Amoeblog

Bernie Boston 1934 – 2008

Posted by Whitmore, February 9, 2008 06:47pm | Post a Comment
A few weeks back on January 22nd, retired Los Angeles Times photojournalist Bernard "Bernie" Boston, and a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, died at his home in rural Virginia. Praised as one of the leading photojournalists of his generation, Boston is probably best remembered for his iconic 1960’s photograph of a young Vietnam War protester putting flowers in the barrels of soldiers' gun.

Boston was 74 years of age, he died from Amyloidosis, a rare blood disease that he's had since 2006. Born in Washington, D.C., Boston graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology and served in the Army before starting his news photography career in Dayton, Ohio. Before joining the Times, he was the director of photography for The Washington Star newspaper until the paper folded in 1981. Boston retired from the Los Angeles Times in 1993 after years as the Times chief photographer in Washington.

His most famous image was photographed on October 22nd 1967, "Flower Power", which featured a Vietnam War protester in Washington inserting flowers into National Guardsmen's rifle barrels, was the runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize. He was also a Pulitzer Prize finalist for a 1987 photograph of Coretta Scott King unveiling a bust of her late husband, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.
Boston is survived by his wife of 37 years, Peggy Boston.

Mort Garson 1924 - 2008

Posted by Whitmore, January 14, 2008 06:58pm | Post a Comment

Every once in while you realize certain names are always appearing in the credits of old albums, and it’s a constant surprise. I was always astounded by how often I’d find Mort Garson's name, and on some of the most unlikely records. From Doris Day to Mel Torme to Glen Campbell, and all those albums of nice soft-pop vocals from the likes of The Letterman or the Sandpipers or the Glenn Yarborough record of Rod McKuen covers. And you would usually find Mort Garson conducting or arranging those safe but somewhat innocuous collections of ‘pop hits of the day’ by the Hollyridge Strings or the Sunset Strings. And if you’re lucky enough to find it, you’d see Mort Garson provided background music to Laurence Harvey reading poetry on Atlantic. And why do I think it’s so odd? Because whenever I think of Mort Garson I think of the legendary pioneer in electronic music, and not the multi-faceted, in demand arranger and conductor.

Mort Garson, who also co-wrote the classic "Our Day Will Come," died this past January 4th of renal failure in San Francisco. He was 83. Born July 20, 1924, in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada, Garson attended the Juilliard School of Music. He was a pianist and arranger with dance orchestras before serving in Special Services during World War II and before moving onto Los Angeles and the pop music world. But it was his work as a composer using the then novel Moog synthesizer on a series of albums in the late 1960s and '70s that is his lasting claim to fame, especially to record collectors and electronica enthusiasts. These albums, especially the 1967 exotica classic, and influential, The Zodiac: Cosmic Sounds,  established his cult following. The Zodiac: Cosmic Sounds is one of the first electronic and psychedelic albums put out by Elektra Records.

Drenched in sitars, unusual percussion, twisted and tweaked guitar sounds, weird electronics and augmented by a narrator coolly reading each Astrological sign’s characteristics, the album comes with instructions written on the back in large purple letters: "Must be played in the dark". The first track is perhaps the best: “Aries - The Fire Fighter”, just too groovy, too dramatic! Garson’s following album, Electronic Hair Pieces, was based on the music from the hit Broadway musical and counter-cultural phenomenon Hair, the album featured liner notes written, by of all people, Tom Smothers of the Smothers Brothers. Other heavily collected and much sought after albums include the musical soundtrack, meant to accompany and enhance the reading of the book,The Sensuous Woman, by Z, and perhaps his oddest and most esoteric release, the 1976 album Plantasia, is a collection of music to help plants grow! In 1969 he recorded a 12-volume set for A&M Records Signs of the Zodiac, featuring one album for each astrological sign. He wrote the brilliant electronic album Black Mass under the pseudonym Lucifer, featuring once again the Moog synthesizer. Garson followed Black Mass with Ataraxia- The unexplained, electronic musical impressions of the occult, a collection intended to accompany meditations to a mantra of the listener's choice.

In addition to "Our Day Will Come", co-written with Bob Hilliard, which was performed by Ruby & the Romantics  and rose to No. 1 on national charts, (more recently covered by K.D. Lang), Garson also worked on film scores, such as Beware! The Blob and on theme songs for game shows including Gambit, The Magnificent Marble Machine and Baffle. In 1975 Garson composed the music for Mel Brooks' and Carl Reiner's animated television special The 2000 Year Old Man, and later on The Untamed World documentary series, plus he provide incidental music for many of the National Geographic Specials. Mort Garson's is survived by his life partner, Florence; a daughter and a grandson.

Dave Day in Memoriam

Posted by Whitmore, January 13, 2008 12:43pm | Post a Comment


The winds came first … the neighbors tree falling came next, and when the haunted harmonica sounds of the wind blowing through my office door, (sounding like a Ennio Morricone soundtrack), started imitating an Armenian duduk, (the most beautiful sounding instrument on the face of the Earth), I knew I was going to find something sadder than usual in my morning New York Times.

Dave Havlicek, aka Dave Day, guitarist and banjo player for one of the most original, legendary  and enigmatic bands ever to grace a stage, The Monks, died last Thursday, January 10th. Day, who was born and lived in Renton just outside Seattle, Washington, suffered a stroke or a heart attack on the previous Sunday morning which left him on life support for a short time before he passed.

