The Godfathers of Guitar

18 02 2011

There’s a progression in music, much like the generations that pass as we raise our children, pass on our values and go forward into the world, having influence on so much.  We might feel insignificant while we are bogged down in the drudgery and seemingly mundane detail of every effort it takes to produce what it is we are striving for.

But it’s all worth it!  It pays off, maybe not in the peak of our lives as we would like, but if we persist, endure and do it right our lives and what we create become a crescendo that builds a foundation for those who come after us.  What we do is not lost on the demands of daily life as long as we keep our eyes on the distant goal.

Before I get too far off course, I’ll reel my thoughts back in and start talking about a man named Robert Johnson. Robert Johnson was born in 1911 and only lived to the age of twenty seven, but what he did for music is something that cannot be measured.

This brings me to another point of irony; the great music artists who made a huge splash and shook up the status quo of music in their day, dying at the age of twenty seven.  Robert Johnson, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain.  There I go again getting ahead of myself.  It’s all in my head, but I need to lay it out in some order for it to make any sense.

Everyone has heard the story of the guy who sold his soul at the crossroads for talent, fame and glory.  Charlie Daniels brought it to us and told the story well in his classic song, The Devil Went Down To Georgia.  Did you ever wonder where the story of Johnny and the Devil came from?  It wasn’t Johnny and it wasn’t a fiddle.  It was Robert Johnson with a guitar.

Robert Johnson was a good blues guitar player but he wanted more, he wanted to be the best.  He studied with one of the greats of the time, Son House and used to try to emulate his idol but was unable to play as well.  When Johnson was nineteen he disappeared from Robinsonville, Mississippi for several months and when he came back he had a new guitar technique that nobody had ever played before.

This is where the story gets told, that Robert Johnson, for his passion of wanting to play the guitar so well, took his guitar to a crossroad near the Dockery Plantation at midnight where a large black man appeared to him.  The man took the guitar from Johnson, tuned it, played a couple of songs, and gave the guitar back to him along with total mastery of the instrument.  He was given the gift he sought but in return for this gift Johnson exchanged his soul.

This story makes for great PR but there’s another story that is probably what really happened.  Another player of the time named Ike Zinnerman spent a lot of time with Robert Johnson playing in the local cemetery at midnight, reportedly because it was quiet and nobody was around to disturb them.  This is where Johnson honed his mastery of the instrument, and the cemetery isn’t a bad place to come up with a story about selling one’s soul to the devil in exchange for fame and glory.

With the fame and glory came a tragic end.  Robert Johnson had been playing a certain gig for a few weeks and was flirting with the juke joint owner’s wife.  The man offered Johnson an open bottle of whiskey (he had previously been warned to never accept an open bottle but replied to the man who told him that to never knock a bottle from his hand) and he drank from it.  Reports tell us that the bottle was laced with strychnine and over the next few days Robert Johnson fell ill and eventually died.

Robert Johnson did leave us with an incredible catalog of recorded music that artists of the future would learn from and grow with to produce greater and more influential musical creation for us to partake of.  One in particular, and the one who most all musicians would agree is the standard for rock and roll and blues guitar is James Marshall Hendrix aka Jimi Hendrix.

Jimi Hendrix was born Johnny Allen Hendrix, November 27, 1942.  When Jimi’s dad came back from Europe after World War II he changed Jimi’s name to James Marshall, after his late brother, Leon Marshall.  I’m not sure where the James came from but I like it because we get Jimi spelled in that unique way.  Maybe it was just time to break from the chaos of the past and make things new.  Jimi always had a bright outlook on things and I think Al, his dad, was instrumental in teaching him correct principles.

