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…
The New York Times today gave voice to the famous since they are lacking a platform. What do they miss about their beloved city?
Dear readers I can tell you what I don’t miss. The noise. The crowds. The expense.
I have a strong immune system. I go out everyday.
I danced in the middle of 5th Avenue, Madison Avenue, Lexington Avenue, and intersections that now stand empty. I do not miss traffic.
No sympathy for Disney. Are we not capitalists? You take risks with your investments. The government must stop their welfare for the wealthy. If Disney fails let it go away. Some other thing will come along for the 21st Century.
This just in, Disney+ using Hamilton as bait for more subscribers! It’s meant to be seen live.
The 7 pm banging of the pots has started to fade. Less and less volume now.
That homeless dude on the 6 train was right 2 years ago. Anyone of you may be jobless tomorrow. Did anyone listen to him? nah!
I do not “like” any of our politicians. They do not know what to do.
The people with means left the city months ago.
Some days are better than others. Just like before the pandemic.
I wonder how suburbanites will survive. They have to drive everywhere.
Now is the chance to lower subway fares. Ridership will not return to previous levels. Why run empty buses? We need to build a new transportation system. Monorail!
Our current Mayor will close streets to cars. Pedestrian only zones so people can walk and be distant from one another.
How about motorcycle only roads? A Harley highway.
New York City was all about luxury for the wealthy before this hit. Now that many of them have left for good how about converting the completed condo units into affordable homes for the rest of us? A rent strike for universal suffrage. Rents should fall back to 1960 levels.
Convert failed retail spaces into community use areas.
Our primary is now a go! Yay democracy.
Delegates count. It affects the party platform.
Haircuts? Hey guys, let it grow! We need non-conformity! Learn about rebellion. You can stand out. The Constitution allows for it, lol.
We should support Amazon’s workforce. This is retail today. The virus will not go away. Physical stores will never feel safe again. It’s nice to shop at a click with a solid returns policy.
Movie theaters are going to have to do a lot more to get us back. YouTube has a lot of great films from all over the world, no CGI needed. Stories about people are making a comeback following a decade of shlock from Marvel (Disney).
If independent book shops opened across the city with a medium size sales floor people could enjoy the experience. A no children under 16 policy would be nirvana. Book shops should sell books. No toys, no stationary.
New York will remain closed until at least May 18. Politicians are biding (pun intended) their time.
Cut and paste the above address to view a beautiful 30 minute French film about a family that takes a sea voyage around islands and sees whales. The boys swim with dolphins, explore sea life, and enjoy what looks like one amazing childhood.
The choices are yours on YouTube. Why are you wasting money on the banal service of Disney?
Heavy Metal Rules
The corporate record labels forced metal away from the mainstream. It made the culture stronger. Metal listeners are hundreds of millions of people from over two dozen countries. We love Lemmy, Ozzy, Priest, Maiden, Metallica and a zillion other artists who play amazing music. It will last forever. A creature comfort. And always regains its stature when things go South.
Metallica are still America’s best metal band. “Hardwired To Self Destruct” is amazing.
The wearing of masks is so metal! Rock on. Up The Irons! Bang thy head that doesn’t bang.
That’s it for now! Just a quick update inside the city of New York 2 months into the pandemic.
Another week is done. I have calendars in my apartment. Two in fact. One features puppies in silly outfits and poses to fit the month/season. The other is a New Yorker magazine cartoon-a-day.
The small things that went unnoticed are now prime pins in my mental machinery. They keep me safe. Taking an anti-depressant is the other component in this equation.
Here we are in New York without sitdown service in restaurants. One diner remains with delivery. It’s called Midnite Express after the drug trafficking movie from the 1970s.
Funny to think how the underbelly of society is operating now. Are they wearing masks too? Everyone is required to wear them now.
So with all this time on our hands we come up with projects. My latest was listening to the entire Bob Dylan catalog. I found out I could listen to 9 albums in one day. This infuriated my beloved husband but I was determined to finish in less than a week.
No theater. No baseball. No concerts. Summer will present a challenge. No day trips. May there be no heatwaves nor hurricanes. Oh, the city pools will not open. The last time that happened was the polio pandemic.
We should remind ourselves daily we must allow the health sector to do its best to curtail new illness. We should also keep in mind that all workers are valuable in any economy. Do not scapegoat.
At 7 each evening New Yorkers are banging pots and pans while cheering for nurses and doctors; food deliverers, store clerks; pharmacists, drugstore clerks. Hand in hand those with advanced educations and those with limited resources are working together to keep us all safe.
The city is quiet. You cannot help but feel how fragile society can become when faced with these unusual circumstances. New York pride was once about being open all the time. Things have changed.
Before the pandemic hit Manhattan the complaints to 311 (our city services number) over noise was hitting records. Subway ridership was bursting, and tourism was high.
Now those complaints are not happening and the subways are empty save essential workers. No tourists.
The past 2 administrations created a city for visitors. This has proved to be a shortsighted vision. Without their revenue now what do we do?
The city sleeps. Schools are closed. Life will not return to normal. Our lack of hindsight has proven to be our folly in 2020, funnily enough a year whose numbers literally mean healthy vision.
Last night at twelve Bob Dylan released another single, “I Contain Multitudes”, referencing Walt Whitman, Anne Frank, and the Rolling Stones! Mr. D is doing his part.
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.
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.