Archive for Stephen Stills

40 Years Out: Celebration of Life, Louisiana

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , , , , , , on June 1, 2011 by 30daysout

Photo from the Celebration of Life in June 1971 (found on the internet)

The Woodstock festival in 1969 signaled a new era in the marketing of rock culture to the youth masses. Of course, before the first note of music was played Woodstock was actually a slick, professionally planned event – they had lots of publicity and even the foresight to hire a movie crew –  but it turned into something else once the fences came down. So after Woodstock every time somebody put a couple of bands together they called it a “festival” and any time four or more acts played together outdoors it was billed as the next Woodstock.

That was how they sold the Celebration of Life, an epic outdoor rock festival to be held in central Louisiana, in the middle of June 1971. Oh man, the lineup looked even sweeter than Woodstock: the Allman Brothers Band, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Canned Heat, Richie Havens, the Beach Boys, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Johnny Winter and many more over eight or nine days in a Southern paradise right at the summer solstice.

What it turned out to be, though, was a stinking mess. Many of the advertised acts didn’t show or refused to play, kids had to camp out for days before organizers even opened the gates and let anyone in, and once they did conditions were horrid at best and dangerous at worst. I know, because I was there. Unfortunately.

In June 1971 I turned 16 years old and I got my Texas drivers’ license. There was this one dude in our neighborhood who was older and he knew another dude who worked at the local newspaper Port Arthur News – they said they had some “press passes” to the Celebration of Life but no ride to Louisiana. Being young, stupid and in possession of a car, I volunteered to drive; they said they’d book a hotel so we would have some place to stay and they would pick up my food if I paid for gas. So I show up to pick up my two friends and magically there’s a fourth, some dude named Tommy.

This festival was in a place called McCrea, Louisiana, along the Atchafalaya River north of what is known as Cajun Country. Wow, I remember thinking, days along this lazy slow-moving river and nights in an air-conditioned hotel … it still sounded cool to me, even as we encountered the first traffic jam heading to the festival site. As we got closer I could see people everywhere – camped atop the big levees that ran along the river, shirtless dudes laying in the grass and smoking pot. A grim Louisiana state policeman pointed us in the direction of a huge, muddy field that was the parking lot. Kids were hanging out of minivans, sleeping in open car trunks and atop car hoods. We pulled up behind a naked dude taking a piss right out in the open.

Now this was Friday afternoon; the festival was supposed to have been going on for five days before and people there told us there was some kind of “hassle” with lawyers and promoters which kept the gates closed but music was supposed to start once it got dark. We made our way to the ticket booths, and my newspaper man walked up confidently to will call. He came slinking back shortly; “Our passes aren’t there, man.” So let’s go check in to the hotel, eh? Uh, man, we can’t leave … we’re here for the MUSIC. At which point I realized I’d been had. No tickets, no hotel … and no music. Just a long drive back to Texas.

We got back to the car just as the sun started to set, then this bearded hippie approached us. “When it gets dark, man, I’ll help you get in,” he said. This was beginning to sound like a bad idea. So a few minutes later we were following this dumbass through the swamp and we came upon a huge fence. Some shirtless redneck with no teeth was guarding the fence, or rather a large hole in the fence. The press entrance, I suppose.

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Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: The Isley Brothers

Posted in Lost Classics! with tags , , , , on May 30, 2011 by 30daysout

So much has gone under the bridge that we’ve all but forgotten that era when racial lines were not obliterated but smudged in such a way that it was a little tough to find the line between black and white. By the early 1970s we had been through the civil rights upheaval and the backlash that made martyrs out of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others. It was like that refreshing period following a good hard rain … we were all open to checking out each other’s culture a bit.