On a side note, I had the honor of shaking hands with Al Hendrix in the fall of 1991 at a club in Seattle called the Rockandy.  It was a type of gig the Seattle bands put together to follow a theme of the godfathers of rock and roll and this night was Jimi Hendrix theme night.  Twelve Seattle bands came together to perform two Hendrix tunes of their choice and of their interpretation.  No, we didn’t have Nirvana or Soundgarden or Alice in Chains or Screaming Trees or Pearl Jam or Mudhoney or any of the huge list of big-shot Seattle bands you might wish were a part of this story; yeah, and I wish too!  How would that have been?  To meet Al Hendrix and watch Soundgarden knock out a couple Jimi covers for a six dollar entry?  But it wasn’t to be. Although we did get a dramatic performance from a band called The Sky Cries Mary, an obvious reference to Jimi’s song The Wind Cries Mary.  The Sky Cries Mary had some accolades and even made an appearance on the David Letterman show, but for some reason they didn’t receive the strong and wide spread recognition a lot of the projects coming out of Seattle did, which is a cryin’ shame because to be honest their expression through music was far more complex and layered than most everything else, especially at that time. They were never part of the ‘grunge’ scene, nor do I think they ever had any desire to be. They stood head and shoulders apart from the rest of the dank and dirty rock and roll genre that swept through Seattle at that time..

 
I sat with Roderick Romero, a member of The Sky Cries Mary, that night and we talked of musical expression, the layering of sound and the experiences obtained through the use of mind expanding particles introduced to the creative process. It is a conversation that has stayed with me through my life and throughout my creative endeavors. It was a great night, and I am grateful to have had that moment with him; he is an inspired and remarkable artistic visionary.

And there I go again, getting off track.  When it comes to music and the things I’ve seen, I can talk for hours and find myself down the goofiest tangents.

Jimi’s mom died when he was nine, from complications due to her alcohol abuse, and he moved up to Vancouver, BC for a while.  This is where he acquired his first acoustic guitar, from a pawn shop for five dollars.  His dad got it for him because Jimi had been air guitaring on an old broom stick and playing a broken ukulele his dad found while cleaning the garage.

Eventually Al rounded up enough dough to get Jimi his first electric guitar.  In 1958 he got a white Supro Ozark 1560 S, single pickup from Myer’s Music in Seattle, Washington.  He didn’t have an amplifier but Jimi did what he could with what he had and that’s why Jimi Hendrix is the legend he is today; because he felt it and what he felt, he was able to let out his arms and through his fingers, through his guitars and into our ears for the expansion of minds around the musical world.

Jimi took what the godfathers before him did, like Robert Johnson, Son House and Ike Zinnerman and added a new flavor to the mix.  It’s an evolution, and as society in Jimi’s day evolved in technology and industry, so did music in intellectuality.  Thank God Jimi Hendrix was there with his electric guitar to express this new knowledge given us from The Field in the form of music as the floodgates opened and the new energy rolled forward.  The minds who were paying attention and who would not immediately dismiss this new horizon as rebellion and sedition from normalcy opened to the influence of this musical microcosm that had previously existed only in science fiction and in the fantasies of artists.

He had the audacity to play The Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock, and regardless of what most white collar conservatives, flashing down the street, pointing their plastic fingers at Jimi believe, he did it as a tribute to this great nation, not as a desecration of something sacred as our national anthem.  Just because the squares of the day didn’t get it doesn’t mean his art form was nothing short of God’s grace shedding brilliant talent down on a generation of artists to shake up the status quo.  That’s not to say his lifestyle was anything to emulate; maybe something to be learned from, but the authorities of the day tried to dismiss what he was doing as a mockery when it was merely a new form of expression.  And to dismiss the art because of the artist is a shame.  If we were to do that then we might just as well throw out Mozart, Hemmingway and Van Gogh.

Jimi did live fast and died hard.  On September 18, 1970 at the age of twenty seven, Jimi Hendrix died.  It was that night that he had attended a party in London and was picked up by his then girlfriend, Monika Dannemann and driven to her place at the Samarkand Hotel at Notting Hill.  It was no secret that Jimi had an affection for amphetamines and this night he downed nine Vesperax, a German brand sleeping pill whose dosage was one half of a pill.  A few hours after midnight Jimi began to vomit from the overdose but was unconscious from the high dosage and asphyxiated on the red wine that was in his stomach.  Eeeew!

