LISTEN: ERICKA BLOUNT DANOIS ON THE MARC STEINER SHOW

Love, Peace and SoulEricka Blount Danois visited The Marc Steiner Show on WEAA in Baltimore to talk about “Soul Train” and her book Love, Peace, and Soul: Behind the Scenes at America’s Favorite Dance Show.

>>LISTEN HERE<<

Love, Peace, and Soul tells the story of the television phenomenon known as Soul Train, a show created in the land of bell bottoms, afros, and soul power; a show that became the touchstone of the Baby Boomer generation. Don Cornelius, host and owner of the show, was one of the coolest cats on television. With his platform shoes, wide neckties, and mellifluous voice, he showed the world just how corny American Bandstand was in comparison. In 2012, fans were shocked to hear one of the most powerful men in the music and television business took his own life.

Love, Peace, and Soul is a celebratory, behind-the-scenes collection of anecdotes, stories, and reflections, from the people who were there, about the host, the show, and the power of black music and dance on television.

Sick of Winter? So are we!

00333078smallerIt’s March, and those of us in northern climes are holding out the hold that soon we will be able to put away the heavy boots and heavy boots and enjoy some warmer temperatures.  (If you happen to be somewhere that is perpetually sunny and pleasant, we are more than a bit jealous.)

In an attempt to hasten summer’s arrival, may we suggest Surf Beat by Kent Crowley, the first comprehensive narrative history of one of modern music’s most controversial and misunderstood musical movements.

The late 1950s and early 1960s Southern California phenomenon of Surf Music wasn’t about surfing but was an electronic revolution and a key incubator in the careers and futures of some of popular music’s most important and enduring artists such as Brian Wilson, Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix and many others. As an electronic music revolution, Surf Music formed the foundation for all subsequent electric guitar idioms as the form in which the amplifier became the voice of the lead guitar and the lead guitar became the voice of Rock & Roll.

Surf Beat explores Surf music from its late 1950s origins as a “do-it-yourself”proto-punk movement erupting along Southern California’s coastlines through the early 1960s where its subsequent technological innovations blazed the trail for acid rock, folk rock, jazz fusion and heavy metal to its resurrection in the mid 1990s as a soundtrack to a new school of urban films noir. Surf Beat also examines how Hollywood exploitation and the music’s relationship to the evolving sports of surfing and skateboarding obscured the form’s musical contributions.

Kent talks about his book here.

Peter Aaron Interview

Below is an interview with Peter Aaron, author of If You Like the Ramones… on the Kingston NOW Show. Enjoy!

If You Like The Ramones...

“1-2-3-4!”

With that quick count-off, four hoppin’ cretins from Queens who called themselves the Ramones launched the 1970s musical revolution known as punk rock. And ever since, popular music hasn’t been the same. Perhaps the most imitated band of all time, the Ramones stripped rock ‘n’ roll down to its bare bones and beating heart and handed it back to the people, making it fun again and reminding everyone that, hey, they could do this, too.

But “da brudders” didn’t just influence their key comrades in the original punk explosion. Their raw, tough sound and divine gift of enduring, melodic songcraft has power-drilled its way into musical styles as divergent as college rock, power pop, hardcore punk, thrash metal, grunge, and the avant-garde, and continues to be felt in newer waves of young acts. And what about the music that influenced the Ramones themselves – early rock ‘n’ roll, surf rock, British Invasion sounds, garage rock, girl groups, hard rock, bubblegum, proto-punk, and glam rock? Or the nonmusical stuff that also warped the skulls beneath those trademark bowl haircuts – weird movies, cartoons, trashy TV shows, comic books, and other cultural jetsam? It’s all here, just waiting for you to discover and dig. Hey Ho, Let’s Go!

Happy Birthday, Yoko Ono

Yoko Ono turns 81 today! Below is a New York Times magazine article celebrating the enigmatic life and art of the avant-garde activist, excerpted from Lisa Carver’s book, Reaching Out with No Hands: Reconsidering Yoko Ono.

Yoko Ono is not pretty, she is not easy, her paintings aren’t recognizable, her voice is not melodious, her films are without plot and her Happenings make no sense. One of her paintings you are told to sleep on. One of her paintings you are told to burn. One of her paintings isn’t a painting at all — it’s you going outside and looking at the sky. Most of her stuff is not even there. This is why I love her. This is why we need her. We have too much stuff already. It clutters our view, inward and outward.

