27Jul

Strange Days and Punks for Salvation

My mind sometimes befuddles me. I don’t know why I think the things I do, but I think them anyway. Here are a few from the past week.

In 1980, poet and punk musician Jim Carroll wrote “People Who Died,” which was on his album Catholic Boy.  Ironically, the song could have been titled “People Who Died  in July,” including punk rocker Tommy Ramone, who wrote a song called “Too Tough To Die.” It still bothers me, as I said in last week’s blog, that his death went largely unnoticed, as did the passing of Johnny Winter and Muddy Waters.

As the list grows on, here’s another name for you: Dick Jones. You probably wouldn’t know him if he were sitting next to you, but you have heard his voice many times. Dick Jones was the voice of Pinocchio, and he died on July 7. James Garner, the “Tall Dark Stranger” named Maverick, died July 19.

Under “Man, is that a strange day, indeed,” we can post that a pine tree, planted near L.A.'s Griffith Observatory in 2004 in honor of George Harrison, was killed by his band's namesake insect. The Beatle's memorial tree was killed by beetles! Harrison's pine had grown to more than 10 feet tall by 2013, and the good news is the tree will be replaced, time and place to be announced.

In other bizarre and unexplained news, Russia seems to be sinking. Russian scientists conducted a primary examination of a giant sinkhole in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District. There was no dangerous radiation detected on the site, and the scientists, who arrived to examine the sinkhole on the instructions of the regional governor, said it appeared “as a result of a natural phenomenon, the nature of which is impossible to establish yet.” Personally, I’m expecting the four horseman of the apocalypse to burst out of there in a frenzy of flaming glory and head directly to the Westboro Baptist Church, consisting of a collection of hate-mongering protesters who have targeted everyone from the singer Lorde to Brad Paisley, of all people. Recently this bunch of ghoulish protesters met their match with a bunch of punks. They planned on protesting at a “Panic! At The Disco” concert, announcing plans to picket the pop-punk band's Sunday night show in Kansas City, Missouri, but Brendon Urie of the group retaliated. He said that for every member of the Westboro church who showed up he would donate $20 to the Human Rights Campaign, America’s largest civil rights organization, working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender equality at home, at work, and in the community. Brendon said, “This is pretty much the perfect way to render the protesters' hateful intentions useless” and would actually be useful and raise money for a good cause.

In the podcast, you’ll hear a few minutes about Ted Nugent as well as other topics. Come on shore and give a listen.

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20Jul

Tommy Ramone and Other Punks (Also More Rock and Roll)

On Friday July 11, Tommy Ramone died.  Born Tamás Erdélyi, he was the drummer and last survivor of the Ramones, whose members adopted the last name used by Paul McCartney to reserve hotel rooms as a Beatle.  

The Ramones were not known as great musicians, but the band has been acknowledged by many as the inventors of punk rock. They began life in Forest Hills, Queens, about the same time I was growing up on Staten Island.

In 2002, the Ramones were ranked the second-greatest band of all time by Spin magazine, trailing only the Beatles. On March 18, 2002, the Ramones—the founders and drummer Marky Ramone, who succeeded Tommy when he left the band—were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2011, the group was awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Ramones performed 2,263 concerts, touring virtually nonstop for 22 years. In 1996, after a tour with the Lollapalooza music festival, the band played a farewell concert and disbanded. Among the Ramones best-known songs was "I Wanna Be Sedated,” a song I still sing to me-self, especially after watching the evening news or for that matter the morning news and the mid-day news.  I don’t like the term rest in peace, so I’ll just say rock on, Tommy, rock on!

Another group, associated with but not totally affiliated with punk rock of the 1970’s, was Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers. I say not totally punk rock because they were what is known as proto-punk, which is the music from the mid-1960’s to mid-1970’s that influenced punk rock and is not a distinct musical genre, covering a wide range of musical backgrounds and styles including garage rock. Boston can claim the Modern Lovers as our own even though Richman moved to California in 1975. He recorded a few tunes, came to his senses, and moved back to Boston and formed a new version of the Modern Lovers in 1976.

Oddly enough, according to a survey taken by voters on the punk forum at musicianforums.com, neither the Ramones nor the Modern Lovers made the top 100, but Boston’s own Dropkick Murphys came in at number 16.

From country to punk, I still believe that those in my age group grew up in the best of all musical times with artists like Jonathan Richmond and the Modern Lovers, the Ramones, The Cars, Pink Floyd, Queen, the Rolling Stones, The Who, The Doors, Jimmy Hendrix, of course Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, the Eagles, Creedence Clearwater Revival…. Sorry, kids, you can’t touch this.
There’s more on music and other topics on the shores of Rambling Harbor. Give a listen.

