What is happening to America???

My times living in America were all good. Most of the people I had the pleasure of meeting, working with or interacting with were friendly, generous and pleasant. 

Times appear to have changed.

America does feel to me like a rampant capitalist experiment that is going badly wrong. It is run and controlled by a tiny elite of super-rich who bribe, control and run the place for their own benefit. The wealth is hence concentrated in a small elite who control the media and minds.

It is similar but not as bad in the UK. We have a more benevolent society with less extremes. We take care of our poor and needy a bit better and have less extremes of wealth and less violence. Though we do appear, under these capitalist Tories, to be heading the same way.

What is quite clear is that things appear to have become more divided since I was last there in America – more tribal and much more extreme. Nobody is listening to anyone outside their box and abuse is rife. It feels heated.
Any talk about addressing the gaping wound of inequality is seen as unAmerican or socialist – and socialism is immediately equated with totalitarianism and communism. McCarthy did a good job!

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Is Idealism doomed?

There have been many communities – spiritual, artistic, political and agricultural that have lived and prospered on idealistic ideologies.

Personally I think we can improve and create a better, fairer world which does not destroy nature, have gross inequality or exploit people. What’s more I think that is worth fighting for.

I’m reading about Rudolf Laban right now – one of many.

And not all of those sixties communes and idealists died out or gave up! Some are still with us true to a better vision of how to live free of greed and destruction, closer to nature. We just don’t hear about them.

Knives – changing attitudes!

When I was a kid back in the early sixties knives were an accepted part of life. Every boy scout had a big knife in a scabbard on his belt – ostensibly for whittling wood. We also had Swiss folding multipurpose knives with lots of blades, a little saw a bottle opener and a tool for getting stones out of horses hooves – though nobody had ever done that.

We used to take our knives into school and nobody blinked an eyelid. We’d play splits on the school field (that involved throwing you knife next to someone’s feet, within a foot of their foot, so that they had to move their foot to it. Gradually you did the splits until one of you fell over or could no longer stretch to reach it). We would have target practice with throwing knives against trees. Throwing knives from Spain were all the rage for a term or two. When I was thirteen we went across to France and everyone bought these huge flick-knives with stiletto blades. They were illegal in the UK but we all had one and would play about flicking them open.

I don’t remember any of my friends actually thinking of using a knife to threaten anyone with. They were playthings. Though we did get the odd injury with someone getting a knife stuck in their foot! But all in good fun.

We all knew that knives were used in the gangs of Teddy Boys who roamed the town. They were supposed to use cut-throat razors and bike chains too and have really nasty fights. I actually saw a knife fight outside the venue of the first band I went to see (the Birds in 1964). Two Teds were circling each other and slashing out with knives while a baying crowd egged them on – girls shrieking and urging them  on and other Teds jeering. I don’t remember it actually developing into anything where anyone got stabbed though.

I certainly never felt threatened. The knives we played with were somehow not weapons to us. They were either playthings or for show.

It seems different now. They are weapons and they are used to threaten, wound and kill.

Some thoughts on fictions.

We are losing faith in the limited fictions and could be about to embrace a more universal consciousness. It’s a fiction with some substance and the opportunity to both grow and develop a better way of life.

Many find it impossible to let go of the old fictions and go forward. They cling like limpets to the wreckage of dying fictions – religion, patriotism and the President.

I think this change in consciousness took off in the 60s. That is when a lot of people started realising that the establishment was a hypocritical self-serving institution committed to preserving the status quo and paying lip-service to religion and the law. It was empty. All it cared about was making money, and money neither bought happiness or fulfillment.

Many young people took Kerouac’s dream and were looking for something more substantial with more meaning. They lost their respect for organised religion, the President and the idea of nation. They had a broader dream. It wasn’t superficially about making money and having power. It was more about getting back to nature and respecting everyone and the planet. Life should be fun. People should communicate. Race, gender, social standing and nationality no longer held any significance or status.

That’s a good fiction to buy into.

The Beats and Hippies – some thoughts.

