Had he lived, musician Marc Bolan would have celebrated his 60th birthday today. The UK artist who fronted T-Rex (originally known as Tyrannosaurus Rex in their pre glam days) scored a ton of hits including the brilliant "20th Century Boy" (see video above), collaborated with David Bowie (he played guitar with Bowie and also shared the same producer -- Tony Visconti), and was arguably responsible for glam rock (thanks to T-Rex's Visconti produced sound, coupled with his unique & smart fashion sensibility including an affinity for wearing boas & sporting glitter onstage -- long before any other artists did). Bolan tragically died in a car crash at age 29 on September 16th, 1977. He was just two weeks shy of his 30th birthday. Today in the UK several low-key events are planned by fans of the late great artist, and in New York a concert event has been scheduled to celebrate his 60th birthday anniversary and will be attended by Tony Visconti, Patti Smith, Robert Gordan, his son Rolan Bolan and others.But even before I realized that today would have marked Bolan's 60th birthday, he had been on my mind a bit this past week. Every time I hear Devendra Banhart's voice I can't help but think of Marc Bolan who he is more than a little reminiscent of. And in the past week on the radio I've been hearing a lot of Devendra Banhart because his recommended new album Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon (XL Recordings) dropped. Pick it up at Amoeba Music and while you are there pick up a T-Rex release if you don't already own one or more. Meantime, for more background reading on Marc Bolan check out this website or his fan club website, or do a YouTube search for such videos as "Jeepster" or "Get it On (Bang a Gong)."
I love when artists or activists, or a combination of both, take creative strides to transform common everyday urban areas into something unexpected, something new and useful or entertaining, such as this time last year when fifteen related organizations across San Francisco, including REBAR, transformed parking spaces all over the city into mini-parks for one day (Sept 21, 2006) named "PARK(ing) DAY."
You may remember seeing this series of public space installations around San Francisco last year either in person or in the news. Either way, take a few minutes to check the video above for a first hand look at this citywide form of peaceful protest that delighted surprised San Franciscans. Important to note was that this powerful civic statement was done without breaking any laws. Apparently once you pay for your parking space in SF County you can do with it as you please. You gotta love it!
AMOEBLOG: I know you have your new solo album, Wanderlust, which is just out and available at Amoeba, but can you tell me how long you have been in the hip-hop game and can you break down your overall hip-hop history for those who don't know about you?
CELSIUS: I have been freestyling since '89. Around that time, and before we had real production, we used to make tape splice beats and rap over them on a Karaoke machine. I would hand out some of those tapes. Made my first real tape/Psychokinetics song in 1995 ("Losta Glue" Strength in Numbers). Since then, two tapes, three vinyl releases, various compilations, two Psychokinetics CDs, and now my first solo CD. I grew up in Alameda and have lived all over the Bay since. East Lake in Oakland is my home now.
AMOEBLOG: How much, in your eyes, has hip-hop changed? And how exactly has it changed-- especially from your perspective as a Bay Area artist?
CELSIUS: I guess the biggest thing I notice is that it's become a business, and more of a pop sensation now -- a money maker rather than a pervasive voice of the streets. The heart and soul that was so evident when I fell in love with the music is now very much subversive. Also, now, with the advent of the internet and home studios, it's changed because everyone is an eff'in rapper! It used to be an accomplishment to have a CD. Now everyone does and they all think they're dope. I guess it's just way more saturated now. Also, dudes can never have done a live show and have tons of fans because of the internet. I think that in a lot of ways, the quality has gone down, even though there is still greatness out there. You just have to look harder these days.
This is the second half of the two-part series of photos taken in Oakland, CA (aka "the O"), shot over the past few months. Like the previous set, most of these are simply shots of random objects and things that grabbed my attention at the moment I snapped them. One of the reasons I love taking photos is that it offers me fresh new insights into everyday objects and things. Whenever I look back at a photograph of some scene or image, no matter how commonplace or how many countless times I might have walked by and noticed it with the naked eye, I always manage to view it in a whole fresh new light after capturing it on camera. And so, for me, taking pictures is not just a fun hobby but it also enables me to start looking at life's little things, and hence life itself, in a whole new light.
These photos were taken in and around downtown Oakland and near the lake (Merritt), including the above shot of the beautiful outdoor ceiling near the ticket booth of the Grand Lake Theater. Not only is the Grand Lake an absolutely beautiful structure both inside and out, complete with its own mighty Wurlitzer organ, but its politically aware owners regularly post some topical and relevant message on the marquee outside in letters large enough to see as you drive by on 580. Meanwhile, below, among the dozen more photos is another one of the Grand Lake's outside sign. Also in the pictures below is a shot of the sign above the nearby legendary Oakland greasy burger spot -- just down the block a bit from the Grand Lake Theater-- Kwik Way, which some longtime music fans might remember was also the name of a short-lived Bay Area mid-eighties punk band who jacked not just the name but also the logo of the take-out only eatery as the cover art for their sole album back in the day.
Since I (finally) got a new scanner, I am now able to go back into my Bay Area Hip-Hop Archives and start scanning and posting all of these wonderful slices of music history from the last 20+ years in Yay Area rap. Ranging from 1984 to 1996, these are some show fliers plus a ticket stub (above) which is from the first time I went to check out the Egyptian Lover and Uncle Jamm's Army * -- the LA turntable army (who were really hot at the time - especially the Egyptian Lover, whose single "Egypt Egypt"/"What is A DJ If He Can't Scratch" ruled at the time) -- when they came north to the Bay Area to do a show at the cavernous Richmond Auditorium. Rap shows, especially large scale ones, were still a relatively new phenomenon in the Bay Area in '84. It would still be a couple of years before the Fresh Fest (Whodini, Kuritis Blow, Fat Boys, etc) happened and rolled through Oakland (and that was a totally exciting new experience, to check out a large scale hip-hop festival with all of these major acts in the one place!). But in the few years before '84 I only remember going to the very, very occasional rap show, such as Grand Master Flash & Furious Five at the Berkeley Square, which was in '82 I believe, But I do clearly remember some very vocally disgruntled club goers at the long defunct University Ave venue complaining that they had forked over their money but there was no band -- just a DJ and bunch of rappers on mics (twas early days for sure).
Anyway Uncle Jamm's Army would return to the East Bay within a month that summer of '84 when they performed with Run DMC at the Oakland Convention Center (see flyer below and note its very basic layout -- this was in the pre-photoshop days). Also note the low ticket price of only $6.50 for each show. The other Bay Area rap concert fliers below include one or two that actually never happened-- like the 1994 Music People / In-A-Minute showcase, scheduled during the annual music convention that always attracted a lot of hip-hop acts from all over the country, the Gavin Seminar in San Francisco. That show fell through at the last minute due to the club not being able to get insurance (a common problem with rap shows then and now). And with some of these shows, the venue is long gone, such as the Omni ("the Bay Area's largest showcase nightclub" on Shattuck at 48th near Telegraph) in North Oakland where Young MC headlined in September 1989 with Bay Area artists Paris, APG Crew, Captial Tax, and Step G with MC Sirgeo all opening for him. Another time within about a year of that show, Too $hort headlined at the Omni -- doing his typical no-frills, straight up rap concert. (This was a time when another Oakland rapper, MC Hammer's stage shows were huge choreographed events -- Too $hort was the proud antitheses of that.)