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Robert Palmer

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Vinegar Joe was an English band that had a very unique problem. Most groups have trouble finding a good lead singer. That wasn’t Vinegar Joe’s problem. Their problem was that they had two good lead singers in Elkie Brooks and Robert Palmer. Since the lead singer has a lot to do with the sound and face of the band, having two good lead singers is one too many. Oddly, both singers went solo and Vinegar Joe disbanded without leaving a mark on the rock scene.

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For anyone to make a blanket statement that Warren Zevon was as crazy as the characters in his songs, would most certainly be an over statement.  Yeah, in many ways he was just what you would expect from a rock star whose life was pretty much sex, drugs and rock and roll.

There was, however, a side to him that you not expect to see from hearing his very wild and vivid songs.  I got to know some of that side when Warren spent some time living here in Philadelphia.  If all you know about Warren Zevon is his song Werewolves of London, then you are missing a lot.

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August 1, 2 & 3, 1969

There is no doubt that the most remembered musical event of the year 1969 was Woodstock.  It not only made national, but international headlines.

However, there was a concert event that took place just a couple of weeks prior to Woodstock that was actually a much better live music experience. The Atlantic City Pop Festival was also the very first large scale festival on the east coast. It still gets no credit for not only pioneering such a concert events but for doing it right.

While there were some minor issues with off and on rain (I don’t remember it ruining any performance), the theft of some merchandise and a few did try to climb the fences, but for the most part this was a very well organized event. Perhaps you have to be totally disorganized to get real attention.  Woodstock was certainly a mess compared to the AC Pop Festival.

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August 11, 12 & 13, 1967

The summer of 1967 was a real turning point in Rock music. The summer began with The Monterey Pop Festival in California. That was the first time that many people first heard or heard of The Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin with Big Brother and The Holding Company, The Who and Jimi Hendrix. 

Soon there were newspaper and magazine articles about the new music and culture.  Time even ran a cover story about it. A song written and produced by John Phillips of The Mamas & The Papas “San Francisco (Be sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)” by Scott McKenzie was number one on the US singles charts.

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There is something about a live performance of a song that in some cases makes it better than the studio version.  While with the live performance you don’t get a chance to do a second or third take, there is nothing like the response of a crowd to bring out the best in an act.  Some acts biggest selling records were live albums.  Here are ten of the very best.

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The debate on using strings in rock and roll is as old as the genre itself.  Purest would have no strings at all.  Their claim is that there should never be strings in rock music because it takes away the very heart of the music.  Others argue that strings can be used to create the right mood as long as it is done tastefully.  There are points well taken on both sides. Where do you stand?

Are there times when strings can be used in rock without the song losing its rock status? Sure, it depends on how it is used.  There is nothing wrong with other string instruments besides the guitars in of themselves.  You may take the side that violins and cellos don’t belong in rock music because of the sound that they make. Rock isn’t supposed to be that pretty.  It is supposed to be hard and raw and not sound like pop music.  Strings can take away that edge that makes rock-rock.  As a producer I would be very reluctant to “sweeten” any rock song with strings.

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Where did classic rock come from?  What makes a group or song classic rock?  What influences made it possible to become one of the most popular forms of music ever? 

Almost all forms of music were an influence on classic rock. The movement borrowed from almost every genre that preceded it. There is a little R & B, Blues, Jazz and Classical music in almost every classic rock act.   Mostly it would depend on the group or artists as to what influenced them the most. One form of music that was a major influence was the American blues scene of the 40’s and 50’s.  It was the first love of Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, ZZ Top, Jimi Hendrix, Ten Years After, The Allman Brothers, and even Fleetwood Mac. Groups like Procol Harum, The Electric Light Orchestra, The Moody Blues, and Yes were all very much influenced by classical music.

Rock Quiz!

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TRUE OR FALSE

1) Neil Young’s album AFTER THE GOLD RUSH contains a photo taken in Philadelphia.

2) Keith Richards had all his blood replaced with a fresh blood In order to kick his drug habit.

3) Jimi Hendrix once played guitar for the Isley Brothers who became famous for “Twist & Shout”

4) Alice Cooper was not only a runner in high school, but his team won the state championship.

5) Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Holly, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Pete Ham all died at age 27.

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The rock of the fifties all but disappeared in the sixties with the advent of Motown and other R & B acts.  While The Beatles changed all that, there were several other acts that laid the ground work for the more progressive form of rock that dominated the 70’s.

One of the measuring sticks as to what is really classic rock and what isn’t is just how far they strayed from their Garage Rock roots. The Rolling Stones, The Kinks (whose early songs were among the very best Garage Rock ever), The Animals were all part of an influence often called Garage Rock.   While these UK rock groups had more staying power, not all the Garage Rock Bands were part of the British Invasion. 

All across the US, groups that were primarily very young performers who often learned their craft by practicing in a garage, starting making the charts.  The music was raw and loose, but generated new excitement into the music.

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5)  GIANT STEPS by John Coltrane

This album was released in 1960, but was actually started in May of 1959.  Two weeks earlier John, along with those who helped on this record, had finished working on the classic Miles Davis’ album KIND OF BLUE.

GIANT STEPS  was Coltrane's  introduction to the melodic phrasing that came to be known as Sheets of Sound.   Downbeat Magazine Jazz critic, Ira Gitler, first coined that term in 1958.   He used it to describe the new, unique improvisational style of the Jazz great that featured progressive chord changes.  It was called Coltrane changes by the many Jazz and rock artists who were influenced by the unique approach. Unlike the best Coltrane album up to this time, the gold record BLUE TRAIN which did not stray from the hard line Be Bop of the time, this LP would break new melodic and harmonic ground in jazz and rock. 

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The fifties produced a whole host of new recording stars. Many of those who were listed as rock stars were actually pop performers. From the very beginning there was a line drawn between the real rockers and those who simply had hit records that were in more of the traditional popular music than the new rock music.

This gray line continues to this day when trying to decide what is considered classic rock and what isn’t. Classic rock has its roots in the real rockers of the 50’s. There are many ways to hear the differences. For the most part it isn’t that hard, but some artists try to sit on the fence in order to have the largest possible audience. Some, Like Elvis Presley, start out as rockers and then turn pop.

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There are so many great albums, bands and singers that never "made it big" or hit the mainstream through the years. So it is very hard to rank and choose just five of them. I did however end up picking what I think are my own top five. Of course others might disagree or have their own personal favorites... so let me know albums you would add to the "best albums you've probably never heard" list in the "Comments" section at the end of the article!

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This is a special collection of radio and music advertisements and memorabilia spanning decades!  From WMMR to WIBG, there are some great ads and photos here.

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