What do you get when you combine Donald Trump and a Rolling Stones song?
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© Composer Yoga
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Artists composed of elements and substances from The Periodic Table Of Rock (updated periodically)
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A list of songs on the palette making The Colors Of Rock (updated periodically)
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A list of songs that draw their name from the animal kingdom (updated periodically)
© Composer Yoga
People are always making New Year’s Resolutions. Most of which never stick, involve giving up something, punishing yourself to varying degrees, restricting something. How about making a New Year’s Resolution that’s fun? One that’ll make you happier, smarter, improve coordination, memory and the performance of your ENTIRE brain more than pretty much ANY other activity. What’s the catch you ask? The blood of a free range unicorn? The fender from a pink 1979 Cadillac Eldorado? A transgender outhouse from Smurf village?
Actually, just the price of an average instrument, new or used. Any standard portable 5 octave keyboard with full size keys, an electric guitar, acoustic guitar, bass guitar, drums, sax, flute, horn, trumpet etc. will do. Guitars and keyboards tend to be the most popular instruments, but whatever instrument piques your interest, go for it. Maybe you’ll become the next Flugelhorn Icon. You can even learn play a couple instruments as this interestingly brings out different sides of yourself.
You don’t have to buy the most expensive top of the line instruments. I used to work for a music instruction company and got to play around with all kinds of high end uber expensive instruments. Fact is, you’ll get the same benefits of playing music without having to drop 5 grand on an Eric Clapton signature model Martin, just like you don’t really need a Rolls Royce to drive to the grocery store. Unless your address is Buckingham Palace.
Even an inexpensive Casio keyboard you can buy at any department store or online will do. I still have one of the very first keyboards I learned to play on, a Casio. Over the holidays, I met up with one of my former bandmates and we were joking about about how they’re made of some kind of indestructible plastic. Seriously, I’ve had the same cheap Casio longer than I’ve owned any car. I’ve loaned it out long term to at least 4 different people over the years and it still comes back working. So folks, it’s not just gonna be cockroaches and Keith Richards—It’s actually cockroaches, Casios and Keith Richards. That black Casio has been in the trunk of my car in the winter, in the tropics, in the desert. It would work on the moon I’m sure. I’ll make a mental note to play The Police tune “Walking On The Moon” for the occasion.
Pretty much everyone loves listening to music which by itself gives plenty of benefits. But when you actually PLAY an instrument, so much more of the brain is engaged, leading to improvements across the board in numerous areas. Here’s some of the science behind making music:
Making music leads to improved coordination, enhanced learning abilities and better overall emotional health and well being. All things that are allies in anti–aging. One of the buzzwords in brain science is Neuroplasticity. The belief not all that long ago was that the brain does not grow any new neurons after adulthood. Not only is this seen now as the pile dogma sh*t that it is, the brain can and does actually grow new neurons and neural connections later in life. Playing an instrument grows new neural connections and keeps your brain young and active. And making music is actually neuro–protective. Look at our friend Keith Richards. With the amount of drugs Keith, Mick and The Stones did back in the day (I’ve also heard unpublicized stories from a musician who toured with them), one would expect them to be dead or only capable of having “zombie conversation” at a nursing home with other other casualties of the counterculture and retired boxers. Keith Richards and Mick Jagger did enough drugs to kill a herd of elephants. But lo and behold, not only can they still wipe their butts by themselves, they’re still touring, still writing and recording and being creative. Some even making new butts to wipe in their 70’s. Imagine what can happen if you play music minus the neuron guillotining effects of drug abuse.
Keith Richards’ practicing and playing guitar has no doubt protected him from years of addiction, bad habits and harmful life choices. So don’t wait till you retire to learn an instrument! Start getting the benefits now and you’ll be in much better mental and emotional shape when you do retire. You may not even want to retire from what you do because you won’t know what over the hill means. As for music, I’ll never retire from that. I don’t see music as my second language. English is my second language. I loved music before I spoke my first words.
People take all kinds of pills and supplements to give them an edge professionally and personally. Things for energy, alertness, stress relief. Western culture promotes the magic pill. What about the magic hobby? Why don’t Dr. Oz, the Surgeon General or drug companies recommend playing an instrument? The drugs and supplements they recommend and make cost more in the long run than the price of an instrument. And the benefits of making music last longer than pills. Music is an all purpose medication without the harmful side effects.
Sound is energy. Sound is the first sense that becomes active in utero. Sound literally grew your brain. Mom’s heartbeat is our first drum kit. Why not keep growing your brain by playing an instrument? Your brain just works so much better with regular practicing of an instrument. It’s like your memories get a team of office support staff all filing them in their own departments throughout the brain. And they communicate with each other more frequently and recall things quicker and more vividly. Music is also meditative. It’s calming and relaxing and gets you out of the left brain beta consciousness birdcage which is a factor in the increased stress in modern society. That lateralization of consciousness isn’t normal or healthy—it’s fight or flight mode as the new norm. Music is nonverbal and provides stress relief in a way that other common methods cannot. Stress is energetic which then turns to physical symptoms. Music can match that negative and stuck stress energy and diffuse it. It works like a tuning fork in reverse. If you’re angry, listen or play some angry music for a while and you’ll find it draws it out of you like a Homeopathic tincture. As in Homeopathy, like cures like, and matching music to your mood will cancel it out and you’ll balance out and find your equilibrium again. Making music makes a more resilient brain.
You’ll have to overcome some biases and misconceptions about making music and playing an instrument. Rewind back to when you were a kid. Every child loves singing and making music. It’s fun, a form of play and vital for learning. At some point, most kids don’t continue their learning and exploration anymore through singing and music because “I’m not a prodigy” or some other socially approved or socially reinforced cop out and sacrificial offering to the lame God of Practicality. Are there expert or prodigy walkers? Did that stop you from learning how to do that? You don’t remember how long it took you to stand up and walk, yet most people are intimidated to play an instrument because it would “take too long.” We could have used the same excuse against speaking, writing and spelling. Look at Doctors—they’re no prodigies of handwriting are they? Granted making music is not essential to daily life but it is essential for long term quality of life as you’ve seen in the above video clip.
