Meet The Monkees

Did you know that The Jimi Hendrix Experience was once the opening act for The Monkees, not once, but seven times? It’s true.

I remember as a very young kid watching the monkees on TV. I used to love watching the misadventures of this rock and roll band trying to make it in the music business. It wasn’t until years later that I first heard Jimi Hendrix.

The Monkees TV show aired once a week from 1966 to 1968 and looked very different from most other TV shows at the time. The scenes were typically edited in short clips that cut from one camera angle to another quickly. This was most evident during the selected song the band performed in each episode. Although it was not a style that was used by any TV shows that followed it, the video style became a precursor to many of the first wave of music videos on MTV in the ’80s.

Many people thought back then that the Monkeys on TV were merely actors and none of them could really play their instruments. That wasn’t true. Both Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork could play multiple stringed instruments, Micky Dolenz could play guitar, and David Jones was an accomplished drummer. The producers felt Jones would make a better frontman, so he was handed a microphone and tambourine, and Dolenz had to learn the drums.

While it is true that The Monkeys did not play the majority of the instruments on their first record, they did play on some of it and they were more than capable to have played it all. The problem was that filming a TV show back in the ’60s – especially one as time-consuming as The Monkees was, with the complex editing and camera angles, made it impossible forthe band members to have the time to be in both the recording and filming studios. After about of year of the band protesting they were eventually given more liberty to write their own songs and play the instruments themselves.

The Monkees went on their first live tour during the final year of the show and continued to record and tour until 1971. In one of the biggest mismatches ever in the history of rock and roll, a new up and coming band, The Jimi Hendrix Experience was chosen to open for the Monkees on their 1967 tour. After seven shows, it was decided that the combination was bewildering audiences and not benefiting either group, so the team-up was cancelled.

No harm, no foul … except possibly to the concert promoter who set it up.

The Dave Clark Five’s Greatest Hits

What’s the first band that comes to mind when you think of the British invasion? Probably The Beatles. Now, what’s the second? The Stones? Fair enough. But you should also consider The Dave Clark Five.

The Dave Clark Five was the second band from England to appear on the Ed Sullivan show. The Beatles of course, were the first, appearing on the show three weeks in a row, marking the start of the British invasion. Right on their heels was The Dave Clark Five, stealing the spotlight for the next two weeks. They would make repeat appearances on the show more than any other band; an amazing ten times!

Combining ’50s doo-wop with pop music of the ’60s, The Dave Clark Five’s music lost popularity going into the ’70s. But with hits like “Do You Love Me”, “I Like it Like That”, “Bits and Pieces”, and “Glad All Over”, and the others on this album, their influence can still be head today.

The J. Geils Band – Sanctuary

The J. Geils Band is one of the most underrated bands in the US; except in Boston and Detroit. Boston is understandable. Geils after all, comes from that city. You always love your hometown hero. But Detroit was equally, if not more enthusiastic about The J. Geils Band’s combination of blues, rock, funk, soul, and pop from day one; and Geils loved them right back. They even at one point during an interview, referred to Detroit as their home away from home.

Geils was first and foremost, a live band. If you never saw them perform live, you have no idea what they were all about. Perhaps the album that came closest to capturing their live sound and energy in the studio was their tenth record, “Sanctuary”.

I can’t even pick a favorite song on this album. Every song is my favorite off of it. “Sanctuary” is one of those albums that, when I ignorantly thinned down my record collection, converting everything to compact disc, I never considered parting with. Yes, I eventually bought it on CD, but I was never not going to own this album.

To me personally, “Sanctuary” is memories from my ignorant teenage party days, the album I took refuge in during my early adult years when I felt down and betrayed, and the record I always pulled out when I just needed to f’ing crank it up and jam out.

Musically, it has been and will always be my “Sanctuary”.

