John Lennon 1980 Playlist

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John Lennon: 1980 Playlist by Tim English
Independently published; 245 Pages.

Tim English is a noted authority on musical plagiarism. He has been in the Chicago Tribune and on BBC Radio 2.

His research is expertly presented here as a playlist divided into the four seasons that make up a year.

In this case the year is 1980. The creative rebirth of John Lennon and the tragedy of his death in the same year.

If you think you already know everything about Mr. Lennon you will be gobsmacked when reading this book. You will discover so much about the former Beatle you did not understand.

Why John Lennon stepped out of the music business for five years was the birth of Sean. He took on the new role of house husband. Today we accept this role for men as normal. In the 1970’s this was considered strange.

Mr. English informs his readers of all the music being released during John’s absence.

The tempermant of an artist is fragile. For a while John Lennon was musically set adrift after the sixties. The long shadow of The Beatles had to be accepted by him. He knew his solo work would never compete with that legacy.

We discover why The Beatles became rock’s most influential group. We find John struggling to find his next chapter.

Among the artists that made John want to record again are Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, and Bruce Springsteen.

He stayed on top of every musical shift in the seventies. He loved Donna Summer. Blondie were his favorite group. Along with The B-52’s, The Pretenders, and Elvis Costello, new wave caugh his fancy as well.

Artists like John Lennon absorb the culture around them like a sponge. Their taste becomes eclectic. What they want to express musically is an exacting process.

Double Fantasy took several years to create.

This book provides the rest of the missing pieces. It’s a journey music lovers should take. You may find yourself learning how to be a better listener. Your musical taste will be much improved too.

Ozzy Osbourne’s ‘Ordinary Man’

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A decade since 2010’s ‘Scream’. Recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s, Ozzy Osbourne has released his eleventh solo album.

The production here is flawless. If you’re a longtime listener you will hear some pleasant echoes of past glories.

Released February 21, 2020
Epic Records/ Sony Music
Produced by Andrew Watt

Make no mistake this is Mr. Osbourne’s swan song. Being an iconic rocker is like performing the feats of Hercules albeit with the handicap of substance addiction.

Ozzy has been an open book during his career which has lasted for 50 years. His continuing struggles are once again part of his lyrics.

“Straight To Hell” serves to open the proceedings. Drug addiction takes center stage. The core of Ozzy’s adult life has been this threat of tragic end.

With a little help from his friends Slash & Duff McKagan (Guns N Roses) this is an ultimate warning. The high is short-lived; Hell will be the eternal destiny.

“All My Life” and “Goodbye” are tough to hear. Raw naked honesty from Ozzy about feeling like no matter what he always felt like he came up short in life.

Saying goodbye is the hardest task. Final farewells are something he had postponed for decades. Inspired by Post Malone, we get a sense this is really it.

The title track is another ballad in the style of ‘Goodbye To Romance’ off 1981’s solo debut “Blizzard of Ozz”.

Featuring Elton John, who shares Ozzy’s struggles with addiction, is pitch perfect.

Longing for redemption after decades of debauchery the plea is to not die an ordinary man.

“Under The Graveyard” is my personal favorite song on the album. A portrait of an addled existence full of self inflicted pain.

At 72 with the onset of his final challenge the lyrics make crystal clear how Ozzy feels about his mortality.

Even rock stars lose everything in the end. Yet he has been waiting for darkness for most of his career.

Every one of his recordings contains some cheeky wink as well to the devil inside.

Here we receive the invitation to consume the Ozman on ‘Eat Me’. Then even more dark humor on ‘Today Is The End’ and ‘Scary Little Green Men’.

On both tracks the sun is black and the sky is red. Is the sky falling? Can we escape our own destruction?

‘Holy For Tonight’ is a song of contemplating the end. Ozzy is not fearing his final days.

Just wondering what it will be like when it arrives. He is certain of one thing. It will be a long night. He hopes it can be holy.

The final song features Post Malone. A spirited rocker ’til the end, ‘It’s A Raid’, recalling the infinite moments of being caught with the goods.

Ozzy has been caught alright. In the crosshairs of addiction, fame, and death he will face it alone.

And with the millions around the globe whose love has been earned. This crazy train is about to pull into its final station.

Don’t be sad nor afraid. Just be happy Ozzy is still here making his music.

Album Cover Art In Our Digital Age

Since the 1960s the covers of long-playing records have undergone many changes.