We need more impossible in our culture. Go out and capture moonlight on water in a bucket, she commands. Her art is instructions for tasks impossible to complete. We already have a billion lovely things and a million amazing artists who have honed their talent and have lorded it above us. People who have achieved the highest of the possible. People wearing their roles as artist or writer or filmmaker or spokesman as a suit of armor or as an invisibility cloak or as an intimidatingly, unacquirably tasteful outfit.

Even other artists can’t figure out Ono or accept her as legit, nor can she obey the club rules. Her stuff is all wrong. She tells you to spend a whole year coughing. Listen to a two-minute song of recorded silence, music lovers. As for you, the most imperialist and arms-profiteering superpower in the history of the world, give peace a chance.

There are two schools of art. One is what is made beautiful by the artist; the other is to make way for the viewer to see or feel what is already beautiful.

The first is to make something ornate and unreachably special with skills. The viewer or listener is awed, their belief regarding the order of things is confirmed and they are reminded by this unachievable beauty of their own powerlessness. And I do love that kind of art, the beautiful kind.

The other way to make art is to tear down what’s between us and nature, us and eternity, us and the realization that everything is already perfect. In this experience of art, the viewer or listener loses respect for the current order or arrangement of civilization and thus becomes powerful, like King Kong, and outside civilization, like God — or simply like the shuffling janitor who is pleased with his own work and sleeps well.

I always admired the Japanese use of negative space in decorating and the unspoken in conversations (or so I gather from old films). Ono uses the negative positively. She is a classically trained operatic student who uses silence or screeches in her singing; a recipient of coveted gallery showings who hangs unpainted canvases with requests for you to pound holes in them or to walk on them. She was the first woman admitted to the philosophy program at Gakushuin University in Tokyo, and could travel the world discoursing multisyllabically, yet instead she tries lying in bed and not lifting a finger to cure a war.

It takes an enormous lack of ego to not put your imprint on everything you do, to notemploy your learning and position. To stand back, to hold back, to keep your mouth shut. To yell with your silence, when you know you very well could make soothing and welcomed sounds at the drop of a hat. She could sing; she knows how. And being a Beatles wife could have been a magic charm — but she wasn’t interested. It takes willpower to overpower the will to power. To be accepted, to be thought nice, is traditionally woman’s power. That is something Ono doesn’t need.

To continue reading, go to NYTimes.com!

Reaching Out with No Hands

John Lennon once described her as “the world’s most famous unknown artist: everybody knows her name, but nobody knows what she does.” Many people are aware of her art, and her music has always split crowds, from her caterwauling earliest work to her later dance numbers, but how many people have looked at Yoko Ono’s decades-spanning career and varied work in total and asked the simple question, “Is it any good?”

From her earliest work with the Fluxus group and especially her relationship with John Cage, through her enigmatic pop happenings (where she met John Lennon), her experimental films, cryptic books, conceptual art, and her long recording career that has vacillated between avant-garde noise and proto-new wave, earning the admiration of other artists while generally confusing the public at large who often sees her only in the role of the widow Lennon,Reaching Out with No Hands is the first serious, critical, wide-ranging look at Yoko Ono the artist and musician.

A must-read for art and music fans interested in going beyond the stereotyped observations of Yoko as a Lennon hanger-on or inconsequential avant noisemaker.

Love, Peace, and Soul

To start off Black History Month, check out our new book on everything Soul Train: Love, Peace, and Soulby Ericka Blount Danois. She’ll be speaking on February 10th at the Chicago Public Library, February 11th at the Museum of Broadcasting in Chicago, and February 15th and the Reginald F. Lewis Library in Baltimore. Don’t miss out!

Love, Peace, and Soul tells the story of the television phenomenon known as Soul Train, a show created in the land of bell bottoms, afros, and soul power; a show that became the touchstone of the Baby Boomer generation. Don Cornelius, host and owner of the show, was one of the coolest cats on television. With his platform shoes, wide neckties, and mellifluous voice, he showed the world just how corny American Bandstand was in comparison. In 2012, fans were shocked to hear one of the most powerful men in the music and television business took his own life.

Love, Peace, and Soul is a celebratory, behind-the-scenes collection of anecdotes, stories, and reflections, from the people who were there, about the host, the show, and the power of black music and dance on television.

