In lieu of a song cartoon, or a trip down musical history, due to a whole ton of things going on, including twists, turns, and unforeseen interruptions, sometimes called LIFE, I decided to share a piece of mine that I'm returning to and am excited to finish. Some of you may remember this as a germ of a sketch here and slightly fleshed there on various social media avenues, but a while ago I decided to develop it into a finished print to sell on my website. It came to a brief halt, but I'm forcing myself to finish it. This is THE GIN SOAKED BAR ROOM QUEEN MEETS THE LONG COOL WOMAN IN A BLACK DRESS. Perhaps the title will change in the future as well... it is a mouthful.
If you haven't figured it out by now, ( maybe you're not a fan of Classic Rock.... maybe ), this is inspired by two classic rock songs, The Rolling Stones immortal Honky Tonk Woman, and The Hollies mega hit, Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress. As any good piece of writing should, the lyrics to these two songs are loaded with vivid imagery. I'm pretty sure Long Cool Woman is one of, if not the first, rock song to really paint a picture in my mind, the first time I heard it. It was the one pivotal moment that you always read about when someone hears something that makes them stop and think "Whoa ! .... WHAT IS THIS ?!!! I remember it pretty vividly... May 1970, lunch break outside, Wappingers Jr. High School, a little black transistor radio... MAGIC.
In my mind, the central character in each of these songs, couldn't be more different from each other.. one, sultry, exotic, mysterious, dangerous, addictive... the other, loose, erotic, fun loving, care free. Both songs are set in a bar, and I thought.. what if it was the same bar ? What if these characters had a chance to interact... what if The Stones and The Hollies were singing about the same night in the same bar ? ...Cartoon Fun Time, that's what.
The songs are loaded with so much imagery, I couldn't resist throwing in some Easter eggs. When the print is finally finished, and up for sale... the million plus buyers from around the world will have to hunt for and discover them for themselves...let the urban legends begin, but because I love you guys AND you subscribe to my blog / newsletter.. I'll clue you in to as many as I remember and then they can be our little secret.
1) Check out the sign in the top center of the design... just before the staircase. This references both songs... "I met a gin soaked barroom queen in MEMPHIS. She tried to take me UPSTAIRS for a RIDE" - Honky Tonk Woman // "SATURDAY NIGHT I was down town...." - Long Cool Woman. If you're a real rock aficionado, you also caught the semi nod to super group, The Rides of Stephen Stills, Kenny Wayne Shepard fame.
2) The Bartender's thought balloon... "When Charlie said "I hope that you're able Boy" - Long Cool Woman
3) If you can, take a look at the label on the table to the right of Long Cool Woman. It's called BadMan Nest Whiskey. - "Sitting in a nest of bad men, Whiskey bottles piling high" - Long Cool Woman
4) This one may be tricky... see the character sitting at the table, eyeballing' the Long Cool Woman ? "Saw her heading to the table, Well a tall walking big black cat"... yeah, I took some liberties.
5) Some more liberties taken, and some paraphrasing as well... the big black cat's thought balloon... "She blew my nose and then she blew my mind" - Honky Tonk Woman
So... since this work is a work in progress, or us as AR-TEESTS like to say a WIP, give it to me straight... what do you like, what do you NOT like ? I'm thinking of ditching the blue wall behind the bartender... too ritzy for the "vibe" I'm trying to create here. I think the back wall needs to show more wear and tear.... bullet holes, torn sheet rock... maybe get rid of the door altogether and move the OPEN sign to a window behind the bartender... just thinking out loud. Please feel free to do the same.. make some noise and let me know what you think.
We've lost another one. I came home from an extended weekend away, to hear of the passing of Steely Dan guitarist Walter Becker. To be honest, I was never the biggest of Steely Dan fans, I enjoyed their music when I heard it. As a serious fan of music, I made sure I had at least one of their greatest hits collections in my music library and that was good enough for me.
That said, I was saddened to hear of his passing. He was one of rock and roll's guitarists with a signature sound. When you hear a Steely Dan song on the radio, you don't mistake it for another band's song, and a lot of that is because of the craftsmanship of Walter Becker. He brought a jazz influenced touch to the band's songs. While Becker won't be mistaken for Wes Montgomery, Pat Metheny or George Benson, he gave Steely Dan a distinctive enough sound at their peak and record buyers took notice.
So as the Labor Day 2017 weekend becomes history, and we rapidly march into Autumn, it seems only fitting to end a "tribute" to Walter Becker with lyrics from one of his bands many radio classics... "...Your everlasting summer, You can see it fading fast. So you grab a piece of something that you think is gonna last..." Rest in peace Walter Becker.
