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Monday, April 21, 2008

The Road to Life and Progressive Rock. Part II

Moving (backwards).

"If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all!"
Born on a Bad Sign/Cream/Pat Travers/adapt. from Booker T. Jones and
William Bell

Louisiana and Southern Hospitality 1972.
My Mom was longing for Family, and many of them lived in the State of
Louisiana, so it was settled, we'd pack up and make a new home there.
I . . . was not happy about it, it must have been early signs of "intuition" I had
inherited from my Mom.
The 1st sign of trouble was on the 1st day on Jefferson Parish soil at my
Aunt and Uncles house, a nice little boy said hello to me (I think), and I guess
said a few more things(?), but he "talked funny", thinking he was just being
goofy, I followed with an "imitation" of him . . .
Then the kids Father came out of the house with the same "funny talk" and
started yelling at ME! Then my Dad came out and had no idea what was
going on (just like me!), I tried to explain what happened (I'm 7!!!) but there's
my Dad and the kid's Dad yelling at each other from across the street, "Waa
is yer keed makin' fhun ov ma' Son!!!?" . . . From that day, it just got worse.
(It was all innocent, I lived 7 years with English with no accents, I guess
the "Hee Haw" shows didn't help much).

. . . A sign of things to come.

The AWFUL move to Louisiana would hold the NEW influences as an escape
for a 7 to 14 year old. I started hearing a band called "Grand Funk Railroad"
on the radio, and thought it was the HEAVIEST stuff I ever heard (ahh
. . . niavete').

St. Josephs Elementary School of B.S.
Catholic School would be a revelation that the Teachers were
hypocrites in
the beliefs and teachings
of the Church, what else is new? (to an infant mind
that did not have the courage, reasoning or wits to defend)
. Their was a
particular Teacher who was not a Nun, that insulted me and let other kids
tease me in the class was an almost everyday occurrence, and my folks
would be called on about "MY behavior", and we would see the Dean/Bishop/
His High Majesty of Hypocrisy in his darkly lit chamber/office and proceeded
to be made-to feel like an amoeba, where my folks complied, because he was
a "man of the cloth".
As that were not enough, my folks would then scold me when I got home, and
all that, almost everyday, pretty much ruined schooling for life.
To add torture to injury, I am in firm belief we lived in a Haunted House, houses
in older areas were built on stilts because of heavy precipitation, so all kinds
of "critters", and who knows what else, would be heard scurrying under the
house . . . we had hard wood floors, and almost nightly I'd be shaking under the
covers as I would hear, as if someone was dropping a marble on the floor, as if
it were coming from the living room.
TAK TAk Taktaktak...
TAK TAk Taktaktak . . .
I'd get up to see where it was coming from . . . nothing. I'd Wake my folks who
in frustration would not believe me and angerly rush me to bed, as I in tears
would be begging to let me sleep with them. After about 30 minutes later . . .
the marble started again. Sleep deprived, nervous, geeky little boy.
Which is totally weird that I had a sort-of, blonde "Girl Friend" that lived across
the street named Jean, who was my best friends sister, she was my 2nd too!
(My 1st was back in California, across from my house, a cute Raven haired girl
named Kimberly, who we used to sneak kisses at the side of my house and put
flowers in her hair . . . at 5 years old!). But that didn't last long when my "Best"
friend started making fun of me as well.

. . . But there was a Blessing.


At this house came someone we all wanted, my little Brother Daniel :)
I loved him soo much, there are pictures of me and him in his outfit with booties
where we are soo happy together, me making a "peace sign" and him emulating
it with his little fingers, I had someone to care for and give my sence of humour
to (weird too, I was always the comedian with friends even through all the toil, as
I always have been). Its the best thing to come out of Louisiana for all of us.
I still love him to death, though he's picked up alot of the angst of my Father
. . . he's my little Brother :)

Escape through music and Roundhouse kicks.
New School, New House . . . Same crap.
After we left that God-forsaken rented house, we finally moved into a nice home
and my spacious bedroom, where I started to build model Planes and Cars and
continued drawing Hot Rods, as I did in class, from then on, I didn't care for any
schooling and payed for it at home.
I started listening to the radio on my own at this time, and my folks continued to
buy 45's of hits and my Dad, the occasional 8-Tracks.
I've never told this story to anyone, at Livaudales Junior High School, the bullying
continued (I was a nappy headed geek looking kid- on top of that, being Spanish
and tan skinned). . .
One day in class (a class that I was picked on by the teacher as well), A bully
who also was from St. Joseph's by the name of Joey Jackson (pretty much
everybody knew who he was. My thoughts in my last visit to Louisiana in 1996
were: if I EVER see that idiot when I visit La. again, I'll fricken' punch him
unconscious! . . . scars never heal) was listening to a hand held radio (in class!),
and he said to me, "do you know who THIS is?" (I'm hearing heavy riffs on a
guitar), I said, "I don't know . . . Grand Funk?"
He smacks the back of my head and says, "No bitch! its Fog Hat!"

. . . my introduction to Fog Hat and "Slow Ride".