Music and television connoisseurs will enjoy the history of not just Soul Train, but of other shows, including Shindig!Don Kirshner’s Rock ConcertHullabalooAmerican Bandstand, and Graffiti Rock. Entrepreneurs will be interested in Cornelius’ humble beginnings with the local version of the show in Chicago, created with his own money. Fans will delight in the lively images and the quirky details. The first mass market book on Soul Train since Cornelius’s passing, this volume has something for everyone. Includes afterword by Gary Harris.

Listen: Randy Poe on WSM Radio

The Onstage and Backstage podcast from Hal Leonard is available on iTunes and Libsyn. You can catch Randy Poe talking about Buck Owens on WSM Radio on our podcast!

>>LISTEN HERE<<

Buck ‘Em! The Autobiography of Buck Owens is the life story of a country music legend. Born in Texas and raised in Arizona, Buck eventually found his way to Bakersfield, California. Unlike the vast majority of country singers, songwriters, and musicians who made their fortunes working and living in Nashville, the often rebellious and always independent Owens chose to create his own brand of country music some 2,000 miles away from Music City – racking up a remarkable twenty-one number one hits along the way. In the process he helped give birth to a new country sound and did more than any other individual to establish Bakersfield as a country music center.

In the latter half of the 1990s, Buck began working on his autobiography. Over the next few years, he talked into the microphone of a cassette tape machine for nearly one hundred hours, recording the story of his life.

With his near-photographic memory, Buck recalled everything from his early days wearing hand-me-down clothes in Texas to his glory years as the biggest country star of the 1960s; from his legendary Carnegie Hall concert to his multiple failed marriages; from his hilarious exploits on the road to the tragic loss of his musical partner and best friend, Don Rich; from his days as the host of a local TV show in Tacoma, Washington, to his co-hosting the network television show Hee Haw; and from his comeback hit, “Streets of Bakersfield,” to his induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

In these pages, Buck also shows his astute business acumen, having been among the first country artists to create his own music publishing company. He also tells of negotiating the return of all of his Capitol master recordings, his acquisition of numerous radio stations, and of his conceiving and building the Crystal Palace, one of the most venerated musical venues in the country.

Buck ‘Em! is the fascinating story of the life of country superstar Buck Owens – from the back roads of Texas to the streets of Bakersfield.

Click here to watch a video extra on YouTube for Buck ‘Em.

KISS induction into Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame

Guest BloggerDale Sherman, author of KISS FAQ and Armageddon Films FAQshares his thoughts on KISS’s upcoming induction into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. It’s also Paul Stanley’s birthday today!

As a KISS Fan, Should I be Happy or Angry about KISS and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

By Dale Sherman

 As some of you reading may know, I’ve written extensively about KISS over the years, from the days of fanzines back in the early 1980s up to biographical and reference books, such as the recently released KISS FAQ (available through Backbeat Books and bookstores everywhere).  In doing the promotional runs from the KISS FAQ book, one of the most common questions I got asked was about the band and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  More pointedly, why the Hall had not inducted the band until 2014 and what fans thought of it.

It was a question that really didn’t need an answer.  How did Alice Cooper fans feel about the Hall dragging their feet on inducting him?  Or the frustration fans of Rush had in the delays in getting that band into the place?  Right now, KISS fans are mostly beaming over the very recent news that KISS will be inducted in early 2014, while there are fans of bands such as Yes, The Zombies and others who feel mistreated for being passed over.  Of course, KISS fans now act insulted that fans of these other bands are grumbling about KISS being inducted instead … forgetting completely the times in the past the KISS Army grumbled just as loudly over the same.  Just the way it goes.

Of course, fans are of two minds about the reported induction forthcoming.  Those that are … well, ecstatic is not really the right word here – you won’t find KISS fans throwing parties and jumping up and down in glee over the news, after all.  Pleased, rather, would be the way many fans in the KISS Army feel about the news.  Then there is a vocal minority of fans who are angry over the announcement; not to mention hurt that the band has so readily accepted without complaint.  To them, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley merrily going along with this plan to join the Hall is the same as if Colonel Saunders joined PETA or Pat Robertson came out as an atheist.  It seemed anti-climactic and against what fans assumed about the band’s attitude.

Why is this?  Quite simple, KISS has never been about being part of the establishment, and we KISS fans liked them for that.