Look at it another way: You’re ALREADY better than any caveman. If you had a time machine and went back to the Stone Age, you’d be a rock star. As bad as you think you are or will be, you’re still better than Fred Flintstone so don’t make excuses or write yourself off before you even start.
You learned to speak and walk pretty well without any formal lessons. You got better with practice and later went to school and improved further. Just enjoy making music, get back to that explorative phase you had when you were a kid. Cross the “taking lessons” bridge if and when it comes to that later on. Just focus on playing music for fun and it’s benefits first. You can find free lessons online and buy lesson books before you commit to a teacher. Get comfortable and familiar with the instrument before you put yourself in the situation of paying for music lessons and the level of seriousness that goes with regular lessons. Many parents, who even well–intentioned, signed their kids up for music lessons too early turned a lot of people off from the fun of playing an instrument by making it too serious with the commitment required by having a teacher. Just like you don’t need a $5,000 Martin acoustic guitar in the beginning, you don’t need Madame Juilliard Graduate as your piano teacher the week after you buy a cheap portable keyboard. Overcommitment leads to personal letdown and unrealistic expectations at the beginner’s stage leads to personal sabotage. Don’t set yourself up for failure like this in the beginning. Remember your first time driving a car? Squirrels still have nightmares…
Just play. Make pleasing sounds, practice, have fun. Worry about the formal knowledge later. Make sounds that you like. That’s how songs by your favorite artists are written. Music is created by playing first then written down, not the other way around. There are plenty of free videos on Youtube and sites online that explain music theory. You can also buy books for reference later. For guitarists, there are sites like www.songsterr.com (that is how it’s spelled) which shows how to play hundreds of songs for free. The site uses tablature to show which string and fret to play by numbers instead of having to learn notes by name. Tablature (AKA guitar tab) has helped generations of guitarists learn how to play. The site also has a player so you can hear how the song should be played so you don’t have to learn the types of notes and their time values. It is however a good idea to get a chord diagram book for keyboard or guitar because you’ll learn to think in chords instead of individual notes which is more complicated and frustrating when first learning about music theory. And all songs are based on chords, and you can quickly learn the most frequently used chords in thousands of pop songs in an afternoon.
Remember, music theory was invented thousands of years after musicians made and played the first instruments. G minor 7 flat 5 doesn’t mean squat to the Aborigines, but music and playing instruments does. Paradoxically, the more “primitive” the culture, the more every member of the culture engages in music, song, and dance. Take a hint. Heal thyself, Oh sophisticated industrial society cellphone texting box dweller!
Look at Punk Rock (no offense since I dig that too). You don’t need to be a virtuoso like Franz Liszt, Niccolò Paganini, Joe Satriani or Steve Vai. Even so, all these “Gods” once drooled all over mom’s shoulder just like you and me. And being “good” never stopped Punk Rock musicians from having fun writing and playing songs. They weren’t victims of self sabotage in believing they suck or the “Don’t quit your day job” beatdown. And numerous Punk Rock bands have become culturally significant playing just a handful of the most basic chords. Music is just as fun and beneficial for a 3 year old doing pick slides on guitar as it is for someone like Eddie Van Halen.
Hallelujah!! Your garage can still be used for that pink 1979 Cadillac Eldorado. Frederic Chopin didn’t play live concerts much at all in his lifetime. He really just loved sitting at home with his piano composing. He make his living teaching and though sheet music sales as CD’s weren’t around in the 1800’s. French composer Camille Saint–Saëns was also an amazing pianist but never cared to play out live, preferring like Chopin to “stay home and compose.” Saint–Saëns was a prodigy and supposedly could play Beethoven Sonatas from memory (again, music really upgrades memory function). I’ve known musicians with plenty of road battle scars of drug use yet can get onstage and play songs note for note they haven’t played in years. Again, music is neuro protective. It’s an unethical double blind study which will never be done in a lab, but I’ve seen it proven true through observation time and again. On a more positive note, one of my former bandmates is a high school dropout. He’s started and successfully run several different businesses, and is also an inventor with a few U.S. Patents under his belt. His musically developed brain has more than made up for his shorter formal schooling and standardized education and gave him intelligence potentials and abilities most other people with high school and college degrees have never achieved.
I’ve played in original and cover bands, have recorded in a studio band (where you write songs but don’t perform out live), and have done my own solo projects writing and composing in various genres. At the end of the day though, I still love playing music at home just all by itself. When you love playing the same 3 or 4 noted over and over again in practice, you know you’re a musician. Just focus on enjoying making new sounds and interacting with whatever instrument you chose to make music that sounds cool to you. You don’t have to label the stage of your relationship with your instrument to anyone or on social media. You’ll be a musician regardless, and your journey over the years will determine the label you give yourself. But you are still a musician even if no one ever hears you practice or play, and you aren’t obligated to begin playing an instrument for the purpose of anything else down the road except enjoying your time practicing all by yourself.
Music is math and music is creative. You get the best of both worlds of brain enhancement in an activity a lot more fun that grammar school math tests. I never “called in sick” on my practice time. I always wanted to be there and even played when I was sick. Music is such a part of all aspects of my daily life. I listen to and practice music while I write. If more writers rocked they wouldn’t have writer’s block. I often pick up an instrument first thing in the morning, and it’s often the last thing I do before bed. I use music to meditate, I use it when I cook and eat, when I relax, read, and lie down right before I nod off for the night. I was a musician long before I became a writer but it is helpful and beneficial to become a musician at any point in your life and career. For instance, Humorist Dave Barry and Novelist Stephen King are amateur musicians who played in a band together called the Rock Bottom Remainders along with other authors like Amy Tan (The Joy Luck Club), Cartoonist and The Simpsons creator Matt Groening, and The Byrds lead vocalist and guitarist Roger McGuinn.
