenue Play “Tragedy”, play “Twilight Time” Take me back to Tulsa to the scene of the crime Play another one and “Another One Bites the Dust” Play “The Old Rugged Cross” and “In God We Trust” Ride the pink horse down that long, lonesome road Stand there and wait for his head to explode Play “Mystery Train” for Mr. Mystery The man who fell down dead like a rootless tree Play it for the reverend, play it for the pastor Play it for the dog that got no master Play Oscar Peterson, play Stan Getz Play “Blue Sky,” play Dickey Betts Play Art Pepper, Thelonious Monk Charlie Parker and all that junk All that junk and “All That Jazz” Play something for the Birdman of Alcatraz Play Buster Keaton, play Harold Lloyd Play Bugsy Siegel, play Pretty Boy Floyd Play the numbers, play the odds Play “Cry Me a River” for the Lord of the gods Play Number nine, play Number six Play it for Lindsey and Stevie Nicks Play Nat King Cole, play “Nature Boy” Play “Down in the Boondocks” for Terry Malloy Play “It Happened One Night” and “One Night of Sin” There’s twelve million souls that are listening in Play “Merchant of Venice”, play “Merchants of Death” Play “Stella by Starlight” for Lady Macbeth Don’t worry, Mr. President, help’s on the way Your brothers are comin’, there’ll be hell to pay Brothers? What brothers? What’s this about hell? Tell them, “We’re waiting, keep coming,” we’ll get them as well Love Field is where his plane touched down But it never did get back up off the ground Was a hard act to follow, second to none They killed him on the altar of the rising sun Play “Misty” for me and “That Old Devil Moon” Play “Anything Goes” and “Memphis in June” Play “Lonely at the Top” and “Lonely Are the Brave” Play it for Houdini spinning around in his grave Play Jelly Roll Morton, play “Lucille” Play “Deep in a Dream”, and play “Driving Wheel” Play “Moonlight Sonata” in F-sharp And “A Key to the Highway” for the king on the harp Play “Marching Through Georgia” and “Dumbarton’s Drums” Play darkness and death will come when it comes Play “Love Me or Leave Me” by the great Bud Powell Play “The Blood-Stained Banner”, play “Murder Most Foul”
In this final section of this elegiac piece Mr. Dylan reminds us of the worst scene of racial violence in the nation’s history.
The Tulsa race massacre (also called the Tulsa race riot, the Greenwood Massacre, or the Black Wall Street Massacre) of 1921 took place on May 31 and June 1, 1921, when mobs of white residents attacked black residents and businesses of the Greenwood District in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
It has been called “the single worst incident of racial violence in American history.” The attack, carried out on the ground and from private aircraft, destroyed more than 35 square blocks of the district—at that time the wealthiest black community in the United States, known as “Black Wall Street”.
This awful history was dramatized on the Premiere of HBO’s ‘Watchmen’. Here the line takes us back to the scene of the original crime.
He connects it to the currents of hate/racism that from 1921 became a tsunami that killed another American President.
Then swirling through the American history of Jazz music and its iconic progenitors he adds crime figures like Bugsy Siegel who builds Las Vegas and on and on in a dizzying meter of names that arrives at “Love Me or Leave Me” by Bud Powell.
This is Dylan’s response to the hateful crowds that state, America love it or leave it.
The final line is perhaps the most stinging reminder of how far America needs to go to overcome its bloody past and present: Play The Blood Stained Banner , Play Murder Most Foul.
‘The Blood Stained Banner’ was a Confederate anthem and a version of the Confederate Flag presented in 1865. Bob Dylan is telling the nation to never forget this happened.
And to kindly play the song just ended, his American Elegy, Murder Most Foul.
Funny how the discovery of new music never fails to recharge my excitement for heavy metal.
Until recently I was beginning to think there were few truly great American metal bands.
That is until I realized that Five Finger Death Punch was that great band.
Sure, the success built over their first seven releases has made some in the metal community scoff at them.
You see every album they released has gone gold or platinum. And metal fans are sticklers about being too commercial.
I just think if the music works well just be satisfied they are one of ours! The bands’ influences are evident on every track.
Pantera, Metallica, Exodus, and Venom all inspired their ferocious sound.
