Listen: Andy Babiuk on BBC Radio Ulster

Andy Babiuk, one of the authors of Rolling Stones Gear, met up with Ralph McLean of BBC Ulster! Listen to them discuss all there is to know about Babiuk’s 9 year venture in writing this volume. He definitely is the ultimate expert on the Stones and their tools.


Project1>>LISTEN HERE<<


Rolling Stones Gear is the first book to historically document all of the Rolling Stones’ musical equipment. It’s also the story of the Rolling Stones, but with a new twist: their history as told through the instruments they used. This book covers not only the group’s personal background, but also every tour and studio session from their inception in 1962 to date, with detailed documentation illustrating what instruments and equipment were used during these periods. Every song recorded by the band, including demos and out-takes are also documented, with input from within the Stones’ ranks as well as from people who were involved with the band. This lavishly illustrated book contains hundreds of photographs and rare images, many of which have never been published, including the Rolling Stones’ actual guitars and equipment, which were specially photographed for this book and are seen here for the first time. Whether you are a musician, a Stones fan or just the casual reader, you will learn many new facts about the band from their monumental fifty-year existence.

Remembering Tommy Ramone

Tommy Ramone, the last surviving member of The Ramones, sadly passed away on July 11th. As the original drummer of the Ramones, Tommy died as a musical icon who helped to bring the punk-rock scene to the world’s forefront. The Ramones’ blasphemous lyrical content, their wild antics and their very very fast songs (the paces of which were in Tommy’s control) not only challenged the standards of rock n’ roll established in the “Golden Age” of the 50s, but created an entire scene of adolescent cynicism, rebellion, and irreverent fun that has remained relevant to musicians and fans alike to this day. The extent to which the Ramones have influenced the musical scene as a whole can never really be measured. If You Like The Ramones by Peter Aaron creates a vision that helps to capture the vast importance of this foursome. In light of Tommy’s death, Peter wrote this article for Chronogram. You’ll be missed, Tommy!

I Remember You: Tommy Ramone (1952-2014)

Peter Aaron on Tue, Jul 15

Forty years ago, a simple action that lasted less than one second and took place within a physical space not much bigger than a shoebox changed music forever. At that precise instant, Tommy Ramone’s sneaker-clad foot pressed down on his kick drum pedal for the very first time as he sat behind his band mates, Joey, Dee Dee, and Johnny Ramone, and the four played their first song together as the Ramones. The very instant Tommy hit that initial beat on his bass drum—an act that would provide the absolute nexus of the Ramones’ songs—he sent a shock wave through the universe that not only lit the fuse of the punk rock explosion that launched thousands of subsequent bands (and the bands that, they in turn, inspired), but also led to the creation of a D.I.Y. climate that has empowered people of myriad backgrounds and walks of life to go for it , and pursue their dreams. Over the weekend we got the crushing news that Tommy Ramone (AKA Tommy Erdelyi), a Phoenicia, New York, resident since 1993 and the last surviving original member of the Ramones, had died at the age of 65.


IYLramonesCoverThe moment cited at the start of this post took place in 1974 in the basement of the Art Garden, a Queens art gallery owned by Joey Ramone’s mother. At first, Joey had been the group’s drummer and Dee Dee was the lead singer as well as the bassist; Tommy was the band’s manager. But after it was determined that Joey was a lousy drummer and a much better singer than Dee Dee, things were shuffled. Joey stepped out front and Tommy, who had never before played drums in his life, got behind the kit to demonstrate the sound he had in his head. It all clicked immediately. History was born. In 1978, after five albums with the band Tommy left the quartet to concentrate on his career as a producer (in addition to the Ramones, he produced Talking Heads, the Replacements, and Redd Kross, among others), and was succeeded by Marky Ramone, Richie Ramone, and, very briefly, Blondie’s Clem Burke (as “Elvis Ramone”), all of whom did their best to adhere to the unwavering four-on-the-floor template laid down by Tommy.

I got to interview Tommy twice, once for Roll magazine for a piece about Uncle Monk, the bluegrass duo he had with his companion Claudia Tienan, and once for a Chronogram feature on Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson. On both occasions, he was incredibly thoughtful, very introspective, and super sweet. “Historically, I knew the Ramones would eventually be recognized,” he said when asked about his old group’s late-blooming recognition in the former article. “Because the band was just so different than anything else at the time [it began] and we influenced so many other bands. But how it’s just gotten bigger and bigger in terms of commercial popularity and how it keeps getting bigger all the time—that’s a really unexpected phenomenon.”