For people who don’t see the value in the time necessary for playing an instrument, here’s an example: Albert Einstein was an amateur musician. How much of his genius is attributable to playing music? You don’t ever hear about him being a musician because he was never famous for that. He was an amateur violinist though. He realized the value of playing an instrument. And the word “amateur” in our society just tends to mean you aren’t being paid for it and making your main income from it. The term is so arbitrary. Put another way, you could suck and be a “Professional” musician and you can be an amazing player in your living room and still be considered an amateur. Either way music still benefits you regardless. And lets face it, “Amateur Night” doesn’t stop men from attending Strip Clubs.
I’ve been to Einstein’s house in Princeton New Jersey, but there aren’t stories floating around of the legendary Al Einstein String Quartet killing it at the First Congo. But I’d wager playing music was a huge factor in his ability of accessing radical creativity in quantum physics. The autopsy showed Einstein had increased connections between the right and left hemispheres of his brain. The guilty party I suspect is music. Playing music caused that, which in turn allowed his greater ability for whole brain thinking and a more integrated brain. Playing music is ALWAYS additive—it wires the brain for expanded creativity and intelligence. Music grows the foundations and neural architecture for genius.
I know from my own life the “before and after photos” and the feasts and famines of making music and practicing regularly. Case in point, the most stressful time in my life was during college. Why? Like many college students, I was trying to do too many things at once, juggling too many balls at once and I can’t even juggle. The mistake I made was cutting down my music practice time so I could focus more on my studies in college. It make total logical sense. But be wary of Captain Practical getting Gestapo on your enjoyments in life because restricting some, especially music, is actually detrimental to your overall performance and well being as I found out.
I did however always do my homework and studied listening to music which maintained my buffers during stressful times but not as well as when I was actively practicing music. The difference is always blatantly noticeable. I literally feel my brain light up after a good practice session of 1 or more hours. Being a musician would get me high. I remember my music lessons every Thursday night growing up and the next day in school I would be high all day. And wow did playing music get me through the drudgery and stellar maturity of high school. Making music was so cool I checked out of the whole clique, popularity, and party scene long before I graduated. All that stuff seemed so small and petty compared to the marvels of music. I’ve long outgrown all those high school issues and concerns. I’ll never outgrow music, the swaddling cloth of sound.
Sometimes I’d practice for 5 or more hours straight and that would get me ridiculously high, not to mention expand my internal effulgence of happiness—the “Happy for no reason happy.” But in high school and at various jobs right after college, I had to hide this to a degree because most people around me I could tell were not all that happy. Maybe if they made music, they’d tap into that inherent well of joy that cannot be found in hamster wheel lives chasing notoriety and titles.
Listen to birds. They can only make a few notes with their vocal chords. And they sing those same notes all day for their entire lives. You have the advantage of being born with fingers and hands which can play WAY more notes than any bird ever dreamed of. Making music and making sound is your birthright. Don’t deprive yourself of one of the most fun and beneficial things in life. So pick up an instrument this year and show the gray matter it matters and join the Culture Club—no transgender or androgynous bathroom pass necessary.
© Composer Yoga
Just when we thought 2016 was done swallowing up celebrities, with just a week left in the year, we lose another. Then another. George Michael and Carrie Fisher. I can’t remember another year where more major musical figures exited the stage of life taking their final bows.
I mean David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Prince, and George Michael—Four of the most well known musicians on the planet. George Michael sold over 100 million albums which is even “more” considering he recorded far fewer studio albums in his career than the others listed. Whether you’re a fan or not, that’s a lot of albums and fans. That’s in league with acts like The Eagles, Queen, Chicago, Whitney Houston, The Rolling Stones and Mariah Carey and nearing fabled Beatles and Elvis territory. George Michael’s numbers will no doubt increase in the coming weeks as it did with Prince posthumously even causing an unreleased track on the 1986 album Parade, “Sometimes It Snows In April” to chart in several countries in Europe peaking at #14 in France.
The death of George Michael came as a surprise to me as it did many others. I was visiting my brother later in the afternoon and saw it on my Twitter feed. I said to him George Michael just died. He didn’t believe it either. With all the recent talk about fake news stories on Facebook and Twitter like “Donald Trump Summits Everest” as well as discussion of verifying the accuracy of Tweets, at first I thought this was just another social media sucker punch celebrity death click bait. Then I googled and found a BBC article. George Michael gone too early at just 53 years old. Which means there’s songs not released yet and songs and projects unfinished.
George Michael won two Grammys: one for his debut album Faith (Album Of The Year) and one for his amazing duet with Queen Of Soul Aretha Franklin. He achieved eight #1 singles on Billboard charts during his solo career. He began his foray into pop culture with high school friend Andrew Ridgeley in the 80’s British pop group Wham!. The historical fun fact about Wham! was they were the first western musical act to perform in China. Make that allowed to perform in China as many types of music was still banned there at the time. That was 1985 and Chinese police were worried there’d be riots. Being trampled by teenage girls can be an occupational hazard. I know the feeling. A few years back, I went an Ingrid Michaelson concert and it was me surrounded by 400–500 teenage girls. I hung out back near the soundman until the end of the show then talked to friends of mine in her band when it was safe. I lived to tell about it.
I’m going to disregard the American Idol admonition “You shouldn’t have picked a George Michael song” and pick several of my favorites. Some were released as singles, some not. All showcase his incredible voice and adeptness at singing. It’s blatantly evident George Michael was far from a base model vocalist—with him our ears get the deluxe package with all the bells and whistles. There’s none of smoke and mirrors of autotune numerous pop stars depend on and which newer generations of music fans have become tone deaf to people who wield greater mastery of the art of singing like George Michael.
