Jul 31, 2011

40th Anniversary of George Harrison's Concert For Bangla Desh

The Concert for Bangladesh was the first major benefit concert of its kind. The idea came from George Harrison who was asked by his friend Bengali musician Ravi Shankar how to raise money for the refugee problem in Banladesh (then called East Pakistan).

The problem occurred during the brutal Bangladesh Liberation War as East Pakistan was struggling to become a separate state from West Pakistan. The war resulted in brutal treatment of the East Pakistani people & led to a mass refugee exodus into the border of India. A major tropical cyclone storm followed, taking the lives of thousands or more people. The storm (Nora) is one of the worst natural disasters on record, bringing torrential rains & flooding, only making the devastation & starvation worse by 1971.

Harrison recorded the song Bangla Desh (a top twenty five US hit) as his first attempt to donate profits & bring awareness to the cause. When Shankar brought up the idea of a concert, Harrison ran with it. In just five months, he got together a group of friends to perform two concerts on August 1st, 1971 at Madison Square Garden in New York. Originally called George Harrison & Friends, there was an afternoon & an evening show.

The show opened with Ravi Shankar playing a seventeen minute Indian raga with his band, something the rock crowd tolerated as they waited on the edge of their seats. Remember this was right after the Beatles break up & everyone was anticipating a Beatles reunion. It was a highly anticipated performance, George’s first major live appearance (except for a few minor cameos’) since the Beatles Tour of 1966.

George was fresh off the major solo success of his album All Things Must Pass with his #1 song; My Sweet Lord / Isn’t It A Pity, as well as the Top ten hit What Is Life, just two years after Abbey Roads success (Something, Here Comes the Sun). This was one of the first times a bunch of superstar musicians all took the stage together, instead of doing their own performances & walking off, as others followed.

On the bill with George Harrison was an all star cast, his good friend & former Beatle band mate, Ringo Starr on drums & vocals. Also on drums was Jim Keltner as a second drummer.
Eric Clapton, who was battling his own heroin addiction at the time, was on guitars. Clapton was so strung out due to his drug issues he missed all the rehearsals except the final sound check.

George stated that Clapton was booked on every flight from London to New York the previous week but didn’t arrive until a day prior to the show. George got anxious & had back up lead guitarists available in case Clapton would be a no show. But Eric Clapton arrived without rehearsal & was superb. Clapton was fresh off his tour with the classic Derek & the Domino’s line up, earlier in 1971.

Also on guitar / vocals & harmonica was the legendary Bob Dylan. As Dylan arrived he saw all the press as well as the mob scene around the Garden on Seventh Ave. He told Harrison “it’s not my scene man”. George said it wasn’t his either, he had Never played alone. As the lights went down during the show before Dylans set, it was feared he wouldn’t come on stage. Harrison introduced him & he too was superb, drawing a huge ovation from the crowd.

On keyboards & piano were the great Billy Preston & Leon Russell. Preston was a long time Beatles friend since their days in 1963 London. He had played on the Let It Be sessions, on the Apple rooftop, & is featured on the Let It Be album, as well as on George’s solo album. The classic Badfinger Line up of Pete Ham, Tom Evans, Joey Molland and Mike Gibbins were also on stage as a backing band. (No Matter What, Day After Day, Come & Get It).

Klaus Voorman, a Beatles friend since their days in Germany in 1962 played bass. Voorman designed the cover of the Revolver album as well as the Anthology albums in the 1990s. Voorman was also a member of John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band & played on most of Johns solo albums; (Live Peace in Toronto, Plastic Ono Band, Imagine, Sometime in New York City, Walls & Bridges, Rock & Roll).

Voorman also played with Ringo on his 1973 album; “Ringo” as well as Sentimental Journey, Ringo’s Rotogravure, & Goodnight Vienna. He played with George on All Things Must Pass, Living in the Material World, & Extra Texture. He turned down invitations to join the Moody Blues & the Hollies but was a member of Manfred Man (1966-1969).

Lesser known musicians on stage were Jesse Ed Davis, Carl Radle & Jim Preston. The horn section dubbed “The Hollywood Horns” featured another talented cast including Jim Horn who played with everyone from all four solo Beatles, to the Traveling Wilburys, Rolling Stones (Goats Head Soup) Joe Cocker (Mad Dogs & Englishmen), Beach Boys (Pet Sounds), Steely Dan (Josie/ Aja), Canned Heat (Going Up Country) Johnny Rivers (Poor side of Town) Jackson Browne (Running on Empty), Warren Zevon (Excitable Boy) Elton John, U2, Stevie Wonder, Linda Ronstadt, Duane Eddie & hundreds of others, even Frank Sinatra on Strangers in the Night (flute).

