Saturday, May 31, 2008
The first band I was in was called Platinum Dragon. We formed in early 1981 and played mostly cover versions of classic Hard Rock tunes. I was the singer, but I really didn't do much singing. I could never remember the lyrics, so I'd improvise silly shit and spaz out. One of the two guitar players in that band was my good friend Bill Devine. Bill and I got on well musically, dug the same stuff, and basically lived for music.
Twenty-seven years later, yup, twenty-seven, I am afforded a chance to bring it 'round full circle. Through the magic of the new technology Bill is going to play lead guitar on two songs that will appear on the soon to be released all instrumental Jackson record, 'What About It?'.
"So where's the magic?", you say. He's in California and I'm in New York. I send him a file, he records his part, and he sends me that file.
There's something very satisfying about making music with Bill again after such a long time.
There will be three other guest guitar players on the record: Lance McVickar from The Horse You Rode In On, Dave Cavalier formerly of Microdot, and Dan Sweeny who may or may not still be associated with Acquiesce.
Those gentlemen will come to Smoke and Mirrors to lay down their tracks, and you can bet there will be mirth and merriment.
I'm so excited.
In my previous post I discussed the musical impact of the year 1989/90. Another watershed musical year for me was 1979/80, the year I spent in Heidelberg, Germany.
1979/80 saw the release of many Hard Rock classics. Judas Priest alone provided 'Hell Bent For Leather', 'Unleashed In the East', and 'British Steel' over the course of 79/80. AC/DC gave us 'Highway To Hell', and 'Back In Black'.
While in Germany I got turned onto a lot of great music by the delinquents I hung out with that year. The Scorpions, Deep Purple, Motorhead.....
...and this record:
In the spring of 1980 there was a period of about a month where I listened to Rush '2112' every day. It was simply a mesmerising record. At that point I had not yet caught the Prog Rock bug, and I had no experience with Concept Rock. The fact that the entire first side of the record was dedicated to telling a story captivated my imagination. It was heady stuff for a fourteen year-old. The Priests of the Temple, the Discovery, the Dream, the Big Ending; all very fascinating.
Certainly some suspension of disbelief was required, I mean, how did the guy know how to tune the guitar? If the guitar was found in a damp cave, how could it possibly be in playable condition?
Well, as far as that goes, '2112' is certainly no worse off than The Bible.
The power was undeniable. From the very start of the 'Overture' I was enthralled by the heavyness, but it wasn't a lumbering Zepplin heavy, nor was it a chunky Priest heavy, it was a smooth heavy, a giant sound that wound it's way around your brain and kept you guessing all the way through.
The second side, which was not a part of the 2112 story cycle, featured a selection of nimble and satisfying Rock gems.
'A Passage To Bangkok', 'Twilight Zone', 'Tears', 'Lessons', and 'Something For Nothing' made sure that I flipped the LP over as I played it again and again.
Ahhh, to be fourteen again.........
Philadelphia has given us a lot of great music over the years, some of the Staxx stuff - Isaac Hayes and that, Hall and Oates, The Roots just to name a few. Mostly notable for soul and R&B, Philly was also the birthplace of one of Jackson's pet bands, The Dead Milkmen.
1989/90 was a remarkable year for music in my life. 'Paul's Boutique', 'Flood', 'Shake Your Moneymaker', 'Ritual de lo Habitual', 'Pretty Hate Machine', 'Don't Tell a Soul'......
'Alternative' was the flavor of the day, and it included everything from Hard Rock, Goth, Industrial, to Hip Hop.
A music fan was a music fan, and I was a music fan.
In 1989 my good friend Brian Spears suggested I buy 'Beelzabubba' by the Dead Milkmen. Brian had been involved in turning me onto many of my favorite bands (Replacements, Marillion....), and so I trusted his judgement.
As usual, Brian was on to something.
'Beelzabubba' has remained on Jackson's heavy rotation list ever since. The influence this record has had upon me is incalculable. During my acting days I'd use 'Stuart' as one of my audition monologues.
Let's start at the top, shall we?
'Brat In the Frat' kicks the whole thing off with the opening line:
I do not like you college brat
I do not like you and your frat
I do not like you at the shore
I do not like you drunk on Coors
I do not like your average life
I hope you do not take a wife
I hope you don't decide to breed
Cause that's one thing I do not need"
Well Jackson could easily get behind that sentiment.
'RC's Mom' is a confusing ode to James Brown and spousal abuse. Very funky groove for white punks.
Ah, 'Stuart'. What can one say? Genius. I mean, jumpin' jesus on a pogo stick, why the hell do you think they call it a Burrow Owl anyway? "Stuart' alone is worth the price of admission.
