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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Bruce Springsteen and Donald Trump: 2 Bosses, 2 Bases, and the Future of the American Dream

Donald Trump in Atlanta Sunday 
Bruce Springsteen was not in Atlanta Sunday, but he had been 3 days earlier.
How is a Donald Trump political rally like a Bruce Springsteen concert?

Let me count the ways.

Now I admit before last week, I had never really considered comparing the two. But on Thursday, I attended a Bruce Springsteen concert at the Phillips Arena here in Atlanta with about 20,000 enthusiastic Springsteen fans. Three days later, I was at a Donald Trump for President rally at the World Convention Center just across the street from the Phillips Arena with more than 10,000 equally rabid Trump followers.

Here's what I discovered:

1. In a post 9/11 America, you have to go through detection screeners when entering a venue to see either Springsteen or Trump.

I passed through the Springsteen screening with no problem, but I was detained by a Secret Service Agent for additional body screening with Trump. Maybe it was because I looked more like a Springsteen supporter than a Trump fan. Or maybe it was just the metal in the belt I was wearing Sunday.

2. Both Springsteen and Trump use music before their shows to set the stage and pump up the crowd's anticipation and excitement.

Rock stars almost always employ music they admire as pre-concert background. Candidates do the same. Trump claims he personally selects the music played before he takes the stage.  On Sunday, the pre-show playlist leaned heavily on the Rolling Stones ("You Can's Always Get What You Want," "Time Is on My Side" etc). The Daily Beast has labeled Trump's choice "arguably the best, most fantastic, and most eclectic campaign list of the 2016 election". But there is a problem. Apparently, Trump has not asked the groups including the Stones for permission to use their songs. Interestingly, Springsteen has also been at the center of a political song choice. Ronald Reagan had to stop using Springsteen's anthem "Born in the USA" when he ran for president in the 80s.

3. Springsteen and Trump are greeted with standing ovations involving thunderous clapping, shouting, and screaming the minute they are seen on stage.

If you've ever been to a big concert or packed rally with a popular politician you know the noise level we're talking about here.

4. Opening questions are often used to get the crowd focused on what's coming next.
During his Radio Nowhere tour, Springsteen would shout: "Can anybody out there hear me?" For Trump on Sunday it was "Are we going to win Georgia or what?" In both cases, the answer was a roaring "Yes1"

5. New "bits" and old "hits" are mixed into every performance.
On his current tour, Springsteen and the E Street Band are performing their double album The River in its entirety.  Several of the River's tracks have rarely been performed. However, the 2nd part of the show is given over to more familiar songs such as "Thunder Road," "Dancing in the Dark" and "Born to Run".  For Trump on Sunday, the new came from the fact that one day earlier he had convincingly won the South Carolina primary. Here's what he had to say about that: "We won with women - I love the women. We won with men. I'd rather win with women to be honest with you. We won with evangelicals. Tall people, short people, fat people, skinny people. We won. It was a beautiful day".
Of course, the candidate interspersed his message with such tried Trump themes as winning ("When I'm President you are going to get so tired of winning") and losers ("They're such losers. Just losing all the time".

Ed Edwards and his son Matt. Both are 100% for Trump. Wife and daughter-in-law Michelle Nelson
isn't so certain. She is currently debating between Trump and Marco Rubio. But she does dismiss the
 3rd frontrunner for the GOP nomination Texas Senator Ted Cruz. "Ted Cruz is evil," Michelle says.
6. Fans are adamant about their admiration.
Noted rock critic Jon Landau wrote these famous words about Springsteen in 1974: "I have seen rock n' roll's future and its name is Bruce Springsteen". In 2016, 69-year-old Ed Edwards of Fayetteville, Georgia, and his 36-year-old son, Matt, of Acworth have seen the future of the America they want and its name is Donald Trump. The father: "He's not a politician. We don't have control of our borders. And if we don't have control of our borders, we have no country. Our country is going to hell in a hand basket. Donald Trump will change that". The son: "I don't think he can be bought. I think he's our last hope. We're screwed without him".

