Summer Breeze

This is a song where my “thumbs up or thumbs down” meter has waxed and waned over the years. “Summer Breeze” by Seals and Crofts is an unmistakably early 70s acoustic tune. At its basic level, it has great harmony and a catchy guitar riff in it. The verse lyrics have a different kind of phrasing which sound almost like a run-on sentence… “See-the-curtains-hangin-in-the-window”, etc.

I recently watched a guitar video on YouTube where the guitarist had a case of misheard lyrics. He thought Seals and Crofts were singing about a “jazz band” as opposed to the plant “jasmine.” The Isley Brothers recorded this song and it has a completely different to feel to it. It’s more of a soul thing with a guitar workout in it . Another completely different interpretation of the song was recorded by Type O Negative. (Wikipedia refers to them as a Gothic metal band from Brooklyn.)

To my ears, it sounds like what happens when you play a 45 RPM record at 33 RPM, but it’s a free country. Apparently they’ve done some other interesting covers. Recently, I found a more traditional take on “Summer Breeze” by Shaw Blades on an album of all cover songs. (That’s Tommy Shaw of Styx and Jack Blades of Night Ranger.) Jason Mraz did a more R & B/contemporary version as well.

I think this song has been sampled a time or two as well. Over the years, “Summer Breeze” has received tons of airplay on soft rock/adult contemporary stations. Recently, I started learning it on guitar so it’s taken on yet another life and my meter is on “thumbs up.” Here’s some info on jazz band…I mean jasmine: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jasmine

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

“Power Ballads for $500, Alex”

When I hear the term “power ballad”, I think of Eighties rock bands. It seems like there were a lot of them on the radio and “the MTV” back in the day. It’s kind of a weird Yin-Yang thing…long haired, hard rockin’ dudes combined with the sad, weepy ballads, but I have to admit I like some of them. One good example of a power ballad popped into my head today. Canadian rock band April Wine’s sweet-sounding song “Just Between You and Me” was released on a 1981 album entitled “The Nature of the Beast.”

I happened to glance at the thumbs up vs. thumbs down rating on YouTube. OVER 500 gave it a thumbs down, but over SIXTEEN THOUSAND gave it a thumbs up. The songwriter and lead singer of April Wine fame is named Myles Goodwyn...not just one alternatively-spelled “y” in his name, but two…Very Eighties!! Give this dude some credit. According to the official April Wine website, https://www.aprilwine.ca/ , the band started in 1969. Talk about persistence! It makes me wonder how many gigs/practices/disappointments/ hurdles/songwriting attempts did it take him to get this one?

For the 500 plus thumbs-downers, I say this: You’re entitled to dislike it, but I’m going to sit in the dark, break out a cigarette lighter, and wave it to my little heart’s content. If you’re a millennial and prefer to use a cell phone instead, that’s one way to do it. It doesn’t seem quite the same, but you probably don’t have a mullet either. I wonder what Fire Marshall Bill would say about the combo of long hair sprayed in Aqua Net and an open flame. This blog’s special guest star Canadian hockey guru Barry Melrose.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

Dick, Dunst, & Williams

Ahhh, the glories of streaming TV. I can’t remember exactly where or when I become aware of the Nixon administration-themed comedy “Dick”, but I was pleasantly surprised by it. Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams star as two teenage girls who bake some delicious (albeit pot infused) cookies called “Hello Dollies” and, somehow stumble their way into the White House. They not only become the official White House dog walkers for President Nixon’s dog “Checkers”, but start rubbing elbows with staffers like Henry Kissinger, Bob Haldeman, John Dean, and G. Gordon Liddy.

As you might imagine, the Watergate scandal is also a big part of the film and its punchlines. Kirsten Dunst plays a giddy high schooler extremely well and her partner in crime Michelle Williams is hilarious, too. For example, there’s a scene where Williams’ character develops a crush on Nixon and decides to sing “I Honestly Love You” (made famous by Olivia Newton-John) onto his infamous reel to reel tape recorder in the oval office. There are a couple of songs I associate with the film. One is Redbone’s “Come and Get Your Love.”