From that moment on, I knew who the bands were, who the members of the
bands were, and the next 5 years of Shotokan Karate (by 14 I graduated as a
(dan) Degree Brown belt, that I was too scared to use because I have
always thought I'd go completely nuts, as I still feel that way) added to my anger
and sadness from Schooling, poor grades and punishment at home. I had been
facinated by Martial Arts
and Bruce Lee since I lived in California, I'm not sure
why I didn't try Kung Fu, but went the to a more traditional "Japanese" style.
Maybe I started noticing heavier guitars on songs because it was much like my
anger stomping on through life.

But then there was Grand Funk, and the "B-side" of the single for "Locomotion",
which was called "Flight of the Phoenix", It might be the first Hard Rock
instrumental I had ever heard. I can remember "Air Keyboarding" to the
Hammond Organ solos.

As my ears got trained baby step by baby step, I practiced dilligently on my
Karate, punches, kicks, kata's and discipline, I think that may have helped me
stay my lashing out at the world, other kids and teachers. But my Dad was hard
on me more and more in class, but I went to one belt to the next.
(See the Film: "The Great Santini", he wasn't that bad, but bad enough. If he'd
gotten into the Marines in the late 50's, early 60's, to become an automatic
citizen, instead of going the traditional route, this might be a different story).

This all just became a part of life throughout my 7 LONG years of "Southern
Hospitality" for me and my Dad. He got it at work. He worked at the Avondale
Shipyards as a Welder, working on Naval Destroyers, so you can imagine
the Ass-holes he had to deal with. Stories of "I almost got in a fight today
because, I don't care if they make fun of me, but when they start making fun
of you (Mom) and the family! . . ."
So his frustrations with my grades and work just made each day excruciating.
For me, almost everyday at school I would be asked , "Are you Black!?" or
"Are you a Niggah!?"
by White and Black kids. So I cringe everytime I hear
the "N" word.
Through all that, it never came to blows, just constant teasing, being pushed
on campus, classes and on the Bus made me hate school more and more.

But always throughout, I must've had angels watching over me, some-sort of
divine intervention, I don't know, through all this there were good times with
my Moms Family, which is why we moved there. There were lots of Parties
for Birthdays, Weddings, and Holiday get togethers, but at Christmas, as each
year passed, I started to realize my "worth". When it came time for all the
kids to open their presents, they were getting all kinds of Toys, but when I
opened mine . . . Socks and Ugly Sweaters or Shirts.
Even though many knew I Drew Cars all the time and Built Models, so I
started to know what was coming every year. I look at that kid and want to
lecture him about staying strong, I'd remember how caring my Aunt Daly in
California was, who always had pencils and paper ready for my visits.
. . . California dreaming.

There were also Football Parties! Everyone was a Saints fan, but me and
my Dad being from California were Raider Fans! So this could lead to
some rivalry . . . more on this later.

Hot Rods and Music.
Buying Hot Rod Magazine and the Car Comic book from the same publisher
called "CARtoons" helped my "education" in drawing and reading. And
dreamed of one day owning my own 67 Mustang Fastback, like my Fathers.
The Story from HOT ROD Magazine:
So my escape was always drawing and the AM Radio, hearing the likes of
Nazareth; Eric Clapton; Steppen Wolf; Mahogany Rush; Manfred Manns
Earth Band; Three Dog Night; Chicago; ZZ Top; Lynyrd Skynyrd; Eagles;
Styx; Edgar Winter Group; Blood Sweat and Tears; Todd Rungren; Electric
Light Orchestra; Rare Earth; Bachman Turner Overdrive; The Who; Derek
and the Dominoes; Mott the Hoople; Jim Croche; Cat Stevens; The Allman
Brothers; Robin Trower; Focus; Seals and Croft, as well as the Pop Music
the day, R&B of the 60's-early 70's and the "One Hit Wonders". . .
Chicago Transit Authority:
Manfred Manns Earth Band:
Mahogany Rush:
Three Dog Night:
Robin Trower:
Edgar Winter Group:
(thats the "Gladys Knight & The Pips Variety show"!)
These bands should have made a bigger impression, it astounds me why
they didn't till many years later, again, maybe because it was a bit beyond
my comprehension.
then something else . . .

Led Zeppelin was brief, it should of hit me like a ton of bricks as well as for
my Dad. He loved the song "Black Dog" but didn't get around to buying the
Black Sabbath should have as well, but knowing Dad's ear for rumours- he
probably didn't like the so-called "Dark" side of the band. I remember seeing
"We Sold our Souls for Rock n' Roll" in a LP stack at a relatives house. I wish
I would have heard it. These guys would hit me decades later.
Alice Cooper was dark as well, but we did get into his "Hit Singles".
Queen was WEIRD, but the music was really epic, but didn't seem to catch on
either. Brian Mays tone and playing was awe inspiring though. Every time I'd
hear that guitar sound, I'd stop to listen (And the layered vocals!). I remember
only their singles, and a couple of cute cousins that were into them.
The Rolling Stones were popular, but not with me. Only a few songs but they
never really appealed to me
The Who finally made an impression with a newly released album and a song
that would become an anthem:

"If you follow me, there's a specialty
some tears for you to see
Misery, misery,
Roll up! Roll up! Roll up
See the show!"

