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NAME THAT BAND! THE STORIES BEHIND SOME OF THOSE FAMOUS NAMES

The whoWhen  my freshman year roommate in college showed up with shoulder length blow-dried  hair and carrying an electric bass guitar back in 1978, I naturally had a lot of questions.

“So, what ‘s the name of your group?”  was the first thing I wanted to know, anticipating a band name that perfectly captured the still enormously popular classic rock era we held on to .

“If you mean the one I played with in high school,” he said, “it was called Orpheus Express.”

“Oh yeah?” I said, holding in my laughter. “How did you happen to come up with that?”

“I guess there used to be a local band called Orpheus Express and somehow one of the guys in our band found their sign at a garage sale,”  my wannabe rock star roomie explained matter-of-factly as he plucked a string on his bass.

Hearing that story again recently only made me want to understand how some of my favorite classic rock bands from the 1960s and 1970s came up with their names. I mean, why name your band after an insect (The Beatles) or an animal (The Animals) or even after an inanimate object (The Doors)? There has to be reason behind every band name, right?

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TODAY WE REMEMBER TOGA PARTIES, TIMELESS ROCK MUSIC AND THE DAY JFK WAS SHOT

Remember these scenes from Animal House?

I was a senior in high school 35 years ago when the greatest college party movie of all time came out. I still remember the sense of dread this then soon-to-be high school graduate had at the time.

I realized that I really wasn’t as prepared as I needed to be for college’s demanding social life.

“Louie Louie” and “Shout” provided the perfect backdrop for Animal House’s memorable party scenes. How many college students in 1978 felt compelled to strip the sheets from their beds and head to a toga party on campus that, of course, featured the musical soundtrack to Animal House? I’m thinking most of us.

Today, November 22nd, marks the 50th anniversary of the shooting death of John F. Kennedy in Dallas. And although Animal House never claimed to provide an historically accurate time capsule  of 1962 America, the year before our president was murdered, the movie was apparently based on the real-life fraternity antics of the writers around that period of time up while attending Dartmouth College.

At the very least, Animal House provides us with an accurate musical soundtrack of an exciting rock era. “Louie Louie” and “Shout” were both written in the late 1950s. But they didn’t become popular until the early 1960s, And then, thanks to a movie comedy classic, they became the music of choice at a lot of college parties in the late 1970s.

Which just goes to show you, classic rock music really is timeless. Sometimes all it takes is a popular movie or a significant moment in our country’s history to remind us of that.

What are your memories of Animal House and its music?

LED ZEPPELIN’S “STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN” SUNG WITH A LOT OF HEART

A buddy of mine just shared this YouTube video from last year’s Kennedy Center Honors event in Washington, DC. It’s a must-see for any fan of Led Zeppelin and/or Heart. Actually, it’s a must-see for anyone who wants to understand the power and potential of live classic rock ‘n’ roll music.

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ART, THE MUCH NEEDED VOICE OF SIMON AND GARFUNKEL

Art_Garfunkel_2013

Art Garfunkel

Today, November 5th, marks the 72nd birthday of Art Garfunkel, the Grammy-award winning American singer, poet, and Golden Globe-nominated actor, He’s, of course, best known for being one half of the folk duo Simon & Garfunkel.

Although not exactly a classic rocker in the truest sense of the term, Art’s musical career nonetheless deserves mention in this blog. His voice, which has since been diminished by heavy smoking and aging, was at one time one of the most recognizable and respected in all of music. I still think his effort on Bridge Over Trouble Water stands as one of the pivotal vocal performances in pop music history.

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THE RED SOX ARE NOT THE ONLY REASON WHY BOSTON ROCKS

Hey Boston! How about a little homegrown classic rock music to help celebrate your baseball team’s impressive World Series victory?

We can start with Boston, the band with the right name, who can trace their roots back to MIT, of all places? They produced some good party music that would certainly work for the world champion Red Sox victory celebration this weekend. Click here

We can always go with Aerosmith, who relocated from Sunapee, New Hampshire to 1325 Commonwealth Avenue in Allston around 1970, before hitting it big. Click here

And then there’s The Cars, who started to hit their peak while in Boston in the late 1970s. Click here

But I’m thinking  J. Geils, the ultimately party band who got their start in nearby Worcester in the 1960s, are the best group to set the mood for Sox fans.

