With Christmas madness upon us, let’s take a detour from the usual rock talk and examine a character from one of the world’s most beloved holiday songs. Yeah, Rudolph, I’m talking about you! Okay, so you were born with a shiny red schnoz and had the misfortune of living in a frozen polar cap with no access to rhinoplasty. And all those reindeer jocks and their fawning cheerleader girlfriends called you names and shunned you because of it. Well, my heart goes out to you. We’ve all been subjected to teasing and taunting; it’s all part of growing up. In recent years psychologists and child development experts have been speaking out against your Christmas song and the TV special it inspired because it depicts the bullying of a physically undesirable misfit. But that’s not what rattles me. What I find offensive is the fact that you, Rudolph, copped out and allowed those conformist reindeer snobs to welcome you into their clique only after you bailed Santa’s ass out of trouble. Man, you should have had more self-respect than that!
It all started because Queen frontman Freddie Mercury had to go to the dentist, and his band was forced to cancel a scheduled TV appearance at the last minute. That bit of serendipity gave the U.K. public its first taste of the menace known as the Sex Pistols. On December 1, 1976, the punk rock band was summoned to the studios of Thames Television’s “Today” program, an early evening live talk show hosted by Bill Grundy. The program’s producers offered its substitute guests the customary assortment of alcoholic treats as they waited in the green room prior to air time. Big mistake. The drunk punks unleashed a torrent of expletives – infuriating scores of TV viewers. The 3-minute interview from hell ended Grundy’s career and catapulted the band to international notoriety overnight.
The 1960s music scene had it all: folkies, mods, electric bluesmen, surf singers, soul scorchers, R&B belters, psychedelic hipsters…and one falsetto-voiced ukelele player who went by the name of Tiny Tim. No course on the decade’s pop culture would be complete without a mention of this eccentric celebrity. Mr. Tim, born Herbert Khaury on April 12, 1932, in Washington Heights, Manhattan, to a Polish Jewish mother and Lebanese Catholic father, personified the “let your freak flag fly” philosophy of the late 60s.
Today, as I give thanks for all the people, events and opportunities that have enriched my life, I would also like to acknowledge my gratitude for the cosmic forces that came together in the 20th century to create the music that saved my soul: rock and roll. I am thankful…
Cutting your teeth…honing your skills…paying your dues…(and, my favorite)…making your bones.Whatever you want to call it, Jimi Hendrix did it all in the days prior to achieving eternal super stardom as the greatest rock guitarist of all time. He played for years in backup bands for such American artists as Little Richard, Sam Cooke, the Isley Brothers and Joey Dee and the Starlighters. He also spent an evening playing backup for English crooner Engelbert Humperdinck and once toured with The Monkees as an opening act. Perhaps more than any other musician in rock history, Jimi Hendrix loved to play. It didn’t matter what, where, when, or with whom.
That was the pronouncement of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on the transformation of the Fab Four from the droll, cheeky mop-topsof 1964, to the lysergically induced hipster-gurus of 1967. Rumor has it that the Queen voiced this “turning funny” verdict to Sir Joseph Lockwood, chairman of the Beatles’ British record company EMI, at a highbrow Buckingham Palace event that took place at the height of the boys’ cosmic journey into all things metaphysical.
December 19, 1980: That was the last time I dropped a quarter into a jukebox and had the pleasure of hearing THREE songs. I’m thinking they were “Brass in Pocket,” “Emotional Rescue” and “Romeo’s Tune.” Why would I recollect those kinds of details? Because they relate to a memorable first date, that’s why. In my heyday, jukeboxes and romance went together like woofers and tweeters. On this date in 1889, the world’s first jukebox was installed at the Palais Royale Saloon in San Francisco. The majestic music boxes would go on to provide the soundtrack to many a 20th century romantic rendezvous.
Okay, rock fans of the ’60s and ’70s, it’s time to get brutally honest and swallow your hipster pride. Can you please admit you’ve heard of country star Tammy Wynette? And, if you have, are you tough enough to admit you’ve heard, or even enjoyed, her 1968 chart-topping single, “D.I.V.O.R.C.E.”? C’mon, fess up! It tells the syrupy story of a couple on the verge of splitsville, who spell out the “D word” so little J.O.E. won’t understand. This tune was just begging to be spoofed! And the first one to do it was Billy Connelly – a wild and woolly guy with a funny accent who lived far across the pond in Scotland.
The late 1960s marked the dawn of the Age of the Rock God, and like the deities of yore, they required grand pantheons. They found them in the form of once-venerated estates that dotted the tranquil British countryside. Here’s a look at some of the grandest and most pedigreed rock residences, starting with the House at Pooh Corner.
“The Iron Curtain.” That was a term I heard often as a kid growing up in the Cold War ’60s. What exactly was this metallic barrier, and who or what was behind it, I wondered. Little did I know that British Prime Minster Winston Churchill had coined the term to refer to the invisible, ideological barrier that separated the free world from the Communist world. But in time, I came to realize that an actual curtain really did exist – one made of concrete. It was called the Berlin Wall, and it held much fascination for me. When I first set foot in the German capital in 1993, my first order of business was a trip to the famous Checkpoint Charlie area to buy up as much memorabilia as I could: from silly touristy things – like a tiny chunk of the demolished wall, encased in plastic, to books detailing the history of the barrier and the incredible stories of East Germans who carried out elaborate schemes to scale or burrow under the wall. But my favorite souvenir is a book that features the incredible amateur graffiti that once adorned the western side of the wall, as well as the more professional paintings that cover the structure’s few remaining remnants. The most famous image of all is known as “The Kiss.”