-Karn Evil 9-1st Impression, Part I /ELP

But . . .
Only in bits in pieces, and not really knowing who or WHAT it was, Yes and
Emerson Lake & Palmer, I could swear, I saw them on television.
Me and my Dad would watch all kinds of Music Specials and Variety Shows
including The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and the awesome cavalcade
of Bands and Musicians. As well as The Midnight Special and Don Kirchner's
Rock Concert.

will always be a faint memory that I actually saw them on T.V. but ELP
made an impression.
2 experiences with ELP:
1st, was seeing a "Documentary" about them, I vaguely remember it, but what
I DO remember was the names of the members, in BIG black letters atop
their Trailers/Lorry's! (And I swear in another segment "they" were atop them
with their respective instruments) as they zoomed down the road from a
Helicopter cam view.
Part 1 of 5:
(Finally! found on YOUtube, after all these years 2/23/09)

There was a place that my Dad used to get his 8 Track Tapes, I believe was
called "General E. Lee Music" (figures...yee haw) and in the middle of the
floor was an elaborate floor display from the Manticore Label- ELP & Brain
Salad Surgery
, it was soo intriguing and SCARY! It would be my 1st time seeing
the works of H.R. Giger and both would seem to make its way throughout my
At this point, other than 45's, I had yet to have my own albums(LP's).
. . . and 5 more years of misery at schools.

"I got it all together now
With my very own disco clothes, hey!
My shirts half open, t' show you my chains
n' the spoon for up my nose
I am really somethin'
That's what you'd probly say
So smoke your little smoke
Drink your little drink
While I dance the night away, I'm a
Dancing' fool . . ."
-Dancin' Fool/Frank Zappa

Jefferson Parish/Gretna Louisiana sucked BIG time. And something else would
"suck" . . . DISCO.
1976 and Disco would explode and it seemed Rock was dieing, but as the WHO
would exclaim, "Rock is dead they say, Long Live Rock!"
At first I liked Disco with its Orchestrated music and its high-hat and drum beats,
but then it started to focus on the "singer" and the simple verse and repeated
chorus over and over. It became less about the music and more the vocals, the
simplicity and the glitz, the glamour, the fashions and "lifestyle".
The flavours of the week were selling millions, but ROCK would endure and had
longevity . . . and slowly, Rock would get heavier and more creative.
Disco started to sound the same and Rock became my banner of rebellion.

Raiders STOMP Saints . . . a door opens to the west.
American Football, as much as European Futbal was very popular in our Family,
but the New Orleans "Saints" were the Team of the Famelies . . .
Not for the Velasquez Clan, The Raiders were the "NFL Rejects" of choice!
One day at a friend of the families, many were there to watch the New Orleans
Saints play the Oakland Raiders (many called the Saints the "'Aints" because
they never made it to the Superbowl), well you can imagine the yelling, cussing
and all that went into the game, but everytime the Raiders would score, the
man of the house Manuel, would "Shush" my Dad . . . "The baby is sleeping",
(Wha!?), the "shushing" would continue until it turned into . . . "SHUT UP!"
. . . I could see my Father, sitting amongst his childhood friends that HE defended
when they were kids in Honduras, his face getting redder and redder . . .
after a few minutes, he got up and said to me, my little Brother and Mom, "Lets
go...". Everyone was dumbfounded, there were pleads, tears, and my Dad
alone left the house. We got a ride with someone after a few minutes to follow,
we open the door and there is Dad, cheering on the winning Raiders doing what
they did best back in those days . . . beating the stuff out of their opponent living
the reputation as the meanest, rejects of the NFL.
Revenge was served that day . . .
I felt bad not leaving with my Dad, I think he felt bad not having his family stick
with him, there came a few days of silence at the house, but it caused a break-up
with the family that lasted about 3 decades. When they did meet in the mid 90's,
all was forgiven in heavy tears (I have a bad taste for playing most sports and its
, it brings out the worst in people, though I always liked playing
Soccer. As my Brother got older, at least my Father had him as a fellow sports fan).
. . . we are one emotional family.

But at the time, it pretty much was the straw that broke the Camels back.

"Cryin' won't help you, prayin' won't do you no good,
Now, cryin' won't help you, prayin' won't do you no good,
When the levee breaks, mama, you got to move "
-When the Levee Breaks/Led Zeppelin

The move back to California!
To be Continued . . .

Occasionally a commercial for a Concert coming to town would come on the

radio (even though I rarely listened to FM), ZZ Top, Lynnrd Skynrd, Black
Oak Arkansas, Allman Brothers and whatever Southern Rocker that would
visit New Orleans, not that it was bad (I liked most of them), but it was rare
to be surprised by a band coming to town.
But I remember this one really stood out:
(annoucers booming deep voice) "THE PRIEST!!! JUDAS PRIEST!!!" At the
time I had no idea who they were, but the music clips sounded really cool!
-"Exciter" - "Green Manalishi" - "Diamonds and Rust" - "2 NIGHTS AT THE
(what-ever club in New Orleans) JUDAS PRIEST!!! another Beaver Production!"
Again . . . why I didn't get into them right away is another mystery.
. . . a very cool memory that comes to mind when I hear a Concert coming to
town that takes me back to naive younger days.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Road to Life and Progressive Rock. Part I


"Talk talk talk, it's only talk, comments, cliches, commentary, controversy

chatter, chit-chat, chit-chat, chit-chat, conversation, contradiction, criticism
It's only talk . . . Cheap talk..."
- Elephant Talk/King Crimson

My name is Marco A. Velasquez III, I'm a very passionate fan of
music we call Progressive. Its a word that has started
criticism, and defining its definition can be a task.
For me its a
label . . . but I like labels. When you want to buy a
product at the
Market, you look at the label to see what you're
gonna' get.