Other musicians/bands featured in the film include David Essex, Yes, Bread, and more. As for the film itself, reporters Woodward and Bernstein are played by the likes of Will Ferrell and Bruce McCulloch. Other comedic actors involved are Dave Foley, Jim Breuer, and Harry Shearer. Teri Garr sneaks into the cast as a housewife and mother. Even Ryan Reynolds makes an appearance. Nixon is played by Dan Hedaya (Nick Tortelli on Cheers). If the cast and the music aren’t reason enough to check it out, the 70s outfits are pretty damn groovy. “Dick” was directed by Andrew Fleming.

Till next time keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

Whack Fol the Dadio?

Another St. Patrick’s Day has come and gone. However, this year was kind of like “The Year Without A Santa Claus” (or St. Pat’s Parade) thanks to the coronavirus. However, Irish and non-Irish alike can still drink their green beer or whiskey at home (just not along their favorite parade routes) and listen to their favorite tunes from The Emerald Isle.

One classic song familiar to both folkies and rockers is “Whiskey in the Jar.” Seventies rockers Thin Lizzy recorded this one and charted on their side of the Atlantic. The guitar riff has a sort of stuttered feel to it.

Give them credit for spreading it to the masses or keeping the song alive so to speak. Years later, Metallica not only recorded the song, but had an accompanying video on MTV as well. To me, part of the appeal of”Whiskey in the Jar” is the mystery of it. The lyrics mention pistols, rapiers (that’s a type of sword), military officials, a woman named Molly or Jenny, and an Irish mountain or two. Some versions mention the Cork and Kerry Mountains, others Kilgary Mountain or “Gilgarra Mountain” like this version by Peter, Paul, and Mary.

Needless to say, this song has been recorded A LOT. You can find versions by the likes of Burl Ives, Jerry Garcia, and several folk groups. Recently, Bryan Adams recorded it and so did this dude.

If you prefer a full-on, reeling take on “Whiskey in the Jar”, there’s a joint effort by The Dubliners and The Pogues that’s worth a listen. The song may have been written about a highwayman/bandit named Patrick Flemming — he sounds like the Irish Jesse James type or something like that.

Till next time, “Musha rain dum a doo, dum a da” and keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

“My Dinner with Jimi”

I stumbled across this Rhino Films effort in the public library a few years ago and was fortunate enough to find it again on some free streaming channel recently. If you are a fan of Sixties Rock, it is a must see! The story was written by Howard Kaylan of Turtles fame and takes viewers on a point of view ride through a swingin’ scene. It’s a fun film. It starts on the Sunset Strip where The Doors are opening for The Turtles. Before they leave America, though, Kaylan deals with his draft card and rubs elbows with other musicians like Frank Zappa, Mama Cass, and more.

The film centers around The Turtles’ trip to London, England. (I’ve never really explored that band, but they had some hits like “Happy Together.” I mean you have to give them some credit — especially when you think about who else was in the charts. ) When they finally get to London Town they start by hanging out with Graham Nash and Donovan, then bump into none other than The Beatles in a local hot spot. This was the day before the release of the epic Sgt. Pepper album.

As the evening progresses, the band mingles with a couple of The Moody Blues and Kaylan meets Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones. Jones introduces him to Jimi Hendrix and, as the title implies, they have dinner and wrap about playing music, enlightenment, and beautiful women. What’s interesting to me about this film is it sucks you in and puts you right in the middle of all that groovy-ness. Not only that, but the conversations just feel real to me. A couple of familiar actors appear in this film including George Wendt and John Corbett. An actor named Royale Watkins plays Jimi Hendrix and I think he does a good of capturing Hendrix’s speech patterns. I’ve seen a lot of films about different bands and documentaries about Sixties rock, but this is the only film I can recall about that is anecdotal. Basically, it’s not the same ole news footage and clips of Monterey Pop.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

The Colorful and The Freaky

I don’t know what it is about certain lights and colors (or the combination of them), but I just like them. I never really buy or display Christmas lights, for example, but I enjoy looking at them. Once in awhile I’ll see something that catches my eye and think, “This is how the world should look ALL OF THE TIME.” Sound crazy? I don’t know if I explain it, but I’ll try.

For example, my friend was riding shotgun while I was driving down the street. It was nighttime so it was dark outside. As I drove down this particular street (which I’ve done numerous times), I noticed some sort of flashing lights (LEDs?) illuminating a car wash. I just said, “Man that’s awesome!” Maybe it’s the stark contrast of the bright lights and the darkness or the vivid colors themselves. I don’t know. I’ve always enjoyed a lot of the psychedelic art to come out of the Sixties, but am far from a hippie or a “doper” to use my cop friends’ terminology. The pop art of Roy Lichtenstein is up my alley. I had a pop art phone app on my old iPhone and enjoyed trying different color schemes with random pictures.

