Well these didn’t last long at the Ruby Lane website. Damn, they could have really come in handy. I’m tired of keeping my uppers and downers scattered like baby teeth in the rusted-out medicine cabinet of my mind. I need to get organized. I need order in my life! Screw you Ruby Lane, you diabolical temptress you.
No known photos of Big Bird hanging out with Terence McKenna exist, leading some to surmise they are one and the same. Evidence of the Bird’s interest in the spiritual and alternative lifestyles is confirmed in this photo of the the feathered freak with Allen Ginsberg.
Big Bird channels Terence McKenna in this delightful video, which gives new meaning to the term “high flying bird” and makes me want to smoke a little DMT with my morning dose of carrot juice.
“I’ll try to be around and about. But if I’m not, then you know that I’m behind your eyelids, and I’ll meet you there”
― Terence McKenna
They came from Cleveland, which is enough to give them some rock cred, and they featured one of rock’s great guitar players in Joe Walsh, but I didn’t pay much attention to The James Gang until my friend Tommy Bolin joined the group in 1974. What the band had lost in grittness when Walsh left the group was made up for in a more metallic and glammy approach with Bolin on guitar and Roy Kenner (with grooming tips from Bolin) on vocals.
At the time of this performance on Rock Concert, the center wasn’t holding for The James Gang. Line-up changes had taken its toll (the only original member left was drummer Jimmy Fox), the group had lost its identity and Bolin wasn’t patient enough to stick around and re-invent the band in his own image. Deep Purple was calling.
The James Gang on Rock Concert in 1974. You got to agree that Bolin was one cool motherfucker (even though the cameraman seems to have a thing for Kenner).
History in perspective - the Moon landing as recorded by a teenager.
There’s nothing like teenage diaries for putting momentous historical events in perspective (Banalities and bathos, 31 December). This is my entry for 20 July 1969. “I went to arts centre (by myself!) in yellow cords and blouse. Ian was there but he didn’t speak to me. Got rhyme put in my handbag from someone who’s apparently got a crush on me. It’s Nicholas I think. UGH. Man landed on moon.” Dinah Hall Lustleigh, Devon
Day Comes Apart is a stunning song cycle, consisting 9 songs written by Mikael Karlsson and Rob Stephenson, and performed by the superb Abby Fischer (mezzo soprano) and Yegor Shevtsov (piano) at the Klavierhaus, New York, in May 2012. The video was shot by T. M. Rives and J. P. Bernbach, with audio by Patrick Lo.
Karlsson and Stephenson previously worked together on the wonderful diverse experimental album Dog, and Karlsson is currently on an opera and an orchestral score for the Norwegian National Ballet with Alexander Ekman.
“If the Ghetto Brothers’ dream comes true, the world will learn that the ‘little people’ wish to be acknowledged, wish to be properly educated in order for them to pass on their knowledge to their children, and proudly inform them about their heritage and culture, and be a functioning part of the dream of America. If the Ghetto Brothers’ dream comes true, the ‘little people’ will be ‘little people’ no more, and make their own mark in this world. Listen to the Ghetto Brothers… and take heed.”—from the back cover of the original 1972 release of Power-Fuerza
I’m not one to go in much for year end lists (I like reading other people’s, but not compiling my own, besides it’s the new year already, isn’t it?) but if I was, then the Ghetto Brothers jaw-droppingly amazing Power-Fuerza deluxe re-release from Truth & Soul would have been hovering very near the top of mine. You know how every once in a while something or someone long-forgotten (or that never was) gets rediscovered and it’s just so fucking good that music fans take it to their bosoms and become all-out evangelists for said album or performer? (Death, The Langley Schools Music Project, Zambian psychrockers WITCH, Jobriath, Father’s Children and Shuggie Otis come immediately to mind.) Well, this is one of those albums, and one of those bands and the back-story of brothers Benjy, Robert and Victor Melendez, doesn’t disappoint either.
Power-Fuerza was recorded on a single sunny day in New York City in 1972 by a Beatles-influenced garage rock group comprised of a bunch of well-intended, socially conscious teenage Nuyorican gang members led by three brothers who wanted to broker peace between South Bronx street gangs and have a good time.
Do I have your attention? This isn’t just a truly great “lost” record, it’s uncovering an entirely hidden history—and a very important history at that—of New York City in the early 1970s.