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THANK YOU, LOU REED, YOU ROCK ‘N’ ROLL ANIMAL

Lou Reed

Lou Reed as a high school senior in 1959

It is with sadness and regret that I report the passing of Lou Reed, 71, a true rock original if there ever was one. Lou was of course best known as the lead guitarist /songwriter and founding member for The Velvet Underground, which took rock music to new directions in the late 1960s. But I remember Lou more for his solo career following the breakup of the landmark group.

Lou’s live album Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal was one of my favorite recordings back in high school, thanks in large part to the electrifying eight-minute  opening track of “Sweet Jane”. I still think it’s the best intro to a rock song, and album for that matter, I’ve heard.

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GROWING UP WITH LINDA RONSTADT AND CAT STEVENS

In my last blog post I listed the 16 nominees for the 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and then made my pitch for the induction of Link Wray, the nearly forgotten rock guitar pioneer.

I also provided my initial thoughts on some of the other classic rock acts on the nominee list, predicting that Linda Ronstadt and Cat Stevens were slam dunk picks for Hall inductions, as far as I was concerned.

I guess I am a little biased when it comes to Linda Ronstadt and Cat Stevens, who was born Steven Demetre Georgiou and now goes by the name Yusuf Islam. In addition to their enormous popularity during my formative music listening years, Linda and Cat were two performers who bring back vivid flashbacks of a less complicated, more carefree time for this classic rock fan.

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LINK WRAY, THE NEARLY FORGOTTEN ROCK PIONEER

When the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced its 2014 nominees earlier this month, how many of you went through the long list of bands and artists and decided whether they were deserving or not of admittance?

Link Wray

Link Wray: 1929-2005
Photo by Anthony Pepitone

I did.

From now until December 10th, we the fans can vote on RollingStone.com for the 16 nominees we’d like to see inducted. The five acts who get the most votes will comprise a “fan’s ballot” that will help determine the Class of 2014.

Here are my thoughts on some of the 2014 nominees, at least the ones I am most familiar with:

Linda Ronstadt and Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam): For certain, they both deserve to be in the Hall. (More on this in my next blog post).
Yes: Yes, they are Hall material, even if I never really embraced their music.
The Zombies: Not so sure a British Invasion band with a few hits deserves a Hall nod.
Deep Purple: As pioneers of modern hard rock, I would say, yes, they probably deserve the recognition.
Kiss:  Considering all the millions of records they sold, and their contributions to heavy metal face painting, I suppose so.
Hall and Oates: Once again, I’m not so sure this blue-eyed soul act who hit it big in the late 1970s should get in the Hall.
Link Wray: Who?

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HEAD OF THE CHARLES ROWERS TAKE THEIR INSANITY TO DIRTY WATER

OK, name the sport where going forward actually means going backward, right is really left and it was originally used as capital punishment (think Ben Hur).

If rowing is the sport for the athletically insane (full disclosure, I am a former rower), then it really doesn’t get any crazier than the Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston. With over 9,000 rowers in 1,900 boats navigating all those crumbling bridges and dangerous turns on the Charles River this weekend, anything is possible.

And then there is that water. Who knows what  those rowers will find in the Charles River.

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY JOHN LENNON! ALONG WITH THE MUSIC, WE MISS THE HUMOR

In all the great back-and-forth discussion we’ve had this past week about the best Jewish rockers of all time, and also remembering  the strange but true connection between marijuana and the Lawrence Welk Show, we neglected to recognize an important date in rock history.

Photo by Roy Kerwood

Photo by Roy Kerwood

If alive today, John Lennon would’ve celebrated his 73rd birthday on October 8th.

Lennon, of course, was and still is one of rock’s greatest contributors. If Paul McCartney was the heart of The Beatles then John was the soul of the group. John was also the one classic rocker whose songs actually had something important to say.

But other than his incredible musical talents, the thing that first drew me to  John was his sense of humor. He always had the ability to make me laugh. He still does.

For our last number, I’d like to ask your help. Would the people in the cheaper seats clap your hands. And the rest of you, if you’ll just rattle your jewelry,” Lennon said when The Beatles performed at the Royal Variety Performance in London on November, 4, 1963 that was attended by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret.

It’s a classic line.

And in “A Hard Day’s Night”, made during the height of Beatlemania in 1964, John’s scenes in it are, in my opinion, some of the best in one of the funniest movies ever made.

Now it’s your turn. Please share your favorite John Lennon songs and memories?

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