Sep 30, 2009

40th Anniversary of the Beatles Abbey Road Album

In the summer of 1969 the Beatles were pretty much all doing their own thing and the days of the group were numbered. After the miserable recording sessions for GET BACK which later became Let It Be, they decided they wanted to record in a way like they use to. No one actually said it, but there was a feeling this could be the last project as The Beatles. With this in mind everyone made nice and put their differences aside for the time being.

ABBEY ROAD was the last recording the Beatles made together. Although LET IT BE was released afterwards, it was recorded in January of 1969, prior to ABBEY ROAD.

Paul McCartney called up their producer George Martin and told him the plan. He agreed only if he could have full control as a producer and do things his way. The band came in to the studio beginning in July 1969. Rarely were all four Beatles actually in the studio at the same time, usually recording separately or in pairs.

ABBEY ROAD was released in America on October 1st, 1969 and by its third week it reached number one. It stayed at number one for eleven straight weeks, spending a total of 129 weeks on the charts. It was the first Beatles album to sell over 10 million copies and is now 12x platinum.

The album cover has become a classic in itself. It was the first & only Beatles album that didn’t have the word Beatles or the album name over its picture. It features the four Beatles walking across the street directly outside of Abbey Road studios. It was a warm day so Paul took off his shoes and is walking barefoot. During the whole PAUL IS DEAD craze, this was supposed to be one of the clues. On the topic of PAUL IS DEAD clues, each Beatle in the photo was symbolic. John all in white was the spiritual symbol, Ringo in a black suit, the undertaker & George in denim was the grave digger. Great fun stuff, don’t forget the license plate on the Volkswagen reading 28IF, representing Paul would have been 28 if alive. More true to form I think the photo represents where each Beatle was individually at that time. John & George were sporting beards & very long hair, in the late sixties hippie style. Paul was clean shaven from the GET BACK sessions, and dressed more businesslike, but yet the barefoot hippie part of him still intact. Notice the cigarette in Paul’s right hand. Ringo looking more like the Hollywood movie star, he had become since appearing in various film projects over the past year.

Notice the guy on the right side of the street looking over at the Beatles. Years later he found out it was him on the cover. According to him, he said he was on vacation in London and was waiting for his wife to come out of a boutique. He saw the traffic get stopped and these four strange looking guys get photographed walking across the street. He will live forever on the cover. Every day people are still dodging traffic to get themselves photographed walking across that street.

The album is famous for its Abbey Road, side two 16 minute medley. The medley begins with YOU NEVER GIVE ME YOUR MONEY, which is Paul’s version of the money & legal problems at Apple. Next is John’s SUN KING, which features beautiful harmonies by John & George and some lyrics in Italian and some completely made up words in no language. That tune if followed by two of Lennon’s unfinished works, a song about an old miser stashing all his money- MEAN MR. MUSTARD & his sister POLYTHENE PAM. Pam was inspired by an old Liverpool friend who use to eat polythene. John uses a very heavy Liverpool accent singing this song. After John says “Look Out….I did” the medley rolls on with Pauls, SHE CAME IN THROUGH THE BATHROOM WINDOW, inspired by a chick (one of the Apple Scruffs groupies) who actually came through his bathroom window. The lullaby GOLDEN SLUMBERS, is actually an 18th century song of its own, leading into CARRY THAT WEIGHT with Ringo’s voice leading the harmonies. THE END features the only Ringo Starr drum solo on a Beatles record. It leads the way for a triple dueling guitar lead from John, George & Paul. Each one of their individual styles comes out in this fantastic piece of music that shows how good of a jam band the Beatles were.

Then comes the last words of wisdom the Beatles ever recorded on record, when Paul sings “In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make”. If you keep the album playing, you get an unfinished Paul tune called HER MAJESTY thrown in there for a surprise.
COME TOGETHER / SOMETHING was released as double A Side and both reached number one in America. COME TOGETHER opens the album with John’s beautiful melodic voice, the song has since become another spiritual Beatles anthem for humanity. But it was originally written for Timothy Leary’s campaign for Governor that never actually got off the ground. John premieres the song at one of the Bed Ins. SOMETHING is one of the greatest Love songs ever recorded, and one of George’s as well as the Beatles bests works. It was written for George’s wife Patti Boyd Harrison. The same woman who later inspired Eric Clapton to wrote LAYLA & WONDERFUL TONIGHT. Quite the inspiration she is.

