“Show them as scurrilous and depraved. Call attention to their habits and living conditions; explore every possible embarrassment. Send in women and sex; break up marriages. Have them arrested on marijuana charges. Investigate personal conflicts or animosities between them. Send articles to newspapers showing their depravity. Use narcotics and free sex to entrap.”
So said a leaked memo written by the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, with the aim of fracturing the influence of those hippy-weirdo rock stars on the youth of the late 1960’s. Perhaps they were taking a cue from London Drug Squad detective Norman Pilcher, who had arrested Donovan in mid-1966, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards in 1967, John Lennon and Yoko Ono in late 1968, and George Harrison in March of 1969 – all for drug possession. Of course, Pilcher would later be disgraced for perjury, and was strongly suspected of having planted his evidence. I believe it was Harrison who remarked that there had been drugs in his home, but not the ones that Pilcher found.
It was in the misguided fog of this backwards policy that Jimi Hendrix was busted at Toronto International Airport after a small quantity of hashish and heroin was found in his bag. A conspiracy to undermine his influence? Perhaps – but that so-called conspiracy threatened to steal twenty years of Hendrix’s future.
After a May 2, 1969 concert at Detroit’s Cobo Hall (check out the INSAAAANE stage design!), the Jimi Hendrix Experience was warned of a possible drug bust the next day. Tour managers Gerry Stickells and Tony Ruffino took this seriously; not only was a gruesome amount of money at stake, but this was a time when no one was really sure if a serious drug bust might ruin a musician’s career (as opposed to now, when we all know it can only help). Read more…
A survey of music lovers who possess even so much as a passing interest in the Beatles’ music will undoubtedly reveal “Come Together” to be one of the most universally beloved bullets in their melodic clip. From its swampy bass, its percussive “Shoot me” refrain to its absurdist and almost comically weird lyrics, the song righteously opens the gates to the magnificent Abbey Road album, tantalizing and gratifying most every pair of ears it meets.
It’s almost shocking to imagine the pretzel of nefarious backlash it provoked. “Come Together” may have begun its life as John Lennon’s attempt to pen a campaign song for Timothy Leary’s quest to unseat Ronald Reagan as governor of California, but it wound up inadvertently connecting Lennon with one of the most insidious corners of the music industry.
If only it were as simple as Lennon scribbling a new idea then slapping it onto vinyl with his buddies through the immaculate channel of producer George Martin. For the origin story of the madness that would follow, we need to travel back to 1956, back to when songs about cars were a veritable genre unto themselves. To a little single by rock ‘n roll’s illustrious grandpa, Chuck Berry.
In 1956, Chuck released a song called “You Can’t Catch Me”. Lennon’s song boasts a similar vocal melody and a set of lyrics (“Here come old flattop, he come goovin’ up slowly” to “Here come a flattop, he was movin’ up with me”). The similarity ends there – Berry’s song is about driving quickly whereas Lennon’s is about something called ‘toe-jam football’ and some guy with feet below his knees. But it was enough to snag the ear of music publisher Morris Levy, who owned the rights to Berry’s song and promptly launched an infringement lawsuit against Lennon. Read more…
Someone once asked me if I’d take a thousandth of this project to explain Einstein’s theory of relativity in plain, common-sense layman-speak. I replied that this had been done on numerous occasions, in fact I think they even tried to do it in an Archie comic once. And besides, isn’t poor Al Einstein getting a little pigeon-holed by that equation? He contributed a lot more to the world than E=mc2 and receiving the honor of having Walter Matthau play him in a film.
No, this isn’t a ham-fisted segue into an article about Australian comedian and Young Einstein star Yahoo Serious, though I will tuck that topic into my back pocket for possible later use. Albert Einstein was the father of quantum theory, the great-uncle of particle theory, and third cousin several times removed of the Manhattan Project that ended World War II.
But there’s more to the Einstein pickle-tray than the big ol’ Kosher dills of scientific genius that everyone knows about. That’s what I want to poke at with my typing fingers today – the other Einsteineries.
For one thing, Einstein invented a fridge.
The Einstein Refrigerator has no moving parts, operates at a constant pressure, and requires only a heat source to help it do its thing. He came up with this along with his former student, Leó Szilárd, in 1925 after reading a report of a family that was killed when a seal on their fridge broke, poisoning them with toxic fumes. I’m not going to get into the science of the thing, as I’d rather not completely alienate the short-attention-spanned read-while-they-poop demographic, but suffice it to say, a solar panel would be enough to keep this thing chilling your Bud Lite from here to the Super Bowl. Read more…
Yoko Ono has been called many things: an artist, a philanthropist, the anti-Beatle, and several terms I don’t care to use in mixed company, unless I’m dealing with traffic. I never bought into the Dragon-Lady angle. It’s a cop-out to say that she broke up the Beatles, when clearly the reasons behind their demise were far more layered and complex.
Mostly it had to do with Ringo’s 1969 ‘stache.
I will say this. Yoko is a terrible singer. I know, I know… “art”. But forget it, her singing voice is simply not aesthetically pleasing to my ears. We used to flip Lennon 45’s over and play the Yoko songs on 33 1/3 RPM so that she sounded more demonic and less… shrieky.
Rather than pen a thousand-word diatribe about why John should not have insisted on including her in his musical exploits, I’m going to take a more positive approach and try to learn about the lady. She is notoriously generous, caretaker of my favorite corner of Central Park, and hosts one of the most fantastical Twitter feeds you’ll ever read.
And she had a life before she met John Lennon. Read more…