The music on Power-Fuerza reminds me of a lot of things, including, but not limited to, a less-technically proficient early Santana (I mean that in a good way), doo-wop, Motown and even the first Strokes album for its confident, youthful, boyish bravado. I can’t really say that it doesn’t sound like anything else I’ve ever heard before, because it definitely sounds like a whole bunch of stuff I’ve heard before put into a blender, but don’t get me wrong, the exuberantly sweet-sounding inner city blues of the Ghetto Brothers is still unique as fuck when judged on its own merits.
There is an emotional purity to this album that cannot be described in words. It is unabashedly joyous and stunningly beautiful. Its low-fi imperfections are what make it so perfectly perfect. Power-Fuerza hit my pleasure centers damned good and hard on the first spin. I came close to crying tears of joy, it’s that good. The second and third times I played it, I loved it even more. And then I played it again, and again, and again (it’s a super short album and that’s the only downside of Power Fuerza, you’ll be left wanting to hear more and there is no more).
Hip-hop historian Jeff Mao writes in the CD’s extensive liner notes:
“By mid-1971, Benjy’s social conscience and interest in Puerto Rican nationalism dovetailed with the rise of young urban activist groups like the Black Panthers, the Young Lords, and the Puerto Rican Socialist Party. Catching the revolutionary spirit in the air, the Ghetto Brothers eradicated junkies and pushers from their neighborhood, cleaned parks and garbage-strewn empty lots, and participated in clothing drives and breakfast programs.”
As the Ghetto Brothers gathered daily in their clubhouse on East 162nd Street in the early ‘70s, they brought another aspect to their legacy: musicianship. Influenced as much by the Beatles – Benjy, Robert and Victor were in a neighborhood tribute group in the mid-‘60s called Los Junior Beatles – and doo-wop harmonies as by Santana and Tito Puente, they quickly cooked up a potent, NYC-flavored musical stew. It was a melting pot of styles gobbled up by a growing fanbase, who heard them on the street or, on occasion, traveled across gang lines to check the scene.
After jamming and building up enough tunes, the GBs garnered the attention of local record store and record label owner Ismael Maisonave (Mary Lou Records / Salsa Records). After agreeing to his invitation to put their music on tape, the group rehearsed furiously and gathered material. In the summer of 1972, they were ready.
The album’s eight tracks were recorded in one day at Manhattan’s Fine Tone Studios on 42nd Street, produced and engineered by Latin studio maven Bobby Marin. Seven of the eight are originals written by Benjy and/or Victor Melendez. Arrangements were written on the spot. The result: a beautiful, absolutely innocent audio snapshot by three brothers, their friends and a powerful gang of musical energy.
Power-Fuerza was a minor hit around New York, but that was about it. Until this new reissue from Truth & Soul (cased like a hardback book with 80 pages of fascinating liner notes and photographs), the 1972 LP was changing hands in collector’s circles for a thousand bucks. Not even all of the band members owned a copy. Forty years after its initial release, people (like me) are just going nuts for this album. It must be incredibly gratifying for everyone involved in creating and then bringing this hidden gem to the public some forty years after the fact and seeing it embraced the way it has been. Seriously, kudos to Truth & Soul for putting together a fantastic product that, frankly, is practically piracy proof. People are gonna want to buy it because the liner notes are SO ESSENTIAL. When you hear the music, you will want to know the story behind it.
The original group split up, but the Ghetto Brothers are still very much together as a musical family affair: Benjy and Robert Melendez and their sons Joshua and Hiram, playing bass and drums respectively, meet at their studio every Friday to play music (Their brother Victor Melendez died in 1995).
“There’s Something in My Heart”
“Got This Happy Feeling”
WNYC’s Soundcheck awesome show on the Ghetto Brothers with Benjy Melendez and author Jeff “Chairman” Mao:
“8 Million Stories: Yellow Benjy” by Andreas Vingaard
Terence Stamp and Michael Caine once shared an apartment in the early 1960s. Stamp was the star, with Billy Budd, Term of Trial and The Collector to his CV, while Caine was still on his way up. The turning point came when Stamp knock-backed the title role of Alfie, a role he had made his own on Broadway, but didn’t want to reprise on film. Caine spent a long night trying to change Stamp’s mind. He failed and the role was given to Caine.
Years later, Michael Caine wrote how he sometimes dreamt of that long night trying to convince Stamp to take the role, and “still wakes up sweating as I see Terence agreeing to accept my advice to take the role in Alfie.”
Stamp made Modesty Blasie instead, which on paper sounded fabulous - directed by Joseph Losey; starring Monica Vitti and Dirk Bogarde; adapted by poet and writer Evan Jones from the best-selling Peter O’Donell comic strip. Sadly, it flopped, and the blue-eyed, angelic Stamp was slowly eclipsed by his former room-mate, Caine.