Now comes the arrival of a pivotal album in this band’s career.
Dispensing their cover art of a skull pressing down on brass knuckles, their mascot called Knucklehead, we receive a red/orange coin. A snake eating itself in profile/ an infinity symbol.
Minted by any other group I might not have noticed such a new approach. The Latin, Novus Ordo which plainly states a new kind of order.
Throwing down a gauntlet of epic proportions with protest lyrics challenging our extreme apathy.
Is it FFDP’s ‘Fate’ to become an infinite metal beast that will self-destruct?
This is not a test. ‘Full Circle’ is a snide backbiter of a track. While “Bottom of the Top” screams can I become the best of the losers?
FFDP is proud of their defiance. Hate them or love them the band will not depart from a sound that is derived from their earlier efforts.
The band has such a consistent sound even after 8 records it still has all of the chops of their earlier material. Like AC/DC they will not change what works. Their sound remains the same.
Vocalist Ivan Moody’s battle against alcohol addiction is heard in songs like ‘To Be Alone’ and ‘Mother May I (Tic Toc)’.
Tearing into the artifice of a culture with a clock that is running out, addicts need hard truth.
And help from people who are willing to do the best they can for their loved ones.
Mr. Moody sings more here than on any of the band’s previous seven. On this album this approach pays off.
FFDP has delivered bruising and banging records for over 15 years.
Always mixing up spoken word sound with growling metal howls and melodic vocals, F8 is full throated melodic. This will probably get a mixed reaction from hardcore ‘Knuckleheads’ (also the nickname of their fanbase).
Perhaps unfair, but they can get away with this much more than Metallica did on “Load”.
FFDP was never just a thrash band. Their mix of traditional metal with alternative nu-metal set them apart. Mr. Moody states Mike Patton (Faith No More) influenced his vocals. I admit he sounds similar. I feel this is a great asset.
The second half unloads that banging ferocious growl we love. “This is War” sprays riffs all over the villains of life although never specified. A Pantera inspired killing joke of a track.
The collection concludes with ‘Brighter Side of Grey’. This is the most unusual song in their canon. A living eulogy for Ivan Moody, in case his rehab for alcoholism fails.
Too many have perished in this world, especially rock/metal musicians from addiction.
F8 should be played on 10.
Current Line-Up of FFDP:
Zoltan Bathory…..rhythm guitar, lead guitar
Ivan Moody…lead vocals, piano
Jason Hook…lead guitar, backing vocals
Chris Kael…bass, backing vocals
Charlie Engen….drums, percussion
Every title in their discography uses the graphics of Kung Fu cinema where the band derived its name.
Zoltan Bathory is the only remaining original member. He is also a martial artist.
With the release of their sixth album since Joel Grind founded the group, “Primal Future: 2019”, is a thrash doom showcase.
Along with Tyler Becker on drums and Robert Gray on guitars the trio from Portland, Oregon is taking the metal community by force of creative music that delivers.
Black Out The Code
New World Beyond
Deafened By The Roar
Controlled By Fear
Think Motorhead, Metallica, and Megadeth in describing this band’s sound. Pretty high praise that is earned. In just 39 minutes the 10 tracks represent what doom thrash is all about.
Raising questions concerning a future where tech undermines basic humanity. Is a future where society decays into oblivion an inevitability?
Our thermonuclear age has been in the planning for a long time. Cybernetic warfare is our fate. The horror is fuel for this branch of heavy metal. Toxic Holocaust has a lot to say. Check this one out.
Cities are turned to ash in a primal age of deceptive politics in the hellscape imagined.
Facing our worst fears through heavy music is why I love discovering bands like Toxic Holocaust.
Their catalog features “Evil Never Dies”. An epic of thrash fury. Doomy riffs aplenty in ‘Enemy of Jesus’. ‘Exxxecutioner’ is a feast of drumming and Lemmy like vocals with enough gravel to empty a quarry.
“An Overdose Of Death” & “Hell On Earth” are also worthy listens.
Neil Young’s 38th album, “Colorado”, released on October 25, 2019.
This is the first studio offering from Crazy Horse since 2012’s “Psychedelic Pill”.
The sounds you get these days are often produced so meticulously it’s miraculous there are any musicians left with real soul.