Last Christmas for George Michael. The bittersweet irony of George Michael dying on Christmas Day was not lost on Captain Obvious. It was another bizarre coincidence like Prince dying in an elevator after mentioning one in “Let’s Go Crazy.” Both occurrences with greater odds against them than if Elton John, a member of Chicago or the Bay City Rollers died on a Saturday.
George Michael and Wham! partner Andrew Ridgeley released “Last Christmas” on the heels of the massive success of their second album Make It Big. “Last Christmas” is one of those fun pop holiday songs that invites you, some would say addictively beckons you to sing along. Special. See? You know you love doing the backing vocal to it. And of all the Yuletide assaults on our ear canals in retail stores from November 24th til December 31st, I was always glad when the satellite radio roulette landed on “Last Christmas” when I was in a store. Just like when Michael Jackson died, MJ merchandise was everywhere only a day or so later and shop owners were moonwalking all the way to the bank. So don’t be surprised if you see Last Christmas or CHOOSE GEORGE apparel in stores soon.
Although Wham! was marketed as an early boy band (or more aptly a boy duo), when I got older, I could see how George Michael displayed a compositional maturity beyond his years. Case in point: “Careless Whisper.” I was even more impressed when I learned he wrote that famous haunting sax line when he was still a teenager. This was the first official solo from George Michael even though it was included on Make It Big. He and Andrew Ridgeley started writing this track several years prior and it’s the only one on the album where Ridgeley has a writing credit. The rest of Make It Big was all George Michael compositions.
George Michael had devastating nuances like Sade. “Father Figure” demonstrates how he could maneuver inside whispers. It’s one of the most believable love songs I’ve ever heard. It’s not surface pretty pop lyrics, it’s not idealized, it’s not some teenage or 20 something year old lamenting about love with miniscule life perspective—it’s a naked vulnerable exposure beyond what teeneyboppers and young pop stars could pull off. I listen to this track and see how George Michael is actually living inside these lyrics and delivers fine point precision singing with a degree of authenticity they cannot replicate. Put another way, I highly doubt even if they could write lyrics as piercingly honest and revealing, they couldn’t sell the performance vocally as genuinely as George Michael does on “Father Figure.”
I hear songs first on the level of emotional depth. So even if this song was in a different language it still would have connected with me. Though now, as an adult I can see how the lyrics could be interpreted as references to gay culture. Back then I wasn’t privy to this since this over a decade before George Michael officially came out. And during his Wham! days and early solo work, he was still bisexual (which was kept from the press) and still writing songs about women.
Nevertheless, I just heard “Father Figure” as a great love song with rare solemnness and sincerity. It really didn’t occur to me at the time that a guy who had women like Tyra Banks in his videos was gay. Back then, for George Michael, life was like a Robert Palmer video. He didn’t publicly come out until that incident in a Beverly Hills bathroom in 1998—his Pee Wee Herman moment—both men caught masturbating in public. Michael made fun of himself and the incident in the music video for the single “Outside” by wearing an LAPD uniform, holding a nightstick and dancing in a bathroom pimped out like a disco. He didn’t take himself seriously, which is a blessing when you meet famous persons who are like this, but George Michael always took his singing seriously which is preserved in the sublime softness of this moment carved in sound. Rest assured in the future, some work(s) by George Michael will be selected by the Library of Congress to be included in the United States National Recording Registry joining the Steely Dan album Aja. I have Faith on that.
What’s better than a song by Aretha Franklin? A song with Aretha AND George Michael. It was the only time it happened and fortunately it was awesome. George got to sing with one of his heroes, one of his favorite artists. He definitely picked a great example to emulate and develop his own style. The pairing was also the biggest hit for Aretha Franklin reaching #1 on Billboard charts. Earlier on in her career Aretha got Respect. Sharing a mic with George Michael got them a Grammy. Coincidentally the song has the word Faith in it as well.
This song proves it doesn’t matter what color your skin is or what gender you are. It’s what’s inside you. George Michael had Motown and R&B coursing through his veins supplying his vocal chords with velvety richness and a buttery expressiveness. On the outside we saw a white British guy of Greek heritage. We heard something beyond all those temporary impermanent classifications when he sang. And this is such a beautiful contemporary spiritual/gospel flavored song disguised as pop tune with an infectious triumph and elation in the chorus hook.
This song soars. It’s either a secular gospel song or a hymn in the First Church of George Michael. This track will bring tears to your eyes with it’s openheartedness. It was never released as a single but it’s definitely a George Michael track that deserves more attention that it got. His affectation, freedom, and expressiveness on this track show how George Michael could make singing into a religious experience. It’s like taking a glider ride on sighs.
This is another track which was never released as a single. Although it’s short it contains some brutally confessional lyrics. And George Michael doesn’t devolve into sappy which all too often undermines the realness of a song. He expertly matches the singing to these really personal lyrics. He’s wasn’t just a singer, he was a songwriter and you can hear the difference—he’s singing his own words and experiences. The intimacy of this song is a reflection of self discovery. It’s daring and not the juvenile shock value kind, it’s delicate shades of gray which don’t get obscured by clouds of anger. When he sings “Here I am” towards the end of the song, he paints so many more words than just those three.
Man could George Michael sing. Listen to “Freedom! ’90” and he’ll blow your hair back on the chorus. It’s one of my favorite George Michael tracks. The outro is just pure astral emancipation. It’s danceable latin flavored groove is deceptively inviting onto a dancefloor of deliverance. “Freedom! ’90” is where we delightfully hear George Michael roar in celebratory victory. The resonant power of his chorus yells gives reverberating lift fanning the ignition of independence.
After Wham! George Michael explored songwriting further, stretching out from the common verse chorus restrictions. And that’s when he really showcased his vocal techniques and vocal range. It allowed him to employ a greater tonal palate with his singing and become more confessional with his material and singing. George Michael ranged from theatric to solemn, from sassiness to spiritual. His slower tempo songs really allowed him to stretch out and showcase his vocal flair.