'Sri Lanka Sex Hotel', 'Bad Party' (let's play Big Black at three am, tell the neighbors they can all get fucked), 'Bleach Boys', 'My Many Smells', 'Smokin' Banana Peels', 'Born to Love Volcanoes', 'Everybody's Got Nice Stuff But Me', 'Ringo Buys a Rifle'.....all great tracks.
Of course there's the hit, 'Punk Rock Girl', a timeless classic.
"If you don't know Mojo Nixon
Your store could use some fixin"
'The Guitar Song' is another standout. Just a perfect tune, gentleness building into bombast.
The LP wraps with the brilliant 'Life Is Shit'.
"....And a vision came
And I new it was Bob Crane
And Bob sang:
Life is shit, life is shit
The world is shit, the world is shit
This is life as I know it
This is life as I know it"
I need 'Beelzabubba' on vinyl, my CD copy is just about shot.
These posts seem to go down well with plenty of comment action; so here goes:
Top Ten B.O.C. Tunes
1) And Then Came the Last Days of May
2) Flaming Telepaths
3) The Golden Age of Leather
4) Cities On Flame
5) The Red and the Black
6) Heavy Metal (Black and Silver)
7) Joan Crawford
9) This Ain't the Summer of Love
10) Transmaniacon MC
Top Ten Ramones Tunes
1) Everytime I Eat Vegetables It Makes Me Think of You
2) I Wanna Be Well
3) It's A Long Way Back To Germany
4) Wart Hog
5) The KKK Took My Baby Away
6) Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World
7) Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment
9) It's Not My Place (In the 9 to 5 World)
10) I Just Wanna Have Something To Do
Top Ten Neil Young LPs
1) Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere
2) After the Gold Rush
3) On the Beach
4) Rust Never Sleeps
5) Tonight's the Night
8) Harvest Moon
10) Comes a Time
Top Ten Alice Cooper LPs
1) Billion Dollar Babies
3) School's Out
4) Goes to Hell
5) Welcome to My Nightmare
6) Love It to Death
7) Flush the Fashion
8) From the Inside
9) Special Forces
10) Zipper Catches Skin
Top Ten Kiss Songs
1) Let Me Go, Rock 'n' Roll
3) Goin' Blind
4) Watchin' You
6) God of Thunder
7) Detroit Rock City
8) Larger Than Life
9) Almost Human
10) Sweet Pain
(Note: cover tunes don't count, if they did, Ace's fantastic '2,000 Man' would make the list)
Top Ten Motorhead Tunes
1) Ace of Spades
2) Iron Horse/Born to Lose
3) The Chase Is Better Than the Catch
6) One Track Mind
7) Dead Men Tell No Tales
8) Stone Dead Forever
9) Bite the Bullet
10) Shoot You in the Back
Friday, May 30, 2008
As a child, I spake as a child. Now Jackson is a man and he's put away childish things.........mostly......
In 1978 my greatest enemy was Disco, largely personified by the dreaded Bee Gees, who's ubiquity at the time created much antipathy, of which mine was but a drop in the bucket.
My good friend Mike Hutchison and I founded the Disco Rots Club, originally called the Disco Sucks Club but Mike didn't want to offend his mom, who's candy drawer was most revered, and thus I backed him in the moniker amendment. We had a clubhouse, which was little more than a decrepit basketball hoop backboard mounted on an oak tree on which we spray painted 'Disco Rots'.
We were very serious about our mission, which was to defeat the forces of Disco through the proliferation of fundamental Rock values as put forth by the likes of Ted Nugent, Alice Cooper, and Kiss.
Time has it's way with things; it brings perspective, and, hopefully, wisdom.
I have since come to worship the Brothers Gibb.
What can I say? Was I wrong? Did Disco not suck?
No, it most definitely did suck, in as much as it threatened our way of life, our belief systems, and our notions quality.
Poor Danny Carroll put up with a metric shit-ton of abuse from us because of his professed love of the Bee Gees. Sorry Donny, time has proved you right......sort of.
You see I don't think Danny loved the Bee Gees for the reasons I love them now. I have come to respect vocal harmony. I have come to respect songcraft. I have come to respect great audio production, all of which the Bee Gees delivered in spades. Danny liked them because they were popular, and because the songs stuck in your head like crazy disco glue.