The Beats and the Hippies did not want to be part of any warmongering, elite-driven war such as the Vietnam war. They did not want the hypocrisy of a conservative society that espoused one thing and did another. They rejected the austerity, elitism, racism, destructiveness and false patriotism. They wanted something simpler, less damaging, more inclusive, more sincere and more meaningful. They saw the heart of America and the UK, with its lip-service to religion, its greed and selfishness, as an empty lie. It was rotten at heart, uptight and conformist and based on hierarchy and power. It was corrupt.
Corporate America sent its youth to war for economic gain. They made money out of blood.
The elite did not fight and most avoided sending their own sons into battle. They disproportionately sent the poor and coloured.
Church was a club. If Jesus had come back they would have murdered him.
The laws were flouted. Money talked. If you were rich you could get away with murder. If you were poor or black you got electrocuted.
There was no heart or substance. It was all cash and power.
The Hippies and Beats saw a better way of living. They were, and are, right.
Their legacy is in spiritualism, environmentalism and civil rights.
BTW – Jack Kerouac was an early leader of substance but was undermined by Catholic guilt and alcoholism and became a sad character who was confused, increasingly right-wing and ended up a drunken bum.

The Early Greenwich Village Bands of 1964-1965 – an extract from Rock Routes – a book on Rock Music by Opher Goodwin

The Early Greenwich Village Bands of 1964-1965

 

In the early 1960s there were four main groups that were heavily inter-related. They were the Journeymen, The Big Three, the Halifax Three and the Mugwumps.

 

Personnel:

 

Journeymen Big Three Halifax Three Mugwumps
John Philips

Scott McKenzie

Dick Weissman

Cass Elliot

Jim Hendricks

Tim Rose

Denny Doherty

Zalman Yanovsky

Pat Lacroix

Cass Elliot

Jim Hendricks

Denny Doherty

Zalman Yanovsky

 

There was much movement between the various bands. People came and went and Michelle Gilliam, John Philips wife, joined. After a spell working in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico the Mugwumps headed to LA to join the Folk Rock scene and morphed into the Mamas and Papas. Zalman Yanovsky stayed in New York and joined up with John Sebastian to form the Lovin’ Spoonful. The Lovin’ Spoonful took off in New York and played in Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco helping kick the West Coast scene into ignition.

 

Artist Stand out tracks
Lovin’ Spoonful Younger generation

Nashville cats

Daydream

Do you believe in magic

You didn’t have to be so nice

Summer in the city

Did you ever have to make up your mind?

Mugwumps Searchin’

You can’t judge a book by its cover

Big Three It makes a long time man feel bad
Halifax Three Bull train

The man who wouldn’t sing along with Mitch

 

Everything you ever wanted to know about Rock Music!

If you would like to purchase this book in either digital or paperback it is available on Amazon.

In the UK:

 

In the USA :

Opher Goodwin

Country @ Western – from Rock Routes – a book by Opher Goodwin

I include a section from my book to whet your appetite! Links to the book are at the bottom.

Country & Western

 

The other important fundamental element of Rock ‘n’ Roll was Country & western. C&W also originated in the south of the U.S.A and began to attract nationwide interest in the 40s.It was formed from the kinds of Folk music that the early settlers brought across from Europe. These included British Jigs and Reels. These were types of music that could be played on the light, easily transportable instruments that could fit onto a wagon such as fiddles, guitars and banjos.

In the 1930s the music was dominated by two musical family groups – The Original Hillbillies, Sons of Pioneers and the Carter Family as well as individuals such as Charlie Poole, Roy Acuff and Fiddlin’ John Carson. It then became associated with the cowboy image with Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. There was also the singing Railway man Jimmie Rodgers. He fused the blues and yodelling into a package.

In the 1940s, as with the Blues, it underwent electrification and also adopted the distinctive pedal steel guitar which had featured strongly in Hawaiian music. Around this time it became really popular with radio audiences transmitted from the Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman. This enabled it to reach a far wider audience. This popularity was associated with new artists such as Eddy Arnold – the singing plowboy – with his brand of sentimental country ballads. It was the saccharin sweet sound now associated with modern Country and Western as produced by Jim Reeves and co. All easy on the ear and totally safe and consequently ideal radio material.

Meanwhile in the 1940s and 1950s there was a trend towards creating beaty, uptempo branches of country music – Bluegrass in the East – Western Bop or Swing in the West – by incorporating elements of Jazz and Blues.

