Wild Pony

 

As I may previously have mentioned, We saw Southside Johnny and the Asbury Dukes this Saturday past. As I may also have mentioned, The Stone Pony has a strict ‘no cameras’ policy so I was unable to properly document what proved to be an absolutely fantastic show.

I did, however, have my trusty phone so here are a few brief impressions of the gig in low rez.

20180707_200544

20180707_193414a

20180707_194433

This band has been doing what they do for close to half a century and got their start in the same tiny Asbury Park club as Springsteen and the E Street Band. It was obvious that many at the gig were longtime fans who had shared a great deal of history with The Dukes.

20180707_194659a - Copy

The first act was Remember Jones, another Jersey band very reminiscent of the younger Dukes of yesteryear. They did covers and originals and absolutely nailed a cover of Queen’s Don’t stop me Now. It was good to see the Jersey soul sound was still alive and kicking and in good hands.

20180707_204731

20180707_205955

20180707_204803a.jpg

The weather was perfect and the bands were hot. What more could one need on a summer’s evening in Jersey?

Both of the above videos are from this gig. There was also a sizeable crowd listening for free from the Boardwalk, as you can see in the video below.

 

And if you want to see how the gig looked when photographed properly, shoot over to my friend Mark’s site here.

Mark scored a photographer’s pass to shoot the event and did a fantastic job as usual.

Advertisements

Gasoline

Last weekend we had the opportunity to see our good friends Amy and Karen Jones playing with their amazing band, The Beautiful Distortion on our home turf, as it were. The band hails from Bethlehem PA but on this occasion, they were playing at a two-day festival at the Red Mill in Clinton NJ, which is right next door to High Bridge.

Sadly, Amy fell ill, literally as the band was about to go on and had to sit the gig out with Jersey girl and I but the rest of the guys closed ranks and braved the ninety-degree heat to give a fantastic performance (despite being one vocalist down).

TBD have a great sound which centers on the three lead vocalists. Both Amy and Karen have tremendous voices which (as is often the case with siblings) harmonise beautifully. The other fronter, Dave Doll, has a very different but totally complimentary vocal style and the three voices together are really something to hear. Dave can also shred the frets like the pro he is.

The rest of the lineup is equally impressive with Chris Reagle on lead guitar, Jeremy Aguiar on bass, and Tim Harrell on drums. All are terrific, rock-solid musicians who have been playing around the Lehigh Valley area for years.

Sonically, they’re like a cross between Fleetwood Mac (they do a fantastic cover of the chain if you yell loud and long enough) and Dream Theater, if you can imagine such a beast. That really shouldn’t work but it just does.

The exciting thing for me was that, at this particular show, I was able to bring my camera along and get some shots of the guys in action (sadly sans Amy). The setting was a cool natural amphitheatre behind the famed Red Mill and I had a great time capturing their performance.

 

36411730_484507518636143_3577266810455588864_o
Before the band launched off. Great venue for a rock gig.

 

 

36543870_484987851921443_575654569762095104_o
Karen, Tim, and Jeremy giving their all.

 

36387184_484507715302790_1150664013961494528_o

36521312_484507778636117_3149731038368890880_o

36505549_484964121923816_8592416924183298048_o

36487657_484507488636146_9101466468263919616_o

 

36452956_484507848636110_4510752212502183936_o
Avengers movie freeze-frame moment.

 

 

36538491_484957948591100_6849941257607708672_o
It was hellishly hot but Dave still rocked ‘the suit’.

 

 

36452158_484507718636123_3808294703330230272_o
Chris takes the lead.

 

36433983_484507608636134_1941627824007806976_o

 

36421869_484987835254778_2980283643554955264_o
Dave ripping it up.

 

36395618_484507875302774_3538420265782345728_o

 

36448110_484507881969440_6536460674233532416_o
Dave covered for Amy on a lot of her parts. The guy has one hell of a range.

 

 

 

 

Words and images are my own.

 

©2018

 

 

 

The kick inside

 

 

PD56847030_0466001_2331795k
Freddie Mercury 1974. (Picture: Queen Archive/Virgin)

 

 

This morning, as I settled down to my work, I took a moment to check out a few of my favourite blogs. I find it a good way to centre myself before getting on with my own flimsy attempts at being creative.

Over at Yeah, Another Blogger I came across this little gem from fellow ruminator, Neil. In case you’re too lazy to click on the link, it describes an almost encounter he had with the great John Lennon on the streets of New York in 1973. It’s well worth a read so why not pop over now and give it some love. I’ll wait.

See, told you it was worth it. Reading of Neils regret at not having had the presence of mind to approach his hero when the opportunity presented itself, got me thinking, “yes, but there’s the flipside to that situation as well”.