In 1979, I went to a Ramones record-signing event at Looney Tunes Records on Route 23 in Wayne, New Jersey (a pivotal place for me). In my haste, I forgot to bring a record for the Ramones to sign. Of the albums they had out at the time, Leave Home (1977), was the only one I didn’t own, so I bought a copy at the store and took it up to the table the Ramones were sitting at as they autographed records and posters for lines of kids. I didn’t think about the fact that although Tommy had played on that album, it was Marky who was actually the band’s drummer at the time of the in-store. (Who’s the pinhead now?) But Marky, gentleman that he is (or maybe he just didn’t care), went ahead and signed it anyway. I still have it, and had planned to seek out Tommy to have him sign it at last. But after cancelling an acoustic show he was supposed to play with the Sex Pistols’ Glen Matlock in Albany a couple of years back due to illness, he dropped out of sight; presumably, it was the same bile duct cancer that eventually took his life. Although reality now dictates that Tommy’s scrawled signature will never grace the tattered cover of my copy of Leave Home, his sonic and spiritual signature remain indelibly imprinted on it regardless, as they do on all of the Ramones’ music (even the stuff he doesn’t play on) and that of so many others.

Tommy and Claudia were Phoenicia part-timers and still kept a place in Queens, which, fittingly, is where Tommy passed last Friday. When I met him at an Uncle Monk show in Woodstock a few years back, as I consciously try to do when I meet other artists who have impacted my life, I made sure to look straight into his eyes and tell him thank you, for what he had done. Now that Tommy’s joined the other original Ramones at that ultimate punk gig in the Great Beyond, I’m very glad I had the opportunity to do that.

Remembering Johnny Winter

The spectacularly influential and forever intriguing blues guitarist, Johnny Winter, sadly passed away on Wednesday. Rolling Stone magazine has called Johnny Winter one of the greatest guitar players of all time. Ripped off and beaten down by unscrupulous managers, strung out, living the extreme highs and extreme lows of an uncompromising musician, Johnny was a true rock ‘n’ roll survivor. Winter’s long career was chronicled by Mary Lou Sullivan in her Backbeat publication, Raisin’ Cain: The Wild and Raucous Story of Johnny Winter, which was mentioned in the Rolling Stone article featured below.

The Lion in Johnny Winter: A Tribute to the Guitar Icon

by David Marchese

Legendary blues musician Johnny Winter died in his hotel room in Zurich, Switzerland, on July 16th at 70 years old. There are plenty of reasons why that’s notable — Winter was one of the first blues rock guitar virtuosos, releasing a string of popular and fiery albums in the late Sixties and early Seventies, becoming an arena-level concert draw in the process — but it’s the barest facts that remain the most inspiring. Johnny Winter, from little Beaumont, Texas, afflicted with albinism and 20/400 eyesight in one eye and 20/600 in the other, made an iconic life for himself by playing the blues.

What are the odds of that story coming true? What levels of self-belief, resilience and talent did it take to transform those biographical details — one could easily imagine, say, Thomas Pynchon conjuring them for a character (The whitest blues guitarist! Named Johnny Winter!) — into the stuff of a legendary career? As fellow blues guitar great Michael Bloomfield said when introducing Winter at a 1968 show at Manhattan’s Fillmore East, “This is the baddest motherfucker.” Winter was that, no doubt, but also a testament to the idea that with a lot of skill and dedication and more than a little luck, music can open any door.

In Mary Lou Sullivan’s entertaining biography, Raisin’ Cain, Winter, whose brother was multi-instrumentalist Edgar Winter (of “Frankenstein” fame), explained that, “Growin’ up in school, I really got the bad end of the deal. People teased me and I got in a lot of fights. I was a pretty bluesy kid.” That alienation, he believed, gave him a kinship with the black blues musicians he idolized. “We both,” he explained, “had a problem with our skin being the wrong color.”
It’s probably overly romantic to say that one can hear any sort of outsider’s howl in Winter’s playing, which first came to wider attention via a 1968 Rolling Stone article that praised him for some of the most “gutsiest, fluid guitar you ever heard,” but at its best, there’s a beautifully articulated flamboyance to his music. Faster and flashier than his blues god contemporary Eric Clapton, Winter’s musicianship — a hyperactive, high-octane intensity was his great blues innovation — had the electric flair of someone who was determined to take charge of how he was seen by others. It was as if his playing (and his gutsy singing) was a challenge to audiences. Okay, you’re looking at me? Then watch this.

