Jethro Tull, 50 Years On. Should We Care?

It all started when I was thirteen years old. I got a job washing dishes at a restaurant in a bedraggled suburb just west of Baltimore. It was the sort of benighted Seventies joint where an uprooted pot plant was once stashed in the dishwasher in a paranoid panic that narcs were going to raid the kitchen. Clueless teetotaler, I turned the machine on to better hide the evidence. I spent four hours after closing time with my stoner best friend rinsing the limp mess in a huge colander and then drying out what was salvageable in the pizza oven.

Despite that fiasco, it was a great job for a kid who loved music. I was a late-night dial-turner, discovering the Stones through a radio show determined to expose the roots of rock by playing 78s of such blues legends as Robert Johnson, Charley Patton, and Bessie Smith. One particular midnight I was thunderstruck by the already broken-up Velvet Underground’s “White Light/White Heat,” courtesy of the same college station’s wide-ranging programming. Problem was, though the Baltimore–D.C. area had a hopping concert scene, I wasn’t old enough to drive. This is where my job provided a huge benefit: The older cooks and waitresses took a shine to me, and whisked me along to all manner of rock concerts like I was some sort of team mascot. How lucky was I to see David Bowie’s “Diamond Dogs” tour? And to witness a maniacal Elton John hurling his piano bench around the stage? Not quite as mind-blowing as clips I’d seen of the dearly departed Jimi torching his axe, but heady stuff for a kid in junior high.

One cook at the restaurant was heavily into an FM station that served up a steady diet of prog rock. Plowing through the bins at the local Korvettes department store, I discovered I liked the genre’s album covers — Roger Dean’s trippy landscapes for Yes, H.R. Giger’s biomechanical temptress on the cover of Brain Salad Surgery — more than the music. Still, there was one supposedly prog (and undoubtedly oddball) outfit that blindsided me with rollicking licks and esoteric sonics: Jethro Tull. (The group is named after the eighteenth-century English agriculturalist who invented the seed drill, among other accomplishments.)

According to the Ministry of Information website, which provides historical tour info, Tull was at the Baltimore Civic Center on March 9, 1975. That’s when the author took these pictures.

I first saw Tull, fronted by multi-instrumentalist — most notably, the flute — and vocalist Ian Anderson, in 1975. I would see them many more times, because they seemed to swing through the area at least once a year during my teens. By then I’d earned enough money washing dishes to score a used 35mm Pentax, and so I became the gang’s documentarian. We could never afford the best seats, so my initial forays into concert photography came through a borrowed telephoto lens.

I have pictures of a zebra onstage with Tull (or, more accurately, someone in a zebra suit), and I’m pretty sure I remember some bouncy dung balls as well. The band’s costumes might be categorized as baroque psychedelic. At one concert, Anderson (born 1947) sported ribbed shoulder pads and a codpiece, like an athlete who’d forgotten to put on the final layer of his uniform. Which was fitting, because the lead singer–flutist-harmonicist practically never stopped gyrating — leaping, hopping, and strutting throughout the shows, using his flute alternately as baton and phallus when he wasn’t actually blowing into it.

Jethro Tull at the Baltimore Civic Center on March 9, 1975.

By this time Tull had already done the album that would assure them a niche in rock’s pantheon, 1971’s Aqualung. But tracks from that monster seller, including the title song and “Locomotive Breath,” were setlist mainstays in every show I saw. Art school and other pursuits put paid to my arena-rock days, but over the decades I have still turned to Tull when riff-riddled energy was required. Just a few years ago I had to rip out a ceiling to make room for recessed lighting in a basement art studio; Aqualung figured heavily in my playlist. The album’s bring-down lyrics about humanity’s sorry destiny as filthy vagabonds wandering the park benches of creation are strikingly countered by roller-coaster guitar breaks, exuberant flute passages, and all manner of melodic ascension. Oh — and Anderson has noted in interviews that the six-note earthquake that opens the title track owes a debt to Beethoven’s Fifth.

Still, I was thoroughly surprised when a high school friend I hadn’t seen in decades Facebooked me about a spare ticket to see the Philadelphia stop of Jethro Tull’s golden anniversary tour. (Ken and I had been on the same baseball team that lost a close Maryland state playoff game to then-pitcher Cal Ripken Jr.) “Hell yeah,” I thought, “why not?” But first I wanted to look in the Voice’s archives. Any band that’s been in existence for half a century and sold tens of millions of albums — and hadn’t it won a Grammy at some point long after I stopped paying attention…? — must have gotten a lot of ink in a paper renowned for its rock ’n’ roll erudition.

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First I did an online search for “Jethro Tull, 1968,” the year their inaugural album, This Was, was released. This led me to January ’69, when Tull, already popular in England, were embarking on a U.S. tour. I was impressed to discover that the band’s first American appearance had been at the Fillmore East, on Second Avenue. Sure enough, I found them in the Voice’s January 23rd issue, listed in one of the Fillmore’s distinctively bordered ads, billed below Blood, Sweat & Tears but above the Savoy Brown Blues Band.

Sharing a gig with Savoy Brown wasn’t surprising, because This Was has a heavy blues edge, inspired in part by the band’s original guitarist and sometime vocalist Mick Abrahams. The tunes had a rumbling vibrancy allied with some cocky lyrics, such as these lines from “My Sunday Feeling”: “Won’t somebody tell me where I laid my head last night?/I really don’t remember/But with one more cigarette I think I might.”

L: from the January 23, 1969 issue. R: from February 13, 1969 – a second tour date in the NYC area.

But Anderson and Abrahams were having “creative differences,” and this would be the first and last Tull album on which anyone other than Anderson would sing lead or write any of the songs. In fact, the liner notes for the album state, “This was how we were playing then — but things change — don’t they?” And indeed, when Tull played their first stateside gig, they had a new guitarist, Martin Barre. They also garnered what might be their first U.S. review, which appeared in the Voice’s Riffs section. Written by Jennifer Gale, it follows a paragraph about headliner Blood, Sweat & Tears, and reads in full:

JETHRO TULL, also at the Fillmore, does nice things for your head. I found myself sitting crosslegged in a dark little corner, really digging them — but I was told that you had to watch them, which I couldn’t because they did some very weird things on stage. Ian Anderson does that flute thing beautifully (also vocals), and drummer Clive Bunker is dynamite. When an audience listens to a drum solo for more than 3½ minutes and applauds wildly when it’s over, you know it’s got to be something else.

