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Remembering Lenny Breau

Posted by Whitmore, August 12, 2009 09:56pm | Post a Comment

As far as I am concerned, Lenny Breau is arguably the greatest guitarist that ever strummed a chord on this goddamned sweet earth, and yet outside the guitar playing world his name remains virtually unknown. Several years ago I was gigging in Vancouver B.C., Canada and someone asked me who were my favorite guitarists. I mentioned Lenny Breau. I obviously answered correctly; for the next couple of days I had my pick of booze and food aplenty. Though Breau was born in Auburn, Maine, in 1941, he was raised in Canada. His family settled in Manitoba in 1957 and he always remained very connected to his adopted home country. His parents, Hal "Lone Pine" Breau and Betty Cody, were country & western performers active as both a touring and a recording act from the mid 1940's into the late 1950's. Breau’s first professional gigs were with the family act until he was about 15 or 16, when one night his father slapped him on stage for improvising.
 
Lenny Breau's phenomenal technique was a combination of his close study of his idol Chet Atkins, adapting Atkins' picking style of playing bass lines with a thumb pick and with his other fingers adding melody lines -- he was able to sound like two guitarists playing simultaneously -- and his harmonic sensibilities, predominantly influenced by legendary pianist Bill Evans. Along with significant classical, modal, and flamenco elements, not to mention his extraordinary right hand independence and his unique use of artificial harmonics, no one sounded like Lenny Breau.
 
25 years ago today, Aug. 12, 1984, Lenny Breau was found dead in the rooftop swimming pool of his apartment building in Los Angeles. He was 43 years old. During his lifetime Lenny Breau had a long struggle with drugs, especially with heroin, amphetamines and alcohol, something left over from his days on the Toronto jazz scene, but at the time of his death Breau had reportedly managed to take some control of his addictions. On that Sunday, his wife, Jewel Breau, an occasional singer born Joanne Glasscock, claimed that he had accidentally drowned, but an autopsy determined that he had actually been strangled and then dumped in the pool. The Los Angeles Police Department never had enough evidence to bring charges against her or anyone else, but in a 1999 Canadian documentary, The Genius Of Lenny Breau, directed by Breau’s daughter Emily Hughes, Detective Richard Aldahl states that Jewel Breau was the prime suspect. Jewel Breau, now remarried as Jewel Flowers, was never charged in the homicide because detectives thought that the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office couldn’t build a strong enough case to bring her to trial. Ironically, it was Chet Atkins who introduced Lenny Breau to Jewel. Breau's murder remains unsolved.
 
Lenny Breau was buried in an unmarked grave in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale. Funeral expenses were covered by a memorial benefit at Nashville's Blue Bird Café.



FROM GILMAN TO THE REP, GREEN DAY KEEP IT BERKELEY

Posted by Billyjam, August 12, 2009 03:00pm | Post a Comment
Green Day
Last week the Berkeley Repertory Theatre announced the full cast for its anticipated upcoming premiere of American Idiot, a production based on the popular Green Day album of the same name, that will run at the downtown Berkeley theater from September 4 through October 11, and feature the music of Green Day and the lyrics of the longtime East Bay band's Billie Joe Armstrong. 

Even before the cast was announced, tickets were already selling briskly, fueled in good part by Green Day fans anxious to see how their fave band's 2004 album is being adapted to the stage. American Idiot is being staged by star director Michael Mayer, who won a Tony Award in 2007 for his direction of the musical adaptation of Spring Awakening, and who collaborated with Armstrong on the story. 

The stage production of American Idiot is decribed by the Berkeley Rep as one that "follows working-class characters from the suburbs to the city to the Middle East. In an exhilarating journey borne along by Green Day's electrifying songs, they seek redemption in a world filled with frustration."

The music driven production will feature not only every song off of American Idiot, which won two Grammys -- Best Rock Album and Record of the Year -- and sold more than 12 million copies worldwide, but also several songs from Green Day's follow up to American Idiot, 21st Century Breakdown, which was released a few months ago and done in a similar style to American Idiot. The team that Mayer has assembled to bring the production to the Berkeley stage includes choreographer Steven Hoggett, composer Tom Kitt, and video designer Darrel Maloney.