As the 70's gave way to the 80's, and machines began to take the place of performers, and MTV changed the criteria for popularity, a lot of really bad music got made, and played. By the late 80's Disco, with the benefit of the perspective granted by hindsight, became respectable. Disco records were made by musicians and featured tight as shit rhythm sections and wicked bass grooves. Groups like KC and the Sunshine Band, Chic, the Commodores, Rose Royce, the Spinners, Heatwave, and countless others could simply play circles around the likes of Tears For Fears or Poison.
Respect turned to admiration which led to outright fandom.
I'm not sure when I bought the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever, but I certainly owned a copy by 1990. By 1996 I was slapping Disco super hits collections in the CD changer at the restaurant I managed, and by 1997 I had discovered 'Main Course', the 1975 Bee Gees LP featuring the mighty 'Knights On Broadway'. I was dumbfounded. I wanted to be able to make a record that good - as if.......
The Bee Gees rule. I like the early stuff, the 70's stuff, even some of their later catalog. Barry is an easy target for mockage, from his Teflon hair to his lite bright dentures, but man does that cat have talent falling out of his pocket as he walks down the street. He even made me dig Barbara Streisand - a major feat. Maurice was the glue, the balance, and as a bassist and keyboardist he was the groove provider. Robin is a freak. His gift of harmony is unnatural, and his lead vocal style is otherwordly. It's demand for empathy is only rivaled by mid 70's Ozzy.
........and then there's ABBA.
I don't remember ever coming out against ABBA. Most likely I deftly avoided the topic, as I've always had a place in my heart for 'Dancing Queen', 'Waterloo', and 'Fernando'.
Again, ABBA is an easy target for mockage, but their indisputable greatness placed them above criticism.
To those who are inclined to disagree I suggest they take a stab at writing a song as enduring as 'Dancing Queen'.
What prompted this lengthy and meandering post was the fact that I woke up with 'The Heart of Rock and Roll' by Huey Lewis and the News rollicking around in my head this morning. I think my next vinyl haul will include 'Sports' if not it's predecessor 'Picture This' as well.
I haven't even looked it up yet and I can name three huge hits from 'Sports'. 'If This Is It', 'The Power of Love', and the previously mentioned 'Heart of Rock and Roll'.
Okay, I just looked it up and I forgot 'I Want a New Drug', and 'Heart and Soul'. 'Power of Love' and 'Back In Time' were from the 'Back to the Future' Soundtrack, but at any rate, like the Bee Gees in the late 70's, Huey Lewis and the News dominated the airwaves in the mid 80's.
In 1984 I wouldn't have been caught dead listening to a Huey Lewis and the News record. Today I am looking forward to giving some Huey some turntable time.
Of course the fact that Huey was a good friend of Phil Lynott's, played harmonica on Thin Lizzy's 'Live and Dangerous', and was a pallbearer at Phil's funeral only increase Huey's stature in Jackson's view.
What am I saying? I guess never say never. I doubt I'll be blogging about my love for Fall Out Boy in twenty years. I certainly hope not.
Of course the U.S. won't join in on a joint effort by 111 countries to ban cluster bombs, how else can we keep civilian casualties on the rise in Iraq and Afghanistan?
Jackson implores Barak Obama to stay home on Sunday mornings. Church is trouble, dude. Do what I do, sleep in, make a frittata, watch the tube. You'll be much better off with less explaining to do.
Face it folks, Church is a bad place full of intolerance.
Come into the light.......
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Like nobody was ever gonna come clean about it. The only puzzling thing is that it has taken this long for the 'disgruntled' to go public.
My feeling is that if the showers had been put in by the Army Corps of Engineers instead of some profiteering contractor, this decorated hero and mother's son would still be alive.
Boys will be boys, and the U.S., along with China, Russia, Darfur, Zimbabwe, Gaza, Iraq, Cuba, and Myanmar have been called out by Amnesty International's Annual report on Human Rights.
Great company to be in, huh?
I don't see how we can pretend to hold any moral high ground as long as we're on this list. The fact that we do our torturing and illegal detaining off shore does not make it easier to swallow.
Is it January yet?
Recent activities in Israel have convinced Jackson that he was right way back when he claimed that we should simply bomb the shit out of the entire region, starting with Jerusalem, and not stop until everybody is dead or relocated to a sensible place of residence.
It is obvious that the place attracts violence and intolerance, and I can not tolerate it any longer, to point where I am advocating violence.
See? It's made me all fucked up in the head.
Hey, I'm no Jesus freak, I can't fucking stand Jesus freaks, but book burning, regardless of the text, well, let's just say a line had been crossed.
The whole fucking place - all of 'em. Blown the fuck up. Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia - the whole god damned place - wiped off the map.
I'm sick of it.
