Rock & Roll RePast: Beach Boys

Posted: March 22nd, 2024 | Filed under: Culture, Music, Rock & Roll Rewind | No Comments »

I’m a rock & roll lifer. I got stories. Lots of stories. Here’s another.

Noticing that the Beach Boys — or so as now constituted they would call themselves — are playing a number of festivals this summer, including Bourbon & Beyond, I couldn’t help but be wryly bemused.

Their Endless Summer Gold Tour, I believe that’s what the fifty or so dates starting in April are dubbed, is also noted on the group’s website as “The Beach Boys/ Mike Love.”

Of course it is. Because the insufferable octogenarian Love is a fellow who once had the audacity (and apparent legal clout) to kick Brian Wilson out of the band after a short reunion earlier this century. Tsk tsk.

OK, there’s also Bruce Johnston, not an original member, but he did start subbing on tours for Brian Wilson in ’65, after the genius who was the creative centerpiece for the iconic American outfit suffered a “nervous breakdown.” Other than Love and him there’s just a bunch of fill ins this time around.

Dennis and Carl Wilson are both departed. Al Jardine has retired. Brian Wilson’s life long demons finally won him over, and it was announced earlier this year he has dementia.

All that travesty and sadness notwithstanding, under the mentorship and creative craftsmanship of Brian Wilson, the Beach Boys were the one and true seminal Great American Rock & Roll Band.

They both set and reflected teen zeitgeist in the mid 60s.

“If everybody had an ocean/ Across the USA/ Then everybody’d be surfing’/ Like Californi-a” Read the rest of this entry »


Bluegrass on the Belvedere: R&R RePast

Posted: January 26th, 2024 | Filed under: Culture, Music, Rock & Roll Rewind | No Comments »

I’m a rock & roll lifer. I got stories, lots of stories. Here’s another.

Bluegrass music is not rock & roll. Though it’s certainly a part of it.

Elvis Presley’s first release had Father of Bluegrass Bill Monroe’s “Blue Moon of Kentucky” on one side, and blues master Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup’s “That’s All Right, Mama” on the flip.

There was plenty of cross-pollination through the years.

Byron Berline, once of member of The Cumberlands, played fiddle on the Stones’ “Honky Tonk Woman.” Jerry Garcia hooked up with Vassar Clements and former Bluegrass Boy Peter Rowan in Old and In The Way. Rowan ventured into rock in Seatrain. Banjo savant Earl Scruggs joined his sons in forming a rock band.

Sam Bush and Newgrass Revival covered Little Feat’s “Sailin’ Shoes.”

So let’s venture back to the halcyon days when the only urban bluegrass festival settled in on Louisville’s Belvedere. Read the rest of this entry »


Bands I Didn’t Hear Live: The Big Mea Culpa

Posted: December 18th, 2023 | Filed under: Culture, Music, Rock & Roll Rewind | No Comments »

I’m a rock & roll lifer. I got stories. Lots of stories. Here are more.

Given my annoying propensity to play rock & roll oneupsmanship at every opportunity, I’m often asked a question.

Are there any bands from back in the day you didn’t see live?

Of course there are. As loathe as I am to admit it.

My résumé has holes, some of my own making.

The one that stands out above the rest actually isn’t a concert but a lecture.

One night when I was at U of L, during Little Richard’s first exile from performing, he was giving a lecture at school. I had heard him perform previously, but this was an opportunity to experience one of the Founding Fathers up close and personal.

For some reason, dunderheaded in retrospect, I blew it off. To discover later, there weren’t but about a dozen people there, that he was very engaging and he spoke mostly about his religion, handed out bibles, but answered questions.

So that’s a major hole in my curriculum vitae. Read the rest of this entry »


Rock & Roll RePast: Lyrics of Leonard Cohen

Posted: November 16th, 2023 | Filed under: Culture, Music, Rock & Roll Rewind | No Comments »

I am a lifelong rock & roller. I’ve got stories. Lots of stories. Here’s another.

It’s a game college hoops fans play while sitting around musing about their favorite sport.

If you need one play to be drawn up in a huddle to win a big game, what coach would you choose to do it?

Which rather specious analogy brings me to the subject or rock & roll lyrics.

Who is the best? Who is in the conversation?

Dylan (No first name necessary). Duh.

Joni (No last name necessary).

Paul Simon. Lucinda. John Prine.

Chuck Berry. (Surprise entry I know, but go listen to his wordcraft, brilliantly tapping into teen zeitgeist.)

Rock the coin into the slot/ Gotta hear somethin’ that’s really hot

There are others, of course.

Most of all, the enigmatic fellow who is the subject today.

Leonard Cohen. Whose universal fame came later in life. When his persona and craggy voice had softened.

His was a life of contradictions. Trysts. Chelsea Hotel. Rebecca DeMornay. Joni Mitchell. The spiritual. Jewish. Buddhist. A half decade of seclusion in a Zen monastery.

Late in life, he needed to tour incessantly to make up for the money a manager pilfered.