As a concert draw and big-seller, Winter peaked in by the mid-Seventies. (New listeners should start with 1969’s Second Winter; this year’s True To The Blues compilation is comprehensive.) But stepping out of stardom’s spotlight gave him the opportunity to do his most valuable work, as a steward to the music that changed his life. Starting in 1977, Winter produced a trio of swaggering, earthy albums for blues genius Muddy Waters, of which Hard Again is the first and best. Those albums reconnected Waters with his own greatness — Muddy’s prior Seventies albums had been uninspired — and delivered him a late-in-life critical and commercial triumph. After Waters died in 1983, Winter, who by then had already inspired followers like his fellow Texan Stevie Ray Vaughan, settled into a journeyman’s role, releasing albums at a steady pace and touring even more frequently than that. It wasn’t always an easy ride— there were struggles with addiction and duplicitous management — but it was as good, and honorable, as a blues musician can ask for. They wouldn’t be called the blues if everything was rosy.

When he wasn’t on the road, Winter, who, it must be said, cut a striking figure on-stage up through his last gigs, spent his time with his wife at home in rural Connecticut, and was able to bask in the respect of fellow musicians, a testament to the truth that if you give your being to the music you love, the music can turn that being into a remarkable life. His now-posthumous upcoming release, Step Back, is due out in September and features appearances from Clapton, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, Ben Harper, Dr. John, Aerosmith’s Joe Perry and others. They all knew what Winter meant.

Towards the end of Raisin’ Cain, Winter is asked how he’d liked to be remembered. He answered, simply, “As a good blues player.”

For more, here is biographer Mary Lou Sullivan being interviewed shortly after Winter’s passing.

Tip Jar: Beat Songwriter’s Block

Beating Songwriter’s Block is specifically designed to address the devastating phenomenon that every songwriter faces at one time or another. This book helps the reader develop a songwriting schedule, set songwriting targets that make sense, and deal with debilitating fear. Check out an excerpt from Music ConnectioSong Block covern Magazine!



Improve Your Audio for Video!

As a musical exercise, nothing beats improvising. It doesn’t just improve your playing chops – it’s a great generator of songwriting ideas. While it’s often thought of as a group activity, there are ways to improvise on your own––just you and your instrumen––that can provide you with great material for your next song. Many of the ideas listed below come from Chapter 3 of Gary Ewer’s new book, Beating Songwriter’s Block: Jump-Start Your Words and Music. The first five activities will help you create melodies, and the next five pertain to creating lyrics. Some involve singing, others will use guitar or keyboards. Most of them work as solo activities, but are fun to try with a fellow songwriter. Feel free to modify them to suit your purposes.


1. Play the following 4-chord turn-around: C F Dm G, or invent your own. Now… start singing––anything. Keep in mind that most good song melodies are comprised of repeating ideas, so try singing the same short fragment repeatedly as you change chords. The key to generating ideas is to keep things simple.

2. Detune your guitar to something other than the standard E-A-D-G-B-E. Move your B up to C, your G down to F#… that sort of thing. Now start improvising chords and melodic shapes as if you were playing a standard tuning. Why? The odd tuning will give you melodic and harmonic ideas you’d probably not have found otherwise. The best results happen when you detune your guitar randomly. Be prepared for weird sounds, but you’ll probably stumble on something that’ll get the creative juices flowing.

3. Dial up a short rhythmic/chord loop on your synthesizer and sing or play improvised melodies. Handing over part of the musical job to a synth frees you up to create ideas, both vocal and instrumental.