For a vocalist to reach and apply higher level artistry, he or she has to sing more than just notes. and George Michael brought vocal ornamentation to the forefront. His sense of dynamics, use of nuance and inflection have made me go wow in my head numerous times. It’s in the tonality of his voice, the multi–textural vocal stylings, it’s not just his vocal range, it’s he could do so many cool things with his voice.
When your ear becomes educated you can Listen Without Prejudice and appreciate singers and styles you wouldn’t otherwise have listened to. Like Freddie Mercury (whom he was a fan of as was Freddie of him) George Michael was a one of a kind unique voice. He wrapped silver and gold tinsel around his melodies, fitting for someone with such a gifted voice.
© Composer Yoga
I discovered Iron Maiden totally by accident. Up until that time I was listening to bands like Van Halen and Def Leppard and that was as "heavy" as I was getting as a preteen. No heavy petting or heavy metal quite yet. I was still usurping my older brother's music collection and whatever I could forage on local rock stations. Pyromania and 1984 were played to death in our bedroom. I remember Twisted Sister's Stay Hungry and Quiet Riot's Condition Critical vibrating the stereo speakers often and somehow our parents were "able to take it"---that being when Dee Snider aurally materialized as an uninvited house guest. Perhaps the fact that our bedroom was on the opposite side of the house as theirs had something to do with it. When we moved to a bigger house after I entered 7th grade, I began working out in the basement and had just a bare stereo on our second freezer along with my workout albums. Old school Rocky Balboa approved. Okay, it did look nicer than Clubber Lang's apartment. But I was having a hankering for heavier stuff to get the Eye Of The Tiger amidst the sound of Leppards.
Back then, Judas Priest was the only "really" Metal band that actually got airplay on the Classic Rock radio stations I listened to where I grew up. It seemed if you had two guitarists, it was "too heavy" for a standard Classic Rock station. It's as if there was an "Elevator Weight Capacity" for bands not to exceed a set number of pounds---4 band members: okay, 5 band members: Holy Crap, it's Metal! Of course there were exceptions. Bands that had 5 members (and 2 guitarists) and passed through the Rock Radio Checkpoint Charlie were The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, AC/DC, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bon Jovi, and .38 Special, all of which were never considered Metal. The subject matter of a band's songs was a deciding factor in if they were considered Metal or not. Because if you're Metal, you don't write whiny ass songs about relationships. At least that's the way it used to be before Hair Spray and Metal met in a Paul Mitchell salon somewhere west of the San Andreas Fault in southern California. I see a children's book in the making right there.
Back to my Maiden voyage. For someone who didn't have a learner's permit yet, I was at the mercy of other people who knew how to drive. And with that, used to go to backyard parties with my older brother and his friends or some of my older friends. It was at one of these backyard evening parties standing around a fire where the serendipity of discovering Iron Maiden happened. I wish I could say Eddie appeared and we roasted marshmallows by the fire from his long scrawny fingers, but this was more towards the Pabst Blue Ribbon spectrum of soirees than Burning Man peyote fest.
Somehow several adult beverages landed in my hand and my new friend buzz and I were digging all the rock tunes playing on the stereo blasting raccoons back to the nosebleed seats at the edge of the woods. I remember hearing the words "Deja Vu" on one of the songs. That was all my brain cells bathed in Bud or some other cheap beer could recollect the next day anyway. And with the finest Sh*tfaced Sherlock Holmes determination for solving "The Case Of The Mystery Song" in someone's back yard I didn't know and cannot remember, I set out asking "Hey, who sings a song called 'Deja Vu.?'" I got a lead on this band called Iron Maiden. I then set out to canvas some stores and look for what album the song was on. With the sobriety of Sergeant Joe Friday, a few Iron Maiden albums later (or so I thought), I found it---Somewhere In Time had a track listing of "Deja Vu." It also had amazing Science Fiction cover art (inspired by Blade Runner from the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) and since I was a huge fan of Star Wars growing up, that sealed the deal. I took Somewhere In Time to the register and with that, owned my first Iron Maiden album. And to this day it's still my favorite.
The opening track "Caught Somewhere In Time" just blew me away---Bruce Dickinson's vocals were crazy good, like one of his parents had sex with an amplifier good. I kept having "Holy Crap" moments---this was the first Metal album I actually owned and knew I was hooked for life. I was so blown away by all the songs I'd heard before "Deja Vu" (the second to last track) that I didn't even care it WASN'T the song my drunken ears heard at that party mentioned earlier. Turns out, I found out later the lyrics were actually "Danger---" and it was the the song "Danger" by Motley Crue off Shout At The Devil. The sustain and vocal effects when Vince Neil sings the word "Danger" sounded like "Danger....ooooh" which my slurried braincells misheard as "Deja Vu":
You're in danger
When the boys are around Danger
You're in danger
And this is my town
This is Hollywood
"Caught Somewhere In Time" for me was one of those solos that makes you want to become a guitarist. It shows how much fun you can have on a guitar, how freely you can launch energies from your fingertips and dance across the fretboard like a Whirling Dervish. I was just starting to play guitar and "Caught Somewhere In Time" blew my (back then) short hair back like the famous Maxell "Blown Away Guy" ad of the dude sitting in an easy chair listening to Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" which conveniently blows a glass of wine to him:
The "Blown Away Guy" moment I had was hearing solo #2 by Adrian Smith which begins at the 4:05 mark continuing to the 4:50 mark:
The solo ends with a recapitulation of the opening fast tempo riff heard first at the :53 mark. Iron Maiden switches keys often in songs and the solo baton passing between the two guitarists is no exception.
Dave Murray leads off with his slippery bluesy frolic in B flat then Adrian Smith punches it into orbit with this masculine metallic montage in G. The driving ascending staccato triplets across the neck and legato two handed tapping are the solos highpoints for me. You can almost hear the Silverback gorilla.