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The Beatles Pt 1

Posted by Amoebite, August 12, 2009 12:46pm | Post a Comment
We are kicking off the celebration today in honor of the digitally remastered Beatles reissues set to hit Amoeba September 9! Each Wednesday from now until September 2, we will present a segment of The Beatles' biography. Then, the week of September 2-9 will be marked here on the blog with a number of Beatles related posts with a huge variety of topics! We begin now with Part One of the fabled band's history:

the beatles 1962

“This isn’t show business,” John Lennon said at the height of The Beatles’ success. “This is something else.”

Strictly in show business terms, the quartet from Liverpool, England rewrote the book on rock ‘n’ roll, which prior to the group’s 1962 recording debut was considered nothinbeatles for saleg more than disposable music for idle teens. While The Beatles were initially embraced by throngs of young fans (most of them female) -- in a phenomenon dubbed “Beatlemania” by the press -- with the same fervor previously accorded Frank Sinatra in the ‘40s and Elvis Presley in the ‘50s, the depth of their work quickly transcended their teen-idol genesis.

The songs penned by singer-guitarist Lennon and his collaborator, vocalist-bassist Paul McCartney – and, to a lesser extent, those authored by guitarist-vocalist George Harrison – expanded rock’s expressive capabilities, and broadened the audience for the music beyond its youthful base. Their producer George Martin transmuted The Beatles’ bold imaginative leaps in the studio, bringing theretofore unimaginable musical and technical textures to their recorded music. After sensationally announcing themselves with a string of irresistible hit singles that were greeted with unprecedented sales (which persisted until the end of the group’s existence), The Beatles established the long-playing album as the principal commercial format, and as a forum for artistic expression. And their massive popularity on a global scale inaugurated the era of the stadium concert. In sheer magnitude, their achievement remains unrivaled to this day.

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August 11, 2009

Posted by phil blankenship, August 12, 2009 12:03pm | Post a Comment
District 9 movie ticket stub

The Second Weekend in August, 1969 ... Part Two

Posted by Whitmore, August 11, 2009 11:05pm | Post a Comment

Some observers see this second weekend in August, the 8th thru the 10th, 1969, as effectively the end of the sixties’ counterculture as seen through rose colored glasses. The Vietnam War (which was never formally declared a war) was grinding on. In 1969 there would be 11,616 US military deaths, the second highest count during the war; almost 22,000 Vietnamese soldiers would be killed that year. This week would see the deaths of 169 US military personnel, over the weekend alone some 84 US soldiers would die. And every night TV newscasts were blanketed with those images. Vietnam is often characterized as the "living-room war" or the "television war." It was the first war to be methodically documented nightly on television, and at a moment when TV was becoming a compelling presence in daily life.
 
Other news that weekend included the discovery of the missing plane, Hawthorne-Nevada Airlines, Flight 708, that crashed just west of Lone Pine on February 18, killing all 35 passengers and crew. It was found on the eastern slope of Mount Whitney at an elevation of approximately 11,770 feet.
 
On August 8, just six days after it was published in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Zodiac Killer’s first unsigned encrypted message was solved by a Salinas, California high school teacher, Donald Harden, and his wife Bettye. The Zodiac Killer was a serial killer who operated in the Bay area in the late 1960’s. His name was coined by a series of taunting letters and cryptograms he sent to police and newspapers until about 1974. The initial 408-symbol cryptogram stated, among other things, that the Zodiac enjoyed "killing people because it is so much fun." Harden was an amateur cryptographer and he reportedly took about 20 hours to break the code. Navy cryptographers had attempted to solve it, but without success. Of course some 40 years later, the identity of the Zodiac Killer still remains unsolved.
 
On the 9th, President Richard Nixon announced the nomination of Helen D. Bentley as a Member of the Federal Maritime Commission. Nixon also addressed the nation about domestic programs and a tax reform bill following its passage by the House of Representatives.
 
That weekend also saw the deaths of Russ Morgan, orchestra leader as well as a long time performer at the Dunes in Las Vegas. Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer, crackpot eugenicist and Nazi physician, died in an automobile accident. Nobel Prize Laureate Cecil Frank Powell died while walking in the foothills of the Alps; he was 66 years of age. A bench with a commemorative plaque can be seen near the site of his death.

