Monday, September 25, 2017

A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall

A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall was written and released by Bob Dylan on The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan album in May of 1963. At the time, the song represented to many the dawning of a nuclear war apocalypse fresh in the minds of everyone from the October, 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Dylan has said he wrote the song well before the missile scare with the Soviet Union, and stated that in fact, "the lyrics were taken from the initial lines of songs that 'he thought he would never have time to write.'" Wikipedia

The inadvertent timing of the missile crisis and release of the album will always tie the song with images of war. I was reminded of that in recently watching the new Ken Burns and Lynn Novick documentary on The Vietnam War this past week on PBS. The song is used to open the series in episode one, and aptly titled, Déjà vu . As I watched the episode, I thought about how that song is tied to our 60's soundtrack but still rings timeless today with its many themes that have been interpreted many times over. Déjà vu is appropriate now as simply a lesson of history tending to repeat itself . The song is the perfect anthem for our current world events- the political rhetoric between Donald Trump and Jim Jong-un, the environment and climate change, protests of injustice in the streets and on the football field, the weather and natural disasters to name a few headlines of the past two weeks.

What I take from A Hard Rain's a-Going Fall is, be ready. Be ready to deal with the unfairness in an unfair world. That doesn't mean we stop working to make our world a better place, it means, look at the world with an open mind and be there for others who need you. 

A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall
Written by: Bob Dylan

Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, where have you been, my darling young one?
I’ve stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains
I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways
I’ve stepped in the middle of seven sad forests
I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans
I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Oh, what did you see, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, what did you see, my darling young one?
I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it
I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it
I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin’
I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin’
I saw a white ladder all covered with water
I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken
I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

And what did you hear, my blue-eyed son?
And what did you hear, my darling young one?
I heard the sound of a thunder, it roared out a warnin’
Heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world
Heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin’
Heard ten thousand whisperin’ and nobody listenin’
Heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin’
Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter
Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Oh, who did you meet, my blue-eyed son?
Who did you meet, my darling young one?
I met a young child beside a dead pony
I met a white man who walked a black dog
I met a young woman whose body was burning
I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow
I met one man who was wounded in love
I met another man who was wounded with hatred
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Oh, what’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, what’ll you do now, my darling young one?
I’m a-goin’ back out ’fore the rain starts a-fallin’
I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
Where the executioner’s face is always well hidden
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
Where black is the color, where none is the number
And I’ll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it
And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it
Then I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’
But I’ll know my song well before I start singin’
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall 

Copyright © 1963 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1991 by Special Rider Music

*footnote - I've alway loved the cover jacket of Free Wheelin'. It's a picture of Bob with his girlfriend, Suze Rotolo who had just returned from Italy. The picture is genuine. The album has some heavy, deep songs but there they are just walking down a winter street in New York City, happy and in love. That juxtaposition is just one of the reasons why it's one of the greatest albums of all time.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Eric Clapton, Part II - the long run

I start this with a sub-blog that I'll call,
'Legends with Laryngitis' thinking back to October 19, 2016. MK and I had flown into Las Vegas the day before like thousands of other Rolling Stones fans to see "the boys" at the new T-Mobile Arena. As luck would have it, Mick told reporters, "I've got bad laryngitis. I do apologize to everyone who bought tickets." You see, the Stones had just finished their gig at Desert Trip 2016 a.k.a. "Oldchella" where Mr. Jagger first picked up the tickle in the warm desert air. Unfortunately for us, that show was cancelled outright and not to be made up as the Stones were rolling along on their world tour, as I believe Foxborough, Mass. and then Germany were next up at the time.

Then, my birthday present from MK on March 25, 2017 and the Eric Clapton "short" tour at the LA Forum. Eric had just finished a two night engagement at Madison Square Garden and had developed SEVERE BRONCHITIS cancelling the LA shows and rescheduling for this past Wednesday, September 13, 2017. Well now, I'm starting to take this personally.