But it takes some "logic" to know . . . what you're gonna' get.
If you say to a Prog Rock fan, "Hey! I hear you like Progressive
Rock . . . ever heard of Meshuggah?" and this "Prog Fan" is the
type who likes the "Genesis" kind of Prog,
. . . there is a chance
after a few seconds of those crazy
. . .

your'e friend might just strangle you.
Now take Genesis and label it . . . what kind of Prog is it?
It could start a war of words. Art Rock, Neo-Classical, Symphonic,
Epic . . . yes, Internet Stations could topple, friendships tainted,
ruin a meal, Nuclear weapons armed and positioned, make you
wanna' burn every "Rules of Prog List
(what rules!?)" atop a roaring
Bon Fire Rally filled with Proguli singing "Freewill"! and any sense
of humour ceased (proggers are soo serious) . . . it could happen.
Things can get pretty contentious about who belongs in the Prog
list of Bands.
Follow a Family Tree of Prog bands and you could be surprised.

Then their comes along a person like me . . .
I screw everything up, sideways, backwards, upside down. I love
all! . . . no really, the Avant Garde to the Mathematical and even
more extreme. Even add some humour in the mix!
Yes (...them too!), I am a card carrying Progressive Rock/Sub-Genre
Fan (say that 5 times real fast).
What kind of Fanatic am I? . . .
When I hear the motors whine of a Car Window opening, the 1st
thing I think of, is the dialogue: "Kill her, thats all you have to do-
Kill Mary? - She's a risk, and get the Priest as well".
I keep the "Original" Printings of Yes CD's along with the Re-Masters
because the Inner Art is slightly different and original recordings have
nuances that were edited "out" of the re-masters!
Or when I get into a discussion with friends about our day to day, or
some sort of political or religious/spiritual
topic, I may just quote Rush
or Kansas . . . its embedded in me, I can't help it.
And as you will read throughout the months
to come (. . . I'm Old), how
I got here through the "Noise and Confusion",
the madness and the
laughter of my life.

What the Heck are you talking about?
Well, if you are one of the uninitiated, what is Progressive Rock?
Well it be very easy to go into a detailed description that would only
make you want to jump off the nearest tallest building, so I will let the
armchair experts of Wikipedia and The Prog Archives Forum 'splaine.
(Scroll down page).

Where do we go from here?
This "Essay" marks pivotal moments in my life that would shape
music in my growing up and start me on my Prog Odyssey.
It is also a way to contemplate the Book I want to write about my
and "insert" the weird, funny, sad, wacky, pathetic and
good and blessed things that have happened "on this
long strange trip".

Dedication. . .

I want to Dedicate this to my Father, Marco Antonio Duarte-Velasquez II.
If it wasn't for him, his Guitars and who he was, I would not be who I am
today, for good or bad, but you instilled in me a love for many musics.
God be with you eternally papa', may you be at peace, riding horses and
playing Guitars with your heroes and Family, and . . . may "Corky" be at
your side.
. . . And for my Mother, Zoila Guadelupe Zelaya-Velasquez and Brother,
Daniel Velasquez for their music/life influences, and love.
A love I could never put into words and protected by my Father, each and
every day of their lives.

Last but certainly not least, my friends that dealt with my musical
madness through Lp's, Tapes and Cd's, VHS tapes, DVD's, Concerts,
Store-hopping and conversations.

This music has shared love and laughter, tears, sadness and joy with
these friends and loves. Within many a lyric they are best explained.

And to the astounding like minded listeners of the
community that put up with my opinions, wackyness and love for all
things Progressive, and the friendships I have made there . . . you guys
rule. This is also a GREAT place to "Hear" the Music that influenced
me and meet some great people who share the love:

>>>WARNING<<< I may have to Re-edit Video Links because
YOUpoop keeps banning them (copyright infringments and all that
rubbish), so thank YOU for your patience.

"Here we go...vertigo

Video vertigo
Test for echo
Here we slo-mo
Video vertigo
Test for echo . . ."
-Test for Echo/RUSH

In the Beginning . . .

"Turn off your mind, relax and float down stream . . .
It is not dying, it is not dying, Lay down all thoughts, surrender to the void, It is
shining, it is shining . . ."