Crazy Horse have soul in spades. This latest offering is about climate change.
More to the point it’s a raw jammy statement of love for the planet; a pro-immigration, pluralistic mission from perhaps rock’s last angry man.
Crazy Horse are:
Neil Young (guitars, vocals, piano, vibes, harmonica), Nils Lofgren (guitars, vocals, pump organ), Ralph Molina (drums, vocals), and Billy Talbot (bass, vocals). They recorded Colorado mostly live in studio in the titular state. Neil Young produced the album with John Hanlon.
01 Think of Me
02 She Showed Me Love
03 Olden Days
04 Help Me Lose My Mind
05 Green Is Blue
06 Shut It Down
07 Milky Way
09 Rainbow of Colors
10 I Do
While none of these new compositions will strike a novice listener as anything hip or catchy they are not meant to be commercial.
These are brilliant musicians laying down jams that are recorded well.
In each piece is expressed wishes, hopes, and dreams of a world that cares about the eternal.
“She Showed Me Love” is an epic jam of 13:36 mins secs in duration.
On vinyl this album is a 3 record set. There is a 7 inch single of ‘Milky Way’ included.
Mr. Young wanted to make an album of lasting value; high quality playback was key.
The musicianship on display here is superlative. “Milky Way” is the first single; “Rainbow Of Colors” will be the second.
Frustration over the lack of universal understanding of the epic problems we face with a climate in decline is resolved in the scorching anger of “Shut It Down”.
The song’s second verse:
Have to shut the whole system down All around the planet There’s a blindness that just can’t see Have to shut the whole system down They’re all wearing climate change As cool as they can be
The arrangements are not heavy handed. The delivery is what longtime listeners of this band would expect. A slow churn of political dissent that threatens to boil over.
By the record’s end you want more. In reality you must do your part so there can be more. An eternity of more.
Mr. Young has been recording since 1969. Now in his 50th year as a recording artist he shows no sign of slowing down; not giving in to an apathetic status quo.
He cares deeply for the songs he creates as an artist. His contributions to groups like Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, and Nash are untouchable rock milestones.
Sometimes his solo works have been difficult to translate on first listen. Regardless, you must listen with a close ear, expecting to not get all the meaning within right away.
This album has those qualities. If you do the work you will get the picture. Much more transparent than some of his other works with insightful poetic lyrics in every song.
“Milky Way” is a poem. Universal themes of lost love, longing for connection, and cockeyed optimism are long held hallmarks of musical art. This track embodies all of it.
The repeating verse:
I was sailing in the Milky Way Losing track of memories That weren’t that day Right by her side As the stars flew by I did collide With memory but somehow I survived And became free
A transient moment in time. Getting lost in the daze of lost/recalled memories and somehow able to move forward stronger.
As the lead single I felt strongly this track represented what the album as a whole says of Neil Young & Crazy Horse’s work.
When a legendary artist releases new music there is a huge weight attached—memory of past glory.
“Colorado” just plainly states that we cannot collide with our past because we risk negating the present; become blind to our future.
According to SPIN magazine there will not be a concert tour this Fall to support the new record. Mr. Young is finishing up editing 15 films!
For thousands of years humanity has been seeking methods to restore a sense of peace among peoples.
Despite my non-belief, I think religion is still the source of our greatest imagined narrative. Despite the reality of suffering on a terrible scale people still strive for universal peace.
I think to understand why Woodstock is important today we must look at the culture that preceded the hippie youth movement.
Let’s begin with a rough review of the 1950’s and 1960’s as they relate to the rise of a New Left and Hippie rebellion in America.
The American Experiment
The seeds of a new nation were planted on soil enriched by slaves. A democratic system evolved to include, to assimilate, and to uplift.
The democratic model of Ancient Greece led the founders to forge a centralized government. There was immense suffering and bloodshed to make this happen. Many were excluded from the possibilities of America.
North America’s native population was decimated. Minority peoples were outsiders. Women could not vote; seek higher education.
A fractured society led to our civil war. Following the Lincoln Era, the newly freed slaves were murdered on a regular basis. Cultural resentment continued in America through WWII.
Americans of every race, creed, and class fought alongside their allies to defeat anti-democratic forces. Unfortunately, the strains of hateful ideology that threatened the world continued to infect our democracy.