Next Legend, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, on August 19, 2017. Now third time's the charm as MK and I are crossing our fingers as Tom is on this massive 40th Anniversary Tour and we are praying to Clapton (is god) that the rock 'n' roll heavens can't do this laryngitis/bronchitis thing again to our bucket list plans. Well, the show happens on schedule! Tom and the Heartbreakers were absolutely fantastic and we had a wonderful time. Then a couple of days later I read this on my phone, “As Tom Petty heals from laryngitis and bronchitis, additional changes are required for the remainder of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ Bay Area & Sacramento performances. We share this news with regret, but Tom’s doctor has advised Tom to take additional days off before performing."

What the... we just made that Safco Stadium show in Seattle by the skin of our teeth! Tom did make up those shows, but as Jerry Seinfeld said to Uncle Leo-

Jerry Seinfeld: C'mon, you're lucky to have anybody.

Uncle Leo: Last week you told me I was in my prime, I should be swinging.

Jerry Seinfeld: Swinging? What are you, out of your mind? Look at you, you're disgusting. You're bald, you're paunchy, all kinds of sounds are emanating from your body twenty-four hours a day. If there's a woman that can take your presence for more than ten consecutive seconds, you should hang on to her like grim death. Which is not far off, by the way.

So as of this writing, Mick, Eric and Tom are fine (I'm sure) but their touring days are indeed numbered. But as I write that line, I'm thinking of Mick as the 'energizer bunny' and maybe I still have a shot at the Stones.

And one last thing about laryngitis, or sounding that way. I saw this past week that Bob Dylan's going back out on tour again with his "Never Ending Tour." I miss Bob's voice, maybe a lesson for young singers/musicians not to smoke and mess with the most beautiful instrument you're born with. Smoking is like the lottery. You can be rarely lucky like Eric Clapton (who wonders why he is even still alive). He kept his singing voice while smoking his whole life (not to mention the drugs and alcohol), or you can sound like Joni Mitchell, Stephen Stills and Bob Dylan to name a few of my heroes after a lifetime of smoke. Sorry, the parent in me still sometimes comes out.

Now, let's get back to Eric and that September 13th make up show at the Fabulous Forum that MK and I just saw this past Wednesday.

Here's my smartphone shot as MK and I are seated center back, just up from the floor, thanks love. I'm using this picture to kick off Part II of Eric Clapton and if you missed my last week Monday Monday Music, here is the link to, Eric Clapton, Part I - god and hippy heaven. In Part I, I go into my youth (again?) and Clapton as the quintessential guitar god of my generation notwithstanding Jimi Hendrix, who died 47 years ago today at the young age of 27. Anyway, the show is billed as A Celebration of 50 Years of Music that goes back to Cream in 1967, and I couldn't wait to hear him do Sunshine of your Love as it's part of the setlist, and a little piece of my youth. Sadly, that didn't happen, as he cut it from the encore, but that's ok, I have it on this week's playlist from the Cream 2005 reunion at the Royal Albert Hall.

But, and I say "but" in a good way, Part II of Eric Clapton's story has a lot of acoustic guitar that he features heavily in the middle set of the show. These latest shows are actually a real blessing for the faithful as Eric's recent diagnosis of peripheral neuropathy puts a dark cloud out there. But you would never know, as technically his electric and acoustic playing were sensational and as I said, Eric still has his wonderful singing voice, if only slightly diminished in volume. For me, the highlight was Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out from the 1992 Unplugged sessions. It's a song that speaks to all of us, but for Eric, after his heroin addiction and continued struggles with alcoholism for many years, divorces, and the tragic death of his 4 year old son, Mr. Clapton did indeed live the blues. All of this is covered in the upcoming Showtime documentary, Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars coming out in February, 2018.

