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Welcome to Rock of Agers

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Stones Return to Their Blues Roots

When they first started performing, the Rolling Stones set list was heavy with songs from American blues artists. Now, with their latest CD entitled Blue and Lonesome released earlier this month, the Stones have returned to their blues roots.

The album features 11 covers by such legendary bluesmen as Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter, and Jimmy Reed.

Here the Stones talk about how the retro-yet-still-new CD came to be in a feature article in Rolling Stone magazine.

And here you can read Rolling Stone's 4-and-a-half-out-of-5 star review of Blue and Lonesome.

And finally here is a Spotify playlist that NPR compiled of the new Stones covers and the original versions, as well as some of the earlier blues and R&B covers that the then-young Stones first played.

The early Rolling Stones live ...
... and the Stones today more than 50 years later

Friday, December 2, 2016

What's It Like Meeting Bruce Springsteen

2 Jersey boys hanging out in Kennesaw, Georgia.
For the later years of the 1960s, The Animals were my favorite band. If the Animals had a leader, it has always been singer Eric Burdon. Now I've never met Eric personally, but I should remedy that in February when I plan to interview him for a book on classic rock I'm intending to complete before 2019.

From 1969 to the end of the 20th Century, my favorite band was the Rolling Stones. I wouldn't say I was obsessed with them, but I did adopt much of their swagger and convinced my wife to name our only son Michael (Mick Jagger) Keith (Keith Richards). But despite my fandom and the fact that I've only missed one Stones tour since 1969, I've never even been close to meeting Mick or Keith and I doubt that will ever happen.

For the past 15 years or so, my favorite group has been Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. As a fellow Jersey boy, I have long admired Springsteen's songwriting and political/humanitarian stands. In fact, of all the artists of the 3rd age of Classic Rock (the 70s), Springsteen is the most accomplished and the most relevant today. And the E Street Band which he dominates is, and has long been, the greatest bar band in the land.

Today, I got the chance to meet my most admired rock and roll icon when Bruce Springsteen appeared at the 2nd and Charles book store in Kennesaw, Georgia.

I truly am amazed that I got one of the much sought-after tickets to the event. This was the second mini-tour Springsteen had undertaken in support of his widely-praised autobiography Born to Run. In Philadelphia, tickets had sold out in minutes and resellers were offering a chance to get close to Bruce for as much as $1,500. (The actual cost of the ticket was the price of a book and a service fee).

When I saw Springsteen was coming to Kennesaw, which is only a half-hour from our Atlanta apartment, I knew I had to try to be there. The tickets went on sale at noon on the Monday before Thanksgiving and I promised to try to get one immediately.

However, since I was in Orlando at Universal Studios having fun with my 2 grandkids, I didn't remember to check the website until 12:13. I was absolutely certain I was too late, but you can imagine my jubilation when I saw the message: To complete your purchase click here.

Now normally, as a writer, I would detail the Meet and Greet. But instead I decided to just enjoy the "magic" moment and chat with fellow fans in our 2-hour wait to see Springsteen, exchange a few words with Bruce, have a picture taken, and receive an autographed copy of the new Born to Run autobiography, which is currently number 8 on the New York Times best seller list.

I was certain I could find a first-person account of the extremely exciting, well-run event (and yes, the crowd did scream Bruuuuuuuuuuuce when we first spotted the artist arriving in an Escalade). As I anticipated, I did find such an account written by Craig Schnieder of the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Here it is:
So I’m talking with Bruce Springsteen Friday morning and ...
Wait, let’s stop right there. That sentence was four decades in the making. For me, the idea of talking to Bruce Springsteen is crazy high-end bucket list stuff.
But there I was, sharing a moment of his undivided attention. It only lasted seconds, as I took my turn stepping up to him at an event where you receive a signed book of his in Kennesaw. But those seconds will last the rest of my life.
Much as I dreamed about meeting him, I fretted over it.
To continue reading the article to discover what it's like to meet Bruce Springsteen, click here.
Encore
Here is the Facebook entry I posted about the event ...
It might not be quite as powerful as a personal prayer from the Pope, but I got a benediction from The Boss today.
When I thanked Bruce Springsteen for his music and his stands for social justice at his meet and greet in Kennesaw, Georgia, he grabbed my hand and said, "Thanks and bless you brother."
So I have now officially been blessed by Bruce.
He laughed when I told him we were both Jersey boys, but he got all the musical and the writing talent.
By the way, his autobiography Born to Run, which was why he was in town, is a great read. You should check it out.
We also chuckled at the fact we both saw the same concert in 1966 - The Blues Magoos, The Who, and Hermit's Hermits. Bruce saw it in Asbury Park and I saw it in Philly.
Even though it was only a brief encounter, it was definitely worth standing in line for 2 hours with hundreds of southern Springsteen fans with all of us swapping concert stories.
I spent much of that time talking to Jennifer, a 39-year-old single mother who drove 6 hours from Muscle Shoals, Alabama to meet Bruce.
Jennifer was nervous and kept asking me what to say. But Bruce took care of that when he smiled, hugged her, and kissed her on the cheek. All she could do was beam.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Eric Burdon Let's Me Ride in His Musical Time Machine


I first saw Eric Burdon and the Animals live at Steel Pier in Atlantic City at the Jersey shore in 1966. I saw them once again last night at the new City Winery in Atlanta where I now live.