Tull’s first review in America?

Did the band see this review? Hopefully, because after this lonely paragraph it was pretty rough sledding for them in the pages of the Voice. It’s worth noting that Gale singled out “some very weird things on stage.” I only wish she had elaborated, as anyone who’s seen Tull will remember how those elaborate costumes and vaudeville-level stage antics add compelling (and often funny) visual layers to their eclectic tunes.

I also checked to see if the record company was doing its job. Sure enough, I found an ad running a month later, to coincide with the U.S. release of This Was, filled with fulsome — if purposefully ironic — praise.

Voice music editor Robert Christgau was having none of it, though. In one of his always sublimely terse Consumer Guide columns, he summed up Tull’s first effort: “Ringleader Ian Anderson has come up with a unique concept that combines the worst of Roland Kirk, Arthur Brown, and your nearest G.O. blues band. I find his success very depressing. C-”

The next two albums, Stand Up and Benefit, both garner grudging B-minuses.

Next I turned to the April 22, 1971, issue, and Tull are on tour again, this time to promote Aqualung, their musings on Man’s creation of God selling well enough to hit No. 7 on the Billboard charts. As is obvious from the sold out banner, the lads from Blackpool were beginning to conquer America.

Touring as “Aqualung” climbed the charts.

And Aqualung was a hit with the voters (if not the editor) of the first Village Voice Pazz & Jop Critics Poll. Competition was tough — the Who, the Stones, Van Morrison, John Lennon, Sly and the Family Stone, Joplin, Bowie — but the bizarre longhairs with a lead flutist landed in the No. 22 spot, ahead of Alice Cooper and Led Zeppelin.

Christgau may not agree, but that other Goliath of rock criticism, the Rolling Stone hive mind, eventually placed Aqualung at No. 337 on its list of the 500 best rock albums.

Early on during this spiral down the memory hole, I checked the Voice’s old-school, in-house card catalog, which, though spotty, was most thoroughly maintained from the late 1960s through the early ’90s. Hmmm…absolutely nothing for “Jethro Tull”? Really?

And no way it’d be under “Tull, Jethro,” right?

Well, I didn’t exactly hit pay dirt, but there was a single entry.

In the October 6, 1987, issue, critic Peter Watrous used Tull as an example of corporate rock at its most smarmy, in contrast to the stripped-down garage rockers Pussy Galore. He quotes a press release: “Chrysalis Records is pleased to be releasing on September 16th the new album from Jethro Tull, Crest of a Knave.” After Watrous rails against such outrages as “the Marshall Crenshaw/Wynton Marsalis axis of mood thieves,” he continues with the Tull promo copy: “Earlier this year, Chrysalis Records and Ian Anderson worked on a number of listening sessions to help determine what it is the Tull fan wants and expects in a Jethro Tull album.”

A bit further on, Watrous claims, “Pussy Galore is rock without the romantic idea of emotions, and it uncovers how sentimentality manipulates, even with the best intentions: emote here, eat now, everything in orderly fashion, control.” He then continues hanging Tull upon their own promotional petard: “Targeting 12 markets around the country where Jethro Tull has been most popular throughout the years, we enlisted the help of the local AOR station to recruit 50 or so listeners in each city to participate in these sessions.” The Chrysalis flacks go on to tell us that people of various ages and professions rated the songs so as to “help in choosing what tracks would be included on the final version.… Crest of a Knave is the result of this very successful project.”

Watrous obviously didn’t like focus groups, which in this case were edging into crowdsourcing. But it’s really not surprising that Ian Anderson, a world-girdling crowd-pleaser, proved a presciently savvy networker back when the internet wasn’t much more than a fantasy in such sci-fi novels as Neuromancer.

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But the saga of Crest of a Knave doesn’t stop there. A little more than a year after it was released, Tull’s audience-tested album unexpectedly won the inaugural Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance Vocal or Instrumental, from judges who were obviously grappling with the parameters of the expanding genre. Since other nominees included AC/DC, Jane’s Addiction, and the heavily favored Metallica, no member of Jethro Tull was on hand to accept the prize. Perhaps, for a band that has always displayed an almost Monty Python–ish level of absurdity in its members’ stage personas, this out-of-left-field award is appropriate for its one and only gilded gramophone.

So how do Jethro Tull come across in 2018?

Well, at the Mann Center in Philadelphia on Saturday night they cranked out a kicking version of the flute-fest “Bourée,” Anderson’s update of a Bach composition, which appeared on the second Tull album, Stand Up. The single song that made up 1972’s conceptual send-up Thick as a Brick was played somewhat in reverse, eschewing the acoustic buildup and going straight to the time-changing marching song that threads through the album. Brisk and bouncy (and shortened to maybe one-tenth of its original 43-minute-plus length), it ended with sweet guitar strumming, the crowd singing along with the closing lines.

Jethro Tull performing in Philadelphia, September 8, 2018.

At one point Anderson commiserated with the audience about drum solos that go on “for hours [pause] days [pause] weeks,” and then the band dove into “Dharma for One,” which was on the first album and was co-written by then-drummer Clive Bunker — and so of course always includes a showcase for the man with the sticks. Just like at the Fillmore in 1969, the crowd half a century on went wild.

“Farm on the Freeway,” from that groupthink claptrap collection (and Grammy winner) Crest of a Knave, was a revelation, sizzling with melodic reverb. Like all the songs played that night, it was accompanied by quick-cutting graphics on a large screen behind the band — in this case, of tractors and freeways. Certainly the graphics are illustrational, but they’ve also been edited to match the rhythmic steeplechases of the music. And the “Farm” lyrics — “What do I want with a million dollars and a pickup truck?/When I left my farm under the freeway” — proved surprisingly emotional.

Jethro Tull performing in Philadelphia, September 8, 2018.

Anderson has been gamely playing “Too Old to Rock ’n’ Roll: Too Young to Die!” since 1976. In Philly, four decades on, balding and potbellied, he sang before his younger, swaggering self, Hollywood-size behind him. There are those who complain that rockers growing old and still playing is a bad thing. Perhaps they are some of the same people who said, “Never trust anyone over thirty,” before they passed thirty themselves. Rockers, like athletes, lose many of their skills before they give up the ghost. Still, anyone who’s been to an old-timers’ day for their favorite baseball team knows that those living, breathing bodies add immeasurably to the moment.