Yet, Stamp was no longer interested in making films for the sake of making films. He was beginning to choose roles because he wanted to make them. He turned down an incredible amount of work, as he later explained in an interview with Valerie Singelton in 1978:
‘I didn’t accept a lot of work because I was of the opinion, if one wanted the long career, one should do good, interesting things. One shouldn’t do anything.
‘So, that was a kind of a political decision really, apart from the fact I enjoyed to do things that interested me. It didn’t interest me to play Tate and Lyle lorry drivers, you understand? I did that already. I didn’t want to do that in a movie. I wanted to play princes and counts, and intellectuals and things that I wasn’t, rather than something I was.’
After Modesty Blaise, Stamp opted to work with radical film-maker Ken Loach, on his first movie Poor Cow, which co-starred Carol White. The film was a surprise hit in America, largely down to Stamp’s casting. He then appeared in John Schlesinger’s Far From the Madding Crowd with Julie Christie, Alan Bates and Peter Finch. Yet, for all his success, there was something missing.
‘And this thing which came later was a feeling of an inner emptiness success didn’t fill. I had assumed that this inner poverty would be transformed when I became rich and famous. And it took me a few years of being rich and famous to understand that the inner void was very much there.
‘And, you know, if I couldn’t fill it with one Rolls-Royce, I couldn’t fill it with three.
‘I started traveling and looking at myself. Looking, thinking the answer was outside still in a form of, you know, I transfered from beautiful female companion, to highly, holy, spiritualized person. So I was kind of looking for that in truth - it was an inner odyssey that was going on.’
Stamp moved to Italy and then onto an ashram in India, where he found he could get ‘Groovy Kashmiri hash or groovy golden guru - you get what you’re looking for.’ Here he was “transformed from Terence Henry Stamp to swami Deva Veeten.”
The years passed and the roles had dried-up, until (as in all good tales) one day in 1977:
‘On this particular morning, as we enter, I am hailed by the concierge who showed me to my original room. Apparently he remembers me. “Mr. Terence”, he says in an accent worthy of Peter Sellers. “We have a cable for you”. He extricates the telegram from the depths of his nightstand and presents it to me. Dog-eared, with tickertape strips glued onto the square envelope and smeared with dust, I have no idea how long the urgent missive has been waiting. However, as it is dropped into my palm it has the psychic weight of the English breakfast I am about to order. I read the typed front piece and realize why. It is addressed to: Clarence Stamp, The Rough Diamond Hotel, Dune, India. It is a miracle that it is even in my hand. Goose pimples spread up my arm and I have a sense that my life is about to change. The telegram is from my long-suffering agent James Fraser, who came across me playing Iago at the Webber-Douglas Drama Academy in 1958 and, bless his heart, has represented me ever since. The telegram reads: ‘Would you be prepared to travel back to London to meet Richard Donner regarding a role in the Superman films 1 & 2. You have scenes with Marlon Brando. Could you stop over in Paris to talk to Peter Brook who is going to make a film of George Gurujieff’s Meetings With Remarkable Men. I read it again. Can hardly believe it, but yes, it’s there, in the palm of my hand. And yes, my life is about to change.’
After Superman, Stamp was cast as the Count in a London production of Dracula, (one of several productions about the great undead vampire that had appeared on both sides of the Atlantic). It was during this production that the following interview with the BBC took place, where Terence Stamp explained, to interviewer Valerie Singleton the attraction of Count Dracula.
‘I always think of evil and the Devil being terribly groovy - not unattractive at all, they have to be really interesting and really seductive because that’s the magnetism of evil, you know, it has to be outwardly beautiful and fetching.’
I spent a fair amount of the holidays rediscovering the timeless genius of Wire’s late 70’s punk/post punk/art rock triptych of Pink Flag, Chairs Missing, and 154 and I’d have to say, those three albums will never get old for me.
This 1979 set for the German TV series RockPalast, taped between Chairs Missing and 154, is the only professionally shot record of Wire during their (first) glory days and it kicks ass so hard. If you’re a fan of the band and you’ve never seen this before, prepare to be blown the fuck away.
1 Intro + Another The letter
2 The 15th
3 Practice Makes Perfect
4 Two People In A Room
5 I Feel Mysterious Today
6 Being Sucked In Again
7 Once Is Enough
8 Blessed State
9 A Question of Degree
10 Single KO
12 Forty Versions
13 Former Airline
14 French Film Blurred
15 Men 2nd
16 Map Ref. 41°N 93°W
18 Pink Flag (encore)
From the looks of things, the audience of long-haired German stoners had no idea what had just hit them!