MAXWELLS SILVER HAMMER is Paul’s first song on the album. It’s a fun little tune, where Ringo sings the lead “Bang Bang” parts & longtime Beatles friend & roadie Mal Evan bangs the anvil. The song made it’s debut in the LET IT BE movie during the GET BACK sessions in early 1969. John called it one of Paul’s granny songs.

OH DARLING is like a 1950’S blues love song taken to the next level. It features one of Paul’s best screaming lyrics since LONG TALL SALLY & I’VE GOT A FEELING. Great backing harmonies as well.

OCTOPUS’S GARDEN is Ringo’s second song writing credit on the album, written on a trip to Sardinia in 1968. He was served squid for lunch one day, and was told how Octopus gather shiny stones & build little gardens under the sea. As seen in the movie LET IT BE, George helps Ringo write the songs musical structure.

I WANT YOU is one of the most popular songs on the album and considered another great Beatle jam session rocker. The song is actually two Lennon songs combined to a very progressive style of rock. Sounds like Johns answer to Paul’s Oh Darling, and the screaming Lennon vocal would be what’s to come on his PLASTIC ONO BAND solo album a year later. It is the second longest Beatles song in running time, and was the last song the four Beatles ever recorded together in the studio at the same time. (a moment of silence, please)

HERE COMES THE SUN is another great Harrison song on the album and again one of his finest works. George had really come into his own as a songwriter and this beauty was written in Eric Clapton’s back yard. George’s acoustic guitar work is beautiful and the background features a Moog synthesizer which was a new instrument at the time. It’s one of the first songs to feature a synthesizer.
Last but certainly not least is Johns beautiful BECAUSE which features some of the best Beatles three part harmonizing ever. The music is inspired by Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata played backwards. This beautiful song sounds even better without any music, like on the Anthology three CD.

Sep 26, 2009

Ace Frehley & His New Solo Album: Anomaly

It's the first new Ace Frehley solo album in twenty years, since the days of Freehley's Comet. First lets set the Ace/ KISS record straight. According to Ace after the reunion Tours of the late nineties, he was asked by Gene Simmons & Paul Stanley to do a Farewell Tour. He agreed believing it was the end, next he claims he got a call from Simmons saying we're going on Tour again, if you don't come we'll get another guitarist. That was that.

I love KISS since the early days, I was there for concerts without the make up & the reunions. Although the KISS concert spectacle is one of the greatest shows on earth, I just cant get excited about Gene, Paul & two fill ins wearing Ace & Peter's make up. All due respect to the others, especially Eric Singer whom I've met & is a hell of a drummer & nice guy. But there is only one Space Ace, one Catman Peter Criss, and there is only one ORIGINAL KISS!!!!!

As for the new Ace Frehley album Anomaly: Plain & simple I love it, just straight forward rock & roll. It picks up right where the first great classic Ace Frehley solo album from 1978 left off, and that's exactly what Ace set out to do. Ace's guitar work is incredible, with his classic riff style and wailing leads. You have to love the instrumentals "Space Bear" & "Fractured Quantum". The I-Tunes bonus track "Return of the Space Bear" features Ace talking over some of the guitar parts with funny lines and his hysterical cackling laugh. "Fractured Quantum" is the fourth piece of his continuing "Fractured Mirror" instruments that began on the original Ace Frehely album.

Ace produced most of the album and wrote almost all the songs. The exceptions being an incredible version of Sweet's 1975 classic "Fox On the Run". This is destined to be a Frehley classic right up there with his "Back In the NY Groove" cover. The single being promoted is "Outer Space", keeping with Frehley's Space Ace image, co written with Jesse Mendez & David Askew. I love the guitar rhythm on this one & you almost feel the bass line was taken from the Gene Simmons song book.

