Mar 24, 2010

Say It Ain't So, Doc!

As we all know Dwight Gooden was picked up the other morning in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey after fleeing the scene of an accident. Franklin Lakes is an exclusive North Jersey town also home to Phil Simms, Willie Randolph, Sam Huff & other notables. Gooden, (45)was charged with driving while under the influence of drugs, endangering the welfare of a child, leaving the scene, and DWI with a child passenger (his five year old son). It’s just a shame.

I am not going to beat him up here like everyone else seems to want to do. It’s just a shame that he cant overcome his demons. For two seasons he was the best pitcher I ever saw on a day to day basis besides Tom Seaver. There was nothing like Doc in his prime, that rising fastball that would just blow hitters away. He brought the Mets back to the top after some pretty bad years. I was the same age as him, when he came up, and a life long Met fan, was happy to get back out to the excitement of Shea. Again, there was nothing like Dr. K in h
is prime. I was at his one hitter, his 16 K performance, his 20th win, his rookie K record setting game, his 1st HR, his playoff duel with Nolan Ryan, his 100th victory & so many others.

He broke our hearts when he had to go to rehab in 1987 and again as his career fell off. He still had some great years even though he didn’t make the Hall of Fame & be all we dreamed he’d be. After some bitter years, all was forgiven when he came out for the Last day at Shea. I was there then too, & thought his return was one of the most emotional. I had the pleasure to meet him last year & had the chance to tell him thanks, for doing what he did in 1984 & 1985. He thanked me you could see he appreciated it very much. He wrote on my autograph, “Be Cool” …… I wish him the best. Let’s remember all the good he did for us on the mound in “the good old days”!!

Mar 22, 2010

Concert Review: Ace Frehley @ Nokia Theater (Times Square, NY)

Ace is back & he told you so! After the release of the great Ace Frehley album last year, I was looking very forward to seeing him live. The Spaceman did not disappoint. There was no make up, & no massive stage set ups. Just a laid back Ace Frehley wailing away on the guitar & casually singing his songs.

Backed by a great tour band with resumes' of their own; bass-Anthony Esposito (Lynch Mob), guitar-Todd Youth (Danzig) & drums- Scott Coogan (Brides of Destruction). They played,harmonized & shared some lead vocals, sounding much like Mr. Stanley & Mr. Simmons.

First the negatives: which are really my own issues. I don’t like general admission, where we have to stand. The $32 ticket was worth every bit the price of admission, but I’d rather pay more to be closer in a private seat. It was predominantly a male crowd of true Kiss/Ace fans over 35 & definatley into the music. There were a few obnoxious drunks who stumbled into us as they played air guitar, while feeling a need to bond with their buddies by giving constant high fives. There was one large Neanderthal man who felt a need to conduct the whole show with his arms & hands in the air, stumbling & hugging new friends he tried to make.

There were two opening acts Acey Slade whom we never saw & the Dark Party whom I thought were pretty good. They were pretty much a 70’s hard rock/punk style band, who’s best song of the night was a cover of The Cult’s -Sanctuary. The show started later than most of us wanted it to (Ace came on at 9:30), and ended late for a Sunday (1130).

Ace opened up with bang, as he knocked our socks off with Rocket Ride from 1977’s Kiss Alive II, by far the best of Side Fours (new studio songs). He then went right into the early Kiss classic Parasite which he did not sing. Next he welcomed the hometown crowd, Ace being one of us Bronx born guys, and introduced the next song. “This is a song about cocaine, I used to do a little” he cracked, as he went into Snow Blind from his 1978 solo Kiss album, the best of the four solo albums by far. Ace played four songs from that album, including the classic Back in the New York Groove, with a full crowd sing along section. I also thought Rip It Out from that album was one of the best songs on the night, I love how he cracks “I hope you suffer!!” right before the fantastic guitar lead!!! His one liners were classic Ace, right out of Kiss meets the Phantom, with his classic cackling laugh.

Surprisingly he only did two songs from the latest Anomaly album, Sister & Pain in the Neck “dedicated to you know who” (his ex wife Jeanette of course). It was the first time this song was played live. We got a pleasant surprise from what I thought was another of the night’s best songs, Into the Void, from 1998’s Physco Circus.

Then it was pretty much a ride down memory lane as he dusted off some great old Kiss songs like; Love Her All I Can (Dressed to Kill) Strange Ways (Hotter than Hell) Talk To Me (Unmasked) Hard Times (Dynasty) & the Stones cover that the Unplugged Reunion show made famous; 2000 Man, (also one of the best songs of the night) from Dynasty. Ace’s into to the song was telling the crowd he wanted to cover a Stones song, as he began to play both Gimmie Shelter & Satisfaction. There was only one song from his 1980’s Frehley’s Comet days, the great Rock Soldiers, Ace is Back & he told ya so!!