4. Sing a note that works. A song like Jack Johnson’s “Don’t Believe a Thing I Say,” or the verse of Maroon 5’s “One More Night” show us that melodies can do quite well sitting in and around one pitch. So give it a try: invent a short 3- or 4-chord progression (Am F G  C, for example). Play it several times to get it in your ear. Now, start by scat singing rhythmically on one note that works with the first chord. As much as possible, keep that note as you cycle through the chords. When a chord doesn’t support the note, switch to singing a note that works.

5. Create new melodies by borrowing from old ones. Take an old hit (“Hound Dog”, for example), and write down the all the notes used in that melody. (“Hound Dog” uses G-A-C-D-D#-E, listed from low to high.) Now put “Hound Dog” completely out of your mind and use that tone set to create an entirely new melody. As with our first idea, use lots of repeating patterns, but use only those six notes.

6. Choose a book from your bookshelf or from a blog or online news site. Open randomly to any page, or scroll to any random spot on a website, and point to the first word you see. With that word in your mind, point to a second word. Quickly invent a short line of lyric within five seconds that starts with your first chosen word and ends with the second one. Repeat. Example: You open a book and point to the word, “that,” and then you point to “more.” Possible lyric: “That is how I know I love you more.”

7. The best lyrics are not necessarily poems; they’re made of simple words whose main job is to stimulate the imagination of the listener. Take the following list of words and paraphrase them in as many different ways as you can that might work in a descriptive lyric. Work quickly. (The first one has been done to demonstrate.):
• Fog: The grey murkiness; through the misty haze; in the cloudy haze; the soup; etc.
• Happiness
• Anger
• Trust
• Held on
• Heartbroken

8. Lyrical clichés will kill a song faster than you can say Jack Robinson. (See what I did there?) “What goes around, comes around” is a cliché that’s not very interesting. But “What comes around is gone again” has potential. Or you might change “A friend in need is a friend indeed” to “A friend indeed, but what do I need?” Both of those examples turn the original expression around backwards, giving you something that’s a bit more creative. So for a fun improvising activity, Google “The Phrase Finder” website, have a songwriting partner read one of the sayings to a rhythmic beat, and try creating something spontaneously by reversing the order of some of the words. Another example: “Every cloud has a silver lining” might become “My silver lining turned a little cloudy.”

9. Bounce lyrical ideas off a songwriting partner. Sit facing each other, keep a beat by tapping your foot or dialing up a loop. Then one of you speaks out a line, and the other one has to immediately answer it with a line of their own. “I got you, and you got me”… “Anywhere I’m with you is where I wanna be…”

10. Try brainstorming titles. Work as quickly as you can. Don’t worry about clichés, just get a list of titles written that you can consider later. Some titles may just pop into your head with no story behind them at all: “That’s the Way To Do It.” Others may be a bit silly: “George is Going Crazy, and His World’s a Little Hazy.” Later, look through your list, strum a chord, and say the titles with a considerable amount of melodrama and vocal expression. See if melodic ideas pop into your mind.

A Rush FAQ Excerpt

Backbeat Books presents the latest in the FAQ series: Rush FAQ! This book will tell the reader everything there is left to know about the world’s greatest rock trio. Despite the band’s overwhelming success, however, many music fans seem to be barely familiar with the Canadian trio’s existence. In the first chapter, therefore, author Max Mobley attempts to answer the question: Who the hell is Rush anyway?


Loud and Polite

How Three Nice Kids Learned to Rock Big and Loud


Who the hell is Rush, anyway? They’ve been described as the world’s most famous Canadian prog-rock power trio of all time. But then, name the second-most famous Canadian prog rock power trio of all time. No doubt the name Triumph comes to mind for a handful of music fans—okay then, name a third.

Rush is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but the band is hardly a household name by the standards of popular music. They may be known in pop culture, but mostly as a joke, thanks to The Colbert Report or the hit comedy I Love You, Man, or maybe in reference to one of a dozen FM classic rock staples, or even the game Guitar Hero. In fact, their level of fame is actually at odds with their level of success, as told by the following stats. They have sold well over 43 million records worldwide—over 25 million in the US alone. Only the Beatles and the Rolling Stones have more gold and platinum records than Rush, who have an astounding twenty-four gold records and seventeen platinum (including three multi-platinum) records earned over their forty-plus-year career. They have played nearly two thousand concerts in North America alone, most at sellout or near-sellout capacity. Not bad for a band far from the mainstream.

