Monday, November 27, 2017

Jimmy Page at ARMS

The ARMS concerts were a series of ten fundraisers for Action into Research for Multiple Sclerosis that took place from September through December 1983.  What was planned as a one-off at the Royal Albert Hall on 20 September, became a tour of nine shows with changing line-ups across North America.

Ronnie Lane, an English bass guitarist and founding member of the Small Faces (1965-69) and the Faces (1969–73) was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the late 1970s.  In 1983 Ronnie Lane's girlfriend, Boo Oldfield, approached producer Glyn Johns with the idea of a fundraiser to benefit ARMS, a group that was treating Lane for MS.  Johns was already producing a Prince's Trust Rock Gala (a youth charity) featuring Eric Clapton at Royal Albert Hall on 21 September 1983.

At the initial ARMS show each of the star artists performed mini-setlists. The show ended with three songs that all the ARMS musicians joined in.  The third and final song at RAH, Goodnight Irene, featuring Ronnie Lane.

Eric Clapton
•  Everybody Oughta Make A Change
•  Rita May
•  Lay Down Sally
•  Ramblin' On My Mind/Have You Ever Loved a Woman
•  Cocaine
Andy Fairweather Low
•  Man Smart (Woman Smarter)

Steve Winwood with Eric Clapton
•  Roadrunner
•  Take Me To The River
•  Slowdown Sundown
•  Gimme Some Lovin'

Jeff Beck
•  Star Cycle
•  The Pump
•  Goodbye Pork Pie Hat/Led Boots
•  Hi Ho Silver Lining
Jimmy Page
•  Prelude (with James Hooker)
•  City Sirens (with Steve Winwood )
•  Who's To Blame (with Steve Winwood )
•  Stairway to Heaven (Instrumental)
•  Tulsa Time
•  Layla
•  Goodnight, Irene (with Ronnie Lane)
Michael Palin said of Jimmy Page in his book Halfway to Hollywood: Diaries 1980--1988 (p 271),
"I am tempted by a phone call from Ray Cooper to attend the first of a two-night concert in aid of Multiple Sclerosis, in which many great rock stars of the '60's, all friends of Ronnie Lane who has MS, will be appearing, including Ray [on drums]...
...But even Ray is upstaged by the extraordinary appearance of Jimmy Page, who weaves his way around the stage like a man who has been frozen in the last stages of drunkenness, before actually falling over. He sways, reels, totters, bends, but still manages to play superbly."
Note that the second night's show was a charity concert, but not part of ARMS.

ARMS concert series
During the US tour Joe Cocker took lead vocals on With a Little Help from My Friends (Joe Cocker had recorded the Beatles cover in 1968 with Jimmy Page on guitar).  Steve Winwood was unable to do the tour, so Paul Rodgers was Jimmy Page's vocalist, which led to the later formation of The Firm.

Jimmy Page's sets during the US tour included:
•  Prelude
•  Who's To Blame
•  City Sirens
•  Boogie Mama
•  Bird On A Wing
•  Stairway To Heaven
•  Layla
•  With A Little Help From My Friends
•  Goodnight Irene

Royal Albert Hall
21 Sep 1983
Reunion Arena
28 Nov 1983
Reunion Arena
29 Nov 1983
Cow Palace
San Francisco
01 Dec 1983
Cow Palace
San Francisco
02 Dec 1983
Cow Palace
San Francisco
03 Dec 1983
Los Angeles
05 Dec 1983
Los Angeles
06 Dec 1983
Madison Square Garden
New York
08 Dec 1983
Madison Square Garden
New York
09 Dec 1983

Ronnie Lane emigrated to the US for his health in 1984. Lane continued to perform and record until 1992. Jimmy Page, Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood funded his medical care while Lane was in the US because no royalties were paid from the ARMS concerts until after Lane's death in 1997.  

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Plagiarism revisited

Plagiarism.  An ugly word, especially when applied to a band we love.  But what about when it is applied to a band that has plagiarized Led Zeppelin?

Lucifer's Friend was formed from the German band Asterix is 1970.  According to Discogs, Ride in the Sky was recorded/released November 1970 at Tonstudio Maschen & Windrose-Dumont Time Studio.

According to Dave Lewis in Led Zeppelin: The Concert File (a must-have book!) Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song was initially worked on in May and June of 1970 at Headley Grange and was premiered at the Bath Festival 28 June 1970.  Led Zeppelin began opening their shows with Immigrant Song in July 1970, starting with -- pay attention here -- Germany.  Led Zeppelin III was released in October 1970

So... which band could claims of plagiarism be thrown at?  I think it's pretty clear.  Just sayin'.

We are your overlords.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

To be or to have been

Lots of grumbling out there about how Jimmy Page hasn't put out new music as he said he would. But this blog post isn't about Jimmy Page. Sorry.