Seemingly the zeitgeist was at work; simultaneously C&W and Blues/R&B were moving in a similar direction. Country Boogie would give rise to its own branch of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Western Swing, created by merging Jazz elements, was typified by Bob Wills and their offshoots. Bluegrass was typified by Bill Monroe and their offshoot Flatt and Scruggs. Then there was Red Foley.

In the 1940s a new style started to develop based around the style from the bars and clubs known as Honky Tonks. Honky Tonk C&W was typified by Ernest Tubb and then Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell.

Hank Williams became the foremost and most influential. His single ‘Move it on over’ with its strong beat was a major step towards Rockabilly. It like a dozen other R&B tracks is credited with being the first Rock ‘n’ Roll song. It was one of many. In fact it was a general movement that seemed to infect many musicians at the same time. Hank’s strength lay in his use of melody and lyric and completely dominated the scene between 1946 and 1952. Unfortunately Hank became addicted to alcohol and painkillers and died in the back of his car from heart failure on the way to a gig on Jan 1st 1953. His legacy had a big impact on Rockabilly and C&W. He influenced the Delmore Brothers, Moon Mullican, Arthur Smith, Merle Travis, Kitty Wells, Patsy Cline and Tenesse Ernie Ford. Later people such as Bob Dylan heralded him as a major influence.

Bluegrass, Country Boogie, Western Swing and Honky Tonk all fed into Rock ‘n’ Roll through Rockabilly artists such as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins.

Sam Philips brought C&W together with R&B. He set up Sun Records in Memphis Tennessee. He specialised in recording black R&B and uptempo Country music. He brought them together to create Rockabilly, the catalyst being Elvis Presley.

Country music was the style favoured by many Rock ‘n’ Roll artists before they heard Elvis. Artists such as Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and the Everly Brothers all started off with Bluegrass, Honky Tonk and Country Bop.

In the late 60s many bands and artists delved back into the rich tradition of C&W. Gram Parson, the Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers, Band, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Bob Dylan and Hot Tuna all were leading exponents. Later in the 1970s it featured in the style and repertoire of many with bands such as the Eagles, Linda Ronstadt and Jackson Browne.

Country music had left its mark.

Rock has also left its impact on C&W. After a rather slushy period in the 1960s with Jim Reeves, Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette it began to find some balls again with artists like Steve Earle, Joe Ely, Willie Nelson Emmy-Lou Harris and even Townes Van Zandt. Then there was a brief flurry of new Country.

Where would Rock be without it?

 

Artist Stand out tracks
Carter Family May the circle be unbroken

The Wabash cannonball

Wildwood flower

Keep on the sunny side

Sons of the Pioneers Cool water

Tumbing tumbleweed

Charlie Poole Goodbye booze

Took my gal a walking

I’m the man who rode the mule around the world

If I Lose I don’t care

Hungry hast house

Take a drink on me

Fiddlin’ John Carson The little old log cabin in the lane
Roy Acuff Great speckled bird

Tenesse Waltz

Roy Rodgers Stampede

My Chickasay girl

Gene Autry Back in the saddle again

Do right daddy blues

Jimmie Rodgers Blue Yodel No. 1 (T for Texas)

Blue Yodel No. 8 (Muleskinner Blues)

Pistol packing papa

Hobo Bill’s last ride

Never no more blues

Eddy Arnold There’s been a change in me

I wanna play house with you

Bill Monroe Blue moon of Kentucky

Blue grass breakdown

Little cabin home on the hill

Bob Wills Ida red

San Antonio Rose

Flatt & Scruggs Foggy mountain breakdown

Don’t let your deal go down

Red Foley New Jolie Blone
Ernest Tubb Walking the floor over you

Blue Christmas

Hank Williams Move it on over

Your cheatin’ heart

Cold cold heart

My son calls another man Daddy

Long gone lonesome blues

I just don’t like this kind of living

Dear John

Lovesick blues

Honky tonkin’

You’re gonna change (or I’m gonna leave)

Lost highway

Why don’t you love me (like you used to do)

I’m so lonesome I could cry

A mansion on the hill

I heard that lonesome whistle blow

Honky Tonk Blues

You win again

Jambalaya (on the bayou)

Take these chains from my heart

I’ll never get out of this world alive

Lefty Frizell Long black veil

If you’ve got the money I’ve got the time

Kitty wells It wasn’t God who made Honky Tonk Angels
Hank Thompson The wild side of life

Everything you ever wanted to know about Rock Music!

