Welcome to the next post in the series Letters from America 1985 -1987 that I wrote home to my parents in the UK. My father kept them all in a folder…Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – Letters from America 1985-1987 – October 1985 – Trip to Seattle – Mountains and State Park by Sally Cronin
Barr Trail is one of the Pikes Peak region’s most iconic hiking paths and whether one trains for the annual Pikes Peak Ascent or Marathon, or simply desires to hike it for its own merit, it packs a punch. Beginning at an elevation of approximately 6,800 feet in Manitou Springs, it climbs steadily to 14,115 […]America the Beautiful — tanja britton
Even though these days, anything could be found anywhere, there are still some things you’ll only find in America. In this post, we’ll show you 10 special things, unique to Uncle Sam’s country!10 things you’ll only find in America -Delusional Bubble — Delusional Bubble
In today’s post I thought it would be fun to discuss some of the weirder things that have occurred throughout American History because history is nothing if not highly fascinating. So many strange and coincidental events have occurred everywhere and I was happy to be able to speak and discuss the weirder sides of things […]U.S History ╽Ten Strange Facts You May Have Not Know About From U.S History! — THE CHRONICLES OF HISTORY
There have been many books written about John Fitzgerald Kennedy and his brother, Robert Francis Kennedy, both victims of assassination. In my opinion this is one of the best.
Impeccably researched, this book, ‘The Brothers’ (Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster), written by David Talbot, roughly covers that roller coaster period from JFK‘s inauguration on January 20 1961 to the assassination of RFK on June 6 1968. It was a relatively short period of nearly seven and a half years, yet the whole world had been transformed — and mostly not for the better in my opinion.
Disaster and Tragedy
For me what makes this book stand out is the sheer number of interviews (150+) the author has carried out, with people who were there and in the know. For example, leaders like Fidel Castro of Cuba and Che Guevara seem to emerge like more rounded figures, not merely the one dimensional characters often portrayed in most media over the last sixty years.
More than this, the author tells is it how it was: from the disaster of the Bay of Pigs in 1961 and the sheer hatred generated among those who felt the newly elected president had let their side down by refusing to provide air cover, to the short, fraught, heroic, yet ultimately ill-fated and tragic presidential campaign of Robert Kennedy in the early summer of 1968.
The author does not hold back on analysing the myriad conspiracy theories either, which began to emerge largely as a result of the voluminous criticism which gradually amassed after the publication of the Warren Commission Report in September 1964. And there were other doubters from the word go.
Most intriguing of all is his description of the torture Robert Kennedy went through following his brother’s death. Attorney General to JFK, he remained in his position until August 1964 when he decided to run for Senator of New York. It’s possible that RFK may have thought he was somehow responsible for not protecting his brother more during his presidency.
Treading a Very Fine Line
What is more, for the next four and a half years, up until his own death, Bobby too harboured strong suspicions that the whole truth about his brother’s death had not yet been told.
Nevertheless, in public he always retained a consistent front in support of the conclusions of the Warren Report. He was, in effect, seemingly keeping his powder dry until such a time he could investigate further from a position of strength – namely as President of the United States.
We all know this was not to be, that the so-called ‘Kennedy Curse’ was to strike once again. However, this is a very fine book and I was left feeling that a lot more light had been cast on those often dark, crazy, tempestuous, tortuous years into which I too had been thrown.
Copyright Francis Barker 2020
Pick one song from each album and list why. I accept that challenge. Let’s roll. Can’t Buy a Thrill – “Do It Again” gets the nod. Some have called this a strong Latin beat, the percussion obviously drives this song and provides the framework for the electric piano and expressive guitar solos. The album […]
Imagine being a young kid in a still seemingly stuffy mid 1960s Britain. Anyone would think that even sex hadn’t been truly invented until this wild decade came along. Some of my earliest memories are of fresh, new, exciting sounds over the radio — and two emerging British rock bands in particular.
So you were either a Beatles or a Stones fan, right? Well, I liked them both. I remember when the Rolling Stones eponymous 1964 album (Decca) arrived in our little household and was put on our cheap mono turntable. I was immediately transfixed by the music.
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t really know whether the Stones were British or not. My mother certainly did not like the look of them! She preferred the Beatles, particularly John Lennon‘s humour.
I didn’t know what rhythm and blues was either. I just liked what I heard and played that record until it was virtually worn out! My favourite track, and still one of my favourite Stones songs, is ‘Route 66‘.
Written by Bobby Troup, this was also my first real exposure to the idea of America and Americana in music, about travel for travelling’s sake, not an easy concept to grasp when you are born and bred in an obscure town in eastern England which was so conservative it seemed like Queen Victoria had never vacated the throne.
Evocative Rhythm and Place Names
I was especially entranced by the surging rhythm, evoking movement and travel, but also by the names of towns, cities and states along that famous route. Even now when I here the word ‘St Louis’ or ‘Missouri’, for example, it sends my imagination flying just as it did back then. Sad to say that I have still to actually set foot in the hallowed United States. The nearest I have been is viewing Buffalo across the Canadian Niagara Falls.
So my views have changed a bit over the years. Conservatism and tradition do indeed have a place after all, although I still have very fond memories of that crazy time, particularly the mid 60s, when the Stones were playing American covers so brilliantly.
Of course, messrs Jagger and Richards went on to be great song writers in their own right. Nevertheless, the Stones’ take on this classic, especially influenced by the purist insistence of the late great Brian Jones who did so much to create this superb band, has more than stood the test of time.