That’s a tragic end to a lifestyle lived.  God bless Jimi Hendrix and may he be forgiven for any trespasses upon the Natural Law.  He was a man of vision and an artist that many followed after.

And after Jimi came many, and there were other masters who deserve mention as Jimi’s peers.  Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, George Harrison, Jimmy Page and in the years beyond the great sixties and early seventies we had mega freaks like Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhodes, the Schenker brothers and Stevie Ray Vaughan and even some disgustingly, technically perfect, so perfect it’s not even enjoyable listening, like Joe Satriani and Steve Vai.  But then, thank the heavens; we were blessed in the late eighties with a new son of pure guitar art form who played only because it’s the only thing he could do.  Not for the glory, not for the fame, not for the money; he played from the heart and he gave it everything.

On June 25, 1988 Hillel Slovak, guitarist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers succumbed to the horrors of heroin addiction and left a gaping hole in the world of music.  One of their fans, John Anthony Frusciante had been playing guitar since age nine when he became infatuated with The Germs and learned to play along with their record, GI.  Shortly after that, one of his instructors turned him on to the Red Hot Chili Peppers and John proceeded to emulate Hillel Slovak’s guitar style.  John went on to master the blues scales at then discovered Frank Zappa.  At the age of sixteen, with the permission of his parents, he dropped out of high school after taking a proficiency test and enrolled at the Guitar Institute of Technology.  At one point Frusciante was set on trying out for Frank Zappa’s band but heard that Frank wasn’t too keen on chemical refreshment so John decided, as he knew he was going to indulge in the hedonism of rock stardom, not to even give it a shot.

Frusciante had become friends of the Chili Peppers as their shows were more intimate in the early days when the fans would go gangbusters slam dancing (before it was called moshing) and rarely experience the show visually.  There was a band in LA at the time called Thelonious Monster who was auditioning guitar players.  Anthony Keidis was friends with Bob Forrester of Thelonious Monster and arranged an audition for John.  After seeing the audition, Anthony offered Frusciante a position in the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

John Frusciante was eighteen years old and they called him Greenie.  He fell in quick with the band and followed in Hillel’s footsteps without missing a beat.  It was almost as though he had channeled Hillel’s spirit he played the Chili Peppers’ material so well.  As Slovak was greatly influenced by Jimi Hendrix, so was John Frusciante, and like Hillel, John approached the guitar from a minimalist angle, which likely came from his punk and new wave roots.  And I say God bless you John for not being another over playing virtuoso and laying it down cleanly and simply and beautifully as you have for the years.

The music that John has created with The Red Hot Chili Peppers has given me insight into things that I knew were going on within my own life, but I was unable to touch upon them in any coherent manner.  But when I listened to Californication in February of 2000 while driving from Vancouver, Washington to Salt Lake City to look for a new career, and move my family back home as the wife requested, I heard Anthony telling me about parallel universes and that was something of a catalyst to my thinking toward my belief that this band has in fact, paralleled my entire life with their songs, the stories they tell within the songs and all the drama and in fighting, with Dave Navarro coming into the band during that time I was adopting my two daughters, Tayslie and Ali and I did  not treat them right.  I didn’t have the tools or the skills to be a tender and nurturing parent.  But as time has passed I have grown in knowledge and wisdom and I pray that those beautiful young women forgive me some day of the faults of a young man who was trying his best to do what he was told by those around him and echoing the environment in which he was raised.