Jethro Tull performing in Philadelphia, September 8, 2018.

If the knucklebones of saints in a reliquary mean something to one kind of believer, does seeing these performing embodiments of one’s youth — and also of one’s (hopefully) ongoing ideals — offer similar solace before the inevitable?

During the show, various rock luminaries, enlarged on the screen, introduced songs from the Tull catalog. Toward the evening’s conclusion, Slash loomed up to describe “Aqualung” as “one of rock ’n’ roll’s greatest songs.” Indeed, in concert it remains an indomitable force, working on the viscera as much as the ears.

Jethro Tull performing in Philadelphia, September 8, 2018.

Tull will be playing the Beacon tomorrow night. You’ve probably heard tell that, over the years, Ian Anderson has lost the robust range of his youthful singing voice. Maybe those cigarettes he was singing about all the way back on “My Sunday Feeling” took their toll. But if you ask me what I ultimately thought of his performance on Saturday night, wailing away on his flute and harmonica and croaking those familiar songs, I might have to quote Hunter Thompson. Writing about his bias in favor of George McGovern, who was running against Nixon in 1972, the same year Thick as a Brick was released, Thompson said, “So much for Objective Journalism. Don’t bother to look for it here — not under any byline of mine.” So, what can I say — it was a great show.


CULTURE ARCHIVES From The Archives From The Archives MUSIC ARCHIVES Uncategorized

Janis and Jimi Jamming at the Singer Bowl

In 1966 a little-known singer out of Texas named Janis Joplin joined forces with a successful psychedelic-rock group from San Francisco. Their 1967 performance at the Monterey Pop Festival left Village Voice jazz critic Nat Hentoff in awe: “Her singing is a celebration — her voice and body hurled with larruping power that leaves her limp. And this member of the audience feels that he has been in contact with an overwhelming life force.”

Now it’s August of 1968 and Big Brother and the Holding Company are coming to the Fillmore East on Second Avenue at 6th Street. An ad in the Voice depicts the band in all their San Francisco finery of stripes, beads, boots, and sandals — plus one big dog. (Many years later, guitarist/founding member Sam Andrew told an interviewer where the compound name had come from: “Big Brother courtesy of George Orwell, and the Holding Company courtesy of a silly hippy pun. ‘Holding’ meant ‘possessing illicit drugs.’ We decided to put the names together, although some of the more forward thinking among us worried about whether such a lengthy name would fit on a record label or a marquee.” With their major-label debut coming out later that month, they’d have to find room to fit Joplin’s name up there, too.)

The following week, in the August 8, 1968, issue, the Voice sent music critic Annie Fisher to the Fillmore to cover the performance. Page 1 has a photo of Joplin belting out a song, a stark graphic created with Kodalith film, which bent all midtones to either black or white, imbuing the image with the dynamic of a strobing light show. Fisher conveys something that, for those who weren’t around to witness Joplin in concert, rings true. In recordings you hear a performer who doesn’t merely sing songs, but inhabits them, experiencing them over and over. “Janis Joplin is Janis Joplin, and there’s nothing to do but listen to her,” Fisher writes. “She lives more in one song than a lot of people do in one lifetime. I hope she doesn’t kill herself doing it. No amount of money or adulation can repay or replenish what she gives in each performance. Saturday at the Fillmore East: one more show to go, the first show full house on its feet, chanting for a second encore, MORE MORE MORE. The band had come back onstage, and I looked into the wings for her. It was a moment frozen in time. She stood back there, pulling herself together for one more time, and her evident exhaustion was raw and frightening. I’d like to forget that look, but I won’t for a long time.”

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Fisher goes on to add that the band itself provided “variety in texture and tempo” to the songs. Joplin and Big Brother did a number of cover versions and made over such songs as Erma (older sister of Aretha) Franklin’s “Piece of My Heart” with their signature brand of throbbing psychedelia. Andrew said that the band “Big Brotherized” the song: “We didn’t have a choice. Given our talents and capabilities that was the only thing we could do. Erma’s ‘Piece of My Heart’ had a delicacy and a sense of mystery that was just beyond us.” Instead, Joplin reached inside herself to give the song a slashing, desperate, deeply personal edge that was completely her own.

But the tiny singer couldn’t do this every night. In that same issue another ad alerts the freaks, heads, and kids that an even bigger bill was rolling into the Singer Bowl, a remnant of the 1964 World’s Fair built by the Singer Sewing Machine Company. (The venue would also host boxing matches and become a tennis stadium named for longtime Corona resident Louis Armstrong. It was demolished in 2016.)

Fisher gets the plum assignment again. After some trouble finding the Singer Bowl in the wilds of Flushing Meadows Park — “an unmarked Moses maze of intersecting circles and crossroads” — she and her companion arrive at their seats and discover that the outdoor sound system is pretty bad; Fisher searches for improved acoustics amid the bleachers. The bands play on a sort of lazy Susan — a revolving stage — and after the Chambers Brothers finish their set with the huge hit “Time Has Come Today,” Big Brother and Janis come on. “ ‘Did you SEE what just happened?’ laughs Janis, off balance at the first turn of the bandstand. She’s swilling it down up there from a pint bottle. I wonder idly if the bottle contains weak tea, a stage set. These days, even the best have a shuck, right?…Something missing — the fire. Despite a perfectly respectable response, it’s not her night, not her house.”

Instead it’s Jimi Hendrix’s house. The guitar genius sets the tone by wiping his nose with a Confederate flag. Fisher hears something besides the music: “I didn’t know till tonight he was ‘discovered’ at the Cafe Wha?, which justifies just about everything that has gone down on MacDougal Street. He’s getting better than $500 a minute for this show, one hour, and that’s not an inflated price. He’s worth it. But he shouldn’t be playing this date. Rock outdoors is a gas, but stadium concerts should be left to groups like the Rascals or the Four Seasons, not anyone who has original musical ideas.”

Then she sees “some guy [who] has one of those long 2×8 or 2×10 crossbars of a police barricade up in the air. It’s an exquisite instant, the point of balance before the point of no return. I’ve never been in a riot. Shaken, I am suddenly aware of a weak, watery physical sensation that tells me a story of cowardice. I wouldn’t be any good. I’m not going to Chicago anyway” — she is referring to the Democratic National Convention starting that week in the City of the Big Shoulders, where everyone was expecting violence — “nothing in Chicago that a monkey woman can do. As suddenly as it started it’s all over, a phalanx of uniforms hustling out the musicians’ entrance, the kid apparently in the middle, the barricade apparently back in place.”