Just to clarify, I like looking at and experiencing color. I don’t dress like a middle-aged, male version of “Rainbow Brite.” I recently saw a segment with Conan O’Brien in Japan and his visit took him into a very colorful section of Tokyo.

The description of this video is a “kawaii makeover in Harajuku.” Not really my thing. Maybe I’ll just do this. I’m going to list some examples of things I like. Please feel free to weigh in on whether they’re psychedelic, colorific, freaky, or just plain weird. Maybe I’ll start a roadside attraction with all of them:

  1. Lava lamps: They’re colorful and freaky. Good combo of both.
  2. Ocean in a bottle: This is sort of like a DIY lava lamp. I made one in about 8th grade. The downside is they’re highly flammable.
  3. Blacklights: I’ve never owned one, but this a good example of the colorful and the freaky as well. My cousins had one when I was kid. I can’t remember which posters they had.
  4. Fish aquariums: OK, they don’t always explode with color, but some do. I’m also fascinated by GloFish. I’m sure PETA disapproves. Are they genetically altered to glow in the dark? Betta fish are pretty colorful, too.
  5. Assorted children’s toys: Spirograph is definitely psychedelic. Lite Brite is pretty wicked, too. Is there a way to combine the two? Hmm.
  6. Ferrofluid: Most of the time, this stuff is black and it’s kept inside a glass case. You move it around with a high powered magnet. I think you can find different colors, but you may have to look pretty hard. It’s on my bucket list.
  7. Animation: Bugs Bunny isn’t too freaky, but Yellow Submarine is a pretty good example of explosive, vivid color. They might be edged out by the “hookah smoking caterpillar” of Alice in Wonderland/White Rabbit fame.

8. Claymation: I don’t think I’ve really seen a psychedelic instance of this, but it is colorful. The Peter Gabriel video for “Sledgehammer” is a good example of its potential.

9. Tibetan Sand Mandalas: Definitely have vivid colors, but a little less wind-and-sneeze-proof for my liking.

10. Thermochromic stuff: Sounds fancy, huh? This is like mood rings or coffee mugs that change color due to heat. Very freaky.

There are plenty of other examples/choices…a favorite album cover (Sgt. Pepper is pretty good), sugar skulls (definitely freaky and definitely colorful). I remember a scene in the comedy called “Best in Show” where this couple worships color. I haven’t gone that far. The world isn’t always colorful, but I enjoy it when it is.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

70s Rock as Social Commentary

Rock n roll comes in many variations or categories — punk rock, country rock, folk rock, progressive rock, alternative rock, hard rock, and probably more. Recently, I was thinking about a few songs in the classic rock vein. Lyrically, they are really social commentary or a reflection of what is/was happening in American society at any given moment. The first one is by Midwest Rockers REO Speedwagon. “Golden Country” was written by REO guitarist Gary Richrath.

It was released on the first album to feature vocalist Kevin Cronin called “R.E.O. T.W.O.” The lyrics are pretty heavy: “A lady was raped on your doorstep today”, “Your Blacks are dyin’ but your back is still turned”, “With all your money, your poor can be fed”. It’s like a mirror reflecting back on America and it isn’t pretty. I don’t think Richrath was claiming to have all of the answers, but it’s definitely a statement. I always thought this was an interesting track. It’s a sort of rock song with some jazzy elements in my opinion.

Another song along those lines is “Fly Like an Eagle” by the Steve Miller Band. It’s easy to miss the message or commentary in this spacey tune, but it’s there. Basically, the entire second verse is all about feeding the poor and housing the homeless.

Miller ends the verse with the optimistic message “there’s a solution”, but doesn’t say what it might be. Have things gotten better for the homeless and the poor since these songs were released or will these always be just facets of American society?

One creative idea deigned to help homeless veterans is happening in Kansas City. It’s a village of tiny houses for homeless veterans. I’m no expert on it, but there is more info on their website: https://www.veteranscommunityproject.org . It makes me wonder if there are other villages like this around the U.S. and elsewhere.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!