If you can't play nice, no playing at all.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Friday, May 23, 2008
Tony thinks I hate Paul Rogers of Bad Company, but I don't. Paul is a great singer who fronted two seminal Rock bands, his contributions cannot be discredited. Tony thinks this because he's heard my Bad Company at the Hard Rock story more than once. What the story should imply is that I like Mott the Hoople more, and out of respect for Mr. Rogers, I waited until Mick Ralphs was alone to pay my respects. Plus, I think it's funny. I mean, in America at least, how many times does Mick get Mott love these days?
At any rate, here's the Jackson run down on Mott the Hoople:
In the late sixties Mick Ralphs (guitar), Pete 'Overend' Watts (bass), Verden Allen (keys), Stan Tippins (vocals), and Dale 'Buffin' Griffin formed a band called Silence based in Herefordshire, England. Tippins had to leave due to an injury, but around the same time the band caught the attention of producer Guy Stevens who managed to get the band signed to Island Records.
Relocating to London, Stevens made two major changes. He convinced the band to take the name Mott the Hoople (taken from an obscure novel about a freak show performer), and he brought in singer-piano player-guitarist Ian Hunter.
Their self titled 1969 debut fared reasonably well. Sadly I don't own it, and cannot comment on it's merits.
In 1970 they followed up with 'Mad Shadows' which sold poorly despite the fact that it's a fine record. The production is a bit muddy, but the songwriting and vitality of the band are apparent on classics like 'Walking With a Mountain' (backing vocals by Mick Jagger), 'Thunderbuck Ram', and 'No Wheels to Ride'.
'Wildlife' followed in 1971, and it featured a change in direction. The bombast of 'Mad Shadows' was replaced with a mellower country and folk vibe. Searching for an audience Mott was losing many of the few fans they had. Although the songwriting on 'Wildlife' was dominated by Mick Ralphs, Ian's compositions shine, notably 'Waterlow', a down-tempo number that establishes a style that he would continue to explore throughout his career.
Later that year the released 'Brain Capers'. Originally an attempt at self production, Guy Stevens was eventually brought in to rescue the record. A return to a heavier sound didn't help the record sell, and it failed to chart.
The smell of doom had set in. The tour that followed was disastrous, and on the 26th of March, 1972, the band packed it in.
One fan they hadn't lost was David Bowie, who convinced the band to give it another shot. Bowie got them signed to Columbia Records, produced their next record, and gave them a song, the mega-hit classic rock staple 'All The Young Dudes'. He initially offered them 'Suffragette City', but the band didn't like it.
1972's 'All the Young Dudes' brought life back to the band, and put them on the map, finally. The title track plus classics such as 'Sucker', 'One of the Boys' and a cover of 'Sweet Jane' drive the record. 'Ready For Love' would later show up on the Bad Company debut.
'Mott' followed in 1973, and cemented the prominence of the band. Featuring another classic 'All the Way From Memphis', as well as 'Honaloochie Boogie', 'Drivin' Sister', 'I Wish I Was Your Mother', and 'Ballad of Mott the Hoople (26 March 1972, Zurich).
The album was a smash, a huge tour in America with Queen followed, and then Mick Ralphs quit.
The band was fast becoming dominated by Hunter, and Mick decided to form Bad Company with Paul Rogers and Simon Kirke formerly of Free.
Luther Grovesnor, aka Ariel Bender was recruited and the band released 'The Hoople' in 1974. The album did okay, and it is pretty good. 'The Golden Age of Rock and Roll', 'Crash Street Kids', and 'Marionette' are great tunes, but the LP was thin in spots.
A quick live record was put out, the generically titled 'Live'.
Mick Ronson replaced Grovesnor/Bender, but the band degenerated into chaos, and Ronson and Hunter split to work on a Hunter solo career.
Mott the Hoople, what was left of it, managed to release two forgettable records before belatedly giving up the ghost.
Ian, well, that's another story.
Well folks, it's that time again. Has it really been four years? Seems like twenty-four. I gotta say I've missed the action, so here goes....
A vote for McCain is a vote for a hundred years of war in Iraq.
A vote for McCain is a vote for kids bringing guns to school.
A vote for McCain is a vote against health care reform.
A vote for McCain is a vote against funding public schools.
A vote for McCain is a vote for a weaker more isolated America.
A vote for McCain is a vote against tolerance.
A vote for McCain is the worst thing you can do for your country in November.
As a New Yorker I'm immune to celebrity, mostly. You can't walk the streets without seeing famous folk, and for the most part the rule of thumb is that we leave them be. New Yorkers pride themselves on being above such notions as celebrity. Sometimes, if you see somebody who's work you particularly respect, you give a nod of recognition as you pass, but you never approach them. We like having them here, we don't want to drive them off.