Politics, police, and violence were everywhere that summer.

Janis may have had an off night at the Singer Bowl, but, just a bit more than two years before she would die of a heroin overdose at age 27, she was becoming a headliner of her own. That month of August 1968, Big Brother released Cheap Thrills, with cover art by another rising star of the counterculture, the underground cartoonist Robert Crumb. The copy in a full-page ad for the album in the September 5 Village Voice reads truthfully: “Janis Joplin. Big Brother and The Holding Company. They’re going to wipe you out.” But the boys in the band are nowhere to be seen. Just Janis in elephantine bell-bottoms and a world-conquering smile.

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Where Were You When Elvis Died?

[Editor’s note: Elvis Presley died on August 16, 1977. It took more than a week for Lester Bangs’s obituary to appear, but it was worth the wait to watch the passionate critic zero in with trademark intimacy: “Where were you when Elvis died? What were you doing, and what did it give you an excuse to do with the rest of your day? That’s what we’ll be talking about in the future when we remember this grand occasion. Like Pearl Harbor or JFK’s assassination, it boiled down to individual reminiscences, which is perhaps as it should be, because in spite of his greatness blah blah blah, Elvis had left us each as alone as he was; I mean, he wasn’t exactly a Man of the People anymore, if you get my drift. If you don’t I will drift even further, away from Elvis into the contemplation of why all our public heroes seem to reinforce our own solitude.” (That last line fascinates on its own merits, but even more so considering the serendipity of the Voice’s front page that week, which featured two of the biggest heroes of modern times, the fictional Superman and the always larger-than-true-life Muhammad Ali, who were starring in an oversize comic book. The King was in worthy company.)

The full text of Bangs’s farewell to the King follows below. But if you’re so inclined, read it in the original, yellowed newsprint. And, if you read nothing else, read the last paragraph, as succinct a summing up of this weird, flawed country — which gave the world rock ’n’ roll — as you’ll find anywhere this side of Steinbeck, Baldwin, or Didion. There are two big typos in the original conclusion that we’ve fixed in the live text, artifacts of the Voice’s always hectic Monday night closes and whatever drug du jour was fueling the copy editor — but you’ll figure them out.

The main thing is, Bangs nailed us 41 years ago, and if anything, he is even more on the money today. —R.C. Baker]

How Long Will We Care?

By Lester Bangs

Where were you when Elvis died? What were you doing, and what did it give you an excuse to do with the rest of your day? That’s what we’ll be talking about in the future when we remember this grand occasion. Like Pearl Harbor or JFK’s assassination, it boiled down to individual reminiscences, which is perhaps as it should be, because in spite of his greatness blah blah blah, Elvis had left us each as alone as he was; I mean, he wasn’t exactly a Man of the People anymore, if you get my drift. If you don’t I will drift even further, away from Elvis into contemplation of why all our public heroes seem to reinforce our own solitude.

The ultimate sin of any performer is contempt for the audience. Those who indulge in it will ultimately reap the scorn of those they’ve dumped on whether they live forever like Andy Paleface Warhol or die fashionably early like Lenny Bruce, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday. The two things that distinguish those deaths from Elvis’s (he and they having drug habits vaguely in common) were that all of them died on the outside looking in and none of them took their audience for granted. Which is why it’s just a little bit harder for me to see Elvis as a tragic figure; I see him as being more like the Pentagon, this giant armored institution nobody knows anything about except that its power is legendary.

Obviously we all liked Elvis better than the Pentagon, but look at what a paltry statement that is. In the end, Elvis’s scorn for his fans as manifested in “new” albums full of previously released material and one new song to make sure all us suckers would buy it was mirrored in the scorn we all secretly or not so secretly felt for a man who came closer to godhood than Carlos Castaneda until military conscription tamed and revealed him for the dumb lackey he always was in the first place. And ever since, for almost two decades now, we’ve been waiting for him to get wild again, fools that we are, and he probably knew better than any of us in his heart of hearts that it was never gonna happen, his heart of hearts so obviously not being our collective heart of hearts, he so obviously just some poor dumb Southern boy with a Big Daddy manager to screen the world for him and filter out anything which might erode his status as big strapping baby bringing home the bucks, and finally being sort of perversely celebrated at least by rock critics for his utter contempt for his audience.

And Elvis was perverse; only a true pervert could release something like Having Fun with Elvis On Stage, that album released three or so years back which consisted entirely of between-song onstage patter so redundant it would make both Willy Burroughs and Gert Stein blush. Elvis was into marketing boredom when Andy Warhol was still doing shoe ads, but Elvis’s sin was his failure to realize that his fans were not perverse— they loved him without qualification, no matter what he dumped on them they loyally lapped it up, and that’s why I feel a hell of a lot sorrier for all those poor jerks than for Elvis himself now. I mean, who’s left they can stand all night in the rain for? Nobody, and the true tragedy is the tragedy of an entire generation which refuses to give up its adolescence even as it feels its menopausal paunch begin to blossom and its hair recede over the horizon — along with Elvis and everything else they once thought they believed in. Will they care in five years what he’s been doing for the last 20?

Sure, Elvis’s death is a relatively minor ironic variant on the futureshock mazurka, and perhaps the most significant thing about Elvis’s exit is that the entire history of the ’70s has been retreads and brutal demystification; three of Elvis’s ex-bodyguards recently got together with this hacker from the New York Post and whipped up a book which dosed us with all the dirt we’d yearned for for so long. Elvis was the last of our sacred cows to be publicly mutilated; everybody knows Keith Richard likes his junk, but when Elvis went onstage in a stupor nobody breathed a hint of “Quaalude…” In a way, this was both good and bad, good because Elvis wasn’t encouraging other people to think it was cool to be a walking Physicians’ Desk Reference, bad because Elvis stood for that Nixonian Secrecy-as-Virtue which was passed off as the essence of Americanism for a few years there. In a sense he could be seen not only as a phenomenon that exploded in the ’50s to help shape the psychic jailbreak of the ’60s but ultimately as a perfect cultural expression of what the Nixon years were all about. Not that he prospered more then, but that his passion for the privacy of potentates allowed him to get away with almost literal murder, certainly with the symbolic rape of his fans, meaning that we might all do better to think about waving good-bye with one upraised finger.