Ace who has now been sober for over three years reflects on his past in songs like "It's A Great Life", "Too Many Faces" & "A Little Below the Angels" which features a daughter asking the father if he's ever seen an angel. He responds by saying, "yes, it was the most beautiful thing I ever saw". He also sings of feeling like he could change the world & wishing for peace as he woke up in "Change the World".

The opener "Foxy & Free" is one of my favs as well, a great hard rocking good time song with a catchy beat. The way music is suppose to be, just plain old fun. "Pain In the Neck" is about one of those chicks that Ace has had enough of, right where "Rip It Out" left off on the first Ace album. Again a great beat & heavy riff on this one. Then there is the six minute epic "Genghis Khan" which features some great layered guitar work, both acoustic & electric. It also features Meatloaf's daughter Pearl Aday on backing vocals. Pearl is married to another Bronx born rocker, Anthrax's Scott Ian. (Together they are part of the band Pearl)

The album is dedicated to the late former
KISS drummer Eric Carr & Pantera's Dimebag Darrell. Long time Frehley drummer/friend Anton Fig has returned to play drums. Fig was on the original Ace solo album, & a member of Frehley's Comet. Since then he has played in the David Letterman house band & has sat in as band leader when Paul Schafer was away. Other musicians include: Anthony Esposito - bass /Derrek Hawkins - rhythm guitar /Scot Coogan - drums, percussion & Marti Frederiksen - keyboards. The label is his own Bronx Born Records. Frehley was born in the Bronx growing up in the Webster Avenue /Bedford Park / Pelham Parkway sections.

The album has done well in its first week of release. It debuted at #27 on the album charts. Ace is signing copies of the album this weekend; Saturday 9/26 at Vintage Vinyl in Fords New Jersey & Looney Tunes in West Babylon on Sunday 9/27. Ace is touring Australia in October with a US tour to follow in the late fall / winter. Cant Wait!

On Frehley's website the promo for the album, has a boy telling a girl that he has been waiting for the new Ace album for over a year. Their uncle, wearing a "Trouble Walkin" t-shirt, tells them he's been waiting 20 years. Frehley pulls up through a cloud of smoke, on a Chopper. He makes a hitchhiking thumb gesture and lets out an "Ack!" just like in the movie "KISS Meets the Phantom". The album appears in the hands of the trio and Ace rides off.
The definition of Anomaly is any occurrence that is strange, unusual, or unique. A discrepancy or deviation from an established rule or trend.

Sep 23, 2009

Today In Mets History: 1969- Mets Clinch Eastern Title

At 9:06 PM on September 24, 1969 the Mets clinched their first Eastern divisional title. After seven years of being born, and finishing in last place five times, the Mets were champions of their division. The first champions ever to capture an Eastern title since divisional play was in its infancy in 1969.

Gary Gentry went out and pitched a four hit complete game shutout against last years NL Champs the St. Louis Cardinals. It was rookie Gentry's 12th win on the year (12-12), as he struck out five & only walked two. The Mets beat Steve Carlton who had seen enough of them already this season. (Two weeks prior he lost to them while striking out 19 batters). The Mets were reved up tonight in front of 55,000 crazy fans, as they knocked Lefty out in the first inning on HRs by Donn Clendenon (15th) & Ed Charles (3rd). Charles the oldest player on the team at 36, clapped his hands as he rounded third, just to let the fans know "this was it" he later said. Clendenon would add another later, his 16th, and his 34th RBI since joining the Mets in mid June, icing the 6-0 Mets victory.

In the 9th inning it was Joe Torre who hit into a double play (Harrelson to Weiss to Clendenon) to end the game. The Mets players jumped for joy to celebrate and then the Met fans swarmed the field, turning it into a chaotic frenzy. They ripped everything apart making the outfield look like the surface of the newly landed on moon. They chanted "We're #1"!!! and refused to leave the ballpark until the police rounded everyone up over an hour later, exiting through the center field gate.

In the clubhouse the Mets celebrated with champagne. Tom Seaver doused a smiling Gil Hodges "Here's to you skip", Jerry Koosman sprayed the press, Nolan Ryan poured some over M. Donald Grants head & Ed Kranepool (there from 1962) shouted "Here's to you Leo"- (in reference to Cubs manager Leo Durocher). Like Kranepool said "I've waited too long for this"!!!