The Isley Brothers were a huge act throughout the 1960s – their first million seller came in 1959 with “Shout.” They served a stint at Motown and in 1969 the Isleys created their own record label, T-Neck Records. In 1971 the Isleys put out the album we’re going to spin today, Givin’ It Back, on T-Neck. For more than a decade, white/mainstream pop artists scored their own successes with versions of Isley Brothers’ songs (Joey Dee & the Starlighters hit with their own version of “Shout;” and there’s that version of “Twist and Shout” by some guys from Liverpool) so the Isleys decided to “give it back” by cutting their own versions of songs by then-current rock and pop artists.

The LP starts off with a sizzling version of Neil Young’s “Ohio” fused with Jimi Hendrix’s “Machine Gun.” The song speaks not only to the Kent State campus killings of 1970 but the less publicized incident 10 days later at Jackson State University in Mississippi, where two black students were killed and a dozen more were injured by police trying to stop a demonstration. The song was a reminder that the times were still angry and deep divisions still remained in this country. The Isleys’ prayer in the middle of these two angry songs suggests that cooler heads were out there, begging to be listened to. This is a powerful way to start off the album, and it’s easily the best cut.

Next up the Isleys give a new setting to James Taylor’s singer/songwriter warhorse, “Fire and Rain.” The Isleys charge it up with a tangible urgency, as they do with Eric Burdon and War’s “Spill The Wine.” Even better is the Isleys’ soulful reading of Dylan’s “Lay Lady Lay,” giving it a sexual tension and soul that its writer could never hope to pull off.

“Cold Bologna” is a funky blues that even features its writer, Bill Withers, on guitar. The Isleys were good for giving young writers a showcase, and here’s a good example with Withers, who would soon come into his own with songs like “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Lean On Me.” Stephen Stills also gets the Isley cover treatment on two songs, “Nothin’ To Do But Today” and “Love The One You’re With.” The former is the weakest song on the album but the latter is a highlight, as the Isleys inject a little soul and extra rhythm into the proceedings. Consider this a worthy companion to Marvin Gaye’s better-known masterpiece from 1971, What’s Going On.

MP3: “Ohio/Machine Gun”

MP3: “Lay Lady Lay”

MP3: “Spill The Wine”

MP3: “Love The One You’re With”

Video of the Week: “Rock and Roll Woman”

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , , , on October 24, 2010 by 30daysout

A bit of history happened Saturday night in Mountain View, California, as the three surviving members of legendary rock band Buffalo Springfield reunited for the first time since 1968.  Playing to benefit the Bridge School for children with cerebral palsy, original Springfield members Stephen Stills, Richie Furay and Neil Young ran through a loose set of classics including “Mr. Soul,” “Rock and Roll Woman,” “On The Way Home” and of course, “For What It’s Worth.”

Catch more videos from the Buffalo Springfield reunion at GuitarVibe.com

 

Your Sister’s (Record) Rack, Part 9.5: More singles!

Posted in Lost Classics! with tags , , , , , , on September 6, 2010 by 30daysout

I had this entire series finished late last night – then I found these.  I listened to every one – twice – then decided to just throw them out there without documentation.  Hope that’s OK!

MP3: “Dark Star” (single version) by the Grateful Dead

MP3: “War Song” by Neil Young and Graham Nash

MP3: “Ride Captain Ride” by Blues Image

MP3: “Shakedown Cruise” by Jay Ferguson (I used the LP version because my single was so scratched up)

MP3: “The Family Of Man” by Three Dog Night

MP3: “Lost Her In The Sun” by John Stewart

MP3: “Thoroughfare Gap” by Stephen Stills

MP3: “Down By The River” by Albert Hammond

Review: Wily Veterans & Classic Rock?

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , on July 6, 2010 by 30daysout

Summer’s here and the time is right for some classic rock.  Or more accurately, new music from artists that at one time made classic rock and pop music.  Cynics might look at these people as once-vital artists who now have to cash in on past glory in order to keep the utilities on.  But I prefer to keep a warm spot on my heart for these folks, who are all too happy to remind us why we loved them in the first place.