In my line of work, often I have to deal with celebrities. Mostly my interaction goes something like this:
"Some water, Mr. Bennet?"
"We need you backstage Mr. Reiner."
There was one moment, though, in my life where I was brought to understand the term 'starstruck'.
I was in a deli on 57th street buying a Gatorade. While I was deciding between the red or the green I hear a voice. The voice ordered coffee, black. I knew that voice. I turned, and sure enough, there was David Johansen.
My God! It's David Johansen!
I looked around. In moments like this human nature dictates we share the moment, as if to confirm that it is actually happening. The entire population of the deli consisted of myself, Mr. Johansen, and the two deli employees - an old Asian lady and a young Hispanic dude, neither of whom had any clue who was gracing their deli!
I can't describe the frustration, and indeed barely understand it.
Once, when I worked as a waiter at the Hard Rock Cafe, I had a chance to meet a hero of mine. The Hard Rock has function rooms that they use, at times, to accommodate famous musicians. When that happens, a waiter is picked to serve them. One day, my good friend Paul Raff came up to me and said that Bad Company was in the function room, and that he was working it, and did I want to meet them. I gave Paul the following instruction:
"Tell me when the dude with the obviously dyed short black hair leaves the long grey haired geezer looking dude alone."
A Little while later Paul told me the moment had arrived. I went up to the room, entered and indeed, Paul Rodgers wasn't there. I approached Mick Ralphs and put out my hand saying:
"Mick, my pleasure to meet you, I'm a huge Mott The Hoople fan."
Mr. Ralphs said; "Mott, oh that larf, glad to meet you as well."
The first brush with greatness I had was way back in the spring of '85 when I was working hospitality for a Ramones gig at the University of Maryland. I was assigned to sit outside their dressing room and, well, sit there.
Dee Dee came out, sat with us for a few minutes, chatted about local music, very sweet. Joey remained in the dressing room glued to the longest joint I had ever seen - at that point. The highlight was when Johnny came out and asked where the bathroom was, I told him: "Down the hall to the left". He went down the hall to the right. Five minutes later he crossed back over to the left. I have often wondered about that five minutes of Johnny's life.
Celebs. They're just people. Usually fucked up people, but people none the less.
I'm off the cow. Not because I don't like the delicious fruit of the steer, but because beef culture is a huge part of our current gas/food crisis.
To raise, slaughter, and ship beef requires a huge amount of resources, vastly much more than chicken, pork, lamb, goat, snake, deer, woodchuck, possum.......
There's plenty o' meat out there. If we all simply cut back on beef consumption it would make a difference.
Sure, the ranchers won't like it, but that land could be used for growing grain, not to mention solar and wind power.
Make that change.....
Thursday, May 22, 2008
I want to be abundantly clear. I don't even know who Stanley is. I have never watched an entire hockey game on television; I've only casually glanced at a handful of NHL games at various bars during lulls in conversation.
I attended numerous Black Knights games while growing up at West Point, and I played two seasons of Hockey in middle school. I wasn't very good.
I do like hockey, though, but like most sports outside of football and tennis, I find it unwatchable on television.
A couple of years ago my parents went on a trip across Canada, and they asked me if I wanted anything Canadian. I asked for a Vancouver Canucks jersey.
I decided to become a hockey fan. I've done a horrible job with it. Hue kept me interested back when he used to actually blog - no offense Hue, I know your busy with eight jobs and all.
The Canucks jersey, and the fact that Vancouver is the Amsterdam of the west, as well as my inclination to support a Canadian team - I mean we are talking about Hockey, right? - sealed the deal with my Canucks.
They haven't done much since I came aboard.
That's okay though, because I like the jersey. Hockey jerseys are cool.
Last year I spent three weeks in Detroit on business. I took a shine to the city. I had spent two weeks there two years prior on another job, and I developed a respect for the town and it's people. Much of that appreciation came while spending time - time I probably should have spent sleeping - a haven of civilization called the Detroiter, home of cold beverages and the best juke box outside of the Lower East Side.
On the way home, at the airport, I decided to do some Christmas shopping, and I saw a Red Wings jersey. I wanted it. It was cool. I bought it for Chrispy.
A few months ago, for some reason I can't recall, I needed a clean shirt at the studio, and Chrispy brought me the Red Wings jersey.
I saw the Red Wings jersey in the closet this morning, and in honor of their shot at the cup, I decided to wear it to work.
I'm not sure Chrispy will get it back.