Before the Beatles and Stones most records were just simple photographic images of the band leaders or crooners of the period.

During the 1960s when the counter-culture movement arrived albums underwent a major alteration.

The new artists had album covers that were more than just their mugs in close-up.

Before I continue let me be clear about what the cover of a record means to me.

I think covers are a canvas to be used to draw in would be listeners. It does not have to be literal or easy to understand.

After decades of releases before the internet we have thousands of covers to gawk at in pleasure and disgust.

The images can excite, enlighten, and become stand alone pieces of art.

In some cases they can also offend certain sensibilities.

The Beatles’ infamous butcher cover was censored by their record company upon release.

Capitol records pulled this album from circulation after distributors complained the cover image was revolting. If you can find this album with the offending picture it’s worth a lot today.

Guns N Roses biggest seller, “Appetite For Destruction” had its cover banned.

It featured a cartoon image of a flower girl being raped by a robot.

Guns N Rose’s original art got banned by their label. The cross and skull art is the cover now.

The aforementioned covers became highly valued on the market for collectors.

Their rarity increased the value of original prints. Digital representation of album art will never be valuable.

Many classic (old) rock groups hired artists to paint, photograph, and collage their cover art.

Roger Dean, Derek Riggs, and the firm Hipgnosis are good examples of why artists commission painters, graphic designers and illustrators.

The progressive rock group Yes compiled a catalog of music along with covers by Roger Dean.

His dreamscapes were colorful, fantastic, and surreal. This fit well with Yes’ music.

Fragile by Yes features the above art by Roger Dean to promote a greener planet.

Derek Riggs painted the first 8 Iron Maiden album covers.

His art became instantly part of the band’s image.

Each cover features the mascot Eddie, a decaying corpse reanimated back to life.

The art collective Hipgnosis was hired by British art rock icons Pink Floyd.

The indelible photographic elements are imprinted on the memory of any classic rock fan forever.

Their cover images include a cow for Atom Mother, a flying pig for Animals, and a prism for Dark Side of the Moon.

The records pictured above included extras you cannot enjoy digitally.

Styx and Pink Floyd had posters within their sleeves.

One more artist I want to mention is Michael Doret a designer, lettering artist, and illustrator based in Los Angeles, California.

He has created logos, album covers, magazine covers, and art for various brands in media, advertising, and sports.

The illustration he created for Kiss in 1978 was so eye catching the band worked with him again in the 21st Century!

Rock N Roll Over by Kiss was the last album in which all four original members performed. Ace Frehley had no writing credit.

Sonic Boom was released in 2009. The art is sort of a follow up to its 1970s predecessor.

On vinyl the album was issued with vinyl platters in six different colors.

The Rock N Roll Over album was reissued in 2015, complete with a sheet of full color stickers replicating the cover art.

The art is the original size meant for public view when it’s on a physical item.

Digital cannot transmit how vivid these covers actually appear.

Many albums have gatefold sleeves. This means they open up to show a two panel artwork.

Queen used an image by scifi illustrator Frank Kelly for News of the World in 1977. A two panel gatefold is featured.

Today album frames are sold as a means to display album cover art.

There are many examples of art for record covers. I have covered a few of my favorites for this article.

Keep in mind none of this art looks great in digital form. In physical presence you must stop and stare.

Record albums are cherished items. The extra goodies inside like posters are really cool too.

To be fair, digital music files can show the art. It’s tiny and trapped under the glass of your smart device.

MP3 files can become corrupted. I have had to stop my PC many times due to bad playback.

Records force you to take better care of your music.

It is much more of an experience to play an album on a turntable. You value it more. And the art is for keeps!

Twilight of the Rock Era?/ Essay

This art by Howard Teman frames a multitude of rock n roll’s most famous and enduring musicians.

While listening to Rolling Stones’ mono recordings of classic rock and blues numbers I began again to wonder if the rock era was ending. I have pondered this a lot. My first exposure to this music was back in a classroom. A teacher was absent. The substitute taught us about The Beatles and Bob Dylan. Then my eldest brother had begun to amass a record collection.

From The Beatles, Rolling Stones and Beach Boys to Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith, I would get to hear the rockers who impacted the culture from the 1960s thru the 1980s. These would prove to be years of developing my listening skills. I would also develop my taste for all things rock and roll.

Back in the 1970s there were rock radio stations and record stores. Cable television was just beginning and there was no music television outside of programs like American Bandstand, Soul Train, Don Kirschner’s Rock Concert and America’s Top Ten.