Al Jardine is the only member of the original Beach Boys who wasn’t a blood relative of Brian Wilson.  Even so, Jardine’s new A Postcard from California manages to evoke the spirit of the Beach Boys more successfully than the recent work of even the Sandbox Genius (that would be Brian, who’s about to release an album of George Gershwin covers).  And by evoking the spirit of the Boys, I mean not only that sublime surf-and-hot-rods sound but also the goofy social commentary and cracked sense of humor that characterized a lot of the Beach Boys’ later work.  At 68 years old, Jardine’s voice is just as perfect as it was when he sang “Help Me Rhonda” in 1965.

Now Jardine isn’t the most prolific songwriter so he covers a handful of old Beach Boys tunes that won’t make you forget the originals – despite the presence of guest performers like Neil Young, Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell of America, Steve Miller and Norton Buffalo, David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Brian Wilson his own self.  One of those oldies is “Don’t Fight the Sea,” which is actually an unreleased Beach Boys track that features harmonies by the late Carl Wilson, Bruce Johnston, Brian Wilson and Mike Love (Carl and Bruce cut their parts in the 1980s, Brian and Mike recorded their parts more recently).  This environmentally conscious song, like the others on this album, take on a new urgency with the current disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

Brian Wilson turns up again on “Drivin’,” a duet that features self-serving vocal backgrounds from America … some of that weird humor here.  Another highlight is Jardine’s revisiting of his “California Saga” epic, this time with harmony help from Crosby, Stills and Young and with a spoken-word piece from Alec Baldwin (!).

Listening to A Postcard From California over the Fourth of July weekend, the album managed to grow on me.  You have to be in a certain place to enjoy this kind of Grandpa Rock – being an AARP member and qualifying for senior discounts doesn’t hurt – but if Al Jardine can take me back to another time and another place even for a fleeting moment,  I’d sign on for that trip any time.

Track samples from A Postcard From California at Al Jardine’s website

YouTube: “Help Me Rhonda” (with Steve Miller, Norton Buffalo and Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers)

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Black Tide: Trouble In The Gulf

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , on June 6, 2010 by 30daysout

If you pay attention to the news, you know there’s a catastrophe happening down south in the Gulf of Mexico.  It started in late April, when an offshore oil well exploded and began leaking crude oil into the water.

Since then as much as a million gallons continue to spill out each day, while the oil company feebly tries to stop the flow.  Meanwhile the thick toxic stuff is washing into Gulf shorelines and threatens to kill wildlife, ruin the wetlands and destroy the livelihoods of tens of thousands of Americans.

It seems to me that not enough Americans are enraged by this.  Maybe it’s because the disaster isn’t threatening places like New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.  You know, the really important places.

Maybe it’s because that is not your backyard being turned into a sludge pit, it’s not your home becoming a toxic waste dump.  Well, not yet anyway.  As the song says, “Sometimes you’re better off not knowing how much you’ve been had.”

MP3: “Don’t Go Near The Water” by the Beach Boys

MP3: “The Devil’s Been Busy” by the Traveling Wilburys

MP3: “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” by Marvin Gaye

MP3: “Oil Well” by Carbon Silicon

MP3: “Paradise” (live) by John Prine

MP3: “Revelation (Mother Earth)” by Ozzy Osbourne

MP3: “Ecology Song” by Stephen Stills

MP3: “Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mitchell

Song of the Day: “Armada Latina,” Cypress Hill

Posted in News with tags , , , on April 26, 2010 by 30daysout

Cypress Hill, the hip-hop group from South Gate, California, have a new album called Rise Up.  One of the new singles from the album, “Armada Latina,” features guest vocals from Pitbull and Latin singer Marc Anthony (Mr. Jennifer Lopez).  “Armada Latina” relies heavily on samples from “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” a classic many people heard first at the 1969 Woodstock festival.   And old timers, check this out – halfway through the video there is a guest appearance by the song’s writer: Stephen Stills.