Credited by some as the start of the Glam Rock movement in the early 70's, Bang A Gong (Get it On) was recorded in 1971 for the T.Rex album, Electric Warrior. The Glam Rock, or Glitter Rock movement by itself, is a blog post for another day, but with his flamboyant stage presence, including make up, platform shoes, an feather boas, T.Rex's Marc Bolan opened the rock and roll doorways for long list of mid 70's rock stars, including Mott The Hoople, Sweet, Slade, The New York Dolls, and perhaps even the Ziggy Stardust period of David Bowie's career.
Bang A Gong is another simple ode to teenage lust. What makes Bang A Gong stand so far out from the rest is it's catchy hooks and unforgettable riffs. Littering the song with car imagery acting as sexual innuendo, Bolan borrows heavily from the lyrical style of Bob Dylan. Creative word play like "You've got the teeth of Hydra upon you ", and the famous "You've got a Hub Cap Diamond Star Halo" Bolan draws the listener in, and keeps them guessing as to what he could possibly be referring to, if anything at all.
Unfortunately for Bolan, his career and life was as brief as the Glam Rock movement itself. He was killed in a car accident, in 1977, 8 years after his most famous song was released, and just two weeks before his 30th birthday.
Something new with free learning curve included. I created this from start to finish in ProCreate. It's a pretty cool program with a wide array of tools. An iPad only app (to the best of my knowledge), ProCreate has greatly expanded my ability to design on the go. I'm not sure if it's something I'd do a finished design on, not yet anyway, but it's a great way for me to flesh out ideas.
I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge my good and old friend Jay Griffin out in Connecticut for suggesting Bang A Gong as a blog entry... so here you go Jay... you own specially designed hubcap diamond star halo.
Wear it well.
Till next time, feed your head with cool tunes and even cooler art.
Happy Friday everyone, and Welcome to another edition of This Week in Music. Before I get started, I did a little experiementing with the week's design. I may or not have mentioned that I upgraded my iPad mini to a regular size iPad, which came with a bit more memory, which in turn allowed me to start using a real cool drawing app called ProCreate. I won't bore you with all the reasons why I'm so jacked about being able to finally use and learn this app alot more, but I'm a tech, art, cartoon geek, so I guess that's all you really need to know. Consider this an experiment, and excuse the awkwardly large signature.
With that said, here's this weeks dose of historical musical events for the week of July 30th through August 5th... as always, historical information is graciously supplied by the good people at www.thisdayinmusic.com
7/30 1966 The Troggs hit Number One with Wild Thing. A song covered by Jimi Hendrix, and featured prominently in the hit movie Major League, some 22 years later.
7/30 1936 Happy Birthday to Blues legend and one of, if not the last, blues giant still standing, Buddy Guy.
and on a much sadder note...
7/30 2003 Rock and Roll pioneer, the man responsible for introducing Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins to the world, as well as founding Sun Records, Sam Phillips passes away.
7/31 1971 James Taylor hits Number One with Carol King's song "You've Got a Friend", and the very next day...
8/1 1971 George Harrison stages his Concert for Bangla Desh at Madison Square Garden. Performers include Bob Dylan, Ringo and Eric Clapton.
8/2 1962 Robert Allen Zimmerman legally becomes Bob Dylan.
8/3 1971 Paul McCartney announces the formation of his new band, Wings
8/3 1974 Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band opens up for Anne Murray, 1 year before the release of Born To Run
8/4 1901 Happy Birthday to Jazz music icon Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong
8/5 1957 "American" Bandstand airs on TV for the first time.
Next week the blog will feature a new classic rock song / cartoon interpretation, T.Rex's Bang A Gong (Get It On), suggested my good friend Jay Griffin, so do your homework and let me know what I get right, and what I get wrong. Until then, and as always, thanks for being here. I appreciate you taking a brief few minutes out of your schedule to check this out.
Please feel free to leave a comment, and share with your friends.
Hi and welcome to another This Week in Music on the MartyToons Newsletter. It's a mixed bag this week, spanning a wide musical spectrum, from The Chairman of the Board to a Queen of the Blues, and all the way back to one of the longest living rock and roll bands, so let's get started.
July 23, 1966 saw Frank Sinatra's classic "Strangers in the Night" hit number one.
and what a difference three years make...
July 23, 1969, The Rolling Stones hit number one with Honky Tonk Woman.
July 25, 1969, Neil Young joins Crosby, Stills and Nash for the first time.
July 25, 1980, AC DC releases BACK IN BLACK, five months after the death of lead singer Bon Scott, and the first featuring Brian Johnston as new lead singe, a position he holds for the next 36 years.