The aftermath would bring an era of conservative value making. Discrimination was visible in segregation. Queers of any type were invisible. Any deviation from the straight and narrow was mocked and punished.
If you were white there were many rewards. Good jobs, new homes, and college educations were granted to this newly minted modern middle-class.
Father Knows Best
The 1950’s reinforced a culture where straight white males were the dominant cultural force.
Children were to be seen and not heard. Adults were the authority. Obey rules. Listen to your parents, go to school, and always work hard.
This separate and unequal society had a post-war baby boom that produced 70 million teenagers.
The new technology of TV provided people with a new way of viewing the world .
Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley reflected a new musical expression.
A strata of white middle-class kids rejected the materialistic path they were educated to value. The silver screen rebel arrived in the form of Marlon Brando & James Dean.
White kids started to hang with black kids outside of the Jim Crow Codes. Black leather jackets, rock n roll music, and drugs punched a hole in the wall of conservative white male hierarchy.
Then the 1960’s dawned with America at a cultural divide. The Korean War was followed by Vietnam.
Our politicians put the Cold War with Russia above our domestic problems. Communism was cast as the great threat.
Then a new generation helped elect our youngest President. The Civil Rights movement pressured elected officials to take apart systemic racism.
Amidst all of this cultural change came a youth quake seen and heard around the world.
The Beatles arrival in America in 1964 changed everything. Teenagers wanted to gather in large numbers. The message was heard in stereophonic sound: All You Need Is Love.
Tune In. Turn On. Drop Out.
In contrast to the previous decade in which the teenage rebel was portrayed as aimless, the Vietnam War gave the kids a cause.
The great disillusionment arrived with young people organizing against registering for war. Vietnam was televised every night.
American teenagers did not want to obey. The war was immoral. Racism was immoral. Promoting hate was immoral.
The Woodstock Festival became the visible embodiment of what the kids had fought for all decade long. This generation had a style, moral code, and vision that rejected the path of inequality, racism, and war their elders had enacted.
Harvard Prof Timothy Leary told kids to tune in, turn on and drop out. Forget the crap you were told; a new way is needed.
Kids dressed in jeans, colorful vests, and sandals. They took drugs to open their minds and dropped out of straight society to protest the government.
Boys grew their hair long, went shirtless and/or barefoot. Girls went bra less and joined with boys to form new communities beyond the white picket fence.
Many burned draft cards. They marched in solidarity with blacks. The authorities were quite shaken by the rebellion. Then at decade’s end came the big event.
Billed as 3 days of Peace, Music…and Love. On farm land in upstate New York where the Bethel Woods concert pavilion now stands, the festival took place.
The organizers of the Woodstock Festival were four young men: John Roberts, Joel Rosenman, Artie Kornfeld, and Mike Lang. The oldest of the four was only 27 years old at the time of the Woodstock Festival.
The concert was envisioned to be a fundraiser for a proposed recording studio in Woodstock where many musicians lived at the time. Mr. Roberts was heir to the Polydent fortune. He bankrolled Woodstock.
The original proposed site in Watkill, NY was rejected. The town’s people passed a law against mass concerts. The hippies were not desirable to their town.
The hippie movement was influenced by Eastern religion, rock music, and experimentation with drugs. The youth of this era rose up in mass to protest the Vietnam War.
Those American values formed in the 1950’s resulted in Michael Lang scrambling to find a new place for his festival. The township of the first proposal did not want hippies overtaking their community. Several towns declined to host.
He discovered a tract of land on the farm of Max Yasgur that had the right sort of shape for his concert vision.
The logistics got messy.
Tickets were $7 for one day and $18 for 3 days ($26 today) per day.
Fences surrounding the concert were not completed in time.
The promoters expected around 30,000 people. Over 400,000 came on the day closing down the NY state Thruway.
Instead of charging people the festival turned into a free “be in” the size and scale nobody could have predicted. Attendees created a community including makeshift playgrounds and camping areas.
On Day 2 of the festival thunderstorms shut down the music for hours. Chip Monck, the master of ceremonies for the fest, told people to come down from the towers. The monsoon like rains that came forced people to improvise sheltering in place.
