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Posted by on Dec 14, 2012 in Blog, Music and Concert Reviews | 2 comments

A Song for All Seasons, An Anthem for the Ages

Why “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” by John Lennon and Yoko Ono is the Greatest Christmas Song Written and Recorded in the Modern Era


War is Over by John Lennon and Yoko Ono


John Lennon once said he always wanted to write a popular Christmas song.

Hard to believe, but as accomplished and prolific as The Beatles were for nearly a decade, they never recorded a holiday tune.

So, less than a year after the legendary rock icons dissolved as a group, John and wife Yoko Ono fled London for a new start in New York City. That’s where they would remain for the duration of Lennon’s life. In fact, the controversial duo never returned to England again, not even to visit.

During their earliest months in Manhattan, Lennon wrote a number of songs that would later become one his few commercial flops as an artist, ultimately released as the “Sometime in New York City” album. This creative period largely fueled by intense political activism and protest included an unusual Christmas song that was inexplicably omitted from the 1972 album.  And yet, it would ultimately become a powerful anthem for world peace as well as a timeless melody of hope for all humanity.

Like many great works of creative alchemy, the song wasn’t particularly well-received when released, either by critics or the public. The single wasn’t a hit when initially released in 1971 in the United States. A year later, the single was released in the U.K., where it enjoyed modest success, charting as high as fourth. But by the mid-1970’s the song was mostly forgotten.

The song did later appear on a relatively obscure John Lennon composition album called “Shaved Fish.” But following a stellar track record of commercial and critical successes — both with The Beatles and Plastic Ono Band — no one was quite sure what to make of the odd tune. It certainly wasn’t a mainstream Christmas song in the traditional sense. But it wasn’t quite a political song either, not in the mold of other Lennon classics like “Give Peace a Chance” or “Imagine.” Older people who fancied traditional Christmas music weren’t about to purchase new single by one of counterculture’s most outspoken leaders. And younger fans weren’t all too enthusiastic at the notion of listening to what amounted to a simple Christmas song. The title too was controversial, opting to omit “Christ” from Christ-mas.

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Posted by on Oct 8, 2012 in Blog, Music and Concert Reviews | 0 comments

Searching for Sugarman: Rodriguez on ’60 Minutes’



There are rare few moments of great television.

Last night offered us such a moment.

On CBS’ “60 Minutes,” the long lost hermit singer-songwriter Rodriguez was featured in the third segement.  This was one of the most heartwarming and inspiring stories I’ve ever seen on a program that has given us many extraordinary memories over the years.

The segment told the remarkable story of a long-forgotten folk singer from Detroit, simply named Rodriguez.  Forty years ago, he made two albums, both of which bombed commercially in the United States.  So, Rodriguez essentially quit the music business entirely and spent the next three decades working as a day laborer.  He stayed poor, living in a run-down shack outside of Detroit.

Meanwhile 15,000 miles away on the other side of the world, his records somewhow caught on in the nation of South Africa.  During the fall of Apartheid, he unknowingly became a huge star, although he never received a dime in royalties nor knew of his fame in that faraway land.  South Africans who knew every song and rang Rodriguez’s lyrics presumed he was dead.

But Rodriguez was very much alive.

This remarkable segment tells Rodriguez’s life story, which eventualy led to a movie which is out now called “Searching for Sugarman.”  The tale of how the movie, which debuted this year at the Sundance Film Festival, came to be is just as moving emotionally — shot largely on an iPhone by a one-man production team with no budget led by a broke Swede, who heard about this amazing Cinderella tale and decided to make a film which has now changed both of their lives.

If you cherish the notion that art is not a commodity but a state of consciousness, or if you simply want to sit back and enjoy a great story, I urge you to watch this clip:



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Posted by on Sep 21, 2012 in Blog, Music and Concert Reviews, Travel | 2 comments

Who Would Pay Money to See This Quack?


Fraud Sylvia Browne


On the list of the world’s most hideous people, this piece of shit is very near the top.

Her name is Sylvia Browne, and for those of you fortunate enough to have never heard of her, she’s a self-described “spiritual teacher and psychic.”

And in a related news story — I’m the Pope.

This charlatan might have some mild entertainment value if some people didn’t take her so seriously.  In a sort of Andy Kaufman sort of way, she could be a knee-slapping riot.  If she was performing on The Gong Show, her charade would be so fucking bad, it actually might be pretty good.