The final five songs were all Kiss classics, he started out by saying the line of the night “I got electrocuted in 1976, it was the best thing that ever happened to me!” As a result he wrote Shock Me which blew the house down in Times Square 34 years later. He followed that with a fantastic guitar solo complete with smoke bombs!! As he finished the solo with the outro from Let Me Know, he led into the finale’ Shout It Out Loud.

The encores consisted of three more Kiss classics, Deuce, Love Gun, (where he thanked Paul Stanley for writing a great song) & the classic he wrote on the subways of the Bronx; Cold Gin, one of my all time favorites.

Quite a show, it was like seeing one of your pals playing in a club and having a good old time.
set list 3/21/10 New York City
Rocket Ride
Snow Blind
Pain in the Neck
Into The Void
Speedin' Back To My Baby
Rock Soldiers
Love Her All I Can
Talk To Me
2000 Man
Strange Ways
New York Groove
Rip it Out
Hard Times
Shock Me
Guitar Solo (Let Me Know -outro)
Shout It Out Loud
Encores: Deuce
Love Gun
Cold Gin

Mar 20, 2010

Rock & Roll Movie Review: The Runaways ****

If you were an adolescent rock & roll boy like myself in the late seventies, you were fascinated by the Runaways from the pages of Creem magazine. You said to yourself "that’s a different kind of girl than the ones I see on TV. I am a little scared of her but when I become a teenage I have to get me one of those!! "

The new movie “The Runaways” is the long overdue story of the band- the Runaways. They were the first all girl rock band to ever make a name for themselves. Although they never hit the mainstream in America, they earned a huge following in Japan, opened for Van Halen, Cheap Trick & the Ramones in America & were true pioneers.
A few famous rock chicks came out of the Runaways; the great Joan Jett, & metal queen Lita Ford the most famous. There’s also Micki Steele who went on to play bass in the Bangles & drummer Sandy West, (possibly the best female drummer ever) who remained friends with Joan Jett until her untimely passing from lung cancer in 2006. And of course there is Cherie Curie, the original lead singer.

The new film is based on Cherie Currie’s book. Dakota Fanning (the girl from War of the Worlds) was absolutely fantastic as Cherie, and steals the show. Her acting as well as singing & stage performances are mesmerizing. The movie shows how the band got started, as manager Kim Fowley brings to life Jett’s dream of an all girl band. He hand picks Cherie Currie to be the lead singer selling her sexy blonde looks. She came from Hollywood dysfunctional parents, but always had a close bond with her sister, Marie. So when Rock & Roll came a knockin' she was more than ready to go.

The other side of the movie focuses on Joan Jett who is also the film’s executive producer. Kristen Stewart plays Joan & does a pretty good job as well. Jett is the creative talent, behind the band, the driving force & their leader. She deals with the manager, keeps the peace, writes songs, & is always there for Cherie. Like she says in the movie, rock & roll is her whole life. Her ongoing determination is to make it, despite being a girl. When she starts out, she’s told that “girls don’t play the electric guitar”. She wants to prove the world wrong.
The film shows the development of the group, as they rehearse and try to get noticed. We see the friendship bond between Jett & Cherie grow, as well as the dramas of Cherie’s personal life. The band gets a record deal, and then enjoys success, making it big in Japan.
Their first big hit is the Jett/Fowley composition “Cherry Bomb”. We see Cherie singing lead, in thigh high stockings selling herself on stage as jail bait. Fowley has her pose for sexy pictures without the other members knowing. This infuriates them later, especially because to them it’s about the music.
Sex, drugs & decline follow, like any good rock story and young Cherie (only 17years old) leaves the band. The Runaways eventually dissolve & go their own way, leaving Fowley bitterly behind. The film ends as Joan Jett makes it big on her own & Cherie now working a regular job, hears Jett on a radio interview. She calls in & surprises Jett. There is an emotional loss for words as the film ends to the DJ playing another hit by Joan Jett “Crimson & Clover” , then the credits roll to another graet Joan Jett classic- “Bad Reputation”.