At times I reflect how long I've come since buying that album and listening to it in my bedroom as a teenager. If someone were to have told that teenage me that I would someday see all the places I would, I probably would have thought they were talking about someone else. Like "Wasted Years", I saw those cities go by in the night, went from coast to coast of the United States, flown over a few of those "seven seas." On whatever journey, I was always packing Metal, packing Somewhere In Time to listen to. Towards the end of the final track on Somewhere In Time, "Alexander The Great," there's the verse lyric:
The battle weary marching side by side
Alexander's army line by line
They wouldn't follow him to India
Tired of the combat, pain and the glory
As if the Somewhere In Time album were a personal prophecy or subliminal travel itinerary, I even visited India and got my Indiana Jones on. Years before going to to other side of the planet (which is brutal jetlag), I had tickets for John Williams Night at Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Lenox Massachusetts. It's been a Tanglewood tradition where Williams guest conducts a program of his greatest hits: Jaws, E.T., Superman, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, etc. At one point, Chewbacca and Darth Vader got on stage with Maestro Williams, but unfortunately you cannot conduct an orchestra with a Light Sabre. It was called the Electric Light Orchestra not the Electric Light Sabre Orchestra there Darth.
So there I was, visiting ancient temples all over southern India in the state of Tamil Nadu, which actually sounds like a planet in a Star Wars movie. I was even in a tiger preserve in the mountains and walked out a Survivor. And as for "Jedis", Tamil Nadu is famous for producing more Saints and Realized Masters (Advanced Yogis) than any other location on Earth. On the other hand, Gary Indiana is famous for producing more serial killers (which happens to be a Maiden song and earlier album) than any other location and also The Jacksons for some Thrilling reason. In India, my eyes met the sacred Mt. Arunachala (pictured on the package of some Organic India products), the mountain where Carl Jung spent over a month traveling on steamships just to see in his lifetime. Jung pioneered the concept of Synchronicity which was the title and inspiration for the incredible final album by The Police, which has the tracks "Synchronicity I" and "Synchronicity II" (the tune where Sting is yelling in the intro).
So sometimes mishearing lyrics can be a good thing. People mishear lyrics sober so accidentally discovering Iron Maiden was either some jolly good luck or Divine intervention of the Metal Gods. These days the Pope drinks more than I do (My Metal collection is WAY better than the Pope's though). But "Caught Somewhere In Time" is still one of my favorite Metal solos of all time---it's even among my favorite solos of all time. I've since listened to this album on 4 continents, numerous times at 30,000+ feet, watching mountains, plains, oceans and coastlines below me; In and through several countries, dozens of states, countless miles of Interstates, slicing across the country in the night; and also countless nights peacefully lying down in bed falling asleep to it. Somewhere In Time is like a companion I've taken with me in life on the leash of my iPod.
Some people don't "mellow with age" as far as their musical palette and tastes go. We just expand in both directions of harder and softer to integrate more of the whole. I still love Metal and know I could listen to it in my 80's, 90's and past 100. I'll never outgrow it and will definitely look better than Iron Maiden's mascot Eddie, who at some point I'm betting will look better than Keith Richards (heroin will steal your youth, health and possibly your life folks---it's taken too many musicians far too early). I just know wherever in time I'll be, I'll want Metal beside me within earshot. I've come to realize I exist "Somewhere In Time" and with music, I'll always have a portable home. And YO ADRIAN!!!
© Composer Yoga
The 70’s was the decade that paved the way making it cool to write songs about bitches.
Miles Davis was in the kitchen (albeit not with Dinah) making a brew with a recipe from some bitches.
Hall & Oates were having “issues” in their relationship with a Rich Girl (it’s a bitch, bitch girl…).
The Rolling Stones were in couples therapy as well trying to fix love but it was a bitch alright.
Elton John told us flat out the bitch is back. Yes indeed, the prophecy foretold came true: “the fever’s gonna catch you when the bitch gets back.”
It even became cool to call oneself a bitch. Yes SIRee, Elton admitted his bitchdom long before Meredith Brooks.
However, just like Yoda revealed there was another Skywalker, the bitch saga didn’t end here. Lo and behold she procreated—gestated and nurtured a baby riff which grew into this beautiful top shelf Slut Rock gem from Scotland’s Nazareth.
The song was unassumingly disguised from censors and parents suffering from generalized anxiety with the “fluffy” title, “Hair Of The Dog.” Nonetheless, we were thus aptly forewarned:
Nazareth formed back in 1968 in Scotland as a hard rock band. The group’s original lineup consisted of S.O.B. vocalist and Talk Box maestro Dan McCafferty, Manny Charlton on guitar, Pete Agnew on bass, and Darrell Sweet on drums and cowbell.
Nazareth was named after Nazareth, PA not the Bible zip code Jesus’ old hood was located in. They named themselves after the Pennsylvania borough as they were influenced by The Band’s song “The Weight” which mentions “Pulled in to Nazareth…” in its opening verse.
Nazareth, PA is just northeast of Allentown, which Billy Joel sang about, and Nazareth is also home to the C.F. Martin & Company guitar factory. Aside from that, driving through rural Pennsylvania one would see lots of farmland and multitudes of cows roaming the pastures. Just avoid driving through in say July as ripe manure and summer heat do not go together like peanut butter and jelly.
Trust me. I was on the road with a band and we endured a torturous half hour dutch oven of that fermented cowpie cocktail on Interstate 80—windows fully rolled up and AC on full blast could not save us from this unfortuitously fecal fate.
The good news is, I doubt too many people get pulled over by Police in those areas. It’s probably the closet thing America has to an Autobahn save maybe some interstates in Texas where the speed limit is 80 mph, almost legal for Marty and Doc to go back to the 70’s and get down at Studio 54.
Nazareth toured with Deep Purple after their sophomore album Exercises was released (1972). Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover produced their 3rd album Razamanaz in 1973 and continued producing their next two albums Loud ‘N’ Proud (1973) and Rampant (1974).