Tonight I went to see Figo at The Annex. It's always good to see the boys blast out the Rock.
The Drunken Fool made a point of lobbying me to stay for the last band, Apollo Heights. I had every intention of failing him on this point, but, as happens, I was having a good time hanging out with the gang, and before I knew it, Apollo Heights took the stage.
Immediately I was blown away by the singer, Daniel Chavis. The dude has it all, pipes, presence, and straight up coolness.
Apollo Heights has much more to offer, though. Early 90's alternative guitars, think Cure meets My Bloody Valentine, courtesy of Daniel's twin brother Danny - that's right, Danny and Daniel Chavis, and the fabulously monikered Honeychild Coleman create a lush soundscape enhanced by keyboards, drum machine, and solid bass grooves.
Carrying on a great tradition laid down by Mother's Finest, Bad Brains, Living Color, and 247 Spys, Apollo Heights proves that Rock is not just a white man's game.
The brothers Chavis moved to NYC after the demise of their noted Raleigh, NC based band The Velt.
I'm glad they did.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
As tension mounts between Jason Taylor and Bill Parcells, one can only wonder how the Pro Bowl defensive end might work out in the Jets camp. JT is working a Hollywood side career, and that's fine. I say Mangini should call Jason up and sound him out. No need for training camp, just give him a uniform and get him knocking Tom Brady's dick in the dirt.
Jackson has some ideas on other places we can look to drill for domestic oil - temporarily mind you, until we can get solar, wind, and farting power up to speed.
#1) Orlando, Florida.
Devoid of any worthwhile life or culture, the land in and around Orlando could easily be sacrificed for such a cause.
#2) Foxboro, Massachusetts - specifically Gillete Stadium. Again, of no real value, the land beneath Gillette Stadium, I am convinced, must be rich in oil and other precious mineral deposits.
#3) Chapel Ranch, Crawford, Texas. Maybe in their own damn back yard would make sense.
Jackson begrudgingly accepts that something must be done to alleviate the sky-rocketing cost of gas. Tony has repeatedly called for drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska. I say limited and temporary drilling should resume in Alaska, BUT, it should be overseen by ecologists to ensure that the least harm is done to the ecosystem.
The Gulf is out, we need the shrimp buddy.
Also, just for the record, these efforts would be enacted not so folks can go joyriding around in SUVs, but to bring down the cost of gas which will result in a levelling off of the also sky-rocketing price of food.
In addition, oil companies should be forced to comply with a congressional oversight to ensure the investing of their ridiculous profits into alternative energy sources, like this guy.
Monday, May 19, 2008
The band formed in London in 1969 taking their name from the famous club that spawned the likes of Pink Floyd among others, but they didn't take off (all puns intended) until a fateful accident in 1973.
UFO, consisted of Phil Mogg (vocals), Pete Way (bass), Andy Parker (drums) and Mick Bolton (guitar), later to be replaced by Bernie Marsden.
Recording for the Beacon Records label between 1970 and 1973 they released sub-par blues based hard rock and boogie records to little notice outside Japan and Germany.
A gig in Germany would prove their big career boost. Then guitarist Bernie Marsden (future Whitesnake founding member) failed to show up due to a passport snafu - he lacked one. On the bill that night was fledgling German Rock Gods the Scorpions with their then eighteen year old lead guitarist Michael Schenker.
Pete, Phil, and Andy caught some of the Scorpions sound check and being the cheeky Brits they are, they asked Michael to sit in with them that night.
Quicker than you can say 'Teutonic guitar wunderkind' Michael found himself at Morgan Studios, London, recording UFO's Chrysalis Records debut, 'Phenomenon'.
Despite a severe language barrier, or maybe in part due to it, Michael lifted the band out of their sludgy space rock doldrums and gave them the spark that was just what the band needed. History bears the supposition that they might not have been what Michael needed, but we'll get to that in due time.
Produced by Ten Years After bassist Leo Lyons, 'Phenomenon' delivered. Released in May 1974, the LP features perennial UFO classics 'Doctor Doctor' and 'Rock Bottom' accompanied by a crop of solid rock tunes mostly co-penned by Schenker and Mogg.
Critical acclaim for the record along with a growing fan base that was in no small part due to Schenker's electrifying live playing shot the band onto the fast track to success.
In 1975 they returned to Morgan Studios with Leo Lyons to record 'Force It' (faucet). The songwriting was developing to the degree that one wondered why they were so shitty just three years prior.
'Mother Mary', 'This Kids' (of Jackson's URL fame), 'Let It Roll', 'Out In the Streets', and 'Shoot Shoot' would all end up in the UFO live set for years to come. Jackson quite likes 'High Flyer' and 'Love Lost Love' as well, making Side One of 'Force It' a flawless LP side.