7. Fans not only voice their support, they wear it.
On Thursday, I wore this favorite T-shirt to the Springsteen show.





















This is the back of my favorite Trump T-shirt I discovered at his venue.





















8. The thematic idea of a river and all it can symbolize ran through both performances.

In his song about loss "The River," Springsteen sang these lines on Thursday:
Now those memories come back to haunt me
They haunt me like a curse
Is a dream a lie if it don't come true
Or is it something worse
That sends me down to the river
Though I know the river is dry
That sends me down to the river tonight

Or Trump on loss and the American Dream:
I thought to myself
I'm angry
People are angry because they're tired of being the stupid people.
We have a right to be angry
Because we have been sold down the river.

9. Since both events were live, glitches can, and did, happen.
Springsteen failed severely to hit a note. On the giant monitors above the stage, you could see him chuckling at his failure. For Trump, it was the case of the Day the Lights Went Out in Georgia, which you can see for yourselves by clicking here.

10. Despite the fact that they are incredibly wealthy (Trump a billionaire, Springsteen a multi-multi millionaire) both superstars have come to stand with and speak for the common working men and women of this land.
Don't believe me - run a quick check on Springsteen's song titles or lyrics. For Trump, look at the economic statistics of his most staunch supporters. Or their musical listening favorites.

11. Both are famous enough to have songs written about them.
For Springsteen, it was the Eric Church hit "Springsteen" with lyrics like "When you think about me, do you think about 17? Do you think about my old jeep? Think about the stars in the sky? Funny how a melody sounds like a memory. Like a soundtrack to a July Saturday night. Springsteen, Springsteen, woh-oh-oh Springsteen". It wasn't played on Thursday. For Trump, it was this unnamed song played by an unknown artist on Sunday with lyrics like "Don't be a chump, vote for Trump. He's got the power up in Trump Tower".

12. Because of their power and success in their respective fields, Springsteen and Trump have both earned the title "The Boss."
The Boss has been Bruce Springsteen's nickname since he first began directing bands at the Jersey shore in the 1970s.  For Trump, it's a sobriquet he was bequeathed when he began building his real estate empire in Manhattan and solidified when he became the host of the hit reality TV show "The Apprentice". As the Boss, both had to fire people. Springsteen once fired the entire E Street Band to explore a solo career, but thankfully brought them back together again. "You're fired," became a Trump catchphrase on "The Apprentice".  NBC then proceeded to fire Trump himself over derogatory remarks he made about immigrants as a candidate.

I can hear it ....
 I could go on.  But I think I have established my premise. There are a lot of similarities between a Trump rally and a Springsteen concert. Now, I'm not saying they're identical. There are obvious differences. But in many ways, Trump and Springsteen are mirror images of one another. The words of Trump and the lyrics of Springsteen may be quite different in tone and text, but they are addressing many of the same issues - loss, economic instability, change and uncertainty, fate and the future.  Both talk about the restoration and reaffirmation of America and the American Dream.

One comes at problems from the right; the other the left. Both, I would argue, want to make America great. Trump would add "again".  Springsteen might be more comfortable with "truly for the first time".  Both have expressed ideas how to accomplish that; one through fiery, simplistic oratory, the other through image-enhanced song lyrics. Both want to lead people to their vision of America's promised land.

... I can see it ...
But, as of right now, while both are touring the country, only one is running for President. Ed Edwards and his son have their man and his name is Donald Trump.

No offense to Ed, or his son Matt, or the thousands here in Georgia and the millions across the country who are joining them, or even Mr. Trump himself, but I'm much more of a Springsteen guy. Maybe, despite his lyrics, Bruce just wasn't born to run. At least politically.