George came out at first to introduce the Indian segment of the show, & it still touching to me today watching the movie, to see the huge ovation he received from the crowd. You can still feel the love & energy that was in the Garden that day by watching the movie. George appears on stage with a full beard, his hair shoulder length which had been recently cut from his super long hair that had almost reached his mid section the previous year.

Ringo also has long hair & a beard on the lower part of his face, like something out of the Planet of the Apes. George dons a white suit jacket & white slacks, with an orange long sleeved shirt underneath. A ticket on that rainy Sunday in 1971 was approximately $7.50. In a time before internet, stub hub or even Ticketron, people had to line up in front of the Madison Square Garden Box office for a chance to purchase tickets.

Watching the film now, of all the great performances of the day the highlights had to be George doing Something & acoustically performing Here Comes the Sun. Also George & Clapton playing While My Guitar Gently Weeps; it was first time this song was ever played live & the two dueling on guitar solos is just incredible. Dylans Hard Rain Is Gonna Fall / Leon Russel’s Jumpin Jack Flash & Ringo’s It’ Don’t Come Easy were all other highlights.

Looking back all the musicians (who were not paid) spoke positively about the show. They all felt each one shoved egos aside & put the music, as well as the cause first. The concert was certainly filled with diversity, spirituality & an overall positive message as most of any of the Beatles works.

The concert set a precedent for benefit concerts of the future. A triple live album was released & a film was made as well. The remastered double CD came out in 2001 & the DVD boxed set in 2005. There has been much controversy over the years about the monies that had been raised & sent to the cause.

At the time the concert raised $250,000, through the year’s the album & movie sales have been estimated as much as 20 million dollars. Since then George has been a proud supporter of UNICEF & since his passing his wife Olivia Harrison has taken over the cause. Earlier in March of 2011 she visited Bangladesh for the first time.

The set lists were: Afternoon Show:

Wah-Wah" (George)
"Something" (George)
"Awaiting On You All" (George)
"That's The Way God Planned It" (Billy Preston)
"It Don't Come Easy" (Ringo)
"Beware Of Darkness" (George)
"While My Guitar Gently Weeps" (George/ Clapton)
"Jumpin' Jack Flash" /"Young Blood" (Leon Russell)
"Here Comes The Sun" (George /Pete Ham)
"A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" ( Dylan)
"Blowin' In The Wind" (Dylan)
"It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry" (Dylan)
"Love Minus Zero/No Limit" (Dylan)
"Just Like a Woman" (Dylan)
"Hear Me Lord" (George)
"My Sweet Lord" (George)
"Bangla Desh" (George)

Evening show
"Wah-Wah" (George)
"My Sweet Lord" (George)
"That's the Way God Planned It" (Billy Preston)
"It Don't Come Easy" (Ringo)
"Beware Of Darkness" (George)
"While My Guitar Gently Weeps" (George / Clapton)
"Jumpin' Jack Flash" / "Young Blood" (Leon Russell)
"Here Comes The Sun" (George / Pete Ham)
"Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" (Dylan)
"It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry" (Dylan)
"Blowin' In The Wind" (Dylan)
"Mr. Tambourine Man" (Dylan)
"Just Like A Woman" (Dylan)
"Something" (George)
"Bangla Desh" (George)

Jul 24, 2011

A Sad Goodbye To Amy Winehouse

Centerfieldmaz would like to pay its farewell respects to Amy Winehouse. The troubled, controversial English girl had her share of drama and sadly it all came to an end this weekend.
Winehouse was found dead at her home in Camden, London England on Friday, she was just 27. The cause of death is being investigated, no matter what the cause; another talented singer is gone way too soon.

She joins a long line of rock & rollers who have left us early & left a legacy. Through the years the term “the 27 Club” has been coined, in reference to some great artists who have passed at away at the age of 27. Some of my favorites like; Jim Morrison (the Doors), Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones (Rolling Stones), Janis Joplin, Pete Ham (Badfinger) & now Amy Winehouse, all have this strange age coincidence in common.

Winehouse was a great singer with some fantastic songs. I was first turned on to her by one of my favorite female singers; Ronnie Spector, while attending one of her shows at B.B. Kings night club in Manhattan. Spector mentioned that Winehouse was going around saying Spector was a big influence to her & praised her very highly. In return Spector said she’d decided she would cover one of her songs. Ronnie Spector covered “Back to Black” like it was made for her & the similarities in Winehouse’ voice to Spector’s had me hooked.