And yet, if, ten years ago, you asked most Americans to name a popular artist who hails from Canada, they’d probably offer names like Alanis Morissette or Celine Dion, or if older than fifty, Gordon Lightfoot or Anne Murray. A few musos may have offered the name Neil Young, who hails from Toronto, although he has lived in Northern California for so long he is considered a California native by many Americans.

Pose the same question to Americans today and you’ll likely get the same names, plus Justin Beiber. The point is, it’s unlikely anyone will mention Rush’s three members (and proud Canadians): bassist, vocalist, keyboardist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson, and drummer Neil Peart, unless, of course, the person you are asking happens to be wearing a Rush concert T-shirt.

Rush is perhaps the modern world’s most successful enigma, and certainly the world’s most popular cult band. Their Canadian roots, which they proudly cling to much the way U2 remains stubbornly rooted in Ireland, is part of the reason.

For many fans of rock and roll, Rush is as much a mystery as the territories between British Columbia and Ontario (i.e., the bulk of Canada). Their music is fiercely original and defiantly anti-pop (really, anti-categorization, for that matter). It often takes even Rush fans a few listens to fully get all that is looming and lurking inside one of the band’s highly arranged tunes. The rhythm section (Lee and Peart) is considered one of rock’s best, and it’s often one of rock’s busiest, yet they strive to make it all work—and it works like nothing else in rock and roll. Guitarist Alex Lifeson has the rare ability among guitarists to play only what the song needs—no more, no less. He is revered among well-known guitar heroes, and yet hardly a household name. The three men of Rush are sponges when it comes to absorbing musical and technological trends, and yet they are fanatical about serving their own muse, always insistent on following the noble equation: art over commerce. The band also invented another equation; let’s call it the Rush equation: Bigger = Better. And by any measure, not just the aforementioned stats, Rush is big indeed—in musicianship, in songwriting, in performance, in substance, and as an influence.

With one well-known exception (among Rush fans), Rush songs are not about sex or drugs, but fantasy realms, dystopian futures, steampunk adventure, and more often than not, the hopes and fears of humanity at its noble best and self-destructive worst. The band members are not handsome enough to be on the cover of their own albums (not that they’d want their mugs featured anyway), nor are they ugly enough to be considered outlaw-cool, like a Ramone or a Sex Pistol. Lee, Lifeson, and Peart are the ultimate anti-heroes and anti-rock star muso nerds. For anyone keeping score, in rock and roll, the difference between a true anti-hero and a quasi-anti-hero is that most true anti-heroes never end up on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.

Rush never sought fame or fortune, they just wanted to play their interpreta- tion of rock and roll the best they can on bass, guitar, and drums, and then go home and be exceedingly normal. They don’t need fans; they need the music. But since they have fans—a devout and faithful legion millions strong—they insist on taking good care of them by playing three-hour concerts, sometimes fifty or more in a year, and offering loads of content and special features on their albums and DVDs.

Despite Rush’s considerable financial success (thanks to one of the most loyal fan bases in all of music), they have never ever taken for granted what they get to do for a living. The band’s work ethic has as much to do with their success and fan base as does their talent. That is at the core of their body of work—over forty years of touring, twenty studio albums, twelve live albums, nine live DVDs, and, thankfully, there is no end in sight.

Not bad for three tragically unhip kids from suburban Toronto.

Like Liverpool to the Beatles, Dublin to U2, Southern California to the Beach Boys, and countless other examples, Rush’s homeland and their family ties have played a huge role in who they are and how they seized the day.


Still Peakin’ at the Beacon

On June 1st, the legendary Allman Brothers Band officially announced their final tour dates, ending a 45 year long career. They will performing, of course, at the Beacon Theatre, their traditional New York City home. ABB has been tearing up the Beacon for decades now, including a powerful bout of performances celebrating their 35 year anniversary. Author Randy Poe reminisces about the profundity of these performances in his book Skydog: The Duane Allman story. Enjoy the excerpt below!


