As I type this, 2,700 miles from my home in Los Angeles, the talking head on the television is reporting that the Autumnal equinox brings the fall season to the Northern Hemisphere tonight, September 22nd. And while I can assure you that summer heat rages on back in Los Angeles, and will continue for another few weeks (at least), for this week's playlist I'll play along.
It hasn’t been so terribly long ago that we shined the spotlight on this week’s Mono Monday release, but since it’s such a classic jazz album that it’s actually enshrined in the National Recording Registry, you could do a lot worse than reading about Ornette Coleman’s The Shape of Jazz to Come a second time. Since we wrote that initial piece, however, there’s been a rather depressing development: on July 11, Coleman’s bassist on the album, the legendary Charlie Haden, passed away at the age of 76.
Back in 2006, Haden was interviewed by the television series Democracy Now! about various aspects of his career, and in the course of discussing his work with Coleman, he was posed a question about the origins of this particular album’s title.
Today marks the 62nd birthday of a gentleman who’s brought us many good times.
Oh, sorry, have we already used that joke? Wait, hang on, how about this? One of the founding member of Chic turns 62 today, so…everybody dance!
Nah, the “Good Times” reference is still funnier.
Born in 1952 in New York City, Nile Gregory Rodgers started his musical career as a session guitarist, touring with the Sesame Street band (yes, really), and serving as part of the Apollo Theater’s house band, where he played with a number of R&B legends, including Aretha Franklin, Ben E. King, and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, among many others. But just as Sesame Street changed the lives of so many of us over the years, it changed Rodgers’ life as well, albeit in a slightly different way than most: that band is where – in 1970 – he first crossed paths with bassist Bernard Edwards.
Back in early June – on the 6th, to be precise – we took a look back at the anniversary of Peace Sunday, an huge concert at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena where over 85,000 turned up to listen to music and, at least theoretically, to promote nuclear disarmament as well. If you go back and check out the piece, you’ll see that the bill featured a pretty impressive lineup, but while the show was undeniably done in an effort to draw attention to an important matter, it’s fair to say that its success was seriously outshined by the far-higher profile event which kicked off 35 years ago today.
This is the one that made them a household name. Well, dorm room name. Prior to 1971 the Dead were San Francisco hipsters, with a small presence at the Fillmore East, where they most famously played at midnight.
But despite not appearing in the Woodstock movie, in the spring of 1970 the Dead made inroads with the general public with Workingman's Dead most famously with "Uncle John's Band," which was reminiscent of the work of Crosby, Stills & Nash, who were the most popular act of the season. The Dead never sang that well again, but the track played perfectly on FM radio, which was getting traction in all markets, and Workingman's Dead was finally an LP that you could play for nonbelievers. Prior to this, the name scared them off. And if that wasn't enough, the denseness of the music did. But not on Workingman's Dead.
And then came American Beauty. Which arrived mere months after Workingman's Dead the latter coming out in June, the former being released in November. And despite "Box Of Rain" not eclipsing "Uncle John's Band," despite not having an obvious radio track, American Beauty had fewer rough edges than what had come before and a few tracks so lightweight and catchy that anybody in their bell bottoms could get them.
Were he still with us, today would’ve been Dee Dee Ramone’s 63rd birthday, but the fact that he’s not still with us would hardly be a surprise to him if he were still here.
Yes, we know, that’s some pretty twisted logic, but you probably know what we mean…and we’re pretty sure Dee Dee would’ve, too. After all, we’re talking about a man who once admitted, “I'm really lucky I'm still around. Everybody expected me to die next... But it was always someone else instead of me.”
In celebration of Dee Dee’s B-day, we’re opting out of doing the usual look back at his life and times, mostly because we did that when we reminisced about him on the anniversary of his death, but also because we thought it might be more appropriate to pay tribute to his oft-maligned 1987 solo album, Standing in the Spotlight, since we know that – no matter what anyone else might’ve thought of it – he was damned proud of what he accomplished under the guise of Dee Dee King…well, at least for awhile, anyway.