I immediately plunged into the 2006 Winehouse album “Back to Black” and loved it. The album included great songs like: “You Know I’m No Good”, “Back to Black”, “Rehab”, which won three Grammy Awards, “Tears Dry Up On My Own”, & Love Is A Losing Game”.

Winehouse combined rock & roll, jazz, soul, rhythm & blues, & pop music together in an eclectic mix with an back ground of modern beats. Her singing was captivating, very powerful & emotional with her raspy contralto vocals. Her music was like nothing else out in the popular music world today. It had an old style to it with a fresh modern feel. I went back to check out her first album “Frank” & found it to be outstanding as well.

The drugs & dramas of her life certainly turned many people off, & ruined some of her popularity. “Back to Black” was a huge success, going to Number One in many parts of the world, topping at Number Two on Billboard in America. Although she left behind just a small library her music will live on forever. Our prayers go out to her & her family, may she find peace in another life. As the old saying goes once again “If there’s a Rock & Roll Heaven, man they’ve got a hell of a band”.

Jul 14, 2011

In Memory of Ruth Roberts (Co Writer of Meet the Mets)

Ruth Roberts is an important figure in Mets history, even if she never played the game. Back in 1961 she co wrote the song "Meet the Mets" with Bill Katz & entered it in a contest the new expansion Metropolitan Baseball Club had sponsored. The team was looking for a traditional go get 'em fight song with a good feel to it. "Meet the Mets" beat out nearly twenty other songs in the end & has become the most popular team song of all time.

The song debuted to the public on March 9, 1962 as Spring Training had just begun. The 45 record of the song could be ordered by mail or purchased at the Polo Grounds souvenir shops. Who could forget the classic song being heard as the introduction to the old WOR television broadcasts sponsored by Rheingold or Schafer beer. As the song ended we heard either Bob Murphy, Lindsay Nelson or Ralph Kiner start the broadcast.

Ruth Roberts was born Ruth Mulnitz on August 31st, 1926 in Portchester, New York. She attended Portchester high school, then moved on to North Western University & the Juliard School of music. She & Mr. Katz wrote other sports tunes like college footballs "Mr. Touchdown USA" "I Love Mickey" sung by Theresa Brewer an ode to Mickey Mantle & "It's A Beatifal Day For A Ball Game" which was played at Dodger Stadium for years.

Ruth & Katz also wrote " Mailman Bring Me No Blues" which was sung by Buddy Holly. The song was recorded by the Beatles during the "Get Back Sessions" which became the "Let It Be" album. The Beatles can be seen rehearsing a performance of the song in the Let It Be film.

Roberts passed away on June 30, 2011 at the age of 84 from lung cancer in Rye Brook, New York.

Jul 3, 2011

The Doors Ray Manzarek & Robbie Kreiger Visit Jim Morrison's Grave Site

On the 40th anniversary of the passing of Jim Morrison a large crowd came out to Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris, France. Among those coming out to pay their respects to Jim were his former band mates & friends; keyboardist Ray Manzarek & guitarist Robbie Kreiger. The two Doors visited the grave site on Sunday morning & were scheduled to play a show in Paris that night.

Doors Drummer John Densmore said he celebrates Jim's birthday & wasn't even aware of the date of the 40th anniversary. "If Jim shows up I'll be there" he said.

In 1981 on the tenth anniversary of Jim's death the surviving Doors visited the grave site as well. That night hundreds of fans also gathered to pay tribute & from that point on the poularaity of the location grew.

The original name plaque was stolen as was anything vandals could get their hands on. In 1985 the National Guard had to be called out to stop a riot on site. The following year, police mistakenly beat a more low keyed crowd causing another near riot. In 1991 violent fans attempted to burn the gates down after they were thrown out of the cememtery.

For years grafitti covered the surrounding area with Doors lyrics & messages for Jim. Fans would climbed the walls at night, to party & sing Doors songs. A bust was placed at the head of the grave in 1990 but through the years it deterioted & was destroyed.  In the 1990's Jim's parents visited the loction & paid for a new headstone to be placed. A new plague with the inscription ΚΑΤΑ ΤΟΝ ΔΑΙΜΟΝΑ ΕΑΥΤΟΥ- meaning true to his own spirit was erected. Today the site seems to be more secured & controlled.