I would agree with the NY Times review of the show in March, that the show was 'subdued.' The recent LA Times review is titled, Eric Clapton at the Forum: Was it dullness or was it bliss? I'm going to say both. If you grew up with Clapton, you felt that raw energy right there in the records, the way I feel about the opening act at last Wednesday's show, Gary Clark Jr. Gary just pulls you in with the power of his guitar and voice. This was my second time seeing Gary live, and I wanted more. For Eric, was it a great show? No, but a very good show. This was a performing goodbye and I thank him for the opportunity and bliss. And just remember back as Jack Bruce said at the end of the live Crossroads recording on Wheels of Fire, "Eric Clapton please." In this very long run, please there has been no one like him. Through rock, he became the most influential keeper of the blues for generations across the world through the airwaves and into our beating hearts.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Eric Clapton, Part I - god and hippy heaven

There's possibly nothing that I can write here that you don't already know about Eric Clapton. I'm going to just rely on my memory of those exciting early years between 1967-1974, the period that incompasses my junior and senior high years and the first year of community college for me.

Eric Clapton was born March 30, 1945 and I was born 10 years later (and almost to the day) on March 26, 1955. I bring that up because that is the heart of the baby boomer generation years. For all the rock 'n' roll stars born right after World War II, many got started in the early 1960's and by their early 20's were hitting a magical stride. Eric Clapton's early successes with the Yardbirds and John Mayall's Bluesbreakers set him up for starting Cream in 1966 and then, the release of Disraeli Gears in 1967 with Sunshine of Your Love in the Summer of Love. So, I'm in junior high in 1967 being a wanna be hippie and Eric Clapton is the coolest hippie (with all respect to Jimi Hendrix) on the planet. Notwithstanding Eric's guitar play along with a great singing voice, he had more hair styles and girl friends than anyone. A ten year age difference means nothing now, but the difference between the ages of 12 and 22 are a lifetime where small town adolescent dreams of being part of something bigger got a little squished while being forced to get a haircut and tuck in that shirt.

I'll move ahead to 1969 when Eric formed Blind Faith with Steve Winwood, Ginger Baker and Ric Grech. That album was released in August, 1969 and on August 16th, Blind Faith played the Earl Warren Showgrounds in Santa Barbara. On that night, two of my best friends, Ron Zieman and Paul Hobbs were being driven down the 70 miles to Santa Barbara from Santa Maria, CA by Paul's parents. My buddies were about to actually experience "that something bigger" that I was just referring to above. As Paul's parents dropped them off at the gate, I don't think Paul's or Ron's parents had a clue what their kids were about to see and hear. I spoke with Ron yesterday about this concert and he said, that neither Paul or he (and their friend Brian Punches who came with them) had a clue what they were about to experience. I have the audio of the show on my Youtube playlist for this week and the promoter starts by coming to the mic and pleading with crowd to not let any more gate crashers come into the Showgrounds. Ron recalls the evening by saying it was a transforming event for the boys. He remembers a guy with a brown paper bag sprinkling little paper tabs of acid throughout the crowd. The boys did not partake, but I understand brought some home for souvenirs; something you would hide in the bottom of your sock drawer and look at every now and then, just to take you back to those moments. So the air is heavy with pot smoke, people dancing and two girls right behind the boys take their tops off for the whole show. Yes, there is a god and he's on stage!

Back in 1969, I remember Ron telling me much of what he told me yesterday. I was so damn jealous as this wonderful story unfolded, how the band was fantastic and the people, it was... hippy heaven!

I remember camping with my parents on the Kings River around that time. I had just spent a week up at Hume Lake Christian Camp and then was back with my parents and siblings on a Kings River family vacation. There were hippies camping and hiking all around us. I remember walking back to our camp by the river trail and this 20 something hippy with long hair, beard, plaid shirt and backpack comes walking by me and says, in a friendly low voice, "howdy." Something very small, but a cool memory.

Eric then forms Derek and the Dominoes and releases Layla and other Assorted Love Songs in 1970. Bell Bottom Blues is one of my favorite songs and sign of the times. Then also in 1970, his first solo album, Eric Clapton, which has so many good people on it, such a great classic, including Let it Rain.