Some of the concert goers stripped down, placing their clothes under tarps, and made the best of a tough situation. The temperature dropped quite a bit after the storms. Keeping clothes dry was essential to prevent hypothermia.
Goldmine magazine’s coverage of Woodstock provided an excerpt from Chapter 8 of the book “Back To Yasgur’s Farm” by Mike Greenblatt (Krause Books). Local police made a statement about the festival. Sullivan County Sheriff Louis Ratner said “I never met a nicer bunch of kids in my life.”
Ritchie Havens performed his song, “Freedom”, to open the show. On Monday morning, with only about 30,000 people left, Jimi Hendrix took the stage with his new band, Gypsy Sun & Rainbows. His rendition of our National Anthem is now rock culture’s preferred version.
In between there were The Who, Santana, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin, Joan Baez, Joe Cocker, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Canned Heat, Grateful Dead, Country Joe MacDonald, and Sha Na Na.
The concert on a hill became an expression of hope for millions of people around the US and the world. Unfortunately the backlash against freedom (free love) followed.
When I was a kid people used to say if you remember Woodstock then you were not there. The wink and nod was due to the use of drugs.
However, in 1969 only 4% of Americans were smoking marijuana. Today more than 50% of people support legalization of the drug.
Woodstock’s organizers had debt of $1 million and faced many lawsuits following the festival.
The documentary film released by Warner Brothers was a hit. The box office receipts helped pay their debts down.
1969 was an exceptional year. Stonewall, The Moon Landing, Civil Rights Law, and nearly half a million teenagers/young adults gathered on a farm upstate to express their joys, sorrows, and hopes for a peaceful tomorrow.
50 Year Anniversary
Here in New York City a photographic exhibition will celebrate this milestone at The Morrison Hotel gallery.
To commemorate the performances at the festival there are some notable records being issued. The original triple LP Woodstock soundtrack album has been re-issued on vinyl.
Rhino, a subsidiary of Warner, will release Woodstock 50: Back To The Garden in separate vinyl and CD box sets.
Jimi Hendrix, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Jefferson Airplane’s Woodstock sets have been released on vinyl.
History should not repeat. The proposed Anniversary Festival was cancelled. I think people need to live in the present. Dwelling too much in the past is not only depressing but bears no fruit.
What I do know about the 1969 festival and the culture that fostered it is you cannot copy the past.
We can remember why this event became important to us; there is no repeating it. The emergence of the hippie movement for peace was a flash point in America’s story.
In Mike Greenblatt’s book “Woodstock” he notes a press conference following the festival in which Max Yasgur stated:
“The kids were wonderful, honest, sincere, good kids who said, ‘here we are. This is what we are. This is the way we dress. These are our morals.’ There wasn’t one incident the whole time. The kids were polite, shared everything with everyone, and they forced me to open my eyes.
In my opinion, we must remember that Woodstock remains in the social fabric because it was a successful event.
Nobody was patted down to enter the grounds. The promise of music, peace, and love was fulfilled.
In the ensuing 50 years we have grown militant, selfish, and distracted.
Uncertainty is the word we hear a lot today to describe how people are feeling about society.
The five decades since the Aquarian cultural awakening of free love has seen horrors we could not have imagined.
Cultural shifts have moved our society far away from those of the counterculture. We lost the surplus; Gained record debt.
The ruling political class has been more representative of a shrinking geographical minority than of the actual new demographic reality of 21st century America.
Without a military draft the country has become disconnected in the face of unending wars in Syria and Afghanistan.
Advanced technology allows our government to strike targets a world away. The population suffers under crumbling infrastructure; the military gets billions.
Smart phones enable never ending surveillance. We have become more paranoid as a people. Heads are bent down to the perpetual glow of a portable screen.
I know it all sounds dire. Today we face a lot of adversity. We must overcome…again.
Several movements have started to respond to this litany of potential disaster. The issues today include: Gun Reform, Women’s Equality, Prison Reform, LGBTQ Rights, and Election Reforms.
We serve each other. The people are more powerful than any group or political party. We can assemble and make something positive happen.
Always keep in mind that something special blossomed over 3 days in those grassroots on a farm in upstate New York.
This blog is dedicated to all of the people who made Woodstock happen in 1969.