Chick Churchill, also from Ten Years After, provided the piano on 'Out In the Street', which, along with the complex guitar arrangements on some of the tunes highlighted the need for a fifth member of the band. Danny Peyronell (Heavy Metal Kids) was brought in to play keyboards and rhythm guitar.
The subject of a second guitar player had been broached before. For a brief time in 1975 Paul Chapman (Lone Star) had joined the band on stage, but there wasn't room for two gun-slingers in UFO. I suppose Michael's limited English was good enough to convey his displeasure with sharing the spotlight. Peyronnel, however, was no threat, as he stuck to a supporting rhythm role.
Amid mounting touring schedules, UFO found time to visit Morgan Studios for a third time resulting in 1976's 'No Heavy Petting', which would be Lyons' swan song as UFO producer.
For reason's unknown to Jackson, 'No Heavy Petting' seems to get lost between 'Force It' and 1977's 'Light's Out'. In it's own right 'No Heavy Petting' is a gem. Again, Side One is flawless: 'Natural Thing', 'I'm a Loser', 'Can You Roll Her', 'Belladonna', and 'Reasons Love' compile a wonderful and dynamic twenty minutes of Hard Rock bliss. Side two doesn't suck either, offering lost classics like 'Highway Lady', 'On With the Action', and 'Martian Landscape'.
Although Danny Peyronnell was a talented musician who brought added dynamics to UFO, it wasn't a proper fit. Danny wanted input. He wanted to write; he was interested in vocal harmonies and wanted the band to move in a polished pop direction like 10cc.
Danny was let go.
The creative elements in the band - Way, Mogg, and Schenker, had enough contention amongst themselves. There wasn't room.
Enter Paul Raymond. Paul Raymond reminds me of Ronnie Wood. Regardless of Raymond's considerable talents, the main thing was that he fit in. Paul looked like he should be in the band all along.
The new line-up recruited Ron Nevison (The Who, The Stones, Lizzy, Zeppelin.....) to produce their next LP, 'Lights Out'. Recorded at AIR Studios, 'Lights Out' raised the bar considerably in terms of production. Nevison knew his shit, and he took UFO to a whole new level. Lush string arrangements, big guitars, and most noticeably, much better vocals. Nevison worked Phil much harder than Gary Lyons had, and the results made a huge difference.
The title track alone makes 'Lights Out' a standout record of it's, or any time, but there's oh so much more to the LP. 'Love to Love' is a magnificent composition showcasing Schenker's inheritance from Strauss, Wagner, Beethoven, and Woflgang Amadeus. 'Just Another Suicide' is a fantastic lost track, and of course there's the crowd pleasing 'Too Hot To Handle'. A cover of Love's - Arthur Lee's - 'Alone Again, Or' rounds out a superb record.
So, naturally, with a huge record under the belt and international super-stardom just 'round the bend Schenker quit the band a few months into the tour.
Now, back to Michael's personal situation. Initially isolated by language, although he did learn English well enough in due time, Michael was always the outsider. He kept himself apart from the others. He wasn't like them, and he didn't like them. They were bullies, he was fragile. The music had kept them together, but by 1977 even that wasn't enough. Michael had developed severe substance abuse issues - as they all had, but he couldn't handle it, and he left. He didn't tell anyone, of course, he just split.
I suppose by this time, as Michael had pulled the disappearing act before, somebody kept Paul Chapman's phone number in their back pocket. Paul finished out the tour, but in the meantime management had managed to track down Michael.
Michael had gotten himself sorted out, dried out, and somewhat clear headed. He returned to the band.
Nevison returned as well, and they began work on 1978's 'Obsession'. Recorded in L.A. in various facilities with the Record Plant Mobile, 'Obsession' is a triumph of Rock. Discussed by yours truly here, 'Obsession' quickly became just that to Hard Rock fans the world over, and in particular to a group of long-haired skateboard freaks from West Point, New York.
The obligatory tour followed stopping at Eisenhower Hall, West Point, NY, to the delight of the previously mention group of skateboard aficionados, before a two night stand in Chicago that was recorded, along with dates in Youngstown, Cleveland, and Louisville, for a live record.
The resulting 'Strangers in the Night' is notable for many reasons, but mostly because it is the greatest live record ever, and because it was also Michael's last recording with UFO for eighteen years.