Cohen’s stature had been magnified by the popularity of his most famous tune, “Hallelujah.”

Which attention ironically only manifested itself, after John Cale crafted a stirring version on the tribute album “I’m Your Fan.” Read the rest of this entry »


It’s Not Rock & Roll, But I Like It

Posted: October 29th, 2023 | Filed under: Culture, Music, Rock & Roll Rewind | No Comments »

I’m a rock & roll lifer. I got stories, lots of stories. Here’s another.

And now for something completely different,

How a love for gut bucket rock & roll, the back beat, but a willingness to move beyond, can lead down rabbit holes resonant and satisfying.

My fascination started with the Founding Fathers. The architect Little Richard. The Killer Jerry Lee Lewis. The Fat Man Fats Domino. Johnny B. Goode. And the most primal Bo Diddley.

Top 40 Radio — rock, rock, rock & roll radio — was actually more inclusive than we sensed in those early days of the 50s and early 60s. A typical list of weekly hits would include not only US Bonds “Quarter To Three” but Lawrence Welk’s “Yellow Bird.”

Not only crooner Al Martino’s “Here In My Heart” but also country keyboard legend Floyd Cramer’s “San Antonio Rose.” Not only Slim Harpo’s “Rainin’ In My Heart” but the Chordettes “Never on Sunday.”

Then led by Dylan and the Beatles, after suffering through an era of Fabian, the genre expanded beyond all boundaries, becoming Rock. The classical underpinnings of Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Electric Light Orchestra, and the truly operatic Queen.

Ian Anderson’s flute. John Luc Ponty’’s violin. The madrigal-ish stylings of Fotheringay. Ravi Shankar. Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

And so I moved beyond Chuck Berry. Read the rest of this entry »


Allman Brothers Band at Atlanta Pop ’70

Posted: September 13th, 2023 | Filed under: Culture, Music, Rock & Roll Rewind, Ruminations | 2 Comments »

Merrily, Don, the Mailman and I arrived in Byron, Ga. on the 2d of July in 1970.

The Atlanta Pop Festival would start the next day.

Little did I know it would change my life.

Arriving ahead of time allowed us to avoid the heavy traffic which backed up the interstate for miles. We set up camp on the grounds by a grove of trees, just a short walk to the festival stage area.

That Thursday night I meandered over to a small stage back in the woods across the road. I listened to a couple of bands, the name of only one of which I recall.

Chakra. How very 70s.

The other remembrance of that evening — the weekend was generally a blur for reasons that needn’t be explained — was a guy at the mic kept saying, “Stick around, Sky Dog is gonna come and jam.”

I had no idea Sky Dog was Duane Allman. I’d never heard him play — that I was aware of at the time — or even of him.

Then, oh my, did I. Read the rest of this entry »


R&R Repast: WLAC & James Brown

Posted: May 19th, 2023 | Filed under: Culture, Music, Rock & Roll Rewind, Ruminations | 1 Comment »

This is a remembrance of my first college concert.

James Brown Revue.

Fall ’63. In Doremus Gymnasium at Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Virginia.

For the full story we need to go back to where the story starts. The winter prior, my senior year in high school. When my pals and I discovered WLAC 1510 AM Nashville. (We were far from the only ones. Such as the Brothers Allman — Greg and Duane — have spoken of the station’s influence. So too, Robbie Robertson up north of the borderline.)

It is a 50,000 watt clear channel station, which means its signal carries long and far after dark. Which is when the station’s otherwise pro forma programming shifted into soul and blues. That which had not so many years prior been dubbed “race music.”

I fell in love, we fell in love, regaling each other in the mornings with tales of the evening before’s programming.

The DJ that we most loved was a fellow who on the air went as Big Hugh Baby. Hugh Jarrett had once been a member of the Jordanaires, backing Elvis often.

For us, he was the raucous guy whose patter was full of sexual double entendres, aimed it seemed directly at us and frat boys across the land. Though his primary sponsors were Royal Crown Pomade, baby chicks and Randy’s Record Shop in nearby Gallatin.

Guys would call in, advising Big Hugh on the air, they were in the midst of reverie, and needed some help. (As I did once during spring break in Florida.) Read the rest of this entry »


“Elvis”: Film Review Podcast

Posted: June 26th, 2022 | Filed under: Cinema, Culture, Film Reviews Podcast, Music | No Comments »

It is a significant topic as deep and long as the entire 20th C.

Elvis Presley.

Elvis.

Baz Luhrmann has attempted to tackle it, in his latest release, simply titled, “Elvis.”

Austin Butler is magnificent as Presley, who was known as the “King of Rock & Roll.”

Tom Hanks not so much as the equally important for the tale to be told manager, the self-proclaimed Colonel Tom Parker.

Because I grew up with Elvis and rock & roll, I have many thoughts and emotions about Presley, as well as about Luhrmann’s manner of telling to tale.

For significantly more details of my thoughts on both, listen to the podcast below:

Audio MP3

The Importance of Elvis

Posted: June 20th, 2022 | Filed under: Cinema, Culture, Music, Personalities | 2 Comments »

This piece was originally published at the turn of the century. It has been very slightly edited for clarity and content in advance of the release this week of the Elvis Presley biopic.