You see, I too once came unexpectedly across a personal hero and I did engage him. And the result was, well let’s just say, disappointing.

About two years after John Lennon was murdered (an event which had caused me a considerable amount of trauma), I relocated from Australia to Britain. I’ve written about the incident that followed my arrival before, in a piece about synchronicities. In that piece I wrote:

When I was nineteen, I decided to relocate from Australia to the UK. By this time my relationship with said girlfriend had pretty much petered out but we were still on reasonably friendly terms. On the day before I flew out, I went around to her place to say my goodbyes and the last thing she said as we parted was, “if you see any members of Queen over there, make sure you get their autographs.”

I probably smirked as I agreed to do so. I mean, what were the odds I’d bump into any mega famous rock stars in the circles I’d be moving in? Anyway, after a long flight that had me questioning the wisdom of my decision to emigrate, I duly arrived at Heathrow, passed through the wall of bastards (otherwise known as customs and immigration) and made my way to the baggage carousel. I’d been in the country maybe forty minutes at this point.

So there I am, bleary-eyed and travel grimed, swaying on my feet with exhaustion when I happen to look to my right at the guy standing beside me.

It probably took me a full twenty seconds to process the visual information my brain was receiving from my tired eyes urgently telling it that the ‘guy’ was, in fact, Freddie Mercury.

I. Shit. You. Not.

I was stunned into near immobility but, with my girlfriend’s parting request still ringing in my ears, I realised I was just going to have to approach the clearly leery rock god in question.

I’m not proud of how the next thirty seconds went. I turned to face Mr. Mercury (who visibly flinched at what he obviously knew was coming) and spoke the immortal words, “if I had a pen (I didn’t by the way) would you give me an autograph?”

Now there are as yet undiscovered tribes in the deepest Amazon who knew what was coming next and I guess I did too. Barely meeting my gaze, Freddie uttered a one-word response and returned his attention to the circling baggage. The word was “no” in case you were having trouble discerning the inference.

I later read that it was Mercury’s policy never to give autographs. Ah well, I tried.

You may have noticed I kind of shoved the fandom element off onto my girlfriend there but, truth is, I was a huge fan of Mercury myself. I was actually carrying a tote bag that I’d meticulously drawn the inner sleeve pic of the Queen II album onto when I approached him. That probably made it look – to him – like I was a crazy fan (true) who’d known all along that he would be there (not true).

I get how that might freak a big star out so soon after what had happened to Lennon.

Anyway, the point of rehashing all this is that, though Neil may regret not talking to Lennon, I kind of regret that I did talk to Freddie. Even though I can fully appreciate famous people not wanting their space invaded in places like airports, I was nevertheless stung by that rejection. It didn’t change the way the young me felt about his music but it did change the way I saw Freddie.

In my eyes, he instantly became more cold and aloof than I’d previously thought him. I know it’s pretty ridiculous the way we as fans believe we somehow know these stars we’ve never met. How could we know the first thing about who they really are outside the arena of fame?

However, the personalities we imbue our heroes with are nonetheless important. As I think I’ve said before, Rock ‘n’ Roll is the modern mythology.

The archetypes that once inhabited the tales of ancient cultures live on in these larger than life Rock Gods we worship so devoutly. These giants stride the stages of our aspirations and give us something wonderful to love – or hate – which exists outside of the grey mundanity of modern life.

That had been the role that Mercury (even the name is mythological) had played in my teen life. In my suburban world of jean-clad yobs, Freddie – like Bowie – had blasted across my sky; some androgenous messenger from Olympus bringing the spark of redemption and hope to every willing, yearning heart.

If that last bit sounds somewhat over-egged, it’s also accurate. That’s  exactly how I’d felt growing up in my suburban wasteland. And it was the likes of Freddie, Bowie, and Kate Bush who kept the promise (and probably me) alive.

So, that rejection from one of my big heroes shattered more than just my preconceptions, it put quite a crack in my mythos as well. They do say you should never meet your heroes. Maybe, in this case at least, they’re right.

That said, I really envy Neil’s close encounter with one of the absolute gods of my world.

 

 

 

©2017

Seven

 

Seven decades and seven albums from the great state of New Jersey

I haven’t done one of these for quite a while but, since the idea behind it is pretty self-explanatory, I’m just going to jump right on in.

 

R-1376047-1336953366-1209.jpeg

  1. In the Wee Small Hours, Frank Sinatra (1955)

In the Wee, Small Hours was a concept album conceived before that phrase had even been coined. A densely woven web of melancholy, each song on this disc wanders through the past midnight streets of heartbreak and loneliness.

