Over the years the art of designing album covers has been almost as appealing as the music inside. Artists were often commissioned to draw or paint a cover that fit the group or title of the record. Some were real works of art and others were just plain strange.
One of the strangest album covers of all time was one that not many people even saw. The group was called Pigeon. It is often said that you can’t judge a book by its cover. That was often not true of album covers. Pigeon was a very good example. Their cover featured a dead pigeon that was in a sandwich. This bad taste cover was almost as bad as the record itself. I will spare you the viewing of the cover and instead will concentrate on ones that were a lot more cleverly and/or artfully done.
When interviewing rock stars about what were their biggest influences, one of the albums that almost always comes up is THE VELVET UNDERGROUND & NICO. The album was recorded in 1966, but not released until 1967. The startling record was a major departure from the mainstream of Rock music at the time.
Like so many things in life, the stars had to be aligned for it to have even come to pass. The dominoes began to fall in place when Lou Reed decided to leave NYC and go to Syracuse University to study English/Journalism.
Besides being removed from the campus radio station for his taste in music, Lou was thrown out of the R.O.T.C. and grew his rebel roots. One of his major turning points was meeting and studying with Delmore Schwartz. It was Delmore, who himself was at one time considered to be a young rebel in the literary field, who encouraged Lou to follow his heart.
In April of 1968 WMMR started broadcasting the Marconi Experiment hosted by Dave Herman from 10 PM until 2 AM. The experiment is now 50 years old and is a total success.
It wasn’t always smooth sailing. From the beginning there was plenty of competition. The very day that Dave Herman launched his program, WDAS-FM, headed by legendary DJ Hy Lit, started broadcasting album rock music on pretty much a full time basis. Both stations were gunning for the rock station WIFI that I formulated the year before.
Not long after I left WIFI to join WDAS, WMMR went full time album rock. WIFI dropped out of the battle early on, but WDAS hung in for a few more years. Those of us who were part of the WDAS staff were always envious of WMMR’s better signal and the money that they had to promote the station. While they didn’t have huge budget, WDAS had almost nothing.
So how could you make it to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame and still not be a name that the average fan doesn’t recognize? Aynsley Dunbar found a way.
Ever since he was a kid in Liverpool, England he was attracted to playing music. At first he was attracted to the violin. His parents, however, were convinced that the seven year old wasn’t serious about his interests. When they finally decided to buy him a violin, he had developed an interest in the drums, thanks to a TV show that he saw featuring a drum trio.
At the same time The Beatles and other Mersey beat groups were making a name for themselves, Aynsley was playing with lesser known groups like Derry Wilkie and the Pressmen and The Mojos. His stint with the Mojos lasted from 1964-1966. The group was popular enough to get the attention of some other artists in London.
It is pretty well known that athletes have a love affair with music. The reverse is also very true.
The many years on the air have afforded me the opportunity to talk to many pro athletes and rock stars. They always say the same thing. The rock stars would like to be pro athletes and the athletes would love to be rock stars. It is more than just thinking the grass is greener. They know full well the pitfalls.
Some pro athletes are actually pretty good musicians. When Tommy Hutton was playing for the Philadelphia Phillies, he also performed in some local clubs. I had him on the air where he played guitar and sang very well. That probably surprised the fans who thought he was just a slick fielding first baseman.
At first glance you may wonder when Steve Van Zandt has time to sleep. He has so much going on that it would seem that there are just not enough hours in the day for him.
Little Steven first surfaced on the worldwide music scene as a member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. The two have been friends for many years, but contrary to popular belief, Steven was not an original member. While he did perform with Bruce’s early band called Steel Mill, he didn’t officially join the E Street Band until 1975 after Bruce had already recorded and toured. Instead Steven was working with the group that he co-founded called South Side Johnny and The Asbury Jukes. He and Bruce wrote songs for that group which enjoyed some moderate success.
One of the most frequently visited articles on this website is “Rock Venues That Are No Longer There”. The story takes a closer look at some of the places that spawned the music that rocked the late 60’s and 70’s in the Philadelphia area. It has prompted the most comments of any of the stories I have written.
As time moves on and changes are made to the landscape of the cities of this country, property that once housed clubs are now condos or business offices. No one could argue that these changes are more profitable and some would say a much better use of land. Still, it is sad to see so many historic clubs fade away.
Like Philadelphia, New York City has lost a large number of historic music venues. You can no longer go to the clubs that made it possible for many huge stars like Bob Dylan, The Talking Heads, Patti Smith, The Velvet Underground, and countless others to have a starting points in the big apple. They all are now just a memory.