Tomorrow Never Knows/the Beatles

From 1963 to now, My life has been filled with music of all sorts to enjoy.
My love for "The Beatles" as a little kid was overwhelming, I knew even as
a 5-7 year old that this music was different than anything on Top 40 radio of
the 60's. Then there was my Dad's fondness of "Santana", it went along
with his tastes in Latin music that he grew up with (Herb Albert and Brazil
were my faves, along with many other Latin and South American music
styles). He was also very influenced by American Rock and Roll of the
1950's, but it was the 60's and my Dad's love of guitar would influence my
childhood (he also had a Spanish/Acoustic Guitar and a hollow body
electric with an accompanying amp).
I had learned from my Uncle, that my Dad used to walk the neighborhoods
San Pedro Sula (in Honduras), with his friends strumming his acoustic
guitar almost everywhere he went . . . that makes me smile.
A wanna-be "Balladeer" to win my Moms affections it seems (he was quite
handsome, looked like a young Elvis, and even had the "lip" thing goin',
something me and my Brother get when we're angry. His real Mother was
a "Beauty Queen" of Honduras, and My Mom was a real looker back in the
day, they were a popular couple her and my Dad).

The Music.
For some reason, Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Alvin Lee & 10 Years After, and
the like, eluded us for some reason back then. I might've been a musician
instead of an Artist if we listened to more of the innovators of the day.
The "Hits" were heard, but my Mom and Dad never purchased any albums
(maybe it was their association with "hippies" and the drug culture).
But I did hear this song vividly, "Sunshine of your Love", the Guitar riff was
soo HEAVY, it would stick with me for the rest of my life.
But Carlos Santana were on the same par as those musicians, even as a
kid I could hear it. This was beyond Bubble Gum.
There were no "twangy" guitars here, these guys knew the power of the
Power Chords
, the sustaining notes and adding the heavy blues influence
and innovation of the Player that would influence everyone.
But Santana had this HUGE group of musicians, top of there form, at such
a young age! (that included: Greg Rollie, Neal Schon who would later
form Journey, and Michael Shrieve who would become a session Rock
and Fusion Drummer). They also added the African/Latin/Tropical flavour
that always held musicianship to the highest degree.
It would be the albums "Abraxas"; "III"; and "Caravansari" that would shape
me into the music aficionado.
"Every step of the way" from Caravanserai, Live:

Then hearing bits of Revolver, Sgt. Pepper, the White Album, Abby Road
and Let it Be from the Beatles with the usual hit singles (Lady Madonna
made an impact on my early ears).
This song always takes me back to the "feelings" I had as a small boy at
a Nursery/Kindergarden school, the taste of Milk with Cheese Sandwiches,
the naps, Mr. Glardinis "Hot Wheel Collection" that if we were lucky, got to
play with and bring in our own, and drawing with the "older" kids (how
GIANT they were to me, they might as well been High School kids, they
must have been, at the most, 11 years old), kids that drew Hot Rods,
Dragsters, Funny Cars, even a kid who drew them as "Cutaways".
Amazing how just 1 song can take you back, and The Beatles and
Santana are literally seedlings for music in general, germinating within
me. A childs growth with music that too, would grow.

These 2 bands I consider the 1st Progressive Rock bands-in general, and
that would be the "seed" for the movement, even though I usually didn't
know what the heck they were singing about ("I am the Egg Man, I am the
Walrus, kookookatchoo!"?), but the "Progression" was on the move,
Instruments not associated with "Rock", Classical influences, Jazz and
Art and the counter culture all creating a new soup. A Renaissance!
Recent note:
It could be that "Procal Harum" may have been the 1st, and the song
"Whiter Shade of Pale" is embedded in me as it takes me back to Radio
and the feelings I had in the 60's, a time that will never return.
(See the story here, Part 1 of "Prog Rock Britannia"):

But the Beatles were always a staple on the radio. The only album we had
at the time was "Meet the Beatles" and 45rpm singles. The Let it Be album,
would be given by my Aunt Daly, she noticed every time I'd visit her, I'd
want to hear it, she decided to give it to me to take home (and I still have it),
She was also a HUGE encouragement on my Art, I was fascinated by Cars
at the time, mostly Race Cars and Hot Rods. So when I visited, she
supplied paper and pencils as we listened to music (I may have been a bit
precocious as a child, which makes me cringe, yikes! . . . :shakesoutofit: ).
(. . . and "Hey Jude" that I saw on T.V. "Re-Broadcast" as a kid on ABC):
I have pleasant memories of taking Sunday drives, heading home at night
and listening to "8 Track Tapes" (and the soft lights of the player under the
dash board) in my Dads 67 Mustang Fastback, laying on the flattened back
seats (back seats would fold down into a flat-bed) and looking at the lights
and stars through the rear window, going through the various streets of
Los Angeles and Hollywood.

There was also my Dads love (I should insert that my Dad hated to say
things like love for "things", "How can you LOVE cars, they're not REAL!
Love people, thats different!" . . . thats my Papa') of Country, and this was to
be the "Golden Age", where the Outlaws of Country like Waylon Jennings,
Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard thrived. Then you had the
likes of Tom T. Hall, George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Tennesse Ernie Ford,
Loretta Lynn, Charlie Pride, as well as soo many others that had the old
"twang" and swing of the classic stars, with incredible voices, musicianship,
with all sorts of Guitars, tone and style.
A nice memory is watching the Country Variety show "HEE HAW" with my
Dad and the various Country Stars of the time. But when Co-host Roy Clarke
would play his various Guitars, he was like the Steve Howe (Yes guitarist)
of Country! (And it was a treat to see him on Johnny Carson as well).
"Fingers on Fire" (Hee Haw):
Then you would have guests like Chet Atkins and Glenn Campbell that also
would shred and finger-pick with unbelievable speed (Influences for Dixie
Dregs Steve Morse I'm sure).