Still Peakin’ at the Beacon

One night at the Beacon I looked down and realized, I was the only one left on the front line.” – Gregg Allman

It’s a Friday night in New York City. In the tradition of more than 150 previous Allman Brothers Band shows at the Beacon Theater, the joint is packed tighter than a subway car at rush hour. This is a ritual that shows absolutely no signs of losing its decade-and-a-half-long head of steam. Throughout the week, the band has been giving the crowd exactly what they’ve come for: exemplary musicianship, a light show straight out of another era, an impressive array of guest musicians sitting in night after night, and classic songs from the Allman Brothers Band’s 35 year career. In fact, on this night – March 26, 2004 – the band and audience are celebrating exactly 35 years of Allman Brohters history. the first half of the show includes plenty of old chestnuts – “Statesboro Blues”, “Can’t Lose What You Never Had”, “One Way Out” (with guest guitarist Lee Roy Parnell sharing slide duties with Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes) – as well as “Rockin’ Horse” and the heart-wrenching  “Old Before My Time”, both from Hittin’ the Note, the band’s well-received album of the previous year. As if that weren’t powerful enough, after the intermission there is a seismic shift upward in the energy level as the band opens the second set with “Mountain Jam.” All of us behind the stage – “grizzled road warriors, music industry veterans, various ABB family members, assorted friends and associates – are struck by the stepped-up intensity. The backstage chatter stops. We inch forward, ignoring the white stripes painted on the floor that both the fire marshal and tour manager Kirk West have already pointed out as the line not to be crossed under any circumstances (excluding, presumably, fire.). The “Mountain Jam” drum solo has begun. The other band members drift offstage. Whether or not he’s conscious of the anniversary date at this moment, Jaimoe has figuratively caught fire. The years fall away as the trade-offs between Jaimoe and Butch seem to conjure the same magic they had at the Fillmore East more than three decades ago. The only difference is the adddition of Marc Quinones on percussion, bringing congas, timbales, and cymbal crashes into the mix. After the drummers have done their thing, the rest of the band returns to the stage – but instead of resuming “Mountain Jam” they segue into “I Walk on Gilded Splinters.” The song was originally written and recorded by Dr. John, but the version that comes to my mind tonight is Johnny Jenkins’s 1970 rendition with Duane Allman on dobro. Duane stays on my mind as Gregg Allman begins to sing “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More”, the song he wrote immediately after his brother’s death. The historic night ends with encores of the Otis Redding ballad “I’ve Got Dreams to Remember” and “Southbound” from Brothers and Sisters – the first Allman Brothers album without Duane. Watching the band walk past me as they head offstage and into the night, I wonder if the set list for the second half of the show was intended as a tribute to Duane Allman, or if it was simply a selection of great songs that worked well together in that sequence. I also think back to the show of three nights earlier and a rather unsettling moment that has stuck in my head. At the Tuesday night Beacon show, the band’s pre-encore closer was “No One to Run With,” one of the standouts from their 1995 album, Where It All Begins. The lyrics tell the story of a man whose friends have all left town. As Gregg sang, the screen above him was filled with images of musicians now gone. The New York crowd, amny of whom probably weren’t even born at the time of Duane Allman’s death, had virtually no reaction as flickering images of Duane appeared on the giant backdrop. Footage of Berry Oakley was met with the same eerie silence. A few cheers could be heard when pictures of former ABB bassust Allen Woody came up, but when Jerry Garcia’s face splashed across the screen, the crowd erupted in a loud roar. Garcia’s voluminous contributions to American music and culture notwithstanding, observing the audience’s reactions – or lack thereof, with respect to Duane and Berry – was nothing short of disconcerting to me. I couldn’t help but wonder if Duane Allman has begun to fade from the public’s collective memory – even from the memories of many fans of the very band that bears his name. A year earlier, the Allman Brothers had added “Layla” to the set list – an overt tribute to Duane. Did the audience who attended Allman Brothers concerts that year really grasp the connection, or were they simply cheering the band’s decision to cover an old Eric Clapton record? In September 2003, Rolling Stone published its list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time,” placing Duane at Number 2, just behind Jimi Hendrix. “I thought it was a very wonderful gesture,” Gregg told Hittin’ the Note‘s John Lynskey. “And I thought, ‘You made your mark, man. You didn’t make any money, but you made your mark.'” Rounding up the top five Rolling Stone‘s roster were B.B. King, Eric Clapton, and Robert Johnson – pretty impressive company for a kid from the South who didn’t even live to see his 25th birthday.


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.


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...


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!

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.