My main influence was mix tapes of The Doors and the one hit wonders of the day. Singles were sold for a buck on 45 r.p.m. records at local shops. Bands like The Bay City Rollers, Pilot, Paper Lace, and many, many others supplied pop hits of the day.

Are things all that different today? Singles can be had online nowadays for a similar price. Pop hits still make up the majority of what kids hear today. The big difference I think is the waning of rock dominance. Commercially the days of big rock bands was the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. An extraordinary run of success including Jam bands and Heavy metal too!

I have heard journalists, artists, and fans alike ask if the rock era is over. If it is over I feel very strongly that its run had quite an impact on today’s culture.

I also think perhaps that rock has returned to a less commercial state. Not necessarily a bad thing. If you are a fan of rock you will search for it. In record stores there are thousands of rock records. All of the now recognized milestone albums are present. For better or worse there is a rock hall that enshrines artists who have had the largest cultural influence of all. When the times have truly passed this will remain as a testament to what rock created.

In my opinion, the best bands all seem to last 10 to 20 years with an output of anywhere from 8 to 16 albums. And a long trail of concert performances in venues of varying size all over the world. In fact some bands have managed to stay around longer. They are few. Age will eventually end most of these artists. There is no science to suggest why some bands end after their peak and why a few others endure for decades.

The question really becomes who will take their place? The rock era now sees the end of touring for Kiss, Elton John, and Black Sabbath. Other acts are sure to follow. Legacy bands like Grateful Dead, Queen, The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, The Who and AC/DC are still creating tours. The music of these artists are licensed for commercial use in TV and Movies.

Metallica are producing records and tours with great success after 30 plus years. Iron Maiden are arguably the biggest heavy rock act still creating music and touring after 44 years and 16 albums….the world’s greatest rock n roll band, The Rolling Stones, are the oldest touring/recording act for over 50 years!

The Who famously exclaimed ‘Rock is dead they say…Long Live Rock!’ Every band that forms with the aspiration to be the next big thing has a long hard road ahead to be sure. But with newer acts on the visible horizon who is to really say that an era is ending. The classic rock era may be in twilight but whatever we call the next chapter it will probably rock us all.

Today there are rock music festivals held every year in the USA, Germany, UK, Ireland, Canada, and Sweden.

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!

The Beatles’ Revolution/ Essay

The most written about music artists of the past century are the fab four from Liverpool: The Beatles.

During their prime parents, politicians, and potentates all had their scouring opinions about them.  Their long hair, loud guitars, and threat to middle class decency pitted them in the role of agitator.

What did they want?  I think they wanted peace.  And this was simply too radical an idea for the war profiteers of the sixties when the band hit upon what I think is their most powerful anthem.

Revolution, written by John Lennon, credited to Lennon-McCartney, is for me the best track on their self-titled masterpiece a.k.a. The White Album.   This record has just been re-issued to celebrate its 50th Anniversary.

If you look at the lyrical structure of this piece it’s quite poetic. Clever use of the words Revolution with Evolution in the song’s first section strongly suggests John Lennon’s belief that change is inevitable.  Over long stretches of time all things change.  He smartly puts forward the question of the methods to apply.  The proposal of destruction is rejected.  And he remains a healthy skeptic with the request to see a plan!

The Beatles managed to anger the movement of war protesters in 1968.  They could not convince anyone that peace could be the end result of our evolving past militarism, tribalism, racism, and plain systemic cruelty.

Now in 2018 this song is still resonant.  Released back in the hippie days as the B-side to Hey Jude, it remains a gem.  Our governments still apply military action over more peaceful proposals.  And our institutions are failing large groups of people.

Solution and Contribution are the next word pairing.  Again we get a plea of everyone is doing what they can.   And ‘if you want money for minds that hate then brother you’ll have to wait’ is a great response line.  Why did right wing pols miss this lyric?  Perhaps their angry minds filtered it out.

And the final pairing of Constitution and Institution is expressing an idea upon which  most people could find common ground.  That it is a personal responsibility to free your mind instead of being so dependent on the mechanics of legal issues.

Be careful about wishing for revolution for the act could be quite destructive.  After all ‘don’t you know it’s gonna be alright’?

We are still here.  I hope we get closer to peace someday.  For now play this song because it offers hope.

revolution

(Above) The sheet music for “Revolution” (1968).