How could I forget the late great Les Paul (and Mary Ford):

Johnny Cash, Jerry Reed and Glenn Campbell also had variety shows with
diverse music talents (Comedian Steve Martin was one of the Lead Banjo
players in Cambell's Band!). John Denver would soon follow.

But Country music has become a "cash cow" and less twang, more rock.
My Dad used to say "...that isn't Country!" There are exceptions, but it mostly
sounds like Top 40 music with a southern "drawl" nowadays.

I also got to appreciate Vocalists like, Frank Sinatra; Tony Bennet; Johnny
Mathis; Dean Martin; and Pop music and Rock of the day like Simon &
Garfunkle; Sugarloaf; the Strawberry Alarm Clock; The Guess Who; Jackie
DeShannon; Ray Charles; Stevie Wonder; the Letterman; America; Love;
Spiral Staircase; the 5th Dimension; the Carpenters; the Lovin' Spoonfull;
Buffalo Springfield; the Monkees; the Byrds; the Beach Boys; Crosby, Stills,
Nash & Young; Janis Joplin; Procul Harem; Iron Butterfly; the Cowsills; the
Rolling Stones; Credance Clearwater Revival; Bread;
T-Rex; Three Dog
Night, and the Jackson 5. Including the British Pop Bands/Vocalists of the
"British Invasion" like Lulu; Dusty Springfield; Donovan; the Bee Gees;
Hermins Hermits; Petula Clark; the Seekers; the Zombies; the Hollies; the
Kinks; Eric Burden and the Animals and more (Did not remember hearing
the Who this early on, I have no idea why).
Missed out on the Moody Blues; Fleetwood Mac Mk I; Pink Floyd; Yes Mk I;
and Jethro Tull Mk I (I would have been a REALLY strange kid...).
This would be from 1963 to about 72.

But the happiness of living in California would soon be over . . .
"Southern Hospitality" would bring an end to that.

Moving (backwards).

Boy, you're going to carry that weight, Carry that weight a long time
Boy, you're going to carry that weight, Carry that weight a long time . . ."
- Carry that Weight/The Beatles

A song that would be an analogy for life.

To be continued . . .

An odd thing for a kid of 6-7 to be thinking about . . .
Something we take for granted these days are Pop Songs within Television Shows nowadays,
a song can grab attention for both performer and show, everybody wins (unless you are like
me, sick and tired of hearing the sappy love song, the inevitable R&B or Hip-Hop song, or the
teen angst emo/post punk song... enough to make you wanna' throw-up! But it took an
episode of Smallville to introduce me to Porcupine Tree . . . yup, Porky Tree's In Absentia).
When I was a little kid, I used to wonder why I didn't hear "real" Rock songs on T.V. shows
that I liked, especially when it involved kids, pre and post teens. For example The Brady
Bunch (I remember thinking this), seems adults thought Rock n' Roll was music that had
"Horns" in it for some reason, and NO Guitars, so what you got was trumpets sounding like:
(kind of that "60's-70's GoGo Dancer vibe thing") and that annoying Organ doing the same
thing, like Ray Manzarek of the Doors (Reminds me of Latino bands of the 60's I heard at
weddings, it annoyed the hell out of me and my Dad, sorry Doors fans) . . . what was that all
about? I would probably ask friends and my parents this, and they must have just thought,
". . . what are you talking about?"
In the 70's, songs would take their cue from modern Films and a pop song would be heard in
the backround if you payed attention.
Surprisingly (or not), George Lucas was the 1st to use an ALL "Rock'n Roll" Soundtrack in a
Movie, that was American Graffiti :
The Beginnings of how to Market a Film in the new Era of Cinema.

Then came Miami Vice, the Crime series that started a style, and made a "niche" music
seem hip and made it part of each angular frame and noir motif. For us music devotees, we
were lucky to hear Jan Hammer, Brian Ferry, Genesis and even Russ Ballard. And cool
session musicians with Chorus/Echo laden Voices and Guitars, as stylish as the
That was then, now music styles are in MacDonalds commercials and in Children shows,
and sell you that "this music represents YOU, because its the fashion, so that makes YOU
hip... Just another Car, Credit Card and Cell Phone commercial YOU need, now Assimilate!"
For a brief time it was about enhancing a scene, now its a plug as much as a Beer Cans
Label facing the camera . . . MTV "killed the radio star" indeed.
Be careful what you ask for I guess. . . what a weird kid to be asking that question at 6
years old. Thanks kid, wheres my money?

Sunday, April 6, 2008

music and industry, a system failure

There is an analogy with words. Stories had to be told before Johannes Gutenberg invented a suitable system for producing prints. The idea to print books had come soon after, people began learning how to read and the stories could be distributed in books. The storyteller became obsolete.

Of course, the world still needs authors who write stories, but there is no storyteller who brings the stories to the people, that is done by industry now. And this industry became big. Very big.

It is the same in music. Music had to be played to the audience before Thomas Alva Edison invented the phonograph. As it is with every new invention, it took a while until it was affordable for the common people. So the musicians still were needed to entertain people at celebrations, parties, dance evenings, fests, etc.