Here are some of my thoughts on hearing Eric and some of the same songs live 50 years later.

Mama Told Me Not to Come
This song, made famous by Three Dog Night in the 70s, was originally written by Randy Newman for a solo album Eric Burdon never did record. Interesting choice for a show-opener.

When I Was Young
When this song came out in 1967, I never envisioned that I would be using it in a classroom decades later.

Don't Bring Me Down
Flat out one of my favorite songs of all-time. I was still playing this in bands in the first years of the 21st Century. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have been covering this in concert for years. Animals played this at Steel Pier 50 years ago.

Inside Looking Out
Liked this song when it first appeared on the album Animalization. Later covered by Grand Funk. Played it a few bands in the late 60s and 70s. Animals played this at Steel Pier concert.

Monterey
With his new keyboard-less band, Burdon played the historic Monterey Pop festival in 1967. This began his psychedelic approach to music. "Monterey" was written to capture the essence of that first major music festival. One of the greatest 2-chord songs in rock.

The Fool
This Sanford Clark cover is from the original Animals last album Before We Were So Rudely Interrupted, recorded when the group briefly reunited in 1977. Harkens back to the pure blues sounds of Animal tracks like "I'm Mad" and "Smokestack Lighting."

In the Pines
Another traditional blues song. This one features Burdon's new keyboard player on New Orleans style piano.

It's My Life
Crowd sing-along here. A new arrangement, but still recognizable. Bruce Springsteen credits the Animals with a tremendous influence on his decision to become a musician and a jazzy version of this song was a staple of the early years of the E Street Band. The Animals played this at Steel Pier.

Bo Diddley Special
Burdon is one of early influential rocker Diddley's biggest fans. This song, which he has been playing live in concert since the early 60s, shows why. Of course, it is set with that famous Diddley beat.

Sky Pilot/Space Oddity
This mashup of Burdon's anti-war song and the David Bowie single that launched his career was probably the high point of the concert for me. Before beginning the song, Burdon, who himself is now 75, talked about Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Leon Russell, and a few others who the rock world lost in 2016.

Bring It on Home to Me
The Sam Cooke classic, as done by The Animals, became a staple of garage bands of the 60s. Anmals played this at Steel Pier.

The House of the Rising Sun
What's to say. This is still the greatest slow song to come out of the British Invasion. When you think Animals, you think House of the Rising Sun. Great arrangement tonight. Began with acoustic guitar and vocals, then band members played their way in. Of course, played at Steel Pier and thousands of times since.

Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood
Originally written by Nina Simone, Burdon and the Animals made the song one of their own. Animals played this at Steel Pier.

We Got to Get Out of This Place
After "House of the Rising Sun", this is the most recognizable hit for the original Animals. It has been named the favorite song of Vietnam Veterans. Speaks of the eternal desire of so many to escape the working class life of a small town. Animals played this at Steel Pier.

Hold on I'm Coming
Originally recorded by the great Stax duo of Sam and Dave, Burdon has been closing with this song on this tour. The big difference is this is the first time since his 1970s involvement with the soul band War that Burdon has been touring with 2 horn players so it allows him to perform this horn-driven song.


Encore 1
Songs that Burdon and his new Animals have been playing on this tour that they didn't play in Atlanta and I would have enjoyed hearing:
  1. "See See Rider "- my favorite Animals song until it was replaced by Don't Bring Me Down.
  2. "Spill the Wine" - Burdon's huge (and last hit) with War.
  3. "Darkness Darkness" - cover of the 60s hit by Jesse Colin Young
  4. "For What It's Worth" - one of rock's great protest songs recorded by Buffalo Springfield
Encore 2
Don't Bring Me Down (live on this tour)


Encore 3
Space Oddity/Sky Pilot (live on this tour)

Monday, November 14, 2016

Eric Burdon 50 Years Later

Eric Burdon and the original Animals
Eric Burdon still performing today

2016 definitely hasn't been kind to classic rock and its fans.

We have seen the deaths of several great artists from the classic rock era including David Bowie, Glen Frey, Paul Kantner, and Keith Emerson. Just in the last few days we've witnessed that list grow with the deaths of Leonard Cohen and Leon Russell.