Sep 20, 2009

Today In Mets History: 1973- Mets Take Over First Place

September 21, 1973: After last nights dramatic win, the Mets were only a half game behind the Pirates. Tonight in front of almost 52,000 at Shea, they completed the three game sweep and took over first place for the first time in the 1973 season. They would remain there and win the Eastern title on the last day of the season.

If you follow the old stories on this site, you see how many times Tom Seaver is mentioned, and how great he was. This game was no exception, with first place on the line, the 1973 Cy Young winner went out and pitched a complete game five hit victory for his 18th win of the season. He struck out eight, walked two while allowing only two runs, dropping his ERA to a 1.88.

The Pirates went through six pitchers allowing 10 runs on 13 hits, including HRs by Rusty Staub (15th), Wayne Garrett (14th) & John Milner (23rd). Jerry Grote had three hits and drove in two runs, Cleon Jones also drove in two runs, getting two hits. Garret had three hits, Staub two, a matter of fact everyone in the line up except the center field position players (Dave Schneck & Don Han) all had hits.

Sep 18, 2009

Today In Mets History: 1967- Wes Westrum Resigns & Gil Hodges Is On The Way

September 20, 1967: It was on this day that Met manager Wes Westrum, a former catcher for the 1950's NY Giants, resigned his position. Westrum was waiting for the Mets to announce he would be retained for 1968, with the writing on the wall that he probably wouldn't be, he walked into the Mets front office & announced his resignation. He left with a 57-94 record in 10th place. Westrum had managed the club since taking over for Casey Stengel in August 1965. Westrum went 15-48 for the remainder of the '65 season finishing 10th. 1966 was an improvement, finishing 9th with the most victories the franchise had ever had at that point going 66-95. In 1967 the team took a step back, and the fans were beginning to get restless as was the organization.

Mets coach Salty Parker took over for the remaining 11 games in 1967 going 4-7 as their interim manager. A turning point for the Mets came a few short days later when the front office announce they would be able to obtain Gil Hodges for the position of manager. At the time Ho
dges was managing the Washington Senators and it was tough convincing them to let him go. Mets GM Johnny Murphy met with his former team mate Washington's GM George Selkirk and worked out a deal. Hodges was eager to come back to New York and his old Brooklyn Dodger fans still loved him. The Mets sent a pitcher named Bill Denehy to Washington and a sum believed to be $150,000. Hodges signed a contact for the Mets at $60,000 annually. The rest is history by the end of his second season as Met manager he won the World Series.

*Westrum would reappear as manager of his old team, now in San Francisco in 1974 taking over mid season going 38-48. He was at the helm in 1975 going 80-81 finishing third.

Sep 16, 2009

Today In Mets History: 1986- Mets Clinch Eastern Title

September 17, 1986: The 1986 Mets were so good that the night they clinched the division they had a 19 game lead over the 2nd place who ever they were. It was kind of funny that us fans were happy they had just got swept in Philadelphia & split a two game series in St. Louis, putting them on a streak of six losses in eight games. All it meant was that they would clinch the East at home in Shea.

How fitting Dwight Gooden was on the mound that night to clinch it for us. The doctor went the distance pitching his 12th complete game of the season earning his 15th win (15-6). Gooden allowed 2 runs on only 6 hits while striking out eight Cubs.

The Cubs loser that night? Dennis Ekersley, who was knocked out in the 5th inning. In the Mets 3rd, rookie Dave Magadan making his first MLB start (3rd game overall) singled home the 1st run of the night scoring Len Dykstra. Daryl Strawberry followed with an RBI single of his own making it 2-0 in a loud Shea Stadium. In the 5th the crowd roared again, as rookie Magadan singled home Dykstra again making it 3-0. In the 7th Magadan got his third hit of the night, then gave way to pinch runner Stanley Jefferson who would score on Straw's 2nd RBI of the night. That was it as the Mets won 4-2.
Keith Hernandez who was out of the line up due to injury begged Davey Johnson to put him on the field for the final outs of the 9th inning. After Jerry Mumphrey struck out looking, Chicago's Chico Walker grounded to Wally Backman & Backman threw to Hernandez and the Mets clinched their third NL Eastern title. The fans went crazy & stormed the field for the last time in Shea's history, as after this game, the NYPD got involved making sure no damage would ever occur on a baseball field in New York.