I let those reading who aren’t fans calm down from laughing at that last statement before I continue.  But I’m not just throwing out wild ideas here – yes, they may be considered as “establishment” as establishment can get – certainly in terms of readily admitting that they put out products to make money – but in reality KISS has never truly been accepted as the norm by Americans.  Never.  They started out as outsiders – a group that made fellow New York area musicians roll their eyes when they started in 1973, thanks to the makeup and the costumes, even if other band were doing the same thing at the time.  The parent record company, Warner, tried to talk Casablanca Records’ Neil Bogart out of supporting when the band was getting to release their first album in 1974.  Meanwhile, the mellow bands of the 1970s hated because they were too hard and outrageous, while the hard rock and punk bands hated as being too corporate and calculating.  Throw in the toys and lunch boxes and you had a good reason for teenagers to start hating them once puberty hit, while kids were never totally sure what to make of them (and certainly their parents hated them). Critics disliked them, hard rock fans got confused when the band did pop and disco, and the hipsters could never latch on to them in a way to see them as being something to hang their names.

Let’s face it, the pinnacle of the band’s acceptance in American Culture ran roughly ten minutes – between “Beth” becoming a hit and right before they won a People’s Choice Award for the song.  After that, there was no way anyone would acknowledge them as being cool, much more as being important to the development of rock music in the 1970s.  Sure, they helped change the face of how rock concerts, albums, fan-related activities, hard rock, and promotion were done in rock music, but their contribution typically gets ignored because there’s a gag-reflex when it comes to acknowledging their important role in musical history.

Just as well, KISS fans thought (and still think).  We’re united as one because we like this … thing no one else has to guts to believe in – this band full of clown makeup, special effects, and musicians telling a story on stage.  If everyone else can’t see through that to enjoy the music, that’s their problem.  We, the KISS Army, stand alone.  Paul sang in the song, “Crazy Crazy Nights,” “We’re a million strong,” and fans knew exactly it was about them as fans against the world.  And what is cooler than being the selected few against the ignorance of the world?

Hence, the sentiment behind the disregard about the Hall – a place that more than one artist has put down as being the ultimate sellout for rock musicians.  “They don’t want us?  Who wants to be pigeonholed as being important by the Hall?  That just proves that we’re right when the establishment doesn’t want us!”  Throw in rumors of a longtime battle between founder Jann Wenner (of Rolling Stone) and KISS, as well as a supposed blood oath against KISS by author and Hall Committee member Dave Marsh, and it just added fuel to the fire.  (Although, to be fair, this supposed conspiracy boils down to a lone statement where Marsh said he had done his “share to keep [KISS] off the ballot.”  Hardly the stuff of “Wrath of Khan” like calls of vengeance.)  Not to mention that Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley have both voiced opinions about not “needing the Hall” when past attempts to be in failed.  As many fans that would ponder about the Hall finally adding the band, just as many said that they didn’t want to see the band there.  Or, if offered, that the band should turn down the offer.  “Throw it back at them!  Give the Hall and those guys running it the middle finger!  They can come begging and we’ll prove we don’t need them!”

So were the rumors true?  Did the Hall have a problem with KISS?  If so, what happened that got the band inducted?  Better yet, that saw the band members readily saying that they’ll accept?  The most important step was the public voting that happened this year, which allowed fans to vote for which one of the possible inductees to go into the Hall.  Such voting was established the year before, and once it was clear that KISS won the vote of the possible inductees for 2014, it would be hard for the Hall to suddenly void the results, especially in the infancy of such a new procedure.  Even if Dave Marsh lashed himself to the mast of the building in defiance and Wenner threw bolts of lightning from his offices, it wasn’t going to make much of a difference – KISS was bound to get in after the votes came through.

Yet, even if they had not won – and it is true that Nirvana came in as a close second in that voting – in all probability, KISS was going to get in anyway.  Why so?  Because no matter what the vendettas there may be between those who run the Hall and the members of KISS, or that of the KISS fans, there’s one thing that matters a bit more.  It’s the same reason that I mentioned time and again as to why I thought the band would make it into the Hall in 2014:  It’s just too good of a deal to pass up for one and all.

As mentioned above, KISS released their first album in 1974, and thus we come upon the 40th anniversary of the band’s first album in 2014.  You can promote that in so many ways, from re-releases (such as planned vinyl reissues of many albums in 2014 from the band’s catalog) to books (Paul Stanley’s autobiography; to be released the same month as the induction ceremony in April 2014) to touring and other releases in both visual and audio formats.  What a way for the Hall to make a little bit of money off the rub by way of inducting KISS as well.  Just as readily, the band gets to internationally promote themselves and their anniversary by accepting the induction.  Everyone gets something out of it.  What is there to lose in this agreement?