 

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13Jul

Rock and Roll and Kanye West

My buddy Kanye West got me thinking last week. See, it seems the mouth that bores got booed off the stage in London. It’s not unusual lately for the gonzo-gone West to deliver rants and preach on stage. Kanye lamented this time on everything from his frustrations with fashion houses to his own fame. Gone West ranted about Louis Vuitton and Gucci, feeling they might discriminate against him because he’s black. He went on for perhaps twenty minutes, and the crowd booed and mostly went home. He could appeal to his audiences in a better way.

Popular music has often been topical in nature in response to political and social conditions. Many songs were popularized during wartime (unfortunately), including “Yankee Doodle Dandy” from the Revolutionary War (my friend Larry M. will love that one); “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “Dixie” from the Civil War; “Over There” from World War I; and “God Bless America” from World War II. In the early 20th century, two American musical traditions played a significant role in social and political commentary, blues and folk music, both roots of rock and roll along with gospel.

On 13 July 1985, an incredible event called “Live Aid,” organized by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, raised funds for famine relief in Ethiopia. It was billed as a “global jukebox” and was held simultaneously at Wembley Stadium in London, attended by 72,000 people, and at John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, attended by about 100,000 people. It was one of the largest-scale satellite link-ups and television broadcasts of all time with an estimated global audience of 1.9 billion across 150 nations.

The Ethiopia famine of 2003 was the worst famine since the mid-1980s. Nearly one-fifth of the population was left without food, and thousands of people died from starvation and malnutrition. Members of the music industry once again came together with Live 8 to raise awareness of global poverty prior to the G8 conference 6-8 July 2005, hosting 10 concerts on 2 July 2005, and one concert on 6 July 2005. On 7 July, G8 leaders pledged to double the funds devoted to helping poor countries to $50 million by 2010, with half of the money earmarked for Africa. Kanye West was one of the Live 8 performers.

The poverty crisis continues today in many countries including ours. So, West Wind, how about a concert to help the approximately 16.1 million, 22% of children in the U.S., who live in poverty and are hungry?

There is more on music and Kanye, as well as thoughts on Rush Limbaugh and the Emmy Awards, on the shores of Rambling Harbor. I hope you’ll listen in.

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6Jul

Facebook and Mood Manipulation

I don’t know about you, but I am truly starting to feel like a lab rat under a huge Hubble-like microscope. On June 14, 2013, I wrote a blog that started a bit of a tempest on my keyboard. The tempest was caused by my saying things like

“I have said, and will explain further in the podcast, that I will not change my life one bit if I am being spied on.  I will not monitor my words, phone calls, or blogs and podcasts. I will not change one bloody thing because some guy (or hopefully, woman) is sitting in the tree outside watching me take a shower.”  I couldn’t care less about the government’s ghoulish voyeurism.

Well, that’s all well and good, speaking just for me, but now I am totally ripping mad at Facebook. Facebook has published details of a big-time experiment in which they manipulated 689,000 posted comments, videos, pictures, and web links. Why? In order to influence our moods.  They plan on trying to change my mood and make me care, and apparently, according to the press release by Facebook, they are succeeding. http://money.cnn.com/2014/06/30/technology/facebook-mood-experiment/

What really boils my eggs is they intend to use my friends’ emails, etc. to do it and can also use my posts to influence your moods. They are screwing with me and my friends, and I don’t take kindly to that.  To take this mood alteration experiment a little further, if little Markey Z at Facebook has tried this, what can the government do?

A lot of people were angry with the government for spying. I wonder if Facebook has gotten us so hooked first that we can’t get angry.  Maybe our moods have already been altered.

There’s more on this and other topics at Rambling Harbor.  Come ashore and give a listen.

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29Jun

Happy August 2nd?

Happy Independence Day! Happy August 2nd!Huh? What happened to July 4th, you might ask? Let me explain with some little known  (or long forgotten) facts about the 4th of July.

On July 2, 1776, John Adams wrote to his wife: “The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

While we celebrate the 2nd of July on the 4th, which is the date shown on the Declaration of Independence,  in fact historians are convinced that the Declaration was signed nearly a month after its adoption, on August 2, 1776, and not on July 4th, as is commonly believed.

In a remarkable coincidence, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the only signers of the Declaration of Independence later to serve as Presidents of the United States, both died on July 4, 1826, which was the 50th anniversary of the Declaration. I can’t help but wonder if maybe they really died on August 2, 1826.

Now, all the odd facts aside—and there are many more—the one fact we feel sure of is we are celebrating our independence from the kingdom of Great Britain, as it was known then. I always wonder, though, why we need a date like the 4th of July to remember what freedom means, not just to me and you but to the whole of US. Perhaps summed up best in the Declaration of Independence, I wonder why, among us “Free Americans,” there are still groups that would deny these words and try to enslave those who do not agree with our views of freedom: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Here at Rambling Harbor, we celebrate Independence Day 365-and-one-quarter days a year. Come on shore where all men and women are created equal and give a listen.

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