If you would like to purchase this book in either digital or paperback it is available on Amazon.

In the UK:

 

In the USA :

Opher Goodwin

The greatest Sixties Mod Bands of the Sixties!!

Along with the Merseybeat and R&B bands that sparked up in the sixties there were a lot of Mod Bands that were delivering their own distinctive brand of mainly self-penned tunes.

Mods liked fashion – smart appearance – girls with short hair, plastic macs, plastic minis, contrasting colours, black and white. They liked R&B and Ska.

Leading the way were the Who (formerly the Detours doing a brand of R&B). They took on a distinctive Mod fashion (Union Jack, roundels, Italian suits, parkas, layered hair, lambrettas etc) and developed their new vocabulary (faces, numbers, purple hearts). With numbers like I Can’t Explain, My Generation and Anyway, Anyhow Anywhere. They blew everyone away.

Up with them were the Smallfaces with What’ya Gonna Do About it? and Sha-la-la-la-lee.

It included the Kinks with their red hunting frock coats and frills with numbers like You Really Got Me and All Day and All Of the Night.

Then there were the Birds, Paramounts, Sorrows, Action, Creation and Poets.

As the Mod movement got going bands like the Stones, Yardbirds, Pretty Things and Animals took on more of a Mod appearance and moved away from the Blues.

Mod became the prevailing sound in the mid-sixties! Though in the States it really did not seem to develop as a style.

The Greatest West Coast Acid Rock Bands in the World (or rather my favourites)

On the West Coast of America lysergic acid had a dramatic effect on bands and music from LA and San Francisco in the mid to late sixties. The counterculture was in full swing and a whole slew of music sprang up that reflected the values and catered for the preferences of these counterculture communities.

They were actually influenced by earlier bands such as the Loving Spoonful and Byrds and also by Bob Dylan.

Some of the bands came in from the Folk Scene – such as Jefferson Airplane and Country Joe and the Fish and some came in from the Blues side – such as Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band, the Grateful Dead and the Doors. Then we had Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention who were a more experimental mixture of Doo-wop and social satire with dollops of weirdness.

The LA scene tended to be different to the San Francisco scene but the two cross-pollinated.

Here’s some of my favourites:

Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band

Country Joe and the Fish

The Doors

Buffalo Springfield

Love

The Mother’s of Invention

Big Brother and the Holding Company

Jefferson Airplane

Quicksilver Messenger Service

Byrds

Grateful Dead

Blue Cheer

Crosby Stills Nash and Young

Seeds

Electric Prunes

Younger Generation

When we were young we were so blasé about taking risks. We thought that living safe humdrum lives was the ultimate of boredom. We wanted excitement, adventure and risk.

That’s not so easy when it comes to allowing your children the freedom to experiment. We have seen the risks, seen friends die, seen the outcomes. The dangers are now clear.

But how do we find a good balance? Kids have to have freedom to grow yet we want to keep them safe.

This song focusses it for me.

“Younger Generation”

Why must every generation think their folks are square?
And no matter where their heads are they know Mom’s ain’t there
Cause I swore when I was small that I’d remember when
I knew what’s wrong with them that I was smaller than

Determined to remember all the cardinal rules
Like sun showers are legal grounds for cutting school
I know I have forgotten maybe one or two
And I hope that I recall them all before the baby’s due
And I know he’ll have a question or two

Like “Hey pop can I go ride my Zoom?
It goes two hundred miles per hour suspended on balloons
And can I put a droplet of this new stuff on my tongue
And imagine frothing dragons while you sit and wreck your lungs?”
And I must be permissive, understanding of the younger generation

And then I’ll know that all I’ve learned my kid assumes
And all my deepest worries must be his cartoons
And still I’ll try to tell him all the things I’ve done
Relating to what he can do when he becomes a man
And still he’ll stick his fingers in the fan

And “Hey pop, my girlfriend’s only 3
She’s got her own videophone and she’s a taking LSD
And now that we’re best friends she wants to give a bit to me
And what’s the matter Daddy, how come you’re turning green
Can it be that you can’t live up to your dreams?”