Right Place, Right Time

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Abrams; 379Pages; Now available

This memoir is truly inspiring. A kid from Long Island develops (pun intended) a keen interest in photography at the age of 5. His mother has her own darkroom.

After leaving college over and over decides to pursue his real passion—creating images with his camera.

I think he made the right decision. You learn when reading this story how much of life is just being in the right place at the right time.

Over the past 60 years he has chronicled rock’s most significant artists. Beginning at the 1965 Newport folk festival when Bob Dylan plugged in with an electric guitar for the first time to the birth of disco, punk, and new wave, his best stories are collected here.

You will truly feel as if you are with him during all the late nights, problems with deadlines, and hangovers.

Bob Gruen became close friends with John Lennon and Yoko Ono; Ike and Tina Turner.

He spent a lot of time showing the world the day to day lives of these extraordinary people. He de-glamorizes the biz. You see the tough times these folks lived through to get their art in the hands of listeners across the globe.

At the drop of a hat Bob Gruen flew to London, Germany, France, Japan or wherever needed to lend support.

In the moment he captured many moments that still resonate today.

Led Zep in front of the Enterprise Starship aircraft; John Lennon in his New York city tee-shirt; The Clash on the observation deck at 30 Rock; Ike and Tina Turner doing just about anything.

Alice Cooper and Salvador Dali. Dali created the first ever hologram of Alice.

This book is the perfect gift for the music fan in your life. He photographed Queen before they were famous. KISS in 1978 on the 14th St subway platform which had phone booths!

A magical journey peopled by lots of fascinating figures including:

Elton John, Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Tina Turner, Debbie Harry, The Ramones, Alice Cooper, The Clash, Sex Pistols, The Who, Runaways, and on and on.

Bob Gruen reminds his reader of the authenticity of New York city’s great power to help re-invent those who seek a new life.

Filled with black and white photos and full color of many moments that shaped his long-term success you get a deeply affecting impression of what it truly takes to become a fine artist.

One of my favorite early moments was when he took photos of models. A young college student came to the studio. Years later he found out that would be model became movie actress Karen Allen who appeared in “Animal House” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark”.

Today, Bob Gruen photography is a thriving business. The countless hours of painstaking work along with the warp speed social life required to achieve it are worthwhile.

I strongly recommend you get a copy of this account.

Woodstock At 50

Searching For The Garden

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.

Rebels with a cause. America’s youth did not accept Vietnam as a just war.

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.

The Farm

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.

Michael Lang, seen here on his bike, was the principal organizer of Woodstock.

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.”

Goldmine Magazine’s Woodstock Issue and Mike Greenblatt’s Woodstock 50 book proved invaluable to this blog.

Main Event

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.

Poster advert for the Woodstock Festival.

Aftermath

Day 3. Wet sleeping bags, utensils, and the footprints of 400,000 plus souls.

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.

Opposing the war in Vietnam, the hippie counterculture changed our body politic in 1969.
The movie “Easyrider” was in theaters. The modern Gay Rights movement began. America’s unjust war continued through 1975.

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.

https://www.morrisonhotelgallery.com/blog/VBHT7G/WOODSTOCK-50TH-ANNIVERSARY—Join-The-Celebration-in-New-York-City

The Oscar-winning Documentary film is being screened in theaters across the USA on August 15th at 7 p.m. Check Fathom Events for details: https://www.fathomevents.com/events/woodstock-1970-50th-anniversary-directors-cut

The first nationwide screening of the Oscar winning Documentary in theaters since its original release in 1970.

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.

Unkind Millenium

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.

Birdseye view of the over 400,000 people at Woodstock in 1969.
Evan’s Gate
A Music Blog for Misfits.

Rock Stars At Home/ Book Review

Elton John with his wardrobe; a fan made doll in his likeness is perched on his shoulder.

In this new hardcover from Apollo publishing, the domestic lives of rock stars are exhibited. This is a nicely laid out coffee table affair with fine photographic images of many of the world’s most famous music stars from the past 50 years. A total of 176 pages. Lists for $24.95.

For the fan and non-fan alike. The histories of various properties like Cotchford Farm, former home of Winnie-the-Pooh author A.A. Milne which became the estate of then Rolling Stone founder Brian Jones. The material within is quite a page turner. You get to find out what became of their homes after they died or whether they just left to live elsewhere.

There are essays by:

  • Chris Charlesworth (Melody Maker; Omnibus Press).
  • Eddi Fiegel (The Telegraph; The Guardian).
  • Colin Salter (The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock).
  • Daryl Easlea (Music Journalist and author of Books about Michael Jackson and Peter Gabriel).
  • Bryan Reesman (Entertainment Journalist).
  • Simon Spence (BBC, NME) music journalist and author.

A survey of stars including Frank Sinatra, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Ike & Tina Turner, Jimi Hendrix, Rod Stewart, David Bowie, Prince, Elton John, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Keith Moon, The Allman Brothers, Noel Gallagher, Debbie Harry, Barry Gibb, Michael Jackson, The Jacksons, Freddie Mercury, Motley Crue, Ozzy Osbourne, and many others.

The material presented here is well organized. Essays precede each group of artists. Titled in order of appearance: Through The Keyhole, Psychedelic Suburbia, The Laurel Canyon Scene, Haunted Houses & Magic Mansions, All Aboard The Starship, Punk Digs & Dives, Out Of View, Islands & Exiles, Riot On Sunset, Last Known Abode, Musical Playgrounds, Mysterious & Spooky, and Colorfully Enhanced Cribs.

You begin to glean solid knowledge of the reasons why these people bought these homes and decorated them. The number one reason why some of these stars sought remote places was privacy. To escape the adoring public; to escape the press. Some of them would stay in the same home until their deaths like Jimi Hendrix did with his London flat. George Harrison’s widow Olivia still lives in their palatial estate. The birdseye view of this home is worth the price of this book alone.

Speaking of public museums you realize that some stars have a lot in common even if their musical expressions were different. Elvis, Prince, and Jimi Hendrix all had homes that would open to the public as historic places of interest after their untimely deaths.

The Eagles, The Doors, The Mamas & The Papas, Joni Mitchell, Frank Zappa, and Carole King were neighbors in Laurel Canyon, Ca. This is an amazing time capsule of a very unique period of time where so many creative people could afford the homes that existed here. This is an example of a time when famous people had an open door too. They did not have walls.

Frank Sinatra and Keith Richards both eventually built walls in their very different places of residence to keep out intruders. Bob Dylan would move after fans discovered his then unknown residence in the town of Woodstock, N.Y. Mr. Dylan then sought seclusion. Chuck Berry like Sinatra (Twin Palms) named his estate. Berryland was open to the public until a massive fire destroyed it. This survey relates a lot of interesting stories like this throughout its pages.

Did you know that in the 1950s’ throught the 1970’s a lot of artists opened their homes to public viewing and parties. And that John Lennon’s murder in 1980 led many of these artists to close their homes as a result?

I can highly recommend this book as the type of treasure you can pick up for an insightful and fun tour of homes and people you may not have had access to otherwise unless you go to Graceland or Paisley Park. There is such a wealth of tidbits throughout that you will never get bored.

The misfits who began careers in music never expected to become wealthy. The galaxy of stars in this book represent a small sample of those who did well.

You realize in the end home is where you feel safe and comfortable. This book will make you feel this way and so much more!