But what about the hew and cry of all those involved?  The blood oaths?  The disdain of the band in being ignored?  Well, it’s not called show business for nothing.  Especially the business part of that term.  You may want to stab that guy over there in the back, but if he can help you make a little bit of money?  Let’s just say that in business, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend, and my enemy is being poor.”

So those fans who are upset over the band being inducted?  It’s understandable – you’ve found something that you can call your own, and (to wildly mix metaphors) it’s hard when everyone else suddenly jumps on the bandwagon that you’ve staked a claim.  Here we were for years following the thread of Gene and Paul as to dissing the Hall for not wanting KISS.  We were supposed to rise up and hate them for this, right?  Actually, no.  It’s good publicity, and that trumps personal feelings.  Gene Simmons has always stated that there’s no such thing as bad publicity; but to be fair, good publicity can be much more beneficial, thank you very much.

Therefore, the band will gladly make it to the show.  As to who will be there – that is the next controversy.  Will it be the band today, with Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer?  Or the original foursome?  As much as fans would like to think it’s all up to Gene and Paul, it’s really up  to the Hall, as has been the case in the past with other bands that has had replacement members over the years.  The Hall typically likes to see the original members of such bands reunite for the awards – publicly because it’s good to reward the people who were there at the beginning of things, but namely because audiences want to see reunions and it helps with ratings and getting .  So we’ll no doubt see Ace Frehley and Peter Criss up there with Gene and Paul.  Perhaps with the others in passing mention in the speeches, and no slight to these guys who have been in the band for nearly or more years than Ace and Peter, but that’s just the way it goes.

As to performing on the show, there has been some concerns as to how that will work.  Do they do it in costume and makeup?  If Thayer and Singer is there, will they wear the makeup and costumes of Peter and Ace?  Is it going to look like the fight scene from KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park, where the fake KISS fights the real KISS on-stage?  Although that would be fun, in reality the induction ceremonies haven’t been much into having people perform “in character” (Alice certainly didn’t when performing with the remaining members of the Alice Cooper Group when inducted a few years back).  Thus, such concerns may be moot – no need to worry about multiple “Space Aces” up on stage, as it’ll probably be the original four without makeup, with perhaps additional support from Thayer and Singer.

So in the end it’ll be as dry as possible when it comes to emotional concerns – the original four will get their induction, play a few songs, and that will be that.  Does it give some of the fans wanting to see some vindication to their anger over the Hall any satisfaction?  No.

But, once again, that’s show business.

Since 1973, KISS has recorded over 20 studio albums; been recognized as an innovator in rock presentations; witnessed a firestorm of rumors and controversies; remained a thorn in critics’ sides; and continues to surprise its massive fan-following, the KISS Army, with various career twists and turns. Moreover, many television shows, movies, toys and even comics have kept KISS a bigger-than-life name in entertainment for decades.

Yet with all that has been written over the years, there are subjects that fans have never put to rest when it comes to the “hottest band in the land”: What were the most significant concerts? Why did Phantom of the Park turn out that way? What were the best – and worst – album covers? How did the comics come about? And what the heck is a deuce?

These subjects and more appear in KISS FAQ – showcasing the good, bad, and the weird that has made KISS the legendary ultimate rock-and-roll party band, still going strong after 40 years. Accompanying this entertaining work of solid rock scholarship are dozens of rare images – from posters to live shots and beyond. Also included is a foreword by Bill Starkey, the creator of the original KISS Army.

Shell Shocked Named Shindig’s Best Book of 2013

Howard Kaylan and Jeff Tamarkin’s Shell Shocked – My Life With the Turtles, Flo and Eddie, and Frank Zappa, etc. has been named Shindig! magazine’s Best Book of 2013, and we have the award to prove it. Below is the review that ran in the August 2013 issue of Shindig! Go to Shindig’s website for more info.

Shindig-2013-Awards-Best-Book

Just in case you’re in a hurry, here’s your bullet point: Best Rock ’n’ Roll Memoir Ever. In fact, I could probably say “music bios in general” and still be right about that. (Remember: my opinion completely outranks yours. But I’m only here to help.)