Copyright Francis Barker 2020
It doesn’t get much more classic than this song by The Band. I’ve covered the “Playing for a Change” version with Robbie Robertson, Ringo Starr, and many musicians across the world. It’s been covered by many artists but The Bands version will always be the goto version for me. Robbie Robertson said he wrote this […]
If I am ever forced to live on a desert island (not a love island), and can only take one Steely Dan album, I would choose their fifth released in 1976, ‘The Royal Scam‘ (MCA).
Although often called their ‘guitar’ album, largely because it contains some fabulous guitar solos by the legendary Larry Carlton, and others, it wasn’t the easiest choice for me to make. The problem with Steely Dan albums is that they are all excellent and I love them all. The song writing is peerless, along with the musicianship and production. ‘Scam’ made it as my number one purely because it contains my favourite Dan track: ‘Don’t Take Me Alive’ – more of that later.
So what makes this album so good? Well, all of the above and then some. It might be said that this was a transitional album. After the 1974 release of the mighty ‘Pretzel Logic‘ (MCA), the ‘band’ that was Steely Dan fell away after the two leading lights and songwriters, Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, decided touring wasn’t for them.
In many ways this was a shame to me. Jim Hodder was a fine drummer and also singer on their first album. Similarly Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter, who was to join The Doobie Brothers, was a wonderful virtuoso guitarist who had contributed some fine work of his own on the first three albums.
Session Musicians Are King
From 1975 and the recording of ‘Katy Lied‘ (MCA) onwards the Dan would rely more and more on a succession of top notch session musicians to raise the quality of their recordings.
By 1976 musicians like Carlton and drummer Bernard Purdie were featuring in the recording of this album. When it was released the reviews were not too positive, yet when I first heard it as a precocious teenager, I was simply blown away. I had heard all their previous albums, thanks to a guitar playing friend who was into all things American.
Even so, the first track and single, ‘Kid Charlemagne’, to me did not sound too promising at first. It began with a funky, yet heavy sounding electric piano, though the song builds into something wonderful by the end. It tells a rather typical Dan story relating to drugs and associated wild lifestyle.
This track doesn’t have one but two brilliant guitar solos by the irreplaceable Larry Carlton. The most revered, in the middle of the song, is often ranked as one of the best ever guitar solos. The outro solo is, to my mind, almost as good.
A Transitional Album
Track two is one of my all time favourites, ‘The Caves of Altamira‘. It is apparently largely based upon a children’s book by Hans Baumann about a visit to the famous caves in Cantabria, Spain. This is typical Steely Dan, a jazz-fusion oriented song that sends you on a journey back into the mankind’s murky past, basically enlightening your imagination. Great tenor saxophone solo too by John Klemmer.
Then comes my favourite track of all, ‘Don’t Take Me Alive’. It is unusual in that it must contain the best ever guitar intro of all time, played once more by the inimitable Carlton. The song is about a lone, desperate terrorist, seemingly ill at ease with his own thoughts as the situation worsens. There is also a lovely, understated guitar figure before the final chorus, which to me suggests the individual flying through the air, maybe jumping out in a kind of release.
‘Sign in Stranger’ is another great track with much humour and word play. A great guitar solo by Elliott Randall. ‘The Fez’ is one of those rare Dan tracks that has a third writer, namely piano player Paul Griffin. To me this track also points more towards the style of music the ‘band’ would create more exclusively on ‘Aja’ and ‘Gaucho’ in years to come.
‘Green Earrings’ continues this more rock-fusion, funky trend on side two of the vinyl version, with wonderful guitar work by Denny Dias and Elliott Randall.
‘Haitian Divorce’ is one their better known songs and singles, relating a sad, yet somehow humorous tale of a failed marriage. It is also one the Dan’s few nods to reggae.
‘Everything You Did’ is one of those songs which grows on you. At first listening it perhaps sounds like the weakest track on the album, yet its quirky story line and fine Carlton guitar work lift it. It is most noted for the line ‘Turn up the Eagles the neighbours are listening’, a possible reference to the pre Joe Walsh Eagles and their quieter, country rock influences. The line carried enough wait for a reply to be made in a much more famous song later in 1976, namely ‘Hotel California’.
The title track, placed unusually at the end, is surely one of Steely Dan’s most underrated songs. The story is straightforward enough about the experience of immigrants in NYC, yet what is unusual is the songwriters’ serious social conscience, which isn’t normally on display.
So that’s my take upon ‘The Royal Scam’. It has its critics, yet it contains virtually everything musically, with references to their past and future development. It is more polished than their earlier albums, but not nearing the point of ‘over production’ as heard on ‘Aja’ the following year.
Copyright Francis Barker 2020
from Oannes Songs Of Childhood Nostalgia #2 Η σύνθεση της Joni Mitchell ηχογραφήθηκε πρώτα από την Buffy Sainte-Marie για το άλμπουμ της Fire & Fleet…Joni Mitchell / Buffy Sainte-Marie : The Circle Game
The Derecho storm cutting a trail of devastation across Midwest America is an example of how we are all at nature‘s mercy.
A derecho storm is a vast and usually long lasting wind with associated thunderstorms which runs in a straight line, the name meaning ‘straight’ in Spanish.
How often do we see events like this follow on from others, adding ‘insult to injury’? We can only pray that the threat to life is minimalised.
Copyright Francis Barker 2020