On a personal note, I purchased one of the last tickets that day at a Ticketron location in an A&S store. I went to the game solo that night, I just had to be there. It was the Mets 1st title since 1973 when I was a young die hard fan, 13 long years ago. I got my ticket & I was there. From the Upper deck I ran down in the 9th inning as the stadium shook above. There was this big cop at Field level who was stopping people attempting to run by him to get onto the field section. He was literally hurling people out of the way. I was quick back then & ran by him as he was trying to stop someone else. After the final out, I jumped onto the field for the first time in my life! I remember feeling like I had just landed on the moon, here I am, this is where THEY play!!. It was chaos but oh what a celebration. We were finally escorted out through the center field gates, I had some grass like everyone else but it wasn't enough. Grass dies. On my way out I noticed the center field wall was made of just wood in those days. Hmmmm, I ripped a nice piece of it off, put it under my arm & left. To my surprise no security stopped me just fans who offered me money to buy it. It meant to much to me to sell, still does. I still have it. Nothing proves its Shea's center field wall from 1986, but I know what it is! Priceless!

Sep 14, 2009

Today In Mets History: 1969- Ron Swoboda Spoils Carltons 19th K Performance

September 15, 1969: It was a history making night at Busch Stadium for the Cardinals Steve Carlton as he set a record by striking out 19 batters. Every body in the Mets line up struckout at least once, six batters went down twice and rookie Amos Otis wiffed four times on the evening. Carlton scattered six hits and went into the 8th inning with a 3-2 lead. But these were the Amazing Mets of 1969. Back in the 4th inning Donn Clendenon walked and Ron Swoboda hit his 8th HR of the year to put the Mets up 2-0. After Gary Gentry squandered the lead in the 5th inning Carlton was rolling along until the 8th.

Tommie Agee singled to center and with one out Swoboda connected again for his 9th HR and the game winner 4-3. Tug McGraw came in to pitch the bottom of the 9th. With one out, St. Louis threatened. Phil Gagliano reached on an Ed Charles error, and Lou Brock singled but McGraw got Curt Flood & Vad Pinson to win the game. Carlton went into the record books, but recorded the loss along with it, thanks to Ron Swoboda.

Ferragosto 2009 -Arthur Avenue: Little Italy In the Bronx

It was another great day for the annual Ferragosto celebration on Arthur Avenue in Little Italy in The Bronx. The annual event is in honor of the Feast of August which is celebrated every year on August 15th in Italy. The day is believed to be the day the Virgin Mary ascended into Heaven, a huge Holiday in Italia right behind Christmas & Easter. In ancient times the Romans also celebrated the Feast of Augusti and the tradition of the date was kept .

In the Bronx, its a celebration of food & music as the local merchants of Arthur Avenue set up shop on the street and present their specialties. I don't think there was a spot in the world today that offered as much great foods & desserts that were on display on Arthur Avenue. The event has grown through the years, now every restaurant sets up numerous tables outside for dinning. Other smaller stands serve sausage & peppers, zeppoles, Italian pannini's, pasta, pastries, pizza, espresso, bread, Italian Ices, cookies, & a roasted pig.

There were street performers, like jugglers, clowns, comedy actors, & face painters. There was a band stage set up with Italian/ American singers & oldies acts performing through out the day. But mostly it was about the food and a great celebration of Italian culture.

Arthur Avenue is one of my favorite places and I frequent it regularly. I grew up around here, as all my grandparents lived here and I spent much of my childhood here. Playing ball in the park, hanging out on the stoop, running thru the alleys. Chunks of ice from the ice man, doe from the bakeries, and coal from Lefty's cellar. LOL. Yes, there were big soft pretzels & egg creams at the old candy stores, where I got many of my old baseball cards. Then there were lots of cookies, pastries and Italian ices. I lived on raviloi's, Catania's & Ann & Tony's Pizza. Then there was the feast, twice during the summer; Our Lady of Mt. Carmel & St. Anthony. As I grew older I kept friends there and continued going to the feast as a teenager, chasing those hot Italian girls. As time passed I learned to appreciate the past, and love the food more & more.