I got the news of Elvis’s death while drinking beer with a friend and fellow music journalist on his fire escape on 21st Street in Chelsea. Chelsea is a good neighborhood; in spite of the fact that the insane woman who lives upstairs keeps him awake all night every night with her rants at no one, my friend stays there because he likes the sense of community within diversity in that neighborhood: old-time Card-Carrying Communists live in his building alongside people of every persuasion popularly lumped as “ethnic.” When we heard about Elvis we knew a wake was in order, so I went out to the deli for a case of beer. As I left the building I passed some Latin guys hanging out by the front door. “Heard the news? Elvis is dead!” I told them. They looked at me with contemptuous indifference. So what. Maybe if I had told them Donna Summer was dead I might have gotten a reaction; I do recall walking in this neighborhood wearing a T-shirt that said “Disco Sucks” with a vast unamused muttering in my wake, which only goes to show that not for everyone was Elvis the still-reigning King of Rock ’n’ Roll, in fact not for everyone is rock ’n’ roll the still-reigning music. By now, each citizen has found his own little obsessive corner to blast his brains in: as the ’60s were supremely narcissistic, solipsism’s what the ’70s have been about, and nowhere is this better demonstrated than in the world of ‘pop’ (huh?) music. And Elvis may have been the greatest solipsist of all.

I asked for two six-packs at the deli and told the guy behind the counter the news. He looked 50 years old, greying, big belly, life still in his eyes, and he said: “Shit, that’s too bad. I guess our only hope now is if the Beatles get back together.”

Fifty years old.

I told him I thought that would be the biggest anticlimax in history and that the best thing the Stones could do now would be to break up and spare us all further embarrassments.

He laughed, and gave me directions to a meat market down the street. There I asked the counterman the same question I had been asking everyone. He was in his fifties too, and he said, “You know what? I don’t care that bastard’s dead. I took my wife to see him in Vegas in ’73, we paid $14 a ticket, and he came out and sang for 20 minutes. Then he fell down. Then he stood up and sang a couple more songs, then he fell down again. Finally he said, ‘Well, shit, I might as well sit singing as standing.’ So he squatted on the stage and asked the band what song they wanted to do next, but before they could answer he was complaining about the lights. ‘They’re too bright,’ he says. ‘They hurt my eyes. Put ’em out or I don’t sing a note.’ So they do. So me and my wife are sitting in total blackness listening to this guy sing songs we knew and loved, and I ain’t just talking about his old goddam songs, but he totally butchered all of ’em. Fuck him. I’m not saying I’m glad he’s dead, but I know one thing: I got taken when I went to see Elvis Presley.”

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I got taken too the one time I saw Elvis, but in a totally different way. It was the autumn of 1971, and two tickets to an Elvis show turned up at the offices of Creem magazine, where I was then employed. It was decided that those staff members who had never had the privilege of witnessing Elvis should get the tickets, which was how me and art director Charlie Auringer ended up in nearly the front row of the biggest arena in Detroit. Earlier Charlie had said, “Do you realize how much we could get if we sold these fucking things?” I didn’t, but how precious they were became totally clear the instant Elvis sauntered onto the stage. He was the only male performer I have ever seen to whom I responded sexually; it wasn’t real arousal, rather an erection of the heart, when I looked at him I went mad with desire and envy and worship and self-projection. I mean, Mick Jagger, whom I saw as far back as 1964 and twice in ’65, never even came close.

There was Elvis, dressed up in this totally ridiculous white suit which looked like some studded Arthurian castle, and he was too fat, and the buckle on his belt was as big as your head except that your head is not made of solid gold, and any lesser man would have been the spittin’ image of a Neil Diamond damfool in such a getup, but on Elvis it fit. What didn’t? No matter how lousy his records ever got, no matter how intently he pursued mediocrity, there was still some hint, some flash left over from the days when…well, I wasn’t there, so I won’t presume to comment. But I will say this: Elvis Presley was the man who brought overt blatant vulgar sexual frenzy to the popular arts in America (and thereby to the nation itself, since putting “popular arts” and “America” in the same sentence seems almost redundant). It has been said that he was the first white to sing like a black person, which is untrue in terms of hard facts but totally true in terms of cultural impact. But what’s more crucial is that when Elvis started wiggling his hips and Ed Sullivan refused to show it, the entire country went into a paroxysm of sexual frustration leading to abiding discontent which culminated in the explosion of psychedelic-militant folklore which was the ’60s.

I mean, don’t tell me about Lenny Bruce, man — Lenny Bruce said dirty words in public and obtained a kind of consensual martyrdom. Plus which Lenny Bruce was hip, too goddam hip if you ask me which was his undoing, whereas Elvis was not hip at all, Elvis was a goddam truckdriver who worshipped his mother and would never say shit or fuck around her, and Elvis alerted America to the fact that it had a groin with imperatives that had been stifled. Lenny Bruce demonstrated how far you could push a society as repressed as ours and how much you could get away with, but Elvis kicked “How Much Is That Doggie in the Window” out the window and replaced it with “Let’s fuck.” The rest of us are still reeling from the impact. Obviously sexual chaos reigns currently, but out of chaos may flow true understanding and harmony, and either way Elvis almost singlehandedly opened the floodgates. That night in Detroit, a night I will never forget, he had but to ever so slightly move one shoulder muscle, not even a shrug, and the girls in the gallery hit by its ray screamed, fainted, howled in heat. Literally, every time this man moved any part of his body the slightest centimeter, tens or tens of thousands of people went berserk. Not Sinatra, not Jagger, not the Beatles, nobody you can come up with ever elicited such hysteria among so many. And this after a decade and a half of crappy records, of making a point of not trying.

If love truly is going out of fashion forever, which I do not believe, then along with our nurtured indifference to each other will be an even more contemptuous indifference to each others’ objects of reverence. I thought it was Iggy Stooge, you thought it was Joni Mitchell or whoever else seemed to speak for your own private, entirely circumscribed situation’s many pains and few ecstasies. We will continue to fragment in this manner, because solipsism holds all the cards at present; it is a king whose domain engulfs even Elvis’s. But I can guarantee you one thing: we will never again agree on anything as we agreed on Elvis. So I won’t bother saying good-bye to his corpse. I will say good-bye to you.