And here we are today, loving Stadium Arcadium, again following the patterns of my life.  Every song on that recording speaks profoundly to me at some level of my life at the time it was recorded, from my relationships with younger women and She’s Only 18 (and it actually tells the story of my relationships with Jayne Pederson exactly as it happened, and with another girl named Raquel; it just blows me away how precise the words are to us) to Warlocks when I spent my time in Portland with the hedge witch, Tami to the soul touching song Hey, the last track on the first disc, Mars of the Stadium Arcadium masterpiece; that song, Hey tells the story of the communication between me and my ex wife to the T.  And the song, Charlie is totally Marlene, my angel and my healer. And not to mention their unreleased b-sides recordings that speak directly to me with profound exactness every time I stumble upon them.

I could go on and write volumes.  This means nothing to many and it’s just silliness to some, but for me it’s profound and this is my life.  All things happen for a reason.  There is no such thing as coincidence.  All things have purpose, if you have faith enough to believe on things greater than yourself.

So, from Robert Johnson to Jimi Hendrix and on down through the cacophony of glammed up rock star virtuoso guitar players we are blessed with the tenderness of John Frusciante who expresses the truth right through his instrument and into my ears to resonate with me and validate my existence.

I love you John.  Thank you for everything you’ve been through, everything you’ve given us and everything that is to come.  John Frusciante is a master beyond recognition.





Stop throwing rocks!

4 02 2011

I’m just a dumb American sitting in my dumb lazy chair clicking through the TV channels and judging the rest of the world’s affairs, raising my blood pressure, working on a heart attack and doing my best to trigger the cancer my genes are supposed to kill me with, stuffing myself with GMO food, helping to evolve my progeny into the destruction of this lovely mother planet of ours. What do I know, right? I’m the problem! I’m the Zionist fool who justifies the rightful owners of this world to rise up in rebellion against our progress and fanciful dreams of comfort and lavish living!

Nonsense I say! And George Soros, you need to shut the hell up. Open society, schmopen schmesiety!

I couldn’t NOT say something here about what’s going on in Egypt after reading Soros’s column in the Washington Post, blaming Israel again for the unrest in the Middle East. That’s like saying the uprising in the inner cities of America in the seventies and eighties was a result of white authoritarian government policy designing and pumping crack cocaine into the fabric to keep them in their place in hopes that some genocidal civll war within that community would rid us of the issue altogether. Yeah, people actually believe that stuff!

Regardless of all the atrocities perpetuated by either side of the Israel/Palestine conflict, the reality here is that Muslim or Islamist ideology, the factions, the movements of ideology against Zionism and toward Muslim rule have got to be put in check. There is no place for it in this world.

Whether you agree with Zionism or think it’s a bunch of kooky mythology or whatever you believe Zionism means, don’t listen to the Muslim Brotherhood, and certainly don’t listen to the Islamist radicals and what they would tell you it means. They have a convoluted perception of EVERYTHING that goes on in this world. It astounds me that anyone would give sympathy to their cause (there is a difference between empathy and sympathy). When people sympathize with them, it feeds them to rise up and destroy what peace is already hanging by a thread. They are nothing more than a powder keg of malcontentious hatemongers looking for a reason to destroy any peaceful progress this world makes. They lack the ability to progress or prosper; to grow, to mend, to heal, to love, to nurture. All they know is destruction, anger, war, hatred and conflict. They want nothing more than to dominate those around them. They want to dominate women, children, any free thinking or creative energy that is produced anywhere; they create reasons to oppose it. And they don’t speak in reason, they speak in rhetoric. Their leaders will not answer questions, they will not address issues, they will only point fingers, spotlight anything they can find to be a seed of conflict and make it their cause.

And the worst part about this is that bleeding hearts around the world, as well intentioned as they are, fall for this rhetoric as easily as a moth flies into the flame of a candle and is burned to a crisp. Why? Because the foundation the bleeding hearts of this world have supported themselves on has always been from the causes of victims. And who are the biggest victims in this world? The people who cry the loudest. They blame everything that is happening around them and take no responsibility for what is happening within them. Because we are all responsible for what we create and it is up to us to take control and make things right if we stand in opposition of our environment.  That’s what living is all about! Fighting battles out of anger and revenge are not solutions. Fighting battles to stop a greater destruction than the one you are creating by getting into battle can be justified. But these malcontents don’t look for solutions, they look to destroy and create havoc around them because they know nothing else. They create their world of what they know, of what they believe, of what they feel. It is their reality and they believe it so strongly and their influence is felt by all bleeding hearts who, while they are well meaning, are founded on false principles.