It’s always been a bit annoying to contemplate the way Serious Music Fans dismissed The Turtles as just another fluffy pop group, until the day that Kaylan and Volman (and Jim Pons) became fixtures in Frank Zappa’s band. But the ’70s were way more polarised than younger folks think they were – mainly due to our own revisionism. “Oh, yes, I always loved The Dave Clark Five, The Monkees and The Turtles”. The hell you did, old man. You’re lying through your replacement teeth. You were one of the King Crimson fans who were sneering at me (or worse!) for still loving those bands in 1974.

Nowadays, of course, people have come around. Sage music journalists (I know they’re still out there – one of them co-wrote this book) speak reverently of pop music purveyors like The Turtles with the same worshipping tone they use for the ’67 Kinks and Zombies. As well they should. And Kaylan’s book is right on time.

No need to rehash his CV here – you’re reading Shindig! after all. Suffice to say Howard remembers everything, is hiding nothing, and – unlike most “oldies” artists – still has one ear to the ground. He tells his tale in his own voice, and it stays riveting from start to finish. He’s honest about The Drug Years, without falling into the predictable David Crosby/Jimmy Greenspoon grey narrative that reads like Matthew 1 and Luke 3: “Monday – woke up, freebased. Tuesday – woke up, freebased. Wednesday – didn’t wakeup. Thursday…”

No, it’s a great book, and interesting all the way through. Kaylan knows everybody, remember, and he names names. Better even, he’s still out there pounding the road into submission a hundred or so nights every year.

This is a 262-page book. It could have been 500 and I still would have been sorry when it was over.

With any luck, he’s left something for Volman to write about. I’m sitting by the phone, Mark!

If Howard Kaylan had sung only one song, the Turtles’ 1967 No. 1 smash hit “Happy Together,” his place in rock-and-roll history would still be secure. But that recording, named in 1999 by BMI as one of the top 50 songs of the 20th century, with over five million radio plays, is only the tip of a rather eye-opening iceberg. For nearly five decades, Howard Kaylan has been a player in the rock-and-roll revolution. In addition to his years with the Turtles, Kaylan was a core member of Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention and the dynamic duo Flo and Eddie, and part of glam rock history with Marc Bolan and T. Rex. He’s also given street cred and harmonies to everyone from John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen and Alice Cooper to the Ramones and Duran Duran, to name just a few. Howard Kaylan’s life has been a dangerous ride that he is only too happy to report on, naming names and shedding shocking tales of sex, drugs, and creative excess. Shell Shocked will stand alone as not only one of the best-told music-biz memoirs, but one with a truly candid and unmatchable story of rock-and-roll insanity and success from a man who glories in it all.

Happy Birthday, Jimmy Page!

Jimmy Page, the legendary founder of Led Zeppelin, turns 70 today. Below is an excerpt from Led Zeppelin FAQ, by George Case, as well as the book trailer.

Page is one of the most famous rock musicians ever, both for his enduring music and his still-shadowy private predilections. He was the founder and producer of Led Zeppelin; the main of collaborative composer of almost all the quartet’s songs; the man who selected the other three players for membership; the final authority on Zeppelin’s official recorded output, tour schedules, and set lists; a guitar hero; a star concert attraction (considering he took no lead vocals and rarely spoke to the attendees); the curator of the band’s post-breakup archives; and the key figure in Zeppelin’s occult legendry. His skills on electric and acoustic guitar led many other professional and amateur plays to emulate (or further) his techniques, and his ingenuity and improvisations in the studio are some of the most crucial developments in the science of recorded pop music. Photographs of Page as the long-haired, open-shirted instrumentalist with his Les Paul slung to his thighs; as the backstage emperor guzzling Jack Daniel’s whiskey; as the spotlit soloist triumphantly hoisting his double-neck; or as the black-, white-, or SS-uniformed rock ’n’ roller taking adulatory center stage are some of the most iconic visions in popular culture. To sum up the artistic and intellectual ideal of “rock star,” it would be hard to find a better illustration than Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page.