Again, Michael's departure was so swift there wasn't any chance, much less a need, for overdubs. The record stands as a testament to a band at it's peak. During a time when cleaning up, or even re-recording tracks wholesale was commonplace for live records, 'Strangers in the Night' is a towering monolith of absurdly apparent superiority.
"Still have Chapman's phone number?"
"Already rang him up."
The loss of Schenker was monumental. Many thought it was over for UFO; Michael being viewed as essential to their success. Phil and Pete barely flinched, however, and after securing Paul Chapman, UFO wasted no time in returning to the studio to prove everybody wrong.
The seriousness of their intent is underscored by their choice of producer, none other than Sir George Martin.
1980's 'No Place to Run' was recorded at AIR Studios (Montserrat and London), and indeed picks up as if nothing much had transpired. The songwriting was still strong, and Chapman was more than up for the prospect of filling the un-fillable shoes of Herr Schenker.
Chapman's playing was more firmly based in the blues, but there was no mistaking his ability to wail, shred, head out, and basically keep his end up in the face of the extreme pessimism that the band faced.
Jackson loves himself some 'No Place to Run', and if there's any nay-saying doubters out there, well, just listen to 'Train, Train', and if that's not enough, though by all rights it should be, then flip the record. Side Two of 'No Place to Run' is yet another perfect LP side to UFO's credit. 'Take It Or Leave It' and 'Anyday' hold their own with any Schenker era track.
Ten years on the road is a long time for any band, and understandably it had taken it's toll. Drink (Phil) and drugs (Pete) had been prevalent amenities within UFO for many years, and inevitably they become destructive forces. Paul Raymond read the writing on the wall and left to Join Schenker in MSG, and the band replaced him with Neil Carter.
1981's 'The Wild, the Willing, and the Innocent' marks a steady decline in the bands recorded output and live performance. Although 'The Wild, the Willing, and the Innocent' starts off strong with 'Chains, Chains', 'Long Gone', and the title track, the LP quickly falls into sub par compositions and a feeling of phoned-in coasting.
'Mechanix', 1982, followed suit with even less to commend it.
Shortly after Pete left ostensibly to form Fastway with former Motorhead guitarist 'Fast' Eddie Clark. That didn't work out; perhaps Eddie was looking for a bass player and not a junkie in spandex. At any rate Pete soon formed Waysted and apparently sought a career out of being so.
In the meantime Phil, Andy, Paul and Neil gave it another shot with the even worse than 'Mechanix' effort, 'Making Contact', whose only saving grace is the very nice bottom of the young lady on the cover of the record.
UFO was done.
Then Phil made a horrible record with an apparently poorly counseled youth of a guitar player with the moniker Atomik Tommy M.
You can smell the desperation coming off the record. Yes, I bought it. It would be the last UFO record to have that distinction.
In 1995 a miracle occurred. The 'Strangers in the Night' line-up got back together. The ensuing record, 'Walk on Water', I've never heard. The important thing is that they toured, and, finally, after many rears of hearing about the legendary Ike Hall gig which I was not able to attend, Jackson finally got to see UFO, with Schenker, play the entire 'Strangers in the Night' record live and in person. Of all places, I saw them at the Limelight in NYC.
Dreams do come true.
Schenker and UFO were bound for an on-again-off-again relationship that has lasted ever since. They are currently off, again.
Friday, May 16, 2008
Jackson can't understand what the issue is with this. Probably jealousy is the root cause of any consternation. I know that I only wish somebody showed up to my prom in a dress like that.
Jackson is also probably in dutch with the Legal Diva just about now.
Ah, the problems that come with full disclosure.......
GW: Hi, Abdullah....
King Abdullah: And you are?......
GW: George Bush
King Abdullah: Hmmm,.....George Bush? And you do what?
GW: I'm President of the United States!
King Abdullah: United States, hmmmmm, and they are?
GW: We held hands!
King Abdullah: Held hands, hmmmmm, okay have a seat, somebody will be with you shortly.
By voting down a recent war funding bill, the GOP has proven their disdain for our nations servicemen and servicewomen. Though a measure that would grant full scholarships to veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars was passed, it did not meet the two-thirds requirement to escape Bush's promised veto.
He hates them.
Is it January yet?
Well, here we go folks.....
The reactionary GOP is already gunning for Obama, and they start off strong with a swipe at his wife. Nice going boys, you make us all proud.
It's quite obvious that with a decaying corpse representing the GOP in the national election you're going to need to play dirty.....as if you have any other tactics to call upon.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
The Pope thanked a group of virgins for their gift to Christ. When reached for comment Christ said he was honored by the gift, but he wondered if they had ever heard of gift certificates. He also indicated that some new sandals might be nice next time.