Hair Of The Dog came out in 1975 and was Nazareth’s 6th and most successful album of their career. Two songs released from the album charted: The self titled track “Hair Of The Dog” served up with cowbell and a cover of The Everly Brothers song “Love Hurts” which became their biggest hit.
“Love Hurts” went platinum and was a top ten hit in 9 countries reaching the #1 spot in 6. Obviously “Love Hurts” if one is messing with a son of a bitch.
“Hair Of The Dog” is one of those songs where the song title is never actually sung or mentioned in the song. It is known better as “Now you’re messin’ with a son of a bitch.”
Back in high school, I used to play classic rock stations sometimes while I was working out and always dug when this tune came on. I also didn’t know the song was called “Hair Of The Dog” until later.
The album and title track were originally going to be titled “Heir Of The Dog”, a play on words for “son of a bitch.” The record company didn’t like it for whatever reason and it was changed to the spelling “Hair Of The Dog.” So the song’s title is not a reference to the slang idiom “The hair of the dog that bit you” which seems the folk “homeopathic” cure for a hangover—to drink more alcohol to alleviate it.
This 70’s classic rock tune is the kissing cousin to The Beatles “Paperback Writer.” If you know how to play both songs or have a listener’s ear not prone to ADD, you’ll notice the main riff is similar in both:
“Hair Of The Dog” is more laid back and leisurely while “Paperback Writer” has a faster tempo. The first part of the riff is essentially the same notes while the ending differs:
“Hair Of The Dog” is super fun to play and sing—although when I do, I have to plan on not doing much talking for the next few days. It’s a party song, tongue and cheek, sung balls out but maintains a fun playful vibe and doesn’t come off as angry or malicious. And it has cowbell to boot!!
The Hair Metal vocal stylings on “Hair Of The Dog” were a stray puppy back in the 70’s and that spandex & aqua net Lassie came home to the Hair Metal 80’s. Hair Metal may have started with “Hair Of The Dog” , and Hair Metal itself may indeed be the son of that bitch.
Musical geneology wise, I consider “Hair Of The Dog” a proto Hair Metal song. It was early Hair Metal before it’s time and before there was even a genre label for it. You can hear the Dan McCafferty Nazareth stamp a decade later on hair metal bands like the following to name a few:
Britny Fox even did a cover of “Hair Of The Dog.” The Hair Metal vocal stylings on “Hair Of The Dog” were a stray puppy back in the 70’s and that spandex & aqua net Lassie came home to the Hair Metal 80’s. Hair Metal may have started with “Hair Of The Dog”, and Hair Metal itself may indeed be the son of that bitch.
“Hair Of The Dog” is such a cool tune Guns N’ Roses also did a version of it on their 1993 cover tunes album The Spaghetti Incident? Axl actually wanted Nazareth to play at his wedding but for some reason, they turned down the request. Sometimes life is a son of bitch even for rock stars.
But let’s not let that stop us from playing…(Cowbell and drumroll)
Kevin Bacon won’t mind nor call his lawyer so here goes:
Nazareth was a hard rock band from Scotland. Axl Rose often wears a kilt, the paragon of Scottish men’s fashion.
“Hair Of The Dog” has cowbell; Gun’s N’ Roses “Nightrain” has cowbell.
“Hair Of The Dog” has the word “bitch” in it; Guns N’ Roses “It’s So Easy” has the word “bitch” in it as well.
Nazareth was where Jesus lived and he was crucified on a cross. Axl and the members of Guns N’ Roses were also positioned on a cross on the Appetite For Destruction debut album cover.
Nazareth scored their biggest success with “Love Hurts” first recorded by The Everly Brothers. Axl Rose dated the daughter of one of The Everly Brothers (Erin Everly, daughter of Don Everly). The lyrics of Guns N’ Roses biggest hit, “Sweet Child O’ Mine” are about Erin who also stars in the music video.
Both Nazareth and Guns N’ Roses had their biggest success connected to The Everly Brothers.
Pretty freaky actually Eh? All this from a Scottish band who named themselves after some random place in Pennsylvania. By the way, the slot is still open for band to name themselves “Winslow” after Winslow, Arizona mentioned in The Eagles song “Take It Easy.”
I’ve been to Winslow, and on the famed Route 66 going through downtown, there’s actually a “Standing On The Corner Park” with a red flatbed Ford truck parked by the curb and a mural on the adjoining building facade with an eagle perched atop.
Perhaps Nazareth, PA could up it’s tourist magnetism quotient by having an “Fanny” to take a load off, public benches with seated Fanny statues for selfies, or better yet, install “Entering Nazareth Pennsylvania—Sons of Bitches Welcome” signs on all major throughways entering the town.
On a side note, if this is the same “Fanny” Freddie Mercury sang about in “Fat Bottomed Girls”, she REALLY gets around, having showed up in two different rock songs on both sides of the Atlantic.
In the meantime, wake up and smell the cowbell not the cowpie like I was forced to in rural Pennsylvania.
“Hair Of The Dog” is good ‘ol slutty 70’s rock at it’s finest. It’s another Rock ‘n’ Roll parlay into taking the law into your own hands like Alice Cooper’s “No More Mr. Nice Guy.”
Nazareth cut the ties, disregarded leash laws, and marked it’s territory on a few pop charts around the world with this cowbell classic.
And now we know who let the Hair Metal dogs out and who ate the homework of the Paperback Writer.
© Composer Yoga
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Years ago, my regular Sunday night ritual included eating vegan Goats Head Soup with Cups And Cakes, praying to the Great Pumpkin and listening to Stephen Hill’s Hearts of Space on my local NPR station. I was fresh out of college, it was my first apartment and for several months I ate meals on my Yamaha piano bench. That is, before my sweet grandmother felt sorry for me and bought me a wooden dining table and chairs even though I was enjoying dining Japanese style. From my standpoint I was getting in touch with my inner Mr. Miyagi.