There are many cliches and parables to describe what I mean. When you have nothing to stand for, you’ll fall for anything. If you don’t have a solid balance of spirit, mind and body then when things get dicey the lowest common denominator is conflict, and that’s where it ends up most times with groups who are on shaky foundation built on disagreement, victimism and rhetoric.

A man who builds his house on a foundation of sand, when the storms and tempests come, he loses his house, and all that he has built up, because the foundation never was solid. The sand is false principles. While well meaning and attractive in appearance, it supports structures while there is no opposition eroding it and it seem to do a fine job supporting everything built on top. But when real issues arise, that foundation cannot support against the eroding waves, stormy weather and earthquakes that concrete, rebar and steel can withstand.

Do I need to continue? This is just peeling back a small corner of the patch that covers the truth of what is happening in this world. You can ‘yeah, but’ all you want. I’m right. If you don’t like it I welcome your retort. That’s what makes America great. We can debate without it eroding into a fight. That’s what progress and education does for a society. Open minds can grow and breathe. Change can happen when people embrace knowledge and understanding instead of standing on false principles that result in discomfort, strife and do nothing more than support you in feeling angry and opposed to something.  But if you do want to debate, please don’t make me repeat myself.  I’ve said a lot in here.  If I have to repeat myself to argue with you then you’re not paying attention.

Stand for what you believe in, nurture it and spread that truth to make the world a better place. If it leads you to argument and conflict with others then you’ve found yourself at a dead end and you need to back up and find out where you got off course.





The Facebook

2 02 2011

Facebook is an entity in and of itself; a subset of the Internet. Before we had microwave ovens we knew how to cook. Now we can’t live without the one minute hot fooding dash out the door. What would we do without Facebook? It’s a convenience, a game. It’s a social club. Close it down and how many businesses would fail, how many people would literally fall into depression and anxiety?

Mark Zuckerberg, you are the MAN! If you’re not Time Magazine’s Man of the Year then Obama doesn’t deserve his Nobel Prize.

Facebook has brought so much of my life full circle, brought people together with its simplicity and its user friendliness, they just keep coming up with better ways of connecting the good stuff and ignoring the nonsense. It’s not like they put blocks on things (sure in some cases) but the way they have things set up it’s just handled well by people motivated by common sense.

Of course there’s always that left field wingnut who craps in the hot tub but they are far and few between with Facebook. You don’t hear too much scandal and I think that speaks volumes for the intention of the creators. Myspace is the anus of the Internet. Any time I checked out a Myspace page I felt like I needed a shot of penecillinFacebook got it right from the start!

Facebook was not created as a money making machine, but it has become one. It was created because it fulfilled a need. Mr. Z saw that need and fed it. Dude’s a genius; and yeah, I watched the movie about him at Harvard and the start up of TheFacebook and all the detail that Hollywood put on it. Who knows how accurate a portrayal the movie was of reality but the story told is a good one, no doubt! I had no idea that the Napster kid had his hands in the Facebook pie! It makes perfect sense though. Things come together for a reason. There is purpose in all things. Even those kids who are out living debaucherous and self destructive lives do good things for the greater good of our society.

Get up!Shawn Parker found his fame at the right time and he did what he did the right way. It shook up the world like Muhammad Ali and he paid the price. But Shawn Parker knew what he was doing. He set out to fulfill his vision and to bring people together. Where’s the harm in that? Sure you bypass the record stores but come on, Lars Ulrich didn’t get his cocaine on a silver platter made into big fat rails by the hand of a Nubian slave every day in the year 1999?