Remembering Jim Morrison: "The Lizard King" Forty Years Later

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the passing of Jim Morrison. Looking back at Jim’s career with the Doors, it only lasted five years. In that period they released six studio albums & one live album. There is superior quality in the Doors library, throughout their music it’s hard to find any bad songs. There was alot of music put out in just five short years, but in retrospect it's not that many songs considering the impact they have had in the world. Those songs have remained popular for over forty years, meaning so much to five different generations.

To me first there are the Beatles, then there are the Doors. Jim Morrison inspired me to write poetry & songs in my teen years, which somehow probably led to me blogging as an adult. I never get tired of the Doors, their music, their words, their live performances, video, books or stories about them. There is no better music driving on a long trip & there is no better music that fits on the beach. If you have ever been to Los Angeles, especially  those certain Doors Hollywood spots, Venice & Santa Monica beaches, the Doors music is its soundtrack. When a New Yorker like myself,walked those same haunts the Doors made their history in, I really felt it.

The Doors masterpieces like “When the Music’s Over” “The End” “The Soft Parade” “Riders On the Storm” & “the Celebration of the Lizard” were like nothing ever heard in popular music & paved the way for the epics of the seventies. The Doors took rock & roll into another dimension; Sex, death, &a surreal imagery. They wanted to be that point between the known & the unknown, where in between there are the Doors.

At the front of the Doors was Jim Morrison, singer, rock star, sex symbol, writer, and poet. Jim was all these things & more in a short four year period. When he was on his game, he was the best, a handsome rock star with a powerful yet beautiful voice. His live performances were incredible; he brought poetry & theater to the music stage. No one put on a better live concert than Jim Morrison. But when he was bad, he was a mean drunk that could destroy everything in his path.

His image has grown through time, he will always be young in legend & his works will last forever. The rebellious image of rock & roll like James in Hollywood. His words were so powerful, even when broken down to just lines inside the verses. You can find amazing sentences, where one line can mean so much & the imagination open wide; “A feast of friends, alive she cried’/‘this is the strangest life I’ve ever know” / “No one here gets out alive” /”when all else fails we can whip the horses eyes & make them sleep & cry”. “He took a face from the ancient gallery & he walked on down the hall” & so many more.

Even the simple verse “the hostess is grinning” in the song Strange Days makes the listener realize the author is talking about something, sexy, evil & more mysterious than it appears on the surface.

As time went on, Jim was tired of being a rock star, tired of L.A. & the whole scene. He wanted to be known as a poet, he didn’t want to sing “Light My Fire” anymore.

After the recording of L.A. Woman in 1971, Jim packed it all up. He & his girlfriend Pamela went to Paris, to get away from it all. There they went to the cinema, drank in the bars & café’s, frequented a music club called the Rock & Roll Circus &was fascinated by the cemetery he would eventually be buried in.

By this point his health was deteriorating, he suffered from asthma, & was coughing up blood. The excessive drinking was of course also taking it’s toll. The alcohol combined with his asthma medication probably had a huge impact on his final days. There were stories of heroine addictions as well, maybe, maybe not.

On July 3rd, after he & Pamela attended a movie they returned home. Jim could not sleep; he had another severe coughing attack. He coughed up blood clots but did not want Pamela to call a doctor. Instead he sent her to bed & took a bath. Jim Morrison passed away that early morning in a bath tub in Paris. Pamela called friends at first to come over, then later a doctor was called but no statement made to the police. The doctor signed a death certificate that stated the cause of death was heart failure.
No autopsy was done, no one ever found the doctor who signed the death certificate, & no one besides Pamela in the Doors circle ever saw the body. Pamela bought the most inexpensive coffin available at the cemetery & on July 7th Jim Morrison was buried in a sealed coffin. Only she & a handful of friends were in attendance at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris where Jim had wished to be buried, near artists & writers like Oscar Wilde, Vincenzo Bellini, Sarah Bernhardt, Frédéric Chopin, Gioacchino Rossini, Edith Pilaf & others.

The mystery of Jim's death will forever be questioned. Did he really die? Was Pamela to blame? Did he have a heart attack? Did he die of an overdose? Did he die from a variety of illness?

Pamela returned to L.A. obsessed about talking of Jim's death although she could not remember any details. She became addicted to heroine, was very unstable & slept around quite often. Three years later Pamela died of an overdose.

In April 1974 a quiet ceremony was held for Jim & Pamela as Ray Manzarek played the organ. Jim had originally left his will to Pamela, which included 1/4 of the Doors music rights, some land & an oil field. Through the years lawsuits followed & today it is believed the two families split the fortune.

Jim Morrison will forever be a rock icon, larger than life. His words & the Doors music has brought something special & identifiable to millions of people.