This blog post is about putting out music when you don't have any music to put out.

It's about Robert Plant's putting out a new album that astounds me... not because I think it's so great but because of what I consider to be mistaken reviews.

Sacrilege or legit criticism?
Note: this blog post a statement about my musical tastes - your experience may differ.

I want to assure you my intent is not to dis Robert Plant. My aim is to present a criticism of music and it is criticism I'd apply to any musician. 

It's my opinion that when an artist stops growing but keeps putting work out, he or she becomes an entertainer. The painting, the writing, the music, whatever it is, becomes marketable product, not art. For those of us who take our art seriously, that's a fatal flaw.

That doesn't make the product bad, it just means that it's no longer art. It's the difference between, say, Monet and Keane. Between Shakespeare and Patterson. Between Beethoven and Bieber. Art endures. Entertainment is fleeting. The works of great artists are beloved for centuries because there is timeless value to those works. The works of great entertainers last until public interest moves on because the values are based on current cultural conditions. Over time great entertainment is reduced to items of historical note.

Robert Plant was a great musician back in the day. But to have been a great musician doesn't make him one anymore.  I have a hard time with his work being considered the art it was. To me his work has left the ranks of timeless art and become popular entertainment.

That's not a bad thing, in itself. It's just not my cup of tea. 

Art = creativity

Those who've been reading this blog for a while know that I consider magic to be the power to change reality through acts of creation. Art is an act of creativity and therefore a kind of magic. That's how I have approached the work of Jimmy Page, and that's how I approach any music or other art.
That's why I have a hard time with Robert Plant's work these days.
Of course I listened to Carry Fire because I hoped maybe he had put out something new. But no. About the most entertaining aspect of this album has been the reviews. Here are some actual words used by reviewers of, for instance, one of the tracks, Bones of Saints:
"lights a fire in the sky"
"a high-energy new blues-rock"
"a propulsive, rockabilly-style riff with a cinematic mid-song vocal"
Really? Do these people not hear what is or do they hear through the filter of what has been? Are their minds so clouded with Mr. Plant's past (with Led Zeppelin) that they can't hear with the ears of today? Thunder compared to what? Lighting a fire in what sky? High energy? Huh?

Those reviewers are confusing music with poetry. Robert Plant has given himself over to words at the expense of music. Fine. Let the reviewers review the lyrics, because the music is just plain bleh.

So okay, maybe this is unfair criticism. Maybe I haven't moved on with Mr. Plant to this post-Zeppelin era in which he is so attracted to world music. I love rock music above all but I have no problem with world music. Rock music with the influences of other cultures can be fascinating (Kashmir, anyone? Or how about Bron-Y-Aur Stomp? The Battle of Evermore?) But...if I wanted to listen world music it wouldn't be Mr. Plant's version.
Why? Because he doesn't use world music -- or any music -- to express anything new. It's the same music that varies in details only. It's different lyrics rather than different music. To me Mr. Plant's music since Led Zeppelin sounds all the same. Like he's latched onto one motif that lets him create new lyrics -- which he's very good at. The formula sells a lot of albums but it means Robert Plant can't move on artistically. His work is nice but it's boring. You've heard one song, you've heard them all unless you listen closely to the words.

Words aren't music.

On the other hand, if the object is to be an incredible entertainer, then Robert Plant has got the formula down.

Art vs entertainment

I'm not talking about Robert Plant's technique or even his voice. Voices go with age and abuse, and Robert Plant's not the only one whose voice has gone. Lots of singers start to sing in lower keys because they can't reach the highs anymore (Elton John), or cover their croaking with instruments or sing on in a parody of Bob Dylan anyway because they just don't care (Roger Waters).

It's okay to listen with a musically non-critical ear to the singers we love -- of course it is!  But that's not the problem here.

I could listen to Mr. Plant's post-Zeppelin work in spite of his voice. But I can't listen to the same-old-same-old. Robert Plant has become the Margaret Keane of his field... along with the majority of today's musicians.

To me the mark of a great artist is when he or she can continue to grow. This doesn't mean changing a signature style (although that can happen), but rather developing artistic statements that reveal new depth of experience -- either the artist's or the world's. Those statements change as the artist gains skill, or maturity, or enlightenment.

Artistic growth is the difference between art and entertainment.

It's not easy to grow artistically.  And it's not necessarily fun, particularly when the world is watching and listening with expectations, particularly when the artist has had great success doing something and the world is clamoring for more of it.

But what sells or is popular or garners great reviews is not a measure of good art. Art tells us something new about reality. The greater the art, the deeper it is, the more fundamental the message. The greatest art creates a new reality for those who can experience it.

Maybe I'm shallow. Maybe Robert Plant has found a way to bring poetry to a public that isn't much into poetry. More power to him. But to call it music, what he does?