It is ironic, then, that Page was perhaps the least proficient musician of the group and the remaining member with the least adventurous track record after 1980. Though obviously a talented guitarist and a dynamic live performer, his actual playing from cut to cut and from concert to concert was erratic; though he instigated many of Led Zeppelin’s most indelible songs, they were immeasurably improved by the others, in some examples far beyond Page’s initial ideas. For a shrewd and sensitive industry professional, he, too, like the naïve Brum John Bonham, suffered badly from overindulgence in drugs and alcohol through the Zeppelin years, and the group’s final records and shows reflect the depths of his personal decline. His offstage pursuits of esoteric religions and sexual kinks, though verified well enough, have been repeated and exaggerated to the point where they have taken on a mystique disproportionate to Page’s substantive involvement with either. Strip away the fable and urban legend, and Jimmy Page emerges as a good but seldom brilliant artist smart and lucky enough to have placed himself in the middle of phenomena that have added to his renown more by passive association than deliberative action.

As an electric guitarist, Page had a knack for creating memorable sounds that was superior to his actual agility at playing, and many of his signature riffs – “Communication Breakdown,” “Whole Lotta Love,” “Immigrant Song,” “The Ocean,” “The Wanton Song,” “In the Evening” – are marked more by their infectious hooks than by any fingerboard complexity (beginning players can get the hang of them with little difficulty). He was in fact a more advanced acoustic player, inventing a range of unusual tunings and demonstrating some quite delicate finger-style work on “Black Mountain Side,” “Bron-y-Aur Stomp,” “Stairway to Heaven,” “The Rain Song,” “Over the Hills and Far Away,” and “Bron-yr-Aur.” This diversity of ability, moving from idiosyncratic acoustic strumming on “Black Mountain Side” to solid electric boogie on “Communication Breakdown,” or from distorted guitar on “Rock and Roll” to pretty mandolin on “The Battle of Evermore,” helped Page sound more accomplished than he would have had he confined himself to any single genre – the songs and the styles change before his shortcomings become apparent. More than anything, Page’s strength was in isolating and perfecting (abetted by Jones and Bonham) the progressions or rhythmic figures he hit upon by chance, with his training as a session player instilling in him the ear and control required to go over tryout performances and shape them into something more striking or monolithic. Contemporaries such as Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Jeff Beck; later hard rock heroes including Deep Purple’s Ritchie Blackmore, Black Sabbath’s Tonny Iommi, and AC/DC’s Angus Young; and virtuosi such as Eddie Van Halen, Al Di Meola, and Leo Kottke were better than Page at executing their own parts than he was at his, but Page was the master at recognizing effective notes when he heard them and then maximizing their impact.

Led Zeppelin FAQ

In this exhaustive and insightful reference text, rock writer and cultural critic George Case details the key names, dates, figures, and features of one of the biggest and most mythologized rock-and-roll groups of all time: Led Zeppelin. Here, finally, are the answers to the puzzles that have haunted fans for over four decades – puzzles such as the meaning of Led Zep’s enigmatic album covers; the truth about leader Jimmy Page’s involvement with the occult; a breakdown of the sometimes murky roots of their greatest songs; firm data on their musical instruments, live performances, and studio productions; and sordid specifics of the band’s infamously debauched private lives.

But here, too, is a deeply reflective analysis of why Led Zeppelin’s music has endured as long as it has, and of how Led Zeppelin’s mystique has only grown in the years since their official disbanding. Placing the group in the context of their time and place, Case scrupulously compares and contrasts their achievements with those of their influences, rivals, and followers.Led Zeppelin FAQ is not only an indispensable listener’s companion to a classic rock act, but a considered history of rock and roll as a business, an art form, and a worldwide social phenomenon.

Interview with Ericka Blount Danois

Guest Author: Ericka Blount Danois is the author of Love, Peace, and Soul. Below is a Q&A with JR Valrey in the San Francisco Bay View.

M.O.I. JR: What inspired you to write “Love, Peace, and Soul,” a book about the legendary show Soul Train? What was the process in you getting access to some of the archival footage and getting people to open up about their experiences?

Ericka Blount: There were a few reasons I decided to write the book. The first was really just that I was a fan as a kid. I grew up in a household where music was played all day long. My father worked at a record store and collected records and later worked at a bookstore, so we had plenty of books. Later he got a job as a stage hand and we sometimes got the chance to work the spotlight for concerts. I remember helping him work Parliament-Funkadelic.

Eventually he had his own show on WPFW where he played music from all genres every week. We always had a leg up on our peers musically. My family is from New York and my parents partied at the Garage in NY, so we would get the 12-inch dance records first. We heard early hip-hop records like Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde.