Hearts of Space, or HOS (not to be confused with Santa’s A–Game catchphrase or types of women Sting became famous for singing about) was on at later evening time slots where I lived which sometimes made it hard to get up for work Monday mornings *insert Todd Rundgren song here.* The shows creator, Stephen Hill has been hosting Hearts of Space out of San Rafael in Marin County California since 1973 or since bell bottoms were still the fashion rage thanks to Derek and the Dominos “Bell Bottom Blues” and The wardrobe department at The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour.
Very often I would fall asleep listening to the themed episodes of ambient, new age, choral, classical, Celtic, electronic & experimental music Hearts of Space featured—music Clear Channel program executives probably wouldn’t dare play unless they all had Near Death Experiences and were instructed to do so personally by Archangel Yanni. Or perhaps a Charles Dickens version of “A Listener’s Carol” with successive visits from the Ghost of Listener’s Past might convince them to loosen the playlist leash and broaden their sonic horizons once again. Unfortunately as we’ve seen over time, The Spirit of Radio was replaced by a radio monopoly, playlist dictatorships, FM formula fascism & airwave homogenization—all we hear is the same “Radio Ga Ga” Freddie Mercury & Queen forewarned us about.
It was here on HOS I first heard of Canadian composer Bill Douglas on a winter themed show while laying down for a few hours listening to music like I usually do before falling asleep. I was in the right mood, the opportune window of the Soul open to receive this specific sonic side dish of something that spoke the language of spirit through sound. “Deep Peace” struck me as a profoundly beautiful elevating piece of music—ethereal, nebulous, contemplative, spiritual, transcendent harmonized vocal lines weaving sonic paths though my temporal lobes as I lay on my pillow, bathing me in a nice alpha–theta meditative wave. You’ll see why it’s one of my favorite contemporary choral pieces. Try listening to this lying down with your eyes closed before bed when you’re relaxed for maximum effect:
There’s some nice pockets of space here to inhale the harmonies into your energy field. This choral piece allows you to breathe deeply and recalibrates the relaxation settings so you can recline deeper into yourself. I’m glad I was introduced to the music of Bill Douglas and this composition, the title track off the album Deep Peace which is worth owning in it’s entirety. If you’re a fan of Enya’s music, Deep Peace is quite Enyaesque. Bill Douglas’ work also has crossover potential much like Enya. I mean, for someone like me who wouldn’t list choral music in his top favorite genres, that says it right there that Douglas made me a fan. That and how modern choral music can be profoundly moving internal experience.
Some time ago I spent several months traveling all throughout California. After spending time in SoCal, I gradually made my way north to Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz & the Monterey Bay, then further up to hang out in San Francisco for a few days. I then crossed the Golden Gate Bridge to explore San Rafael and the surrounding areas before heading further north to Santa Rosa to commune with Charles Schulz (creator of the world famous Peanuts comic strip) and see what all the hype was for Gino Vannelli to actually write a song about—was Schroeder a childhood idol of his too? Maybe Gino got lost as his directions in the song probably lead to Ausfahrt and not actually Santa Rosa California.
San Rafael became the home of “Space Music”, the term coined by Stephen Hill to describe the mixture of music he played on the show into a variety pack genre. And how can one visit San Rafael and not do a drive–by of Skywalker Ranch? It’s indeed one of the most beautiful inspiring locked gates my eyes have ever beheld located coincidentally on Lucas Valley Road. And no, it was not named after Father George—that’s what the road was called a long, long time ago in a valley far north of the bay.
In addition to George “Original Gangsta Star Wars Mac Daddy” Lucas, Carlos Santana & James Hetfield have residences in San Rafael. There’s also a who’s who who’ve lived there in Marin County (I know Dr. Seuss would dig this sentence from whatever Whoniverse he now resides in):
Terry Bozzio (Frank Zappa, Missing Persons)
David Crosby (Crosby, Stills, Nash & sometimes Young)
Alan Watts (author of numerous books on Taoism & Buddhism)
Ram Dass (author of Be Here Now)
Philip K. Dick (Science fiction author of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? which was made into the cult Sci-Fi film Blade Runner with Harrison Ford and The Man In The High Castle currently a series on Amazon. Dick’s works have also been made into the films Total Recall with AHHNOLD Schwarzenegger and Minority Report with Tom Cruise).
So we can deduce from the evidence here Marin County is kinda cool or else it wouldn’t attract all this riff raff.
Another pop culture, or rather pot culture fun fact about the area is San Rafael High School is believed to be the epicenter of the term 420. It referred to the time joint subcommittee meetings would commence after “School’s Out” and Alice Cooper sang.
As for me, I found a sense of peace making that pilgrimage to the Heart of Hearts of Space. I still remember hiking in the mountains off Lucas Valley Road having close encounters with deer and seeing the skylines of San Francisco and Oakland in the distance. And most importantly, my prayers to the Great Pumpkin all those years ago were answered a short while later while visiting Santa Rosa when Linus appeared to me in the woods like Obi–Wan.
As an added bonus, “Deep Peace” is a non–denominational prayer for personal peace so even hypervigilant politically correct types can enjoy listening to without it ringing their church bells. Maybe we can’t do anything about War Pigs and warmongers but you can’t please everybody. If you want to pray some more at the First Church of Bill Douglas, there’s other albums in his discography such as Earth Prayer.
Perhaps the title of this post was inspired via a psychic nudge from spirit of John Lennon as we do share the same Birth Star in Vedic Astrology. Where my Vedic Birth Star homies at? You know you’re in the Golden Age of Sat Yuga when street gangs start rapping phrases like that instead of bitches and hos—unless it’s the other kind of HOS as in Hearts of Space. So farewell space fans, wherever you are…Drift Long and Prosper in a galaxy far alpha wave and give “Deep Peace” a chance.
© Composer Yoga