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Lester Bangs's Elvis Presley obituary in the Village Voice


Looking Back to Say Goodbye to the ‘Queen of Soul’

In 1967 music and pop culture critic Richard Goldstein admitted in his Pop Eye column that he was “only a reluctant connoisseur of rhythm and blues.” After mentioning Percy Sledge, Otis Redding — check out the ad for Redding’s concert on the page — Lou Rawls, and others, he writes, “Then there is Aretha Franklin. She drops notes on me like a raincloud.” He also muses on the buoyant effect the “Queen of Soul” could have on him, one that just about anyone with a pair of ears can relate to in their own way: “Even when I’ve heard ‘Respect’ 50 times, it picks me up at 5 a. m. when I’m washed out with a stubborn article, and watching the streetlights go out.” Like many who have marveled at Franklin’s pipes, he says that he would sometimes “lie back and try to figure out how something so reverent could also be filthy and wonderful.” 

Fast-forward to 1985 and Carol Cooper compares Tina “Queen of Rock” Turner’s Private Dancer album to Franklin’s Who’s Zoomin’ Who release, noting a “difference in perspective almost as extreme as that between Robert Johnson and Marvin Gaye.” Cooper covers not only the soaring sonics of Franklin’s artistry — “Even in the throes of unrequited desire, Aretha’s creamy vibrato insinuates an inexorable will to win” — but also points out the political and social aspects of both albums, the way in which each “provides 360 degrees of insight into the human condition, which has always been black music’s only stock in trade.”


Lester Bangs: The Rolling Stones’ Nostradamus

While it is no longer a burning issue (although those of a certain age might disagree), answering the question “Beatles or Stones?” can still tell you something about yourself: Is your favorite rock movie from the 1960s the madcap A Hard Day’s Night or the chthonic Gimme Shelter?

Such questions will drift through the ether as long as civilization exists, right along with “Leonardo or Michelangelo?” and “Magic or Bird?” But the Beatles broke up in 1970, while the Rolling Stones were still touring as recently as last summer. Which gives us plenty of post-Sixties Stones lore to choose from. After launching our first Music Monday with the Beatles last week, we bring you tales of the Rolling Stones in New York City in the 1980s.

In the July 23, 1980, issue the always heartfelt rock critic Lester Bangs wrote that it had taken “ten thousand varyingly voluntary rehearings” for he and a friend to actually like the Stones’ 1978 Some Girls album. The pair discussed whether the band should break up on such a high note and Bangs’s friend said it would be better if the Stones were still “grinding away at the same Chuck Berry licks when they’re 60 years old!”

Bangs added, “Go ahead and laugh, but they’re probably going to do exactly that, and after panning just about everything they released in the ’70s I’ve had a change of heart. You tell me whether it has something to do with turning 30 and all that, but what I said to another friend the other night in a similar conversation was, ‘Shit, yeah, let’s all grow old with the Rolling Stones. I can think of worse things.’ ”

Unfortunately, Bangs didn’t live as long as any of the Stones he was writing about in 1980. (The band’s founder, Brian Jones, had died in 1969.) Bangs would be dead two years later, from an accidental overdose of various medications. In a letter supposedly written by Bangs from the afterlife (it can be found in the collection of his rock criticism, Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung), he tells his friend, Dave Marsh, “You know that jive about ‘If there’s a rock & roll heaven, they must have a hell of a band’? Don’t believe it, pal. All the talent went straight to Hell.” He concludes, “Gotta run. Literally. Another herd of hoary Harp hacks heading here. Playing Zep’s ‘Stairway’ of course. Fucking national anthem in this burg.”

Marsh may have only been channeling Bangs’s style, but in the Voice article from 38 years ago you get a dose of the real stuff as Bangs ruminates that the self-proclaimed “World’s Greatest Rock ’n’ Roll Band” has “got this stuff down to a science, yet they’re still having fun with it, they haven’t gone embarrassingly cold and dead like, say, the Post–Who’s Next Who.”

And from 1987 we have dug up a story about two dumpster’s worth of trash left behind when Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood vacated his Manhattan brownstone. Writer Catherine Breslin retrieved a passel of water-stained sketches, some by the musician himself, a few by his daughter Leah. Plus some song lyrics — “I can’t stand here cryin’ at your door/Neighbours put their lights on for sure” — smudged by dog turds.

Even the biggest stars have their off days.    ❖


Jazz Jams With Harvey Pekar

For most of his adult life, Harvey Pekar held a day job filing medical records at Cleveland Veterans Administration Hospital. Perhaps the attention to detail in that endeavor helped him with his more famous vocation, as the creator and writer of American Splendor comic books. When he was sixteen, Pekar began collecting jazz records, saying, “I loved jazz and listened to it closely and analytically.” When he started writing his comics, he had such graphic masters as Robert Crumb, Spain Rodriguez, and Alison Bechdel illustrate his workaday tales of life in Cleveland. In 1995, he teamed with Joe Sacco, an artist known for his comics journalism (Palestine, Safe Area Gorazde), to collaborate on an illustrated reminiscence with the jazz guitarist Bill DeArango, who, like Pekar, was a Cleveland native.


Public Enemy: The Devil Made ‘Em Do It

Public Enemy’s 1988 It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back opens with roiling crowd buzz from a live snippet recorded at London’s Hammersmith Odeon. Then an air raid siren cuts through the din, a keening wail that still meant something in a town where the Blitz was well within living memory.

In his review from that summer thirty years ago, Greg Tate’s prose rivals the sonic intensity of the album under discussion and informs us up front that PE’s disk “demands kitchen-sink treatment.” And we get it — every other sentence is pullquote-worthy:

Nation of Millions is a will-to-power party record by bloods who believe (like Sun Ra) that for black folk, it’s after the end of the world. Or, in PEspeak: ‘Armageddon has been in effect. Go get a late pass.’”

“Hiphop being more than a cargo cult of the microchip, it deserves being debated on more elevated terms than as jazz’s burden or successor.”

“PE producer and arranger Hank Shocklee has the ears of life, and that rare ability to extract the lyrical from the lost and found.”

Tate’s review agitates as much as the music: “PE wants to reconvene the black power movement with hiphop as the medium. From the albums and interviews, the program involves rabble-rousing rage, radical aesthetics, and bootstrap capitalism, as well as a revival of the old movement’s less than humane tendencies: revolutionary suicide, misogyny, gaybashing, Jew-baiting, and the castigation of the white man as a genetic miscreant, or per Elijah Muhammad’s infamous myth of Yacub, a ‘grafted devil.’