In the here and now, it is an industry that produces music, records and cds, and, in the meantime, downloads. Everybody has music recordings stored at home in one or another way, at social events it is a dj who entertains the folks.

So where is the musician? Good news, he is alive! Woohoo!!!!

We are divided into three categories now:

  1. The classical and folk musicians who are supported by most governments because they keep up "cultural good".
  2. The wedding bands.They earn their living by playing at weddings, beer fests and similar events.
  3. The diehard ones who insist on playing their own compositions.

Let's focus on the third category, because this topic is about industry.

So this guild of musicians write their own compositions and play them to people in concerts. It is quite good that there are labels that are willing to produce a record of the music, generate mass copies and do promotion. The labels spent their money for it all, and demand account. That is quite fair.

Or better: it was fair.

Nick Mason, who runs a recording studio once said Pink Floyd produced 3 flops in a row back in the golden times and no one cared. That'd be impossible for a band that has signed to a label today. They mostly feel the boot after their first flop.

Mike Oldfield offered his music to every label he could think of, but got refused by all of them. It was and employee at one of those labels who had the vision to quit his day job and produce Oldfield's first record. So the story goes. Quite a good idea, as the record remained number 1 in the charts for more than one year, and the only record that could beat Tubular Bells down to number 2 was Oldfield's 2nd record.

The name of the producer was Richard Branson, and his label was named Virgin Records. (No, not Virgin Air, neither Virgin Space.)

Several years before that all happened, The Beatles created their own label, Apple records, because they felt treated so badly by the music business.

That was the golden age of the music business. It's gone.

What happened? No it's not the internet. The net, of course, makes it easy to steal music for the common people, but the decline of the biz has other reasons at first; in my very humble opinion.

One reason is the diversification of modern music. Compared to the golden age there are so many more genres, and so many more bands filling the genres; that of course divides fans. People tend to remain inside the one genre they specialize on and ignore the rest. There is enough variety in the one genre that fans don't feel the need to satisfy their hunger for music by listening to genres that don't ease them accordingly. There's enough bands.

And that's counterproductive for a label. Producing more records that fewer people buy. Remember, a label is there to make money, and, if it is a stock company, it has to grow in order to increase the shareholder value. Just consider the fact that most of todays music is produced by the four big companies that are part of the 4 biggest media conglomerates, all stock companies. Yes, all the many labels that existed in the 70's and 80's had trouble at some times and had been overtaken by a competitor. All the business now belongs to 4 real big media giants that control 80% or so of the market.

The mission of those companies is not loving music. It it is increasing the shareholder value.

So the goal of producing has quite shifted. As it was to find good writers who put out something outstanding back in the days, they now have to care for something totally different. They gotta produce a record in another way; the production must be in a way that it attracts more people. Remember, the more people purchase a copy, the better the efficience of a production. More sold copies make a production more valuable. In other words, you get more profit for your production costs.

That's what the buisness is alike today. Let us all praise the shareholder value!

The producers' recipe is quite easy. Take any young band that can play their instruments a bit and are somehow likeable to the folks, remove any of their personal style, and produce a genre fiiting generic album. Generic? Yes, generic; that is a must. If there is something of their personal style left, there might be one person that doesn't like it and probably refuses to buy the cd.

What a waste of talents! I don't get it! The Beatles felt treated badly?

I put my head in my hands and cry for all the lost musical gift!

Now they wonder that people don't purchase cds anymore. Why would they? If all cds sound the same, why buy ten if one has everything you like, and all others have nothing else to offer?

It has been quite a while now, but I remember that good. In an interview about the evil, evil internet, the CEO of BMG (back then) said "the internet is not our problem. Our problem is our artists."

I thought: "WOW man, you're loosing your job." Two weeks later I read that he got fired....

But still he was wrong. Imo it is not the artists, but the way production takes place today. Why do they search for talents if they remove their talent later in the production? They leave a product there, not music. Erasing every single sign of an artists identity for the sake of the least common denominator is something that degenerates art in the most destructive and painful way one can think of.

It is no wonder that their revenues are shrinking year by year. Indeed, it is quite right. I hate them for that and it is quite good that the equalization of music doesn't earn.

There are so many new "independent" label arising since quite a while, it satisfies me. Just look at how amazingly Inside Out made it to success within the last 10 years. And there are so many others who successfully support unique bands. Sooner or later they will outdo the dinosaurs.

Or at least am I dreaming of it.....

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Ramifications, repercussions and results to "Why do people in common ignore bands from their own country?"

André here, the friend ray spoke about on the Topic "Why do people in common ignore bands from their own country?"
I was writing a comment to that post and thinking more thoroughly about this issue.
Since it got a little big, I hope you don't mind me posting this as a "new separated" topic/post.
Also, a hooray for my very 1st post in a blog... :D
Let's get to the point already, arca!!!