On Friday the 8th, Disneyland opened their doors to the new and soon to be classic attraction, the Haunted Mansion. Adorned with wrought iron fencing and surrounded by creepy tombstones, Walt Disney had envisioned the ghoulish Southern-style mansion even before the park opened in the 1954. The Haunted Mansion was originally seen as a walk-through experience, with cast members walking their guests /victims from one scene to the next as the netherworld unfolds. “Welcome fooolish mortals to the Haunted Mansion. I am your host, your ghost host. Ha, ha, ha, ha ...”
 
Meanwhile, in sports, the New York Mets beat the Atlanta Braves behind the eventual 1969 Cy Young winner Tom Seaver. At this point in this, their Cinderella season, the Mets were still in second place, 8 and a half games back. The game on Saturday was 3 hours and 14 minutes long and the Mets won 5 to 3 on 13 hits. Seaver would finish his career with 311 wins, 3,640 strikeouts and a 2.86 era in a 20-year career. In 1992, he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the highest percentage ever (98.8%).
 
As for my LA Dodgers, on Sunday they beat the Chicago Cubs 4 to 2 behind the pitching of Don Sutton winning his 14th game of the year, Pete Mikkelsen got the save. Sutton would also wind up in the Hall of Fame, selected in 1998 with a career won lost mark of 324-256.

The 1969 Pikes Peak Marathon, an annual foot race that begins at the base of Pikes Peak in Manitou Springs, Colorado, and climbs over 7,700 feet to the peak at 14,115 feet, was won by Steve Gachupin, who in his career would win the event 6 times in his 21 tries up the mountain.
 
In professional bike racing news, the World Championship was won by Harm Ottenbros in Zolder, Belgium, edging out the favorite Julien Stevens by just a few centimeters.
 
But of course, the big news, the chilling news that weekend, was the seemingly random and grisly murders in Beverly Hills and the Los Feliz district...
 
On August 9th, a hot, quiet Saturday night -- one of the killers would later comment that you could hear the sound of ice rattling in cocktail shakers up and down the Benedict Canyon -- in a home rented by Roman Polanski and his wife Sharon Tate at 10050 Cielo Drive in Beverly Hills, Wojciech Frykowski, Abigail Folger, Jay Sebring and Steven Parent and a eight and a half months pregnant Tate were murdered in violent blood bath, as bizarre, gruesome and insane slaughter of innocents that might ever occur in any dystopia. Less than two days later another grisly murder occurred in the Los Feliz district -- this time it was supermarket executive Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary. Killed in a similarly ghastly manner, this time a fork was used to carve the word WAR on Leno LaBianca’s stomach and left sticking out of his corpse. Authorities would take nearly four months to track down Charles Manson and his Family. And when they were arrested and prosecuted, the world discovered a terrifying mix of a counterculture gone mad and staggering mind-control. Manson, Charles "Tex" Watson, Susan Atkins, and Patricia Krenwinkel's trials ended in 1971; they were all given the death penalty, though later that was over-turned by the state of California, commuting their sentences to life in prison. Another family member, Linda Kasabian, who stood watch at the Tate house, turned states evidence and served no time.
 
Roman Polanski (The Fearless Vampire Killers, Rosemary's Baby, Chinatown, The Pianist), who was out of town, was not Manson’s target. The victims were in the wrong house at the wrong time. Manson, an aspiring singer-songwriter and an occasional friend of Beach Boy Dennis Wilson, chose the Cielo Drive house because he had once tried to get a record deal from a producer who used to live there, Terry Melcher, the son of Doris Day, and Manson knew the layout of the house. Past residents included Cary Grant and his wife Dyan Cannon, Henry Fonda, Mark Lindsay from Paul Revere & the Raiders and Candice Bergen. The final resident of the original Cielo Drive house was Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, who moved into the house in the early 1990s and built a recording studio there. The studio dubbed Pig, or sometimes Le Pig, was an allusion to the fact that Susan Atkins wrote "Pig" in Tate's blood on the front door of the house during the murders. The Nine Inch Nails ep Broken and their classic 1994 album The Downward Spiral were recorded there, as well as Marilyn Manson's debut album Portrait of an American Family. In December 1993 Reznor moved out of the house, taking with him the original front door, explaining that "there was too much history in that house for me to handle." He insists that he didn’t know about the murders when he bought the house, though I thought there was a law on the books requiring brokers to tell buyers about crimes that may have taken place in a home; the real estate term is ‘stigmatized properties.’ Then again, what do I know? In the late 1990’s the house was demolished and replaced with a new mansion and a new street address of 10066 Cielo Drive.


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