In his book “The Fifties,” David Halberstam chronicles the most misunderstood of the century’s decades. In the tome, he relates a conversation where noted composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein discussed political and social trends with Dick Clurman, an editor at Time magazine. Halberstam quotes Bernstein: “Elvis Presley is the greatest cultural force of the twentieth century.”

Incredulous, Clurman suggests some other choice, Picasso perhaps.

Bernstein, not to be deterred, retorts: “(Elvis) changed everything — music, language, clothes, it’s a whole new social revolution . . .”

Elvis Presley is LEO’s Person of the Century.

That is not a typo. No Henry Ford or Winston Churchill or Bill Gates or FDR or Einstein or Rosa Parks or Jackie O could meet our standards at Louisville Eccentric Observer for such critical status.

Elvis Presley is the wise choice, the eccentric choice, the correct choice. Love him or loathe him. Pity his Greek tragedy of a life. Ignore him if so inclined. But don’t make the mistake of dismissing Elvis as irrelevant.

Elvis was the undisputed King of Rock & Roll but no longer a major player on the music scene twenty two years ago when he died ignominiously in his throne room. The causes: Terminal, drug-induced bloat and chronic ennui. He had become the caped, prescription pill-addled Elvis who arrived for a White House audience with Richard Nixon, carrying a handgun as a gift, then requesting a badge to fight drug abuse.

We chose the Elvis who in the summer of 1953 entered the Memphis Recording Service studio at 706 Union in Memphis to record an acetate for his mama. The Elvis who the following year, at the insistence of guitarist Scotty Moore, and with encouragement from Sam Phillips’ secretary Marion Keister, waxed revved versions of Bill Monroe’s “Blue Moon of Kentucky” and Arthur Crudup’s “That’s All Right Mama.” The songs changed Elvis’ life forever.

And the lives of all who heard them.

And life itself.

As Renaissance Woman Caroline Dahl titled her magnificent needlepoint seen above, Elvis was “The New King of Heaven and Hell.”

Elvis Presley. The world’s been a different place since. Read the rest of this entry »


“Emergency”: Film Review/ Podcast

Posted: June 2nd, 2022 | Filed under: Cinema, Culture, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

Is it possible to take a hackneyed movie genre and turn it into something else entirely?

Like, say, the it’s the last night of school before vacation let’s party til we puke and do stupid things flick, and use that premise to make a comment on socio-cultural reality, all the while being entertaining.

The answer we now know is Yes.

Thanks to “Emergency,” available for streaming on Amazon Prime.

Sean and Kuhnle are all set to be the first black dudes at their college to complete the seven stop Legendary Tour of parties before spring break.

Coming home for their “pregame,” they discover a white girl they don’t know, passed out stoned and drunk on their living room floor.

What to do?

The weirdness usually present in this genre of flicks comes about. But, so too, a take on what it’s like to be young and black in a moment fraught with peril in today’s culture.

This is not diatribe or finger pointing. What this is is an often very funny, continually entertaining and engaging, and periodically revelatory film.

For more, Listen to my podcast below.

Audio MP3

“Bad Luck Banging Or Loony Porn”: Review Podcast

Posted: May 28th, 2022 | Filed under: Cinema, Culture, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

Alrighty then, here’s something completely and absurdly different.

A Romanian film, shot during the pandemic in Bucharest.

About a respected teacher at an upscale school, who makes a private sex tape with her husband.

Which somehow gets uploaded to the interweb.

Parental disapproval ensues.

This fascinating film, which — Caveat Emptor — contains graphic imagery and lots of dirty, really nasty words, provides an interesting take on the culture of that country, as well as the racism, contention and hypocrisy that is endemic world wide.

Plus, it’s really funny.

Well done, it won the top prize at the ’21 Berlin Film Festival.

I’d suggest actually listening to my podcast before going to Hulu or Amazon Prime to watch.

Audio MP3

“Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent: Review/ Podcast

Posted: May 19th, 2022 | Filed under: Cinema, Culture, Film Reviews Podcast, Personalities | No Comments »

So, Nick Cage, he’s like a thing, right?

Because of his over the top acting style and other stuff, he’s more than an actor. A cultural icon, or, at least curiosity.

So it would seem.

He’s won an Oscar. He’s been in a 109 films. He’s made some bold choices in his portrayals, daring even.

Some hit. Some have you walking out of the theater, scratching your head. Even before the movie’s over perhaps.

He’s a flashpoint for aesthetic colloquy.

Now, he plays himself, along with his alter ego Sailer Ripley, his character in “Wild at Heart,” in what is either an astute bit of self deprecation, or vanity in the extreme.

Way more the former, I’d opine.

In “Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent,” you get all Nick Cage all the time.

It’s pretty danged funny. Astute. Often a brilliant send up of the movie industry.

For more on the movie, listen to my podcast below:

Audio MP3