Then, the four year absence due to his three year heroin addiction. It's here as I'm getting a little older in 1974 and after reading about his addiction and purchasing 461 Ocean Boulevard that I realized this guy is very human, in fact fraught with frailties. I remember listening to this album in my bedroom, thinking this guy's getting back in the saddle again and he's clean and at the beach. But it's a different time, hippy heaven is over, I'm now in college and where have all the protests gone?  Hey, I have a real girlfriend, a car and I like this new Eric Clapton song, Let it Grow.

Fast forward, September 13, 2017 coming this Wednesday to the Fabulous Forum in Los Angeles is Eric Clapton with Jimmie Vaughan and Gary Clark Jr. I'm going and can't wait, and I've been waiting a long time to see this rock god. I'll let you know my thoughts, past and present in my Eric Clapton, Part II blog next week.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Seals and Crofts and the Tree of Oneness

Quick update 9/9/17 - Paul Hobbs my dear friend and a musical mentor to me requests adding Ridin' Thumb and Tin Town from Seals and Crofts 1970 album, Down Home to the Youtube playlist. I would listen to that album with Paul at his house in high school, so Pauly here you go...

I often get inspiration to write a blog after listening to a song by an individual artist or band. Such was the case last week on my trail run with my trusty Amazon Music Phone App set to online shuffle. The song, Year of Sunday by Seals and Crofts came on from their 1971 (and best album) of the same name. As is so often the case on my runs, I reflect about things and my mind was on Charlottesville and the division of hate spreading across our land. The Year of Sunday is a song that comes from Jimmy Seals and Dash Crofts practice in the Bahá'í Faith "a religion teaching the essential worth of all religions, and the unity and equality of all people."

Now I'm not a religious person but want to emphasise my own secular humanism and spirit in general has a spirituality that continually directs my inner compass. With that said, it doesn't mean that I can't connect with "religious music" or content, in fact I love many different traditional hymns and especially gospel music as essentially the roots to folk, the blues and on to rock n' roll.

So Year of Sunday comes on and a flood of memories and emotions come rushing over me as I played that album to death in high school, but also the current, and why are we still so divided as a nation over race?
We all live in the Year of Sunday
So many things are in store for us
Oh, what a gift to be born in
Sunday's beautiful light way down here in the dusk

People, return to the tree of oneness
Oh, won't you hurry the presence is there
Down on our knees in the darkness of Sunday
We'll find the answers to all of our prayers

So I'm listening to the lyrics and the line, " People, return to the tree of oneness" washes over me. Those are words to live by and guide me. I'm just one person but take great comfort in John Lennon's line, "but I'm not the only one."

Seals and Crofts carried that spirit with them as they strived forward in their personal lives along with that same passion to bring their music forward and "to make it" in the very tough music business. And boy did they make great music! I love their musicianship with Jimmy Seals on guitars, sax and violin (he was Texas State Fiddle Champion at 9 years old) and, Dash Crofts on mandolin and guitars. The combo of acoustic guitar and mandolin were perfect timing in the golden era of the singer-songwriter (shouldn't it be "songwriter-singer," in that order?). Seals and Crofts were a great band as you have to listen to their deep cuts. Other than the 1973 hit, "Diamond Girl," I really didn't care for all their other hits that I didn't include on my playlist below. In fact in putting together the playlist from basically 1970 - 1978, I could hear how their label, Warner Brothers increasingly overproduced that original acoustic guitar and mandolin sound with orchestration and 70's pop arrangements to sell their records. If you have time, go the Seals and Crofts Wikipedia site to get the backstory including their time with Glen Campbell in the band, The Champs and on their homepage for a recent update.

I found it interesting that there is not a lot video of Seals and Crofts in concert or on TV other than their hits. So this playlist is going to be a listening experience and possibly one where you haven't heard many of these recorded songs that take me back to putting on the vinyl and sitting back for a good listen. And as Ringo would say, "Peace and Love."