What happened with the music industry needed to happen. I’m glad it did. Artists have found the freedom they have been seeking for so long; the independence, and they are starting to believe that it’s possible to do something that makes a difference with the help of the information superhighway.

So here’s to Facebook for saving the world from the lechery of Myspace and bringing bros and friends together!

(image used without permission)





My religion is showing!

1 02 2011

Alright, every once in a while the virtual soap box upon which I stand on the information superhighway becomes a platform for religious discussion. All my life I’ve been a pretty consistent rule breaker and I’m breaking the politic/religion rule here. I’m not trying to start a war or convert anyone, it’s just that there are some things that are so intimately woven into the fabric of my being that I have to express them, and that’s what this blog is all about.

Everyone knows by now that I’m one of those kooky Mormons. I’ve been growing my hair long to hide my horns and I have sixteen of my wives living secretly in a bunker west of the Great Salt Lake.

And most people know that we Mormons have this extra bit of scripture we call the Book of Mormon. I’ve mentioned it in other blog posts because a lot of what I think about corresponds to its teachings and it has helped shape my philosophy throughout my life. It’s a good book!

But there are some things about its coming forth that are somewhat extraordinary. They don’t prove its authenticity but they are things not to be merely dismissed and taken lightly if one is prone to argue against the truthfulness of the book.

Just to give a very brief synopsis of what the Book of Mormon is: It’s a record of a people who came from Jerusalem during the reign of King Zedekiah around 600 BC. They built a boat and crossed the waters, brought with them records of the ancient prophets, i.e. Jeremiah, Isaiah, Moses, Zenock, Zenos (guess they liked the Z names); some in the Bible and some not but for the most part they had the law of Moses and the writings of the old testament prophets.

This people kept records on plates made of brass and gold and hid them up with prayers to God and a promise from Him to them that the record would come forth in the latter days by simple and small means to bring to pass the work of righteousness for the salvation of their ancestry and the family of men. Joseph Smith, Jr. was the vessel directed by God’s hand to bring this record to light in these, the last days.

Here is a list of many factoids concerning the Book of Mormon and its translator, Joseph Smith, Jr.

  1. He was between 23 and 24 years of age
  2. He had only three years of formal schooling
  3. The book contains 239 chapters; 54 of them about wars, 21 about history, 55 about prophecy, 71 about doctrines, 17 about missionaries, and 21 about the mission of Christ
  4. The book contains the history of two separate nations, along with histories of different contemporary nations and groups of people
  5. It describes in detail the religious, economic, social and political cultures and institutions of these two nations.
  6. The book covers a period over 1000 years of history and was written in approximately 80 days
  7. Since it was finished there have been no major contextual changes, only grammatical corrections
  8. There is a challenge to the reader at the end of the book concerning its authenticity and truth: “And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask of God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, He will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost”
  9. Millions of people have testified that they know the book to be true and correct because they put the challenge to the test
  10. Many great men, intellectual giants and scholars have subscribed discipleship to the record and its movement even to giving their very lives
  11. The descriptions of the cultures in the civilizations spoken of in the book were not known when it was published but have since been discovered to exist exactly as described
  12. There are no contradictions within the book or with the words of the Holy Bible
  13. Many of the facts, ideas, and statements given in the record were in direct opposition with the prevailing beliefs of the world at the time it was published
  14. The translator invited the ablest scholars and experts to examine the text with care. He made great efforts to see that the book got into the hands of all those most eager to prove it a forgery
  15. Thorough investigation, scientific evidence and archaeological discoveries for the next 180 years have verified the claims and proven many of the details in the book
  16. After 180 years of extensive analysis, not one claim or fact in the book has been disproved
  17. The translator, Joseph Smith, Jr., after suffering persecutions and revilement for 20 years after finishing the translation died as a martyr at the hands of evil men for his testimony that it is a true record given to us from God

You can read it online –> here

(some images used without permission)








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