“To know PE is to love the agitprop (and artful noise) and to worry over they whack retarded philosophy they espouse.”

Below are the original pages as well as the full text of the article. And just for the fun of it, we’ve included the full-page ads between the Tate opener and the jump page to capture the musical flavor of the moment: Kiss at the Ritz and Stevie Wonder doing eight shows at Radio City Music Hall.

The Devil Made ’Em Do It

by Greg Tate

Granted, Charlie Parker died laughing. Choked chickenwing perched over 1950s MTV. So? No way in hell did Bird, believing there was no competition in music, will his legacy to some second-generation beboppers to rattle over the heads of the hiphop nation like a rusty sabre. But when Harry Allen comes picking fights with suckers adducing hiphop the new jazz, like hiphop needs a jazz crutch to stand erect, I’m reminded of Pithecanthropus erectus, and not the Charles Mingus version. B-boys devolved to the missing link between jazzmen and a lower order species out of Joseph Conrad. “Perhaps you will think it passing strange, this regret for a savage who was of no more account than a grain of sand in a black Sahara. Well, don’t you see, he had done something, he had steered; for months I had him at my back — a help — an instrument. It was a kind of partnership.” Page 87.

Hiphop being more than a cargo cult of the microchip, it deserves being debated on more elevated terms than as jazz’s burden or successor. Given the near absence of interdisciplinary scholarship on the music, the conceptual straits of jazz journalism, and hiphop’s cross-referential complexity, the hiphop historian must cast a wider net for critical models. Certainly Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back (Def Jam) demands kitchen-sink treatment. More than a hiphop record it’s an ill worldview.

Nation of Millions is a will-to-power party record by bloods who believe (like Sun Ra) that for black folk, it’s after the end of the world. Or, in PEspeak: “Armageddon has been in effect. Go get a late pass.” In Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made, Eugene Genovese offers that the failure of mainland blacks to sustain a revolutionary tradition during slavery was due to a lack of faith in prophets of the apocalypse. This lack, he says, derived from Africa’s stolen children having no memories of a paradise lost that revolution might regain. Machiavellian thinking might have found its way into the quarters: “All armed prophets have conquered while all unarmed prophets have failed.” But the observation that blacks were unable to envision a world beyond the plantation, or of a justice beyond massa’s dispensation, still resonates through our politics. Four decades after Garvey, the cultural nationalists of the ’60s sought to remedy our Motherland amnesia and nationhood aversions through dithyrambs, demagoguery, and a counter-supremacist doctrine that pressed for utopia over reform pragmatism. Its noblest aim was total self-determination for the black community. For PE, that, not King’s, is the dream that died.

The lofty but lolling saxophone sample that lures us into the LP’s “Black Side” could be a wake up call, a call to prayer, or an imitation Coltrane cocktease. Since we’re not only dealing with regenerated sound here but regenerated meaning, what was heard 20 years ago as expression has now become a rhetorical device, a trope. Making old records talk via scratching or sampling is fundamental to hiphop. But where we’ve heard rare grooves recycled for parodic effect or shock value ad nauseam, on “Show Em Whatcha Got” PE manages something more sublime, enfolding, and subsuming the Coltrane mystique, among others, within their own. The martial thump that kicks in after the obligatto owes its bones to Funkadelic’s baby years and Miles Davis’s urban bush music. But the war chants from Chuck D and Flavor Flav that blurt through the mix like station identification also say, What was hip yesterday we save from becoming passé. Since three avant-gardes overlap here — free jazz, funk, hip hop — the desired effect might seem a salvage mission. Not until Sister Ava Muhammad’s tribute-to-the-martyrs speech fragments begin their cycle do you realize Public Enemy are offering themselves up as next in line for major black prophet, missionary, or martyrdom status. Give them this much: PE paragon Farrakhan excepted, nobody gives you more for your entertainment dollar while cold playing that colored man’s messiah role.

PE wants to reconvene that black power movement with hiphop as the medium. From the albums and interviews, the program involves rabble-rousing rage, radical aesthetics, and bootstrap capitalism, as well as a revival of the old movement’s less than humane tendencies: revolutionary suicide, misogyny, gaybashing, Jew-baiting, and the castigation of the white man as a genetic miscreant, or per Elijah Muhammad’s infamous myth of Yacub, a “grafted devil.”

To know PE is to love the agitprop (and artful noise) and to worry over the whack retarded philosophy they espouse. Like: “The black woman has always been kept up by the white male because the white male has always wanted the black woman.” Like “Gays aren’t doing what’s needed to build the black nation.” Like: “White people are actually monkey’s uncles because that’s who they made it with in the Caucasian hills.” Like : “If the Palestinians took up arms, went into Israel, and killed all the Jews it’d be alright.” From this idiot blather, PE are obviously making it up as they go along. Since PE show sound reasoning when they focus on racism as a tool of the U.S. power structure, they should be intelligent enough to realize that dehumanizing gays, women, and Jews isn’t going to set black people free. As their prophet Mr. Farrakhan hasn’t overcome one or another of these moral lapses, PE might not either. For now swallowing the PE pill means taking the bitter with the sweet, and if they don’t grow up, later for they asses.

Nation of Millions is a declaration of war on the federal government, and on that unholy trinity — black radio programmers, crack dealers, and rock critics. (“Suckers! Liars! Get me a shovel. Some writers I know are damn devils. From them I say I don’t believe the hype. Yo Chuck, they must be on the pipe, right?”) For sheer audacity and specificity Chuck D’s enemies list rivals anything produced by the Black Liberation Army or punk — rallying retribution against the Feds for the Panthers’ fall (“Party For Your Right To Fight”), slapping murder charges on the FBI and CIA for the assassinations of MLK and Malcolm X (“Louder Than a Bomb”), condoning cop-killing in the name of liberation (“Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos”), assailing copyright law and the court system (“Caught, Can We Get a Witness?”). As America’s black teen population are the core audience for these APBs to terrorize the state, PE are bucking for first rap act to get taken out by Washington, by any means necessary.