Of course, we will always have the music these artists produced and the memories they gave us, both on our old stereos and live in concert.

And I think the deaths of so many well-known producers of the musical sound for us Baby Boomers has given a renewed appreciation of those artists such as Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, the Stones, Pete Townsend and Roger Daltrey , Neil Young, and Rogers Waters who are still playing like they all did at the costly, yet hugely successful 2-week Desert Trip festival last night.

I say all this to explain why I am so excited to see Eric Burdon tonight at the City Winery here in Atlanta and hear many of my favorite Animals songs from the 60s and 70s performed by his new band.

From 1964 to 1969, Eric Burdon and the original Animals, who like the Beatles, the Stones, the Kinks, and the Yardbirds were all part of the British Invasion of the mid 60s, were my favorite group.
By 1970, the Animals were no more and the Rolling Stones moved into my top slot, a position they held until about 2000 when Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band replaced them.

But even though the Animals disbanded, decades ago,  Burdon has continued to make music, first as the singer for the band War, then as a solo artist and finally as a leader of several different bands playing the Animals top songs and other blues-type tunes.

I first saw the Animals live in 1966 at the historic Steel Pier in Atlantic City, New Jersey. They had just released 2 of my all-time favorite Animal tracks - "Don't Bring Me Down" and their cover version of "See See Rider."

Now I had seen a few other bands including the Who earlier and I have seen hundreds of bands since, but this was the 1st time I watched a band that I secularly worshipped.  It's a memory of a special day that remains deeply embedded in me.

So to Eric Burdon, and all of those early rockers we have lost and all of those who are still here, a profound thanks for your music and the accompanying memories.

And a special not to Mr. Burdon: If you hear a 64-year-old Animals fan scream out "Don't Bring Me Down" and "See See Rider " in a few hours, please play those great songs. After all, you don't often get the chance to remove 50 years from your life and live again with all the pleasure of a 14-year-old hearing his favorite band live in concert for the very first time.

Encore - My Top 10 Animals Tracks Listed Chronologically
  1. "House of the Rising Sun"
  2. "I'm Crying:
  3. "Boom Boom"
  4. "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood"
  5. "Bring It On Home"
  6. "We Got to Get Out of This Place"
  7. "It's My Life"
  8. "Inside Looking Out"
  9. "Don't Bring Me Down"
  10. "See See Rider"

Thursday, November 10, 2016

In The Hall: On the Road with a Magic Bus

Like so many members of the Baby Boomer generation, music - specifically rock and its related siblings country, blues, soul, gospel, and jazz - has played a central role in my life and the society surrounding it.
Cleveland DJ Alan Freed, who is credited with popularizing the term rock and roll, also is acknowledged to have staged the first rock concert on March 21, 1952. On March 26, of that same year I was born, meaning that rock music, which has shaped me in so many ways, predates my arrival on the planet by only 5 days.
Recently, I visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland for 2 days of exploration and research. In this ongoing series of posts entitled In the Hall, I will offer some glimpses of what you can find there if you too (or U2 in rock lingo) do visit the national mecca of rock history.


Rock music is replete with traveling songs and motifs. Pink Cadillac. On the Road Again. Get Your Motor Runnin'. All Come to Look for America. Hey Little Travelin' Band.

When the artists who write and perform those songs first start out in the business, they travel by car or van. If they are lucky enough, a favored few, like Elvis Presley, eventually get their own private jets. But for many rockers, the main source of movement is provided by their tour busses.

And one of the more famous, the one used used  Johnny Cash, is now on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

Cash used the touring bus called the JC Unit One for the last two decades of his career.

"I have a home that takes me anywhere I need to go," Cash wrote in his 1997 autobiography. "It cradles me and comforts me. It lets me nod off in the mountains and wake up in the plains. My bus- we call Unit One. I love my bus. It really is my home. When I make it off another plane and through another airport, the sight of that big black MCI waiting by the curb sends waves of relief through me."

ENCORE - Some Bus Facts
  • Cash spent $553,000 customizing the bus in 1980.
  • He sold the bus in July of 2003 after his beloved wife June Carter Cash, who rode with her husband on his trips, died. Cash passed away 2 months later.
  • The 2nd compartment was for Cash. It contained Jamaican mahogany wood paneling and and doors. Since Jamaica bans export of that wood, the mahogany was first made into crates and then smuggled into the US.
  • Since Willie Nelson frequently traveled with Cash as part of their Highwaymen group, mahogany was probably the only illegal substance big in Jamaica on the bus that begin with the letter "M."
  • All the closets were lined with cedar.
  • Each of the compartments was equipped with a TV and a stereo, with individual remote-controlled antennas.
  • Cash had a rotisserie oven installed on the coach because of his love of barbeque.