Many years ago, way too many to actually acknowledge, I used to work at the original Onyx Café when it was next door to the Vista Theater in East Hollywood. One evening a customer gave me a home made cassette tape of a band I had only vaguely ever heard of named The Monks, the record Black Monk Time.

I put on the tape. What I remember most are two distinctive reactions: mine of total amazement and awe, how the hell did I miss this band (I’m a record geek for chrissakes!), and the reaction of another customer saying almost the same thing. But his “what the hell is this?”  was followed by something like  “do you have to play this crap now!” 
 
The Monks were five American GIs stationed in Germany who billed themselves as the “Anti-Beatles”. They played it heavy, weren’t afraid of feedback or dissonance and Dave Day added to the mayhem and the whole crunching rhythmic sound by playing the hell out of the electric banjo. They shaved their heads into monks' tonsures, dressed in black monasterial robes, sometimes wearing nooses as neckties, mocked and rocked harder than any of their sixties counterparts while basically inventing what would become kraut rock, industrial, and punk music.  Am I overstating their importance in rock music history? No! Their nihilistic deconstruction of Rock and Roll, owing in part to the Dada Movement of the ‘20s, predated Punk’s similar efforts by a good ten years or more. The Monks were easily 30 years ahead of mainstream rock’s time.

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son of hysteron proteron: part two

Posted by Whitmore, December 14, 2007 07:17pm | Post a Comment


Many, many questions … mostly about the space-time continuum. I imagine it doesn’t actually run in a straight line, but in a vertical spiral, spinning in several directions simultaneously and at undulating speeds, analogous to a surging elliptical orbit, gyrating and wobbling like a mountain of dradles as they lose momentum. Think of ‘time’ as one of those old turntables that change a stack of records by dropping the next platter, except this turntable twists unpredictably forward and backwards, erratically spiraling and switching speeds, coughs up the record done, spits out a new one. Better yet, think of ‘time’ as a turntablist who is sandwiched between two turntables stacked on top of each other spindle to spindle, and the DJ is simultaneously scratching, looping, cross fading, juggling beats, rubbing, bugging, juggling the thing of a thing of a thing, cutting and pasting, grinding and humping, downbeat sweeps, creeps, bumping and slamming, twiddle, diddle, tweak, zig zag, squirrel, scribble scrabble, kif lift, willy nilly, dada, nada, dodo, zoot horn rollo, zither zather zuzz, hepcat swinging over a Euclidian three ring circus gumbo, without a net, without a tent, without an answer, up shit creek, without a gift on xmas day hallelujah.… then the record changer drops another disc on the other turntable and the tone arm continues all over again.  

This is also how one might explain paranormal phenomenon. If the ‘time’ spiral spin’s in conflicting and inconsistent directions, on occasion this spiral inter-splices momentarily into a singular part of the coil. In that collision, we could experience a virtual and distinctive time door, opening briefly, accounting for ghostly apparitions, UFO sightings, déjà vu and even disappearing socks.

Of course when I look this stuff up on the internet I usually find sites for vertical lift door repair. By the way, if you’re a space-time continuum expert from the future, (I don’t know why I would believe anyone else), I’d really like to hear your observations. (Besides, I’d really like to know if the Dodgers ever win the World Series again or how many more Bush’s become President, etc. etc…)

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search for the holy grail: episode 4

Posted by Whitmore, November 11, 2007 11:32am | Post a Comment


A particularly rare and much sought after EP from Anne Briggs, The Hazards of Love from 1963 on Topic Records, draws a pretty penny these days on Ebay and other auction sites. Though she never sold a vast number of albums, Briggs was a leading figure on the English folk music revival of the mid 1960’s. First gaining prominence as a traditional a cappella singer, (“The Hazards of Love” has just one song complemented by any instrument, a bouzouki), by the late sixties Briggs would add a bit of instrumentation to her recordings but more significantly she would also include some of her own compositions. Her musical legacy is significant; it wouldn’t be an overstatement to say she was the defining voice of the era, influencing virtually every folk singer from June Tabor, to Sandy Denny, Jacqui Mcshee, Maddy Prior, to Eliza Carthy and Beth Orton. Many of her songs have been recorded by some of these artists plus others such as Pentangle, Bert Jansch, and Dorris Henderson.

Anne Briggs has always been something of an elusive and slightly mysterious figure on the British folk music scene. In the 2006 documentary, Folk Britannia, Richard Thompson recollects that he only ever stumbled upon Anne Briggs twice; and on both occasions she was drunk and unconscious. Her entire catalogue consists of only 3 full lengths albums and this EP, and half of those recordings are her singing completely unaccompanied. The common explanation for her limited output, Briggs retired from recording in 1973, has been her own anxiety and apprehension about the sound of her recorded voice. But whatever the reason, it’s been over 30 years since Anne Briggs has produced any new recordings, and it is unlikely anything new will come to light soon.  

On The Hazards of Love, one of the best cuts is Rosemary Lane, later to be recorded by guitarist Bert Jansch, and become one of his signature pieces. Anne Briggs was the source for quite a few traditional songs Jansch would later record (they’d been great friends since meeting in the late 50’s) including Blackwaterside. Jansch's instrumental accompaniment was later copied, virtually note-for-note, by Jimmy Page for Led Zeppelin's Black Mountain Side. Oh the tangled web we weave …  

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