July 25 1984, legendary blues vocalist Big Mama Thornton passes away.
July 26 1943 Happy Birthday to Mick Jagger
July 27 2001, original and long time bassist for Lynyrd Skynyrd, Leon Wilkinson is found dead in a Florida hotel room.
July 28, 1973, the Watkins Glenn Outdoor Summer Jam takes place in New York. The concert features The Grateful Dead, The Allman Brothers, and The Band. Tickets sold for $10.00 each.
July 29, 1965, the Beatles second film, HELP premieres in London
July 29, 1968, Bob Dylan suffers his famous and even sometimes debated, motorcycle accident in upstate New York, leading into a lengthy period of convalescence, including an 8 year absence from touring.(https://www.thoughtco.com/bob-dylans-motorcycle-accident-1322021)
July 29 1974, former vocalist for The Mamas and Papas, Cass Elliott dies of a heart attack while sleeping in a London flat owned by singer/songwriter Harry Nilsson. Four years later, The Who's drummer Keith Moon died in the same room, also aged 32 years. ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cass_Elliot}
That's it for this week. Thanks for taking the time to read.
Lady Day, Pepperland, and one of rock's most celebrated drum solos are all represented this Week in Music, July 16 - July 22... let's begin.
July 16 1966, Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton form rock's first celebrated power trio, Cream.
July 16, 1981, iconic Folk rocker, and champion of feeding the hungry, Harry Chapin dies at the age of 38 due to cardiac arrest while driving on the Long Island Expressway. It remains unclear if the cardiac arrest caused Chapin to swerve his car into the path of a tractor trailer, or whether the collision caused the cardiac arrest.
July 17, 1959, Jazz vocalist legend, Billie Holiday dies with just $0.70 in her bank account.
July 17, 1968 The Beatles animated classic Yellow Submarine premieres in London.
July 20, 1940 Billboard's first comprehensive album chart is published, combining the best seller lists from all major record labels. Previously these were all published separately.
July 20, 1968 Iron Butterfly's "In A Gadda Da Vida" enters the U.S. charts for the first time.
July 20, 1973 Jim Croce's "Bad Bad Leroy Brown hits Number 1 on the the U.S. singles chars. Croce dies 3 months later in a plane crash.
July 22, 1947 Happy Birthday to Eagles drummer and solo artist Don Henley.
Information provided by www.thisdayinmusic.com
Welcome to the second installment of This Week in Music, July 8th through July 15th. Historical information provided by the good people at http://thisdayinmusic.com
July 8 1958 the first Gold Record for an album for reaching one million dollars in sales is awarded by the Recording Industry Association of America to the soundtrack LP, 'Oklahoma'
July 8, a mere 9 years later, (1967) The Monkees start their World Tour, featuring The Jimi Hendrix Experience as the opening act. The Monkees move on without the Experience 6 dates later.
July 8, 1973, Led Zeppelin releases their fifth studio album, Houses of The Holy.
July 9 1962, Bob Dylan records "Blowin' In The Wind"
July 9 1995, Jerry Garcia plays his last Grateful Dead concert, dying of a Heart Attack one month later.
July 10, 1987, the man responsible for discovering and signing Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Bruce Springsteen and Stevie Ray Vaughn to Columbia Records, John Hammond, dies.
July 10 1939, on a much lighter and happier note, Happy Birthday to Soul Pop legend, Mavis Staples.
July 12 1954, unknown, Nineteen year old Elvis Presley signs with Sun Records.
July 14, 1967, The Who start their first North American Tour... wait for it... as opening act for Herman's Hermits.
July 15 1946, Happy Birthday to West Coast Rock legend Linda Rondstadt.
Welcome to a new feature for the MartyToons Newsletter. In an effort to make my posts more frequent, and true to my mission of combining music with cartoons, I stumbled on the idea of celebrating historical music events with a simple cartoon sketch... emphasis on sketch. So that said, I give you This Week in Music, July 1st through July 7th. Historical information courtesy of the good people at http://thisdayinmusic.com/search_result
July 1 1967, The Beatles begin a 15 week run at Number One with Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, their 10th number one album in the US.
July 1 1995, gravelly voiced, Rock and Radio personality, Wolfman Jack dies of a heart attack.
July 2nd 1956, Elvis Presley records Hound Dog at RCA Studios in New York
July 2nd 1979, SONY introduces the Walkman, the first portable cassette player
July 3rd 1969, recently "former" Rolling Stone, Brian Jones is found dead at the bottom of his swimming pool.
July 3rd, 1