Soul Train was an extension of that musical landscape. Every Saturday my sister and I sat in front of the television and watched what we viewed as a concert and we mimicked dance moves. As a music and culture journalist as an adult, I wanted to find out what happened to the show. What happened to some of my favorite dancers?

That’s where I began, by finding some of those dancers – Damita Jo Freeman, Pat Davis, Cheryl Song. And then I discovered this rich history about the show, about Don Cornelius’ owning the show and it being the longest first-run show in history. And I wondered how he was able to do that as a Black man in Hollywood.

But I didn’t want to just tell the story about the show. I also wanted to contextualize it with the time period it was born and grew into. I find myself often trying to explain to my kids things that we were excited about as kids, like what a big deal it was to have Eddie Murphy saying some of the things he did on Saturday Night Live when I was growing up. But it’s difficult to explain that without having grown up in that time period.

So I chose to recreate the scenes in a narrative of what happened with Soul Train as it actually happened. I wanted to give it context with the Civil Rights Movement and its aftermath, the Kerner Commission report, the conditions that created the birth of hip-hop, MTV, BET and all the other competitors Soul Train eventually faced. I very much wanted to make it a story – a behind-the-scenes juicy one at that – not just give a critical history of the show.

Getting people to open up was more difficult than I anticipated. About halfway through the research and interviewing, Don Cornelius committed suicide and people became very protective, which I can’t blame anyone for. But I was able to eventually get people to open up. Many of us are reluctant to give interviews because we have so often been misquoted or not treated fairly in the media. I understand that. So it usually takes a long time to build trust. But I am used to that as a journalist.

M.O.I. JR: How did you know what direction you wanted to take your book?

Ericka Blount: I knew that the music would guide the story. So I wanted to tell the story of the transformation of music through the show and American history. I started out in Chicago with Don Cornelius’ story and the live show and the rich music of Chicago as the backdrop – Chess Records, WVON, the Black deejay culture – and brought the journey all the way to 2006, soul, funk, disco, through shows like the hip-hop version of Soul Train, Graffiti Rock, until the end and the eventual decline of the show, the music, and eventually Don Cornelius.

M.O.I. JR: Early on, according to your book, there were two different versions of Soul Train, one in L.A. and one in Chicago. What role did they play in making Soul Train a national phenomenon?

Ericka Blount: Yes, the Chicago version preceded the national L.A. version. But eventually the national show and the local Chicago show were running concurrently for nearly six years with Don Cornelius going back and forth between the two shows. The Chicago version was black and white and on a local UHF station with a tiny set so small that kids would literally throw up because it would get so hot. It was modest, but it featured the best musicians in the business and some of the best dancers in the clubs in Chicago.

WVON radio, where Don Cornelius worked as a news reader and an occasional deejay, was probably the most important Black-oriented station at the time – both for the music and their Civil Rights activism. So he made the connections. On the local version, he gave a young Rev. Jesse Jackson a platform for Operation Breadbasket. Curtis Mayfield, Tyrone Davis, Jerry Butler, The Emotions performed regularly on the show.

There were local Black dance shows in almost every major city. But Cornelius created a pilot for his local show and shopped it nationally. The networks rejected it so he opted for syndication. In some markets Soul Train aired very late at night, which I didn’t know. They got a really well produced show at a cheap price.

To read the rest of the interview, go to the San Francisco Bay View!

Love, Peace, and Soul tells the story of the television phenomenon known as Soul Train, a show created in the land of bell bottoms, afros, and soul power; a show that became the touchstone of the Baby Boomer generation. Don Cornelius, host and owner of the show, was one of the coolest cats on television. With his platform shoes, wide neckties, and mellifluous voice, he showed the world just how corny American Bandstand was in comparison. In 2012, fans were shocked to hear one of the most powerful men in the music and television business took his own life.

Love, Peace, and Soul is a celebratory, behind-the-scenes collection of anecdotes, stories, and reflections, from the people who were there, about the host, the show, and the power of black music and dance on television.

Music and television connoisseurs will enjoy the history of not just Soul Train, but of other shows, including Shindig!Don Kirshner’s Rock ConcertHullabalooAmerican Bandstand, and Graffiti Rock. Entrepreneurs will be interested in Cornelius’ humble beginnings with the local version of the show in Chicago, created with his own money. Fans will delight in the lively images and the quirky details. The first mass market book on Soul Train since Cornelius’s passing, this volume has something for everyone. Includes afterword by Gary Harris.