Porcupine Tree – Deadwing

“Deadwing” is essentially the soundtrack to a film that has yet to be made. Whether it ever is, remains to be seen. Steven Wilson wrote most of the songs on it as music meant to accompany a screenplay he had written with director David Bennion. Although they were unable to get funding for the film, Wilson decided to record and release the songs in 2005 as part of Porcupine Tree’s eighth album, “Deadwing”. Because he still hopes to have the film made, Wilson has never released all the details of the storyline or the concept behind the songs.

From the songs on “Deadwing”, it’s easy to deduce that the story has a somewhat dark theme to it. The album artwork was also created around the story and has that kind of feel to it and Steven Wilson has confirmed that the songs on “Deadwing” tell a ghost story of sorts. Both Wilson and Bennion have remained fairly tight-lipped about the “Deadwing” storyline, although they did make the first fifteen pages of the screenplay available on the Internet:

Reading experience part one: DEADWING script by Steven Wilson & Mike Bennion (first 15 pages)

I don’t know a lot about the movie making process, but I have to guess that as more time passes, the likelihood of the film “Deadwing” ever being made becomes slimmer and slimmer. Even if the movie never happens, I’m glad Steven Wilson decided to release “Deadwing” as an album. It would have been a tragedy to leave music this good unheard.

Supertramp – Breakfast In America

Oh, those crazy conspiracy theorists.  Sometimes it seems the stuff they can conjure up and  try to piece together is amazing. For example,  did you know that the cover art to Supertramp’s 1979 album “Breakfast in America” was an attempt by the Masons to subliminally prepare us for the future 9-11 attacks on the World Trade Center? Its true, at least according to a 2016 video posted by one such theorist.

According to the video, Stanley August Miesegaes was a 33rd degree Mason who hid clues about the future imminent attack in  his cover artwork for “Breakfast in America”. The cover, which is one of the most well-known from popular music, shows a waitress posing as the Statue of Liberty with the New York city skyline, depicted by various breakfast items, behind her.

According to the video, one of the clues is the “Masonic” pendant the artist is wearing in a picture taken of the artist. Also, there’s the glass of orange juice that marks the Twin Towers as the target of the event to come, and its color is emblematic of the fireball that would later engulf the buildings. Another clue is that the bottom of the “U” and “P” in the band’s name are cut off and consequently, when viewed in a mirror, resemble 911, the planned date of the attack. Also, planes were used in the attacks and the cover art is clearly shown from the perspective of sitting in a plane.

If that’s not “proof” enough for you, well, just watch the video for yourself.

ZZ Top – Tres Hombres

Here’s a big reason you should own ZZ Top’s third album, “Tres Hombres” on vinyl and not on CD: they are not the same recording. Sure, the songs are the same, but when Warne Brothers originally decided to release Tres Hombres digitally, someone felt it would be a good idea to remix all the songs, giving it a more ’80s feel.

It was a very bad decision.

The Vinyl version is the way ZZ Top intended “Tres Hombres” to sound. There’s a reason it became ZZ Top’s breakthrough album in 1973 – it was mixed to capture their sound and style perfectly. This was not an ’80s album. It’s mix of Southern roots, Texas blues, hard rock, with a touch of funky Chicago blues had the ’70s written all over it.

Fortunately, someone at the record company must have seen the err in their ways. When “Tres Hombres” was made available on iTunes, they went back to the original 1973 mix.

Even though the album and digital download are the same version again, I still prefer listening to this (and really any album) on vinyl. I love the touch and feel taking the record out of the jacket and sleeve and there’s something magical about dropping the needle in the groove.

Uriah Heep – Sweet Freedom

“Sweet Freedom” was a slight change of pace for Uriah Heep. Their first five albums were hard rocking adventures that along with bands like Deep Purple and Black Sabbath, marked the early days of heavy metal. This album is a more adventurous than its predecessors, with the band experimenting more with progressive rock elements but still keeping their hard-hitting, aggressive playing.

Two things that really made Uriah Heep stand out from other hard rocking acts in this era were their vocal arrangements, led by David Byron’s powerful voice, and Ken Kensley’s ever-present Hammond B3 organ.