Trouble is — she’s not amusing people.  To the contrary, she’s hurting people.  Lots of people.  She’s been touring the country during the last few months, shaking down her hopeless audience members (and dare I say “fans”) who have absolutely no clue they’re little more than the latest generation of frightened townsfolk getting pitched with the snake-oil.

It’s really hard to believe we’re living in the 21st Century here — that people believe the same bullshit that’s been shoveled since the days of Pythia, the very first Sylvia Browne incarnate who did her very own Three-Card Monte act way back in ancient Greece.  At least poor Pytha had the decency to commit suicide at the age of 30 — thus sparing the world’s most advanced society at the time more of her delusions.  Browne couldn’t do us that favor.  She’s still conning people to this day, and going strong well into her 70s.

No doubt, Browne is very good at what she does.  He’s a real pro.  Indeed, most con-artists are good at what they do.  She’s flim-flammed her devotees — typically made up of older, poorly-educated women grappling with depression.  Browne has even managed to convince some of these people that she possesses supernatural powers.  And so, she does what any heartless self-promoting opportunist would do.  She bilks her followers out of a few bucks.  Make that 47 bucks a pop, which is the standard ticket prize for her show.

Browne spends much of her time flying around the country masquerading as some kind of 100,00-watt antenna to the grave.  Her act pretty much consists of duping people who are so emotionally vulnerable and so utterly desperate for answers, that they’ll often drive hundreds of miles to witness her onstage “readings.”  Many come with hopes they’ll get lucky enough to be chosen amongst hundreds with similar problems sitting in what amounts to a clusterfuck of basketcases.  Most seek answers to questions which simply cannot be answered.  They beg for solace.  They long for inner peace.  And the grand dame of duplicity, Sylvia Browne is right there on center stage to deliver on cue what they’re so desperate to hear — even if it means abandoning all sense of human decency.

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Posted by on Sep 8, 2012 in Blog, Music and Concert Reviews | 5 comments

No Satisfaction — Will Someone Tell the Rolling Stones It’s Time to Retire?



Yoko Ono is probably the most reviled figure in pop music history.

But at least she got one thing right.  The villainess wrongly blamed for breaking up The Beatles expressed one of the most thought-provoking explanations ever for the unwavering idolotry of The Beatles.

When interviewed about The Beatles dissolving at the height of their musical and cultural influence and the lasting impact of their odd sense of timing to abdicate the rock n’ roll throne, she quipped:

“It’s like the story of the Golden Temple:  A guy fell in love with it and burned it down.  He couldn’t stand the idea of it falling apart as it got older, and now the Golden Temple exists in perfect form forever.  It became a myth.”

That pretty much sums up The Beatles — which stand as rock music’s golden temple.

Then, there’s the Rolling Stones — which have become rock n’ roll’s ruins.

The Beatles and Stones stand in stark contrast to the old maxim of quitting while you’re ahead.  The Beatles split up in their prime.  The Stones continue to record music and tour a full generation removed from the era of their most productive musical period.

Indeed, if the Stones were a temple, today they would look pretty much like Stonehenge.

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Posted by on Sep 5, 2012 in Blog, Las Vegas, Music and Concert Reviews | 5 comments

Lon Bronson All-Star Band — Best Free Show in Las Vegas


Lon Bronson Band in Las Vegas


Las Vegas is home to many of the best musicians and performers and in the world.

These artists play shows night after night on the Las Vegas Strip.  Casino showrooms are loaded with great singers, guitarists, piano players, trumpet players, backup vocalists, string players, and drummers.

But let’s face it.  Playing the same set of songs night after night gets old pretty quick.  No matter how great the show is, these are supremely-talented performers with creative minds.  Everyone needs to break the mold on occasion.

Incredibly, several of Las Vegas’ top musicians — virtually all of whom play the expensive headliner shows at the biggest casinos — gather from time to time and put on an impromptu jamming session.  Led by longtime bandleader and trumpeter Lon Bronson, his “All-Star Band” often has a dozen or more of the best session musicians in the city on a single stage.

I mean, where else can you see a show with a ten-piece horn section in a showroom that holds a couple of hundred people?

The band sure isn’t doing this for the money.

That’s because — the show is free.

That’s right — FREE.

In a throwback to the good old days of yesteryear when Las Vegas casinos really understood the entertainment business, when they packed their lounges with some of the best acts in the world and then invited everyone to flood in and enjoy the party at no cost (aside from the added gambling revenue), Stations Casinos has decided to revive that old formula.

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