Tag: Yoko Ono

Day 999: Buh-Bye, So Long and Hallelujah

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It’s a completely valid question.

For the past 50 or so days I have been fielding one question more often than most: what am I going to do for Day 1000? Will the final kilograph reflect upon the 999 that came before, like some extended clip show of my greatest guffaws and most aww-rending moments? Will I spend my final entry in closing-credits mode, thanking those who have made this all possible and put up with my considerable dearth of free time over the last 2 years and almost 9 months?

In short… no. While my original intent was to meander down that self-serving footpath for my final article, I decided that I would only do so if I could cite the Wikipedia page that had been created about me – as it turns out, that doesn’t exist yet.

In order to figure out my final missive, I felt I should turn to the moulder of my wisdom, the sage oracle who has helped to shape my morality, my perception, and even my understanding of the world: television. I have experienced the highs and lows of series finales – certainly at least one of them could illuminate the road to a poignant, entertaining, and (most of all) worthy coda to this monstrous undertaking.

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My first option is the beloved trope of bringing back a classic character for the finale. In my case I could introduce a surprise cameo by Yoko Ono, Craig David, Mary Nissenson, or if I really want to stretch to my roots, Phineas Gage. I could style the entire piece in a blend of haiku, musical theatre and secret code (did anyone ever figure that one out?). It sounds trite and cliché, but that’s always a place to start, isn’t it? Read more…

Day 998: Crossing Abbey Road

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This Friday marks the 45th anniversary of what I believe to be the greatest album of all time.

Before you flick lint in my beer or pelt me with wads of Big League Chew for not designating this title to Pink Floyd’s Piper At The Gates of Dawn or Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ Too-Rye-Ay, allow me to point out that there are many albums that are flawless – sometimes in spite of a number of actual flaws. Nary a wayward note blemishes Stevie Wonder’s Songs In The Key of Life, and Paul Simon’s Graceland is among the few utterly perfect slabs of 1980’s vinyl. For me, “the greatest” combines not only artistic and technical brilliance, but the subjective distinction of having served as the soundtrack to many of the most fantastic moments of my life. Your results may (and probably do) vary.

The story of Abbey Road is one of pure, primal mirth, flecked with auburn specks of encroaching melancholy. It is the last glorious and romantic trip to Maui for an otherwise doomed marriage. It marks the greatest rock band in history (an assertion I’ll stand by as wholly factual) producing one final brushstroke upon their legacy before heading their separate ways.

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This is not a happy group.

In January of 1969, the Beatles were moving in four different directions, and had been for over a year. Their plan was to return to the studio, record a back-to-their-roots album, perform their first concert since the summer of 1966 (the Pyramids in Egypt were a proposed locale, as was a barge adrift in the Atlantic), and film it all for posterity. This attempt to reconnect resulted in a cavalcade of arguments, the grandiose concert reduced to a noon-hour gig on the roof, and the temporary quitting of George Harrison. Read more…

Day 959: Day Two Of Peace & Music

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Said I’m going down to Yasgur’s farm, going to join in a rock & roll band.

Got to get back to the land and set my soul free.

 

Somewhere amid the cultural symbolism and the anthemic declarations of a generation’s identity lies the actual music performed at the Woodstock festival. Contrasting that weekend with the tighter and more disciplined Monterey Pop Festival from two years earlier reveals an evolution in rock culture: the glittering aftermath of psychedelia, the re-blossoming of foundational blues and folk through rock-tinted lenses, and the collective embrace of instrumental mastery.

The Who sent jaws dropping to the dusty floor in ’67 when Pete Townsend assaulted his guitar into pieces; at Woodstock they were neck-deep in exploring the possibility of rock-opera. The Jefferson Airplane soared on the strength of their early hits at Monterey; two years later their music was more introspective and demure. Soul music, which had tickled the Monterey crowd to the tune of Otis Redding, Lou Rawls and Booker T. & The MG’s, had rocketed into the realm of cosmic funk by 1969, with Sly & The Family Stone representing. And Janis… well she was just Janis. No higher compliment could be given.

Some of the Woodstock performances were iconic. Others were merely adequate. Then there was Sha Na Na, which fit into the vibe of the festival like a can of tuna fits onto a dessert cart. But the music is unquestionably the skeleton that gives the experience its historic form and structure.

Just imagine what could have been.