People forget how much musical perspicacity Sinatra had in those days but a listen to these tracks is a fast reminder. Songs like Can’t we be friends?, When your lover has gone, and It never entered my mind are bleedingly raw testaments to loss and regret.

The boy from Hoboken NJ was never everyone’s cup of tea but he dominated the era of the crooner with few rivals and gave us his own unique interpretation of the American songbook.

Alternatively, try: Sarah Vaughan With Clifford Brown (1955)

 

Speak_No_Evil-Wayne_Shorter.jpg

  1. Speak No Evil, Wayne Shorter (1966)

The saxophonist from Newark NJ who famously played in Miles Davis Quintet (2) and then went on to form seminal band Weather Report would come to be regarded as one of the great jazz composers. This talent was never more apparent than on his classic modal jazz recording, Speak No Evil.

Featuring the keyboard talent of none other than Herbie Hancock, this highly inventive set of arrangements coalesce into one of the all-time great Jazz albums. The tracks, Witch Hunt, Infant eyes, and Wild Flower are standouts for me but the entire album hums with a freshness that has failed to dim in the intervening decades.

Alternatively, try: Here Where There Is Love, Dionne Warwick (1967)

 

 

darknessontheedgeoftown_alb

 

  1. Darkness on the Edge of Town, Springsteen, (1978)

I know, you probably think that if I’m making a Springsteen album my 70’s selection, it should be Born to Run but sorry, can’t do that. His fourth album is and will always be my favourite Springsteen recording of all time.

Darkness is, well, dark and deeply compelling. Despite the fact that BTR contains my two favourite ever Springsteen tracks (Backstreets and Thunder Road), this album is the perfect sequencing of raw-edged songs of no redemption. Adam raised a Cain, Darkness on the edge of town, Racing in the streets, and Promised land are relentless in their portrayal of the anti-hero’s incremental slide towards the oblivion of mediocrity.

The NME called it 1978’s album of the year and were right to do so. This album has more punk attitude than any three actual punk albums I can think of.

Alternatively, try: Easter, Patti Smith (1978)

 

 

51taZOdXo1L

 

4. Especially For You, The Smithereens (1986)

The boys from Carteret, NJ kind of crept out into the limelight in the early 80’s, never really achieving the level of fame they probably deserved. The Smithereens were seen largely as a retro outfit obsessed with the Mods and ‘60s melody bands like The Byrds.

The inclusion of their track Blood and Roses on the Dangerously Close soundtrack gained them some MTV airtime but their sound never really caught the public’s imagination enough to take them to the next level.

This, their first album, was a high-water mark for the band and a very fine album it is. Pat DiNizio’s writing betrays some fairly dark feelings about love but those guitar arrangements keep things from tipping too far towards the dark side. Standout tracks include Blood and Roses, Behind the Wall of Sleep, and the excellent Strangers when we meet.

Alternatively, try: Trash it Up, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Dukes (1983)

 

 

268x0w.jpg

 

  1. The Score, Fugees (1996)

Comprising two Haitian refugees (hence the name ‘Fugees’) and one Jersey girl, the Fugees were a band to be reckoned with.  Wyclef Jean, Lauryn Hill, and Pras Michel exploded out of East Orange NJ, with their second album The Score. This was urban life in Jersey laid bare. Songs like, Ready or not, and Family business sit almost uncomfortably beside covers of Killing me softly and No woman no cry, creating a tension laced with moments of pure beauty.

Alternatively, try: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Lauryn Hill (1998)

 

 

41V21PQ0RJL.jpg

 

  1. The Meadowlands, The Wrens (2003)

Hailing from Secaucus, NJ, The Wrens were one of the anointed bands of the 90’s Indie scene. Singer/guitarist Charles Bissell along with brothers Greg and Kevin Whelan (guitar and bass respectively) and drummer Jerry MacDonald formed The Wrens at the beginning of the 90’s but this album was released at the very end of their partnership.

It could be argued they were a band of a certain time but this recording still sounds pretty relevant to me. Take a listen to She sends kisses and I think you’ll see what I mean.

Other great tracks include, Happy, and Boys you won’t.

Alternatively, try: Neptune City, Nicole Atkins (2007)

 

 

12821-atlas.jpg

 

  1. Atlas, Real Estate (2014)

Ridgewood, NJ was the launching pad for melodic guitar band, Real Estate. One could argue that they sound altogether too similar to Britpop darlings The Stone Roses and be fairly on the money. Their lead singer Martin Courtney sounds so much like Mancurian singer Ian Brown that he comes close to parody. That said, the songs on this album are strong and the overall sound so listenable that it quickly gets under the skin.