How much the age of information we live in has collaborated to make this situation even worse???
The access to new music is easier, so why most still keep a close mind??? Our modern tools (Internet and the high speed, file sharing, digital files), IMO, are being used way wrongly by the masses!!!
One example of what I'm saying: on that same community, where I argued with the ungrateful, someone came and asked if anyone could upload the whole Deventter's album (Deventter, if you don't know, is a Brazilian prog-rock/metal band which became a little more known due to the fact that they were going to open for DT the last time they played here [begin of March] and it was in that time that the guy asked for the album). Of course, someone did the upload of the mp3 files of the whole album. What I'm trying to say is, WTH??? If you don't support your local bands, how can you expect them to grow, mature and make some really kickass music??? And the album isn't very expensive. US$ 10 for an album is quite the reasonable price, IMO. Damn, the guys, all quite young as usual, did all by themselves.
The excuse of "knowing the band before to buy it later" doesn't work, since nearly all bands on todays age put some mp3 files on the website or on TheirSpace.
The prog scene here is on the early stages... it's beginning to grow in number of bands. With no support from the so called fans of the style, it will soon stop. You can see that with bands that release only one cd (two at tops) and then vanishes... bands like Khallice, Sigma 5 (which sings in Portuguese, another factor for the Brazilians to dislike it), Akashic, Sleepwalker Sun. Then, what will happen is that the music will remain as a hobby for these guys, they will remain independent and will keep sounding as "amateurs". Other bands just change their style. Add more straight forward metal.
(a little different from the prog-rock scene here, which is already quite old [a little too old IMVHO... some very close minded guys there]. Even tho most prog-rockers appreciate the local bands, it's still a very close and small circle).

Other lame excuse is "I don't want to give the record label money, since they don't do a thing". Hell, if you don't also support the local and very small record label, how can they contract more artists, bring new foreign bands to the catalog?? How will it grow and make the prog a more known thing?
Like I said, here the prog scene is very small and underground. Only the really big shot bands like DT get their albums released nationally, mostly through the general metal oriented labels. Most of the albums are imported, and you know how much costs to import an album. One thing that make the labels doesn't want to release new things here is that "Who will buy it??? If even the local bands don't get a decent sale, how will the outside do??? I'm not in this to lose money, I'm not a philanthropist".
The 2 only prog specialized labels are very small and are constantly struggling to keep the business open, releasing only 2 or 3 albums (from local bands) a year. It's very expensive to release the albums, make the art, do the pressing, the promotion (and to who will be promoted???).
Most of the bands are independent and do all the jobs by themselves. It's a very costly process. A lot of bands have good ideas, but the production nearly always lack something.
The local bands struggle so much to make something, but nearly no one cares about it. But if Mike Portnoy shits on the stage, nearly everyone claps and bow to him...

Damn, if the price of the cds from foreign bands (imported or not) is so high, why not look for other substitute ways to appreciate music? Aside from discovering new interesting things on you local bands, you also support the whole scene to get better.

The same guys that keep asking for the mp3 of the albums all the time are the same ones that complain about the very few shows we get, the very abusive price of a concert ticket (usually around US$80), the very few releases from foreign bands, the lack of variety...
It's like Redemption says on the song Fullness of TIme - Part IV: Transcendence:
"I've been spending my whole life pursuing those who built this cell
Lamenting all the hateful things that happened to me
Never thought to look at how I might have played a part in who I am"

(it's in a different context, but fits)
Tho, most haven't realized this yet. They don't note how they have contributed to the crap shit stage things are right now and are going to.

No one is obligated to buy/love everything that's released, but to say that ALL the bands are crap, terrible, that the bands only cares for technic (they probably haven't heard much of math/tech metal)??? Doesn't make sense. To not be unfair, the "leader of the rather 'against local bands' movement" named the only band that he thinks it's truly unique, great and all. The band is Akashic, which I agree that it's a quite good band indeed, but ain't my fave from Brazil (also, I don't think there's THE MOST BEST band from Brazil).
They keep only searching for a new DT and keep only seeing flaws on the local bands. When a local band shows a sound similar to DT, they are just copycats who doesn't have any creativity. But when it's a band from outside (like, lets say, Circus Maximus), the band is great, the best thing that came up on the recent years.
I bet with any one that if DT was a local Brazilian band, during the time of release of WDADU, most would say the same thing: "bunch of showoffs only! Where is the melody??? the passion??? the feeling??? you suck!!!" (which I believe some actually said to the real DT when they released WDADU.
I really don't understand and can't find a logical explanation to this.

my personal conclusions:
1 - I'm realizing that I may be "preaching" for the wrong crowd here, since our regular posters/authors and log members have the consciousness about this. I really didn't want this to sound like a preach... just wanted to expose my thoughts about it.
2 - Excuse me if this took a rather rant tone. I just get quite pissed off by such attitude of ungratefulness!
3 - Even tho it may seem that I'm ranting against DT, I have nothing against them! It's just that they are the most commented on the community and seems to (still) be the parameter to decide what's good and wat isn't. I even had another example of a local band, but since it involved DT, I decided to not put it, since some may claim that I'm starting a persecution against them. Will only say that involves Freakeys and LTE.
4 - I'm not a saint, I'm not perfect, actually far from it! I have my flaws and am guilty of sometimes not paying attention to some unknown bands. But in the end, I try to do my part the best way I can.
5 - Why this "not appreciating the music of your local bands" happen? Dunno! Jealously??? Envy??? The lost of a strong connection with your home country???
6 - Not all the Brazilian guys on that community think like that, only the majority of around 80%....