Were it not for the fact that Nation is the most hellacious and hilarious dance record of the decade, nobody but the converted would give two hoots about PE’s millenary desires. Of the many differences between Nation and their first, Yo! Bum Rush the Show, is that Nation is funkier. As George Clinton learned, you got to free Negroes’ asses if you want their minds to bug. Having seen Yo! Bum Rush move the crowd off the floor, it’s a pleasure to say only zealot wallflowers will fade into the blackground when Nation cues up. Premiered at a Sugar Hill gala, several Nation cuts received applause from the down but bupwardly mobile — fulfilling Chuck D’s prediction on “Don’t Believe The Hype” that by treating the hard jams like a seminar Nation would “reach the bourgeois and rock the boulevard.” But PE’s shotgun wedding of black militancy and musical pleasure ensures that Nation is going to move music junkies of all genotypes. “They claim we’re products from the bottom of hell because the blackest record is bound to sell.”

PE producer and arranger Hank Shocklee has the ears of life, and that rare ability to extract the lyrical from the lost and found. Every particle of sound on Nation has got a working mojo, a compelling something other-ness and that swing thang to boot. Shocklee’s reconstructive composition of new works from archival bites advances sampling to the level of microsurgery. Ditto for cyborg DJ Terminator X, who cuts incisively enough to turn a decaying kazoo into a dopebeat on “Bring the Noise.” Putting into effect Borges’s rule that “The most fleeting thought obeys an invisible design and can crown or inaugurate, a secret form,” PE have evolved a songcraft from chipped flecks of near-forgotten soul gold. On Nation a guitar vamp from Funkadelic, a moan from Sly, a growl abducted from Bobby Byrd aren’t just rhythmically spliced-in but melodically sequenced into colorful narratives. Think of Romare Bearden.

One cut-up who understands the collage-form is PE’s Flavor Flav. Misconstrued as mere aide-de-camp to rap’s angriest man after Yo! Bum Rush he emerges here as a duck-soup stirrer in his own right. Flav’s solo tip, “Cold Lampin With Flavor,” is incantatory shamanism on a par with any of the greats: Beefheart, Koch, Khomeini. “You pick your teeth with tombstone chips, candy-colored flips, dead women hips you do the bump with. Bones. Nuthin’ but love bones.”

Those who dismiss Chuck D as a bullshit artist because he’s loud, pro-black, and proud, will likely miss out on gifts for blues pathos and black comedy. When he’s on, his rhymes can stun-gun your heart and militarize your funnybone. As a people’s poet and pedagogue of the oppressed, Chuck hits his peak on the jail-house toast/prison break movie, “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos.” The scenario finds Chuck unjustly under the justice (“Innocent/ Because I’m militant/Posing a threat/ You bet it’s fucking up the government”). Chuck and “52 Brothers bruised, battered, and scarred but hard” bust out the joint with the aid of PE’s plastic Uzi protection, “the S1Ws” (Security for the First World). Inside the fantasy, Chuck crafts verse of poignant sympathy for all doing hard time. (“I’m on a tier where no tear should ever fall/Cell blocked and locked I never clock it y’all.”) His allusion to the Middle Passage as the first penal colony for blacks is cold chillin’ for real. Chuck’s idea of a lifer, or career soldier, is also at odds with convention: “Nevertheless they could not understand that I’m a black man and I could never be a veteran.”

As much as I love this kind of talk, I got to wonder about PE’s thing against black women. And my dogass ain’t the only one wondering — several sisters I know who otherwise like the mugs wonder whassup with that too. Last album PE dissed half the race as “Sophisticated Bitches.” This time around, “She Watch Channel Zero!?” a headbanger about how brainless the bitch is for watching the soaps, keeping the race down. “I know she don’t know/Her brain be trained by 24-inch remote/Revolution a solution for all of our children/But her children don’t mean as much as the show.” Whoa! S.T.F.O.!* Would you say that to your mother, motherfucker? Got to say, though, the thrash is deadly. One of those riffs makes you want to stomp somebody into an early grave, as Flav goes on and on insinuating that women are garbage for watching garbage. In light of Chuck’s plea for crack dealers to be good to the neighborhood on “Night of the Living Baseheads,” it appears PE believe the dealers more capable of penance than the sistuhs. Remember The Mack? Where the pimp figures it cool to make crazy dollar off his skeezes but uncool for the white man for sell scag to the little brothers? This is from that same mentality. And dig that in “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos,” the one time on the album Chuck talks about firing a piece, it’s to a pop a female corrections officer. By my homegirl’s reckoning all the misogyny is the result of PE suffering from LOP: lack of pussy. She might have a point.
* Step the Fuck Off!


The Beatles Rap in New York

On August 22, 1966, the Beatles flew into New York and gave two press conferences at the Warwick Hotel on West 54th Street. Asked their opinions on the war in Vietnam, they were succinct, John Lennon saying, “We don’t like it,” and George Harrison adding, “War’s wrong and that’s all.”

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When a reporter asked, “Would you care to elaborate?” Paul McCartney said, “We would elaborate, but not here. …  In England people will listen a bit more to what you say. Here everything you say is picked up and turned against you. There’s more bigotry in America.” The Voice‘s reporter, James Kempton (son of the well-known commentator Murray), noted, “Every pencil in the room came down.” And that’s when the quick-thinking 24-year-old McCartney decided that it might, in fact, be a very good moment to elaborate: “There are more people so there are more bigots.”

Still smarting from the controversy he had caused a few months earlier when he said that the Fab Four was “more popular than Jesus,” Lennon quipped to his bandmate, “Say any more and you’ll be explaining all about it on the next tour.”

At a second meet-and-greet session, this time with fans who had won a radio station contest to lob softball questions at the Liverpudlians, one young woman held up a leaf and asked McCartney, “Do you recognize this? It’s supposed to come from your front lawn.”

“Sure,” he replied, “I’ve missed it for months!”

In this same issue we get Richard Goldstein in his Pop Eye column reviewing the Beatles’ Revolver album, calling it “a revolutionary record, as important to the expansion of pop territory as was Rubber Soul.” A little further on, Goldstein zeroes in on Revolver‘s last track, “Tomorrow Never Knows,” rhapsodizing that “No one can say what actually inspired this song, but its place in the pantheon of psychedelic music is assured. … While not unprecedented, the combination of acid-Buddhist imagery and a rock beat has never before been attempted with such complexity. At first, the orchestration sounds like Custer’s last stand. Foghorn-like organ chords and the sound of birdlike screeching overshadows the vocal. But the overall effect of this hodgepodge is a very effective suspension of musical reality.”

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