If you have never been there, you must, you will not find better Italian food any where else outside of Italy. See my friends at Ann & Tony's, Pasquale Rigoletto's, Roberto's, Enzo's, Umberto's, Catania's Pizza & Mike's Deli in the Arthur Avenue Market. Tell them centerfield maz sent you & Lets Go Mets!!
Today I got to meet a hell of a nice guy who happens to be very talented & pretty famous. Dominick Chianese who happens to be cousins with my sister in law & her family. The connection helped as I got to chat with him & take photos as a crowd gathered around us. Dominick is a very popular guy in these parts. He performed & sang on the band stage during the afternoon. You know him as Uncle Junior on the Soprano's, unfortunately I am not a fan of the show. He did do a great job though, as he did in many parts through his long career. To me he will always be Johnny Ola from the Godfather. It was Johnny Ola who tricked Fredo into betraying Michael. I love the line- What are you drinking Johnny? "Anisette". saluti

Sep 13, 2009

Review of The Museum at Bethel Woods Center of the Arts

Bethel, New York is the original site of the 1969 Woodstock concert. The name came from the promoters using the name Woodstock Ventures, in honor of the town a good one and a half hours away in Ulster County. The town of Woodstock had been a mecca to artist from the early 20th century. In the sixties Bob Dylan, the Band, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, John Sebastian & Paul Butterfield all called the quaint town home at some point. There was no room there for the large concert, so a spot in the town of Walkill was chosen. The town threatened and forced the promoters out. Max Yasgur who owned a large dairy farm in the Town of Bethel in Sullivan County, offered his property which was in the shape of a natural amphitheater. They built it, they came, the rest is history.

Anyone who's ever been to the small town knows what a mind blower it must have been to have 500,000 plus people descend on the area. Pictures & film doesn't not do it justice.

After many years of neglect, ideas & controversy, Bethel Woods was built on the site. Bethel Woods is an absolutely beautifully landscaped amphitheater just to the rear of the original site. I saw Chicago & America there two years ago, and its perfect for a summer concert in Upstate in New York. Concerts are held throughout the summer.

It took time but now a museum called The Museum at Bethel Woods is also opened on the site. The Museum is small but really a nice place to visit. It is a celebration of both the Woodstock concert & the events of the sixties.
The timeline includes, baby boomers, the space age, the cold war, civil rights, pop culture, television, the counter culture, and of course Woodstock. The exhibits include events leading up to the concert, short films on the event, interactive productions, artifacts & personal memories of attendees. There is also a 21 minute movie called Woodstock: The Movie in the small comfy theater, with great sound & a large screen.

All exhibits are self guided so you can enjoy at your own pace. There is an old school bus
painted in psychedelic colors with rows of seats, that you can sit in to watch a short film on how people got to the Woodstock concert.

There is small cafe, a small gift shop and your admission price also gives you access to walk the grounds outside. There is a mini Roman style amphitheater directly outside the museum for small events. Y ou can walk directly over to the actual field the concert was held on.

I was there for the 1998 Day In The Garden Concert, and a few other times since. No matter how often I go & walk on that site I get chills, it's like sacred Rock & Roll ground, a must for fans to experience. At the bottom of the field on the corner of Hurd Rd. & West Shore Dr. there is the stone monument which was erected by a sculptor & his wife in the 1980's. The marker is painted with the concert logo & names of the acts who played. There is a table with a couple of chairs set up so you can hang out a while. Believe me there are always people stopping by there to chat with. Last time I got lucky to meet local historian Duke at the marker & had a long chat with him.
In addition to concerts at Bethel Woods, the museum holds smaller events like private functions & lectures. There is plenty of free parking on the beautiful grounds. The price of admission is $13 per person, & no photography is allowed inside. centerfield maz highly recommends music fans to make a nice day out of it at Bethel Woods, located off Route 17B at Hurd Road in Bethel, New York.