Interesting to me was the portrayal of Lita Ford in the film. Lita Ford has had an ongoing feud with Jett since the breakup, & had nothing do with the movie. Nor have I seen any comments from her. I think the girl who played her (Scout Compton Taylor) was a dead ringer for a teenage Lita Ford & did a great job. Since Jett was the executive producer, I think she had a lot to say about how to portray Lita. I think she did a fair job, she plays a minor role in the movie but her presence was known. I thought she gave her some credit as a guitar player by showing her wail away some leads. Ford does have a quick temper & flies off the handle at Cherie a few different times. But usually for good reason. First when she requested to sing “Fever” at her first rehearsal, Lita barks “we don’t do slow songs”, and again when Cherie wants to keep a slow song on the car radio. Ford is held back from fighting Cherie by Jett when she refuses to sing at her what turns out to be her final recordings session.
All in all this was a great rock & roll movie, destined to be a classic. I hope it turns people on to the Runaways music, and Joan Jett & Lita Ford’s solo careers as well. I hope it also makes people realize all that Joan Jett has accomplished in her lifetime and she can get more of the respect she deserves.
Trivia: Did you know that after getting turned down by 23 record labels, she was the first woman to start her own label. Did you also know the song “I Love Rock & Roll” was #1 for seven weeks & is Billboards #56 record of All Time!!

Mar 19, 2010

Lead Singer of the Sixties Band "The Box Tops" Dead at 59

Alex Chilton was born December 28th, 1950 in Memphis Tennessee. His father was a Jazz musician and Alex played the guitar & sang too. After winning a local talent show with his singing, he was recruited by a local high school band called the Devilles. They blew the small town high scholars away with their sound. The band changed their name to the Box Tops and went into Muscle Shoals Studios to record a record with Chips Moman (who had worked with Elvis & Aretha Franklin) and songwriter Dan Penn. The group was told to pick from a bunch of songs on the demo tapes, but told they had to do "The Letter”.

"The Letter": Released in July 1967, The Letter hit #1 in September and stayed there for four weeks. It was one of the biggest singles of the year and was a success around the world. Young Alex Chilton was only 16 years old at the time of its success. He will probably be most remembered for the way he sang the opening line “Buy me a ticket for an aero-plane...” Joe Cocker would also have a top ten hit with "The Letter", in 1970 with his signature sound.

The Box Tops released three albums, over the next nine months into 1968 enjoying a few other minor hits "Neon Rainbow", "Choo Choo Train", "Soul Deep" & another huge smash "Cry Like A Baby", which reached number two on the US charts. The teenage musicians never got any respect from managers, producers or promoters and certainly didn’t make it rich. After three years of being the Box Tops, Chilton & lead guitarist Gary Talley were the only originals that remained. By 1970 the band broke up.

Chilton moved to New York and formed the band Big Star, a power pop group from 1971-1974. They got good reviews but never enjoyed much success, possibly because of poor promotion. In the 1980s & 1990s there was a new interest into their music and they were credited for inspiring many bands of the time, like R.E.M. In 1993 Big Star reunited and continued to play until Chilton’s death this past week. Their song "In the Street" was used as the theme song from the sitcom, That 70’s Show in 1998. Chilton & the Box Tops also had reunions in the late 1990’s & 2000’s. In 2003 they sold out shows in Germany & the concerts were aired on German radio.

Chilton had various other musical projects in his lifetime and produced the punk band The Cramps, for a pair of albums. Last week on St. Patrick’s Day, Chilton died in New Orleans of a heart attack, he was just 59.

Mar 1, 2010

Battle of the Barber Shops in Penny Lane, Liverpool

“In Penny Lane there is a barber showing photographs, Of every head he’s had the pleasure to know. And all the people that come and go - Stop and say “Hello.”’

Back in 1967 when Paul McCartney wrote those famous lyrics, the barber shop was mentioned was owned by an Italian family called Bioletti. Old man Bioletti had shaky hands when the young Beatles, only school kids at the time would get their haircuts. Rumor had it old man Bioletti was involved with Guiseppe Garibaldi in Italy's battle for independence and statehood. The Bioletti family had old guns‚ bullets‚ grenades and pictures of Italians waving fla
gs on the walls of the barbershop.

Paul mentions the name in the Beatles Anthology movie, and a picture of the shop is seen in the Free As a Bird Video. The original shop which has been called Tony Slavin’s for a long time is in Smithdown Place, & is widely recognized as the one in the song. Beatle Taxis, Magical & Mystery Tour buses stop at the location. tourists & celebrities alike have also visited the legendary barber shop for years.

But now a new shop has opened, actually located in Penny Lane and is causing a lot of controversy in the “roundabout”. People are now flocking to the new place called “The Barbers- Liverpool” and the owners are planning to cash in by selling merchandise. Although they never claim to be the original shop, the lease holder of Tony Slavin’s is very upset over the confusion. They actually own the rights to the name; Penny Lane Barber Shop, & he feels fans are getting ripped off by thinking the new place is the one in the song.