I have no idea how a band from New Jersey ends up sounding like a Stone Roses cover band doing originals but by about halfway through this album, I stopped caring and just let the music carry me off.

Standout tracks include, Had to hear, Past Lives, and Crime.

Alternatively, try: Painkillers, Brian Fallon (2015)

 

I don’t own every record on this list but did listen to all of them while compiling it.

There were so many others I could have included. New Jersey has such a rich musical culture and history. I would be remiss if I failed to at least mention some of those not included, so here’s a brief list of significant NJ artists (old and new) worth seeking out; The Roches, Gaslight Anthem, Deal Casino, The Cold Seas, Titus Andronicus, Little Steven, The Shirelles, Parliament, Misfits, The Feelies, Paul Simon, The Sugarhill Gang, Queen Latifah, Count Basie, Thursday, My Chemical Romance, and Kool and the Gang.

 

 

 

 

©2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Underneath the sycamore

 

Now every time this girl I see
She tries to chain me to her tree

Marc Bolan, Visions Of Domino

 

Marc Bolan, the fey glamster who helmed T. Rex, is said to have predicted, through several of his song lyrics, the year and manner of his own death. I know that the Rock world is somewhat rife with such tales, usually the inventions of hardcore fans and their overactive imaginations. However, there are actually some fairly interesting coincidences in this case and so I thought I’d while away a bit of my afternoon (and perhaps yours) having a wee look into it.

First of all, Bolan was on record as believing he’d never make it to 30. He was quite correct in this belief as he died some weeks shy of his 30th Birthday. He never got his driver’s license, having had strong premonitions he would die early, and claimed he “felt a car might be involved”.

On his final tour of France, Bolan visited the Louvre where he encountered a painting by Rene Magritte called September 16.  It is said that he spent several hours just staring at that one piece.

 

sixteenth-of-september.jpg
Image, the Louvre.

Interestingly enough, the painting shows the moon in the exact same phase as on the night Bolan died when the car, driven not by him but by his girlfriend Gloria Jones, hit a fence under a tree, on 16 September, 1977.

b7265f5f-bb8d-41c7-9c49-3433a761e732

The license plate of the mini they were in was FOX 661L and fans have pointed out that in the lyrics to the song, Solid Gold Easy Action he sings:

“life is the same as it always will be,

Easy as picking foxes from a tree.”

 

 

In another song, The Road I’m on he sings:

Since we last loved Gloria
the suns been up and down that many times
since we last loved Gloria
I’ve been sharing love with women of all kinds

Summer ends and leaves start dying
you won’t see robin crying
he knows where the sun is hiding
to another nest he’s flying

You gave me reason now I’ve gotta roam
‘cos the road I’m on gal won’t run me home

Hear my words Gloria
echoing from mountains with a cry
Hear my words Gloria
you’ll see them gal reflecting off the sky

Hear it in the cold wind blowing
hear it in the river’s flowing
no-one in the mind that’s growing
see ‘cos the cards that’s showing

You gave me reason now I’ve gotta roam
‘cos the road I’m on gal won’t run me home

 

That line, the road I’m on gal won’t take me home along with the repeated mention of the name Gloria and the late summer setting have stirred much discussion among Bolan’s fans. His girlfriend Gloria was indeed trying to drive him home when grisly fate intervened.

Bolan had also written a poem about death called The Warlock of Love with the first line, sycamore of sorrow.

The tree beneath which he died was a sycamore.

Sycamore of sorrow

Pray I’m swallowed

In the swell of your yelling leafy breast

My crippled bended chest is shamed

Through flaming crowsfeet, soaring nouns of Norse confession.

Dark earth gremlins, rootlegged hobbling

In the cryptess of my turned wound

Ill-famed fair prince, steal my lightening

Stake me with steel, for my haughtiness

Straddle my storm head with your abyss shroud

Call me harlot, call me wormy wordler

Ever so, but out loud.

 

It’s worth reiterating that (according to one biographer*) Bolan did not die from hitting the actual tree as is popularly believed but rather when the car hit a steel-reinforced fence post in front of it. Bolan was impaled through the back of his head by a piece of iron which gives a couple of other lines in the poem a certain macabre relevance.

Stake me with steel, for my haughtiness

Straddle my storm head with your abyss shroud

 

Finally (and this one is not as compelling to me but I’ll include it for the sake of being thorough) in the song, Celebrate Summer Bolan sings Summer is Heaven in ’77 which was, obviously the year and season of his death (as I said, not particularly compelling, that one).

 

 

* In Ride a White Swan: The Lives and Death of Marc Bolan written by Lesley-Ann Jones.

 

©2017