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A number of acts were either rumored or invited, but never made the bill. Bob Dylan, the poet-rebel of the Newport Folk Festival four years earlier, was the most logical invitee. He lived near Bethel in the actual town of Woodstock, but he’d already committed to the Isle of Wight Festival at the end of the month. Shiny new superstars Led Zeppelin were selected, but promoter Frank Barsalona didn’t want his band to be just another name on the bill. The Doors figured it would be a second-rate Monterey Pop so they turned it down, an act that guitarist Robby Krieger claimed they later regretted. Read more…

Day 956: ‘Scuse Me While I Bust This Guy

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“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.

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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…

Day 872: Here Come Ol’ Levy, He Come Groovin’ Up Slowly

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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.

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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…

Day 635: Tuning In The Toxic – Worst Music Part 1

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After having penned over a dozen entries in this category of the most stench-laden drippings off the roasted fatty carcass of popular culture, I’m stricken by the uncharacteristic neglect on my part in addressing the scuzz at the bottom of the music bucket. Perhaps I’ve been burned too often by treading my cleats upon others’ beloved tuneage – hey, I even caught some flack when I accused “We Built This City” of being the worst song of the 1980’s.

But there are a handful of records that have earned the label of ‘worst ever’. Any defenders of these songs and albums – even the artists themselves – will most likely keep their devotion buried deep in the closet, far beneath other less-embarrassing secrets, like eating an entire shrimp ring whilst indulging in a Katherine Heigl movie marathon, or harboring a deep childhood attraction to Tina Yothers.

These are the ingredients for the world’s worst mixtape. Listen at your own peril.

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If you’re not a manic Elvis fan but have been considering exploring some of the deeper tracks in his vinyl vault, you may want to skip over Having Fun With Elvis On Stage. This is not a live album that will showcase the rockin’ talents of the TCB Band, finding heretofore unexplored pockets of groove behind Elvis’s impassioned plea for tolerance and understanding in the ghetto. In fact, there’s no actual music on this record at all. Read more…

Day 632: Einstein’s Others

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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.

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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…

Day 537: In Praising The IKEA Effect

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In my unending quest to figure out why the human mind dances the steps it does, I occasionally like to dip my curiosity into a warm bowl of psychology, just to see what color it turns. Often it transforms into the murky grey of incomprehension, but sometimes it emerges cloaked in the rosy red hue of alarm. Does my brain really do that? Am I powerless to self-reprogram, hopefully toward a more logical end?

Well, probably. I still get Pavlovian when I smell bacon or coffee in mid-brew. I still respond with the same knee-jerk spike in blood pressure and neurotic angst when faced with a particularly poor driver who happens to be soiling my day with their unpleasant existence. And I have no doubt that I’m as much a slave to the cognitive biases that pepper all our brains with an empirically observable weirdness.

Like the IKEA Effect.

...which is not about wanting to stab this guy with a hex-key.

…which is not about wanting to stab this guy with a hex-key.

Let’s say you’re in the market for a new bookcase. You have three options. First, you can build one from scratch, but let’s rule that out straight away. Hand me a stack wooden boards and the most I’ll be able to build for you is a fire. Second, you can go out and buy a pre-made bookcase – a joyously convenient solution. But if you head to your local IKEA, you can end up with something in the middle. Everything is pre-cut, pre-shaped and supplied, but you still have to follow the instructions given by the amorphous little blob-man in the directions booklet to build your final product. Read more…

Day 391: Stripped Down ‘n Strollin’

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“How do I attract more readers?” I asked of Lucius, my imaginary pygmy-elephant and trusted advisor.

“Controversy,” Lucius replied.

He was right. It’s time to stir things up. It’s time to shake the Internet’s rickety bones. It’s time to get naked! Or at least write about getting naked. I’m at work, and I think there’s some kind of safety concern over being nude in the presence of lamination equipment.

In the industry, they call this the "crotch maimer".

In the industry, they call this the “crotch maimer”.

But there’s a lot to say about public nudity. Not surprisingly, there are a lot of photos on the subject as well, but this is a family site, so I’m going to do my best to uphold our image of respectability. I don’t want to jeopardize this site’s future purpose as a textbook for millions.

From what I can gather, there are four possible reasons one would be naked in public. Any of the four could get you in trouble with the authorities, depending on where you are and whether or not you get caught. Read more…

Day 251: Yoko, Pre-John

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…