You can now add another famous club to the list. The legendary B B King Blues Club is now closed. The idea for a small intimate club in the big city was the brain child of the blues giant B B King.
The legend goes that Carlos Santana went from being a street musician to one of the best- selling artists of all time. True or not, his rise was truly spectacular.
It didn’t start out that way. After the group was first formed they auditioned for Chet Helms promotor of San Francisco’s hot new club called the Family Dog (and promotion company). That venue was allowing local bands make a name for themselves. Chet, who was often given the title of “Father of the Summer of Love”, was instrumental in making San Francisco a music hot spot but he missed this one. He told Carlos to give up music - his style of Latin Rock that would never work and to keep his day job. That day job was washing dishes.
The answer to a great rock trivia question is Billy Preston. The question is- who is the only keyboard player to play for both The Beatles and The Rolling Stones? But Billy Preston is much more than the answer to a trivia question.
Billy Preston was highly regarded among his peers. Besides playing with both The Stones and The Beatles, he also played with Eric Clapton, Aretha Franklin and Sly Stone. Prior to becoming one of the most sought after keyboard studio musicians in all of Rock music, Billy Preston learned his craft from some of the best including Ray Charles and Little Richard. His recording career started while he was still in high school when he recorded for the legendary Sam Cooke.
Many Rock and Roll historians have long questioned the origins and birth of Rock and Roll music. The name Rock and Roll itself is subject to questions as to who first used it. Credit is given to DJ Allan Freed for first using the label Rock and Roll while he was a disc jockey in Cleveland, Ohio. That was the rather flimsy reason that Cleveland was chosen to house the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
One could easily argue that other cities deserved the honor more than Cleveland. Philadelphia is one city that could certainly make a case for being the birth place of the music. While many consider Chuck Berry the grandfather of the genre, there can be no argument about the first Rock and Roll hit record. That first hit “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and The Comets is cited by many rockers as the reason they got into the music.
Bill Haley got his start in “show biz” by himself being a DJ on a station in the Philadelphia area. While still here he started a band called The Saddlemen. Their music started to out as country, but soon moved into the realm of Country Swing. When the band changed their name to The Comets, they incorporated Country Swing and R & B to create the sound that changed the world of music forever.
The list of people that Mark Andes has played bass guitar for gives you an idea of just how talented he is. While known for his work with Rock musicians, Besides Rock groups, Mark has worked with Jazz, American native music artists and even played on a French artist’s album.
Mark was born in Philadelphia, but since his father Keith was a professional actor, the family moved to Los Angeles to be closer to his chances of working. Music was more of a calling for Mark and before long he was part of the original group from LA called Canned Head. He left the band before they recorded and along with his high school friend, Jay Ferguson started a band called Spirit.
On the surface it certainly appeared that Spirit had all the elements that fit perfectly into the time period. They combined Rock, Jazz and folk to back up the many songs that were filled with topical lyrics of that time period. The group debuted with a self -titled LP in 1968. It was one of two released that year. The first single “Mechanical World” was co-written by Mark and Jay. It was not a big hit.
On the surface calling a member of one of the most successful groups in the history of music underrated would seem totally absurd. But John Paul Jones has lived in the shadows of Jimmy Page, Robert Planet and John Bonham ever since Led Zeppelin was formed. While that trio took most of the glory, it John Paul Jones who was a major factor in the group’s success.
It was the arrangements that Jones did of the music that often separated the super group from just another rock band. Jones has a whole career that the casual fan knows little or nothing about. He is a lot more than a bass player.
John Baldwin (for some unknown reason selected the surname of Jones for a stage name) was born into a very musical family. Both parents were professional musicians. They toured so often that young John had attend boarding schools as a youth.
The beginning of Graham Parker’s career started out like a story book fairy tale. He was working at a filling station pumping gas in England and listening to the radio. After listening for some time he thought to himself, I know I can write better songs than what I am hearing. And so he started writing songs.
Once the songs were written he had to find a way to record them so he put an ad in the paper to find people to play in a backup band. Once the band was in place, the intention was to make a demo recording to get a major label record company interested in signing them. One of the members of the band, Paul Riley, suggested that Dave Robinson, the manager of a local recording studio, was the perfect person to approach. Robinson loved what he heard from the band and agreed to record them. Ironically during the course of recording the demos, it was Robinson who slowly replaced the original members (including Riley) with players that he considered superior. One of those who became the backbone of the band and later a recording artist in his own right was Brinsley Schwartz. Parker was sure that with a name like Brinsley Schwartz that he had been the leader of a German heavy metal band.