By the way, Marc Anthony does NOT appear in this video.

Cypress Hill official website

40 Years Out: “Easy Rider”

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , , on October 7, 2009 by 30daysout

Dennis Hopper, R.I.P.

“You know, this used to be a helluva good country. I don’t understand what went wrong with it.” – Jack Nicholson, in Easy Rider

While we’re celebrating events of 1969 this year, it would be a shame to forget the movie Easy Rider.   Perhaps the most famous road movie of all time, it was a touchstone of the era and a landmark in American moviemaking.  You should know the story: two rebels hit the road to discover America as it was in the late 1960s.  They encounter everything from happy hippies in a country commune to angry rednecks in a Louisiana diner.

The movie broke new ground in its primitive production techniques, after the French New Wave (Truffaut) and in its then-innovative use of already recorded rock songs on the soundtrack.  Even though many of the people who worked on the movie, including stars Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper (who also directed) and Jack Nicholson, are still alive and working, much about the movie’s production has passed into mythology so it’s tough to pick out the truth among the tall tales.

We know this much: the soundtrack forever tied Steppenwolf’s “Born To Be Wild” with motorcycle riding, the movie made Jack Nicholson a star and Easy Rider created the independent film industry.   Stephen Stills was asked by Hopper to write a song for the movie – he wrote “Find The Cost Of Freedom,” but it wasn’t used.  It later became the flip side of “Ohio” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.  Bob Dylan was also asked to write a song, but he didn’t want to.  Instead, he dashed off a few lines and asked to have them delivered to Roger McGuinn, who then wrote and performed “Ballad of Easy Rider” heard over the closing credits.

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Bad Career Moves, Part 3

Posted in Rock Rant with tags , , , , on July 25, 2009 by 30daysout
stephen_stills_med

Stephen Stills - No booty today!

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young were huge stars and gods of the counterculture in the late 1960s, but what many have forgotten (or didn’t know) is that CSNY was also a so-called “supergroup.”  Graham Nash was in the second-wave British invasion band the Hollies, and David Crosby spent a few years in the original Byrds.  Stephen Stills and Neil Young were the twin towers of Buffalo Springfield, probably the finest American rock band ever.

For some reason, Nash was always considered the weak link in the group – although he wound up writing and singing most of CSNY’s hits (“Teach Your Children,” “Wasted On The Way,” “Our House”).  Crosby always kind of a loudmouth and his songs had no melody and made no sense.  Stills and Young were the guitarists, and they gave this group its rock and roll kick.

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Lost Classics? “Allies,” Crosby, Stills & Nash

Posted in Lost Classics! with tags , , , , , on July 13, 2009 by 30daysout
Stills

Stills and Crosby, Houston 1977

To help us get in the mood to make the trek up to New York for the 40th anniversary of Woodstock (August 15), I made a couple of mix CDs with some music of the era and in doing so I marveled at how well much of that stuff still holds up today.  (Well, it may depend on how old you are and what you’ve been smoking …)

And I wondered how often did some of these acts go astray in the ensuing years?  Here’s an example: Allies, a 1983 mostly live effort from Woodstock vets Crosby, Stills and Nash.

In 1977 I saw CSN at the Summit in Houston – they had put out the highly successful CSN album that year and scored a radio hit: the Graham Nash-penned “Just A Song Before I Go.”  The album itself would have been No. 1, but it was kept out of the top spot by a little thing called Rumours.

Anyway, CSN in Houston sounded pretty good, Stephen Stills played great and David Crosby hadn’t spiraled into drug-induced insanity yet.  Cut to 1983 – CSN’s  hit album from the year before, Daylight Again, anchored by “Wasted On The Way” and “Southern Cross,” is still on the charts.  They are approached by Hollywood to write a song for an upcoming movie about a kid who hacks into the top-secret U.S. Defense computer system, taking the world to the brink of a nuclear war.

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