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Coming soonish to a bookstore near you

Well, okay, not soonish. Maybe digitally in a few months, but in print... next year at the earliest.

Oh, perhaps you are interested in what the heck I'm talking about?

Evolution Device. A book I wrote. Not my first book published but my first novel. The title is subject to change, as these things are until it's too late to change them. The reason I'm posting about it here is because it this book was a long time coming. It was conceived oh, just about when I first started listening to The Yardbirds, in a way. Just about when the music of Jimmy Page first entered into my consciousness. 

It just fermented in the deep dark of the back of my brain, receiving jolts every so often as I listened to that music. It called to me, the magic I felt in that guitar, magic I've written about at length here. Eventually I had to respond.

I started Evolution Device in 2009. It's only now getting ready to be born. Maybe it'll be a Frankenstein's monster, but maybe it'll have absorbed enough of its Master to bring its own magic to the world.

It's not about Jimmy Page, but in a sense his music is my muse. 

Evolution Device 

Rock guitarist Eddie Edmunds has inadvertently manifested his spiritual Muse, Lilith, into physical reality. Lilith must now get Eddie to learn to control his power before he -- and she -- are destroyed by the wild magic of his music. Or before the drugs he uses to dull the power take him out. But a Muse can only do so much and Eddie is headed down a path of no return even as his band, Evolution Device, is dragging him to greater fame and fortune.

If you're interested in following the adventures of Evolution Device's... um.. evolution, you can sign up for my email newsletter soon as I set up an account. It's all up in the air right now, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Fake news is no news: Led Zeppelin reunion

I have a lot of trouble with fake news. "Fake" is too nice a word. Fiction is what it is, but when the "news" is presented as fact then what we have is lies.


But what's more troubling to me is how so many people have lost their marbles -- excuse me, I mean their critical reasoning ability -- and gulp up fake news as truth. And then, like a flu, they spread it.

Let's talk about a Led Zeppelin "reunion"

First, what is a reunion? It's a regathering of people who have gathered before. So... a true Led Zeppelin reunion would require that John Bonham be sitting at the drum kit. Sorry, I'm not one of those folks who accepts Bonzo's son as a real member of the band. Yes, Jason's a great drummer... but he's not his father. He hasn't worked with the other three gentlemen to create new music. The music that he drums to is his father's music. Jason is a cover drummer. I love the man, but there it is.

Let's talk about "facts"

No, let's not. There are no cold facts. Videos that supposedly prove Jimmy Page intends to do Desert Trip 2017 are from years ago, before there even was a Desert Trip. Use your brains, people. No one who counts has made a definitive statement about a reunion in Nevada, in 2017, or anyplace/anytime.

Now let's talk about Desert Trip 2017 itself

A Led Zeppelin reunion would trash Desert Trip. How many million people tried for tickets for the last time Led Zeppelin got together? Over 20 million. There would be that many and more for another try to see the gentlemen on stage. So let's think about what happened to the Ahmet Ertegon Tribute (the actual name for the 2007 event at O2). Quickly now, who can tell us what other headliner bands were there - raise your hands. Um... I'm not seeing hands. Why? Because the Tribute is usually called the Led Zeppelin Reunion for a reason. When the gentlemen in question get together, that's all there is in the world. Back in 2007 Pete Townshend famously refused to show up, saying that with Led Zeppelin there, they didn't need him. What headliner band would want to be reduced to a supporting act that nobody came to listen to?

Some kind of festival that would be.

This is all stupid talk anyway. It's not like the the rumors that Led Zeppelin are reuniting to perform at Desert Trip 2017 could possibly be anything but fake news. These news articles that announce "insider sources" are reporting that Robert Plant has agreed to a reunion in 2017 because of the band's upcoming 50th anniversary.

Um. Do the math, people. Led Zeppelin was formed and first performed in 1968. So Desert Trip 2017 would be... the 49th anniversary.

But more logic

So let's suppose that Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, and John Paul Jones have agreed to a reunion and Jason Bonham has accepted an invitation to join them. And let's suppose that they decide to do this in 2017 instead of 2018. We know very well that the boys are perfectly capable of being sneaky about such decisions, and are perfectly capable of meeting for practice sessions without the slightest hint of a rumor getting out.

We know this. But suddenly these rumors. And not one bit of confirmation from the gentlemen in question. So what does this tell us?

It tells us that Desert Trip probably put an absolutely baseless rumor out there to begin with, because what this has done is created incredible publicity for them. But... do we see any announcement of dates in 2017? No. Do we see any confirmation of a lineup for 2017? No.

Uh huh. Sure Led Zeppelin's going to show up. Because if it's on the internet it must be true. And hey -- I've got a confounded bridge to sell you.