But hey Boss - from one Jersey guy to another - how about it? You and the Donald in a winner-take-all struggle for the direction of the American Dream and the very soul of our country. Now that's a series of shows between two great showmen that would definitely satisfy my hungry political heart.

...  My American Presidential Dream Team

Monday, June 20, 2016

5 for Summer 2016

#5 "Cruel Summer" - Bananarama



#4 - "Summertime Blues" - Blue Cheer


#3 - "Sunny Afternoon" - Kinks



#2 - "Summer in the City" - Lovin' Spoonful


#1 - "Summertime" - Janis Joplin

Sunday, June 19, 2016

In Concert: Mudcrutch@The Tabernacle Atlanta 6.2.16



Not everyone gets a chance to relive their past, but Tom Petty is. With fellow Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell and keyboardist Benmont Tench, Petty is playing live with his first band Mudcrutch again for the first time in 45 years.

Here, in their own words, is how Petty and others in the band, are describing that experience to Rolling Stone writer Andy Greene.

I got to see Mudcrutch in their appearance Atlanta and it was clear that they were not only playing great music, but clearly having fun doing so.


Here is the setlist for the show.
  1. ([traditional] cover)
    Play Video
  2. Play Video
  3. (Dave Dudley cover)
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  7. (The Byrds cover) (followed by band introductions)
    Play Video
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  21. Encore:
  22. (Jerry Lee Lewis cover)

Friday, June 10, 2016

Re-Ranking the Great Guitarists: Eric Clapton

Rock music is obviously created as something to be enjoyed. But, as with all creations, it then becomes subject to subjective ratings. Do you like this album? Not like this song? What is this songwriter's best self-penned tune? Who is the better singer? Which is the best band? Some of the most influential ratings in rock come from Rolling Stone magazine. The magazine has rated rock's 100 greatest guitarists.  Not surprisingly, not everyone agrees with the ratings. Here I'll Rock Your Festival's resident guitarist James Gilbert takes issue with a few of the highest placements. 

Eric Clapton #2? Maybe a few decades ago but certainly not now.  

Clapton's playing with The Yardbirds, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Cream, and Derrick and the Dominos cannot be ignored.  It was groundbreaking to say the least, but the drivel that has come from him lately is just god awful.  

Do us all a favor, Eric.  Put the acoustic away, buy back " Blackie " and make some more great music. 

#2? Not even close.


Finally, I note that Danny Gatton did not make the list of the 100 best guitar players in rock.

Why would he ?  

Gatton didn't smash his guitars, set them on fire, strum his guitar like a windmill, or stumble onstage in a drunken drug-induced stupor.  

No. He just beat the hell out of his battered Telecaster every time he stepped on stage like a real guitar player should. 

Oh by the way, Joni Mitchell came in at #75.  Go figure.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Re-Ranking the Great Guitarists: Jimmy Page

Rock music is obviously created as something to be enjoyed. But, as with all creations, it then becomes subject to subjective ratings. Do you like this album? Not like this song? What is this songwriter's best self-penned tune? Who is the better singer? Which is the best band? Some of the most influential ratings in rock come from Rolling Stone magazine. The magazine has rated rock's 100 greatest guitarists.  Not surprisingly, not everyone agrees with the ratings. Here I'll Rock Your Festival's resident guitarist James Gilbert takes issue with a few of the highest placements.

Jimmy Page rated  #3 best guitarist in rock and roll? That's a disgrace. 

Page is overrated.


He was by far the worst of the big three guitarist to work with The Yardbirds.  Of course, it would be kind of hard for anyone to walk in behind Eric Clapton in his prime and Jeff Beck who's playing is unbelievable still to this day.   


Page has played the same in the box blues riffs for the past 40 years. 


My guess is he stole them right along with the songs Led Zeppelin put on their first LP.  