The song “Stealin'” is Uriah Heep’s biggest hit. It was my introduction to their music. I’ve been a huge fan ever since.

Led Zeppelin – Live at the Olympia

One of the greatest things about the resurgence in the popularity of vinyl is bonus content.

Just like when albums started to be reissued on CDs, sometimes the record companies feel the need to include incentives to get music lovers to buy – or rather re-buy – recordings that may already be in their collection.

So how do you get someone who already owned an original copy of Led Zeppelin’s debut album to buy it on vinyl again? You include a previously unofficially released live recording with it as a bonus second album. And if you didn’t still have the original vinyl copy of “Led Zeppelin” because you had a cheap turntable that wore it out way back in the day?

Well…bonus bonus!

The bonus records here is from a French radio broadcast in late 1969 of a Led Zeppelin concert performed in Paris about a month before. Zeppelin’s second album had just been released and the show included songs from both albums, including the John Bonham drum solo extravaganza “Moby Dick”. Bonham’s solo here differs significantly from what appeared on Zep’s first official live album, “The Song remains the Same”.

The thing I find funny, and what is unique with the bonus content included with This vinyl re-release of Led Zeppelin’s eponymous debut, is that there is more bonus content than original material – four sides compared to two. This live recording could have easily been released as a stand-alone new release, and I would have still bought it. But hey…bonus, bonus!

Journey – Captured

It’s funny how you never forget your firsts. Journey was my very first concert and I remember it like it was yesterday. My two best friends and me, the legendary Cobo arena, my favorite band at the time at the height of their popularity, and a foot-long “torpedo” of contraband that was fired up when Journey took the stage (thank you EZ Wider Unrolling Papers).

Now that I think of it, I’m kind of surprised I remember any of it at all; but I do. Vividly. It was musical experience I will never forget and still ranks as one of the best concerts I have ever been to. Some of songs on this album were “Captured” at Cobo Hall, so I just might be on this record.

Yeah, I think that’s me right there! 😅

I guess I’m on a live music kick, I just realized this is the third album in a row I’ve chosen to listen to that is a concert recording. Oh well, I always felt rock and roll is best when it’s performed live.

Fillmore: The Last Days

Today, the Fillmore is a pretty popular concert venue in Detroit. Maybe that name is used in other cities now days as well. I don’t know. What I do know – and what a lot of the younger music lovers around today may not know – is that the name “Fillmore” was taken from a couple of legendary concert venues from the ’60s and early ’70s that were run by a man who was perhaps the greatest concert promoter who ever lived: Bill Graham.

Bill Graham was a German holocaust survivor who fled to France and later immigrated to the United States. He was an entrepreneur and philanthropist who more than anything, respected artistic expression; and believed in the power of music. To help promote the emerging music scenes in the ’60s he opened The Fillmore concert hall in San Francisco. It became the premier venue for bands to play in the United States. Without the Fillmore, the world would probably have never heard the music of Santana, Janis Joplin, Bos Scaggs, The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and many more performers who are hugely influential in pop and rock music today.

Bill Graham is also responsible for the one other thing I collect besides records and CDs – concert tour posters. He would commission local artists to create unique artwork for promotional posters advertising specific shows at his venues. Along with a 32 page historical book, This three record box set also includes a replica of the poster that was used to promote the final shows at the Fillmore.

Bill Graham was a man who believed there could be a balance between financial success and artistic expression. Unfortunately, following the Woodstock festival in 1969, the record companies realized that rock and roll was big business and the intimacy of moderately sized concert halls like the Fillmore gave way to the larger arena rock shows. Knowing the smaller venues couldn’t compete, Bill Graham threw in the towel and made the business decision to close the Fillmore in 1971. He continued to promote bands and concerts into the ’80s. In 1985, he and Bob Geldoff organized Live Aid, a series of concerts that were performed and broadcast around the world to raise millions of dollars for famine relief in Ethiopia.

“Fillmore: The Final Days” captures the music of the bittersweet days that marked the end of a philosophical and musical era. It is a memoir of an unforgettable era in music.