When something works why change it might sometimes be good advice, but it makes for a boring, stagnant guitar player.  And I believe that what Jimmy Page is, despite the legion of Led Zeppelin who would disagree.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Re-Ranking the Great Guitarists - Keith Richards

Rock music is obviously created as something to be enjoyed. But, as with all creations, it then becomes subject to subjective ratings. Do you like this album? Not like this song? What is this songwriter's best self-penned tune? Who is the better singer? Which is the best band? Some of the most influential ratings in rock come from Rolling Stone magazine. The magazine has rated rock's 100 greatest guitarists.  Not surprisingly, not everyone agrees with the ratings. Here I'll Rock Your Festival's resident guitarist James Gilbert takes issue with a few of the highest placements. 

Keith Richards rated #4? Are you kidding me? This is a real smack in the face to every guitar player not in the top 10. As a sideman to one of the best frontmen to ever
take the stage, Richards would certainly make the top 100. But not the top 10 or even the top 20. Richards has songwriting skills which are evident with the success of the Rolling Stones. He also has the stage presence that crowds seem to go for. But songwriting and stage presence and the ability to play the guitar are different animals. I think many real musicians wonder how he has achieved the overrated recognition he has. I guess it's pretty clear that I'm not a big fan of the Rolling Stones. Keith Richards lack of guitar skills is one of the major reasons why.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Re-Ranking the Great Guitarists: Pete Townsend

Rock music is obviously created as something to be enjoyed. But, as with all creations, it then becomes subject to subjective ratings. Do you like this album? Not like this song? What is this songwriter's best self-penned tune? Who is the better singer? Which is the best band? Some of the most influential ratings in rock come from Rolling Stone magazine. The magazine has rated rock's 100 greatest guitarists.  Not surprisingly, not everyone agrees with the ratings. Here I'll Rock Your Festival's resident guitarist James Gilbert takes issue with a few of the highest placements. 

Rolling Stone rated Pete Townsend #10. #10? I think not. I saw The Who at the Fillmore East in the 60s. The highlight of that show for me was the warmup band from New York called The Vagrants. The Vagrants had a then-unknown guitar player named Leslie West. Now West made Rolling Stone's list at #66, but on that night and for the rest of his career, he was always better than Townsend. In fact, the Vagants were a better band that night than The Who. Maybe that's why Pete Townsend smashed his guitar? He couldn't stand being upstaged by an up-and-coming American player. Townsend seems to be trapped in a never-ending world of suspended chords. The chords sound nice when used sparingly, but the way The Who overuse them is tortuous to me. Maybe Pete should use the internet to look up some new chord structures instead of researching porn. That way he wouldn't get falsely accused of porno crime.

--- by James Gilbert

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Re-Ranking The Great Guitarists: Carlos Santana

Rock music is obviously created as something to be enjoyed. But, as with all creations, it then becomes subject to subjective ratings. Do you like this album? Not like this song? What is this songwriter's best self-penned tune? Who is the better singer? Which is the best band? Some of the most influential ratings in rock come from Rolling Stone magazine. The magazine has rated rock's 100 greatest guitarists.  Not surprisingly, not everyone agrees with the ratings. Here I'll Rock Your Festival's resident guitarist James Gilbert takes issue with a few of the highest placements. 

Carlos Santana - Rolling Stone rating #20

If you have heard one Santana song, you have heard them all. The band was crazy good at the first Woodstock. Santana was something new, something fresh in the music world. But sadly that freshness quickly faded. The raw energy and power the band produced in its early days seemed to disappear more and more with each new album release. Carlos Santana As #20? Maybe #120.

Friday, June 3, 2016

OJ's Run Leads to a Night of No Rock Play and No Play

The most infamous car chase in American history
Like millions of other Americans, my wife and I recently watched the 10th and final episode of the TV mini-series The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. 

The series let us relive that historical event and consider how it brought so many concerns to the forefront of American life - racial divides, the question of justice for Black Americans, police misconduct, reality TV, celebrity life, and even the Kardashians.

But for me, O.J. always brings up a unique musical memory. And no, it's not the time that he sat in with the band, although that happened with a few celebrities over the years such as boxing legend Joe Frazier, whom I actually backed on two separate occasions.

In June of 1994, I was playing keyboard in a band called Double Shot. On the night of June 17, we were performing at a bar in Smithville, a small community near the South Jersey shore. Toward the end of the first of our five sets, we noticed that absolutely no one was paying any attention to us. Instead, everyone was scattered around the club, intently focusing on the large TV screens hanging there.

Now I knew we weren't the greatest band in the world, or even the best band I had ever been in, but we certainly weren't bad enough to ignore completely.

At our first break, the bar owner approached us to explain what was happening.

It seems that TV cameras had caught one Orenthal James Simpson being driven by his friend Al Cowlings around the freeways of Los Angeles. The white Ford Bronco was  being followed by dozens of police cars.  And, in some cases, bystanders were crowding the cleared highways and bypasses to see history in the making. No one obviously knew the outcome of this breaking news event, but few thought it would end well since Simpson had been implicated in two murders, including that of his former wife, Nicole.

"Guys, listen" the owner said. "I don't think there's any reason for you to play until this thing is over".

Of course, as soon as he finished that remark, I was ready to ask the question - but what about our money?  Before I could speak, however, the owner continued. "Don't worry, you'll still get paid".

So for the rest of the night, until closing, we sat at the bar, watching the drama unfold. We never did play another note that night.

Today, with the passing of so many years, we now know most all there is to know about the sordid O.J. tale, except the answer to the biggest  question of all - did Simpson actually brutally murder his ex-wife and Ron Goldman and get away with it?

For example, we know:
  1. The Bronco chase began what is considered to be the "3rd most impactful TV event of the last 50 years".
  2. Beginning with the chase, the OJ case dominated all media for months
  3. Domino's Pizza reported record sales on the night of the chase as people didn't want to miss a minute of the unfolding real-life drama.
  4. O. J. Simpson was declared not guilty even though when the chase finally ended, Cowlings had $9,000 in cash in his pocket and, inside the Bronco, police found a just-purchased fake goatee and mustache, a bottle of makeup adhesive, O.J.'s passport, and a gun. Oh yes, and blood from the victims.
But as they say in the news business, no matter how much you think you know, there's always more to the story. And to demonstrate the truth of that contention, I'm willing to bet a thousand dollars more than was found in Cowlings' pockets after the infamous White Bronco that until I wrote this post, fewer than 20 people in all the world knew that the night of the O.J. Simpson Bronco chase was also the only time in my life 5 decades of rock performing that I got fully paid for not playing a full night of music.

Although I also believe that as loud and as badly as many of my bands were, there are a bunch of club owners now wish they had thought of that pay-for-no-play tactic.

--- by Dave Price

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Danny Who? The Best Unknown Guitar Player in Rock

The great Danny Gatton and his Telecaster he made talk
Who is the most amazing American rock guitarist that virtually no one has heard of? For me, that would be Washington DC-based Danny Gatton.

But you don't have to take my word for it. In its March, 1989 edition, Guitar Player magazine gave him that designation and featured him on its cover.

In fact, that's where I first was introduced to Gatton and his incredible playing. The issue included a sound-page record the size of a 45 single featuring Danny on guitar, accompanied by John Prevetti on bass and Dave Elliot on drums.

One listen and I was hooked. I still keep that issue and the sound page in a prominent place in my music collection.

Gatton's jaw-dropping music was a mix of jazz, rock-a-billy, country, and sock hop rock and roll.

I was able to see him live three times: once in my hometown of Bridgeton, New Jersey, once in Philadelphia, and once in Atlanta when my wife and I were living there. Before his show at the Cotton Club in Atlanta, we got a chance to talk to him and he signed the pick guard of my Telecaster. His signature is still there today, although it is a little faded from use.

His music has definitely influenced my playing. He used so many techniques I had never even considered. Things like behind the nut string bends, chicken pickin,' pedal steel licks, jazz chords, old rock-a-billy riffs, string muting, and string skipping.

So why didn't Gatton, with all his talent and innovation, ever get the acclaim and stardom he certainly deserved? He actually told people he enjoyed rebuilding old cars more than playing music. He also didn't like touring to promote his music. Basically he was just a good-ole-boy, content to play DC-area clubs and beat the hell out of his Telecaster.

I still listen to his music and watch his videos on YouTube in hopes of stealing a lick or two. But that's not easy. The guy could do it all and make it look effortless.

I absolutely hated the music that was out in the 80s, but discovering Danny Gatton brought me back to music with the same appetite as the Beatles did when they appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964.

Unfortunately for music and guitar playing, Gatton died on Oct. 4, 1994. He was 49. He died in Maryland, just miles from the DC neighborhood where he was born.

Many people call Feb. 1959, the date that Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and J.P "The Big Bopper" Richardson died in a plane crash in Iowa, "the day the music died'. Don McLean even wrote the song "American Pie" about that tragic date.

 But for me, the real day the music died will always be Oct. 4, 1994.

I feel fortunate to not only have had a chance to listen to and learn from Danny Gatton, but also to talk to him. Now when people ask "Who's that guy Danny Gatton who signed your guitar," I have a good story or two to tell them about the greatest guitarist that very few have ever even heard of.

--- by James Gilbert

Encore:
A half-dozen songs you need to listen to to discover for yourself just how good Danny Gatton was ...
  1. "Sleepwalk"
  2. Sun Medley ("Mystery Train", "My Baby Left Me", That's Alright"
  3. "Harlem Nocturne"
  4. "Canadian Sunset"
  5. "Funky Mama"
  6. Orange Blossom Medley

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Music Making Memories: Michelle by The Beatles

They say the music we listen to forms the soundtrack for our lives. They're right. Hearing certain songs can bring back past moments with such clarity that, even though days or weeks or months or years or even decades have passed, it's like we're right back at our remembered scene again. I guess you could call it audio-fueled time travel. From time to time here at Rock of Agers, we'll be writing about songs and their occasioned memories. If you have such a song, why don't you write about it too, send it to us, and we'll share it here on our rock blog. Just follow our loose format and email it to me - Dave Price - at dleeprice69@gmail.com

In1965, I was the 13 years. I often rode with my Dad as he checked on his cleaning plants he had in different cities in South Jersey.

On this particular day we were in Bridgeton, our New Jersey hometown. We stopped for lunch at an eatery called Mr. Bill's. Now Mr. Bill's was like many small town eateries before the takeover of fast-food franchises - a small, somewhat dark place with a few booths and a long counter located on a main downtown street.

My Dad was always a counter person (I think it was so he could chat more with the waitresses, cooks, and everyone in the restaurant) and so we were sitting there. My Dad had been born in Texas and always favored southern food when he could get it. One of Capt. Bill's specialities was french fries with gravy. So both my Dad and I ordered a plate.

As were eating, "Michelle" by the Beatles came on the jukebox. I had heard the song before, but for some inexplicable reason this playing found its way into the recesses of my mind and permanently lodged itself there.

It wasn't as if anything momentous was happening. I can't recall a thing that was said. It was just a boy and his Dad in a local restaurant eating french fries in brown gravy with some southern hot sauce mixed in.

Now more than five decades later, my Dad, Capt. Bill's and the Beatles are long gone. I'm older now than my Dad was then. But wherever I am when I hear "Michelle" (which, ironically is one of my least favorite Beatles' songs), I'm actually at two places at once.

Of course, I'm where I am. But I'm also back in Bridgeton, just a 13-year-old boy in a small town eatery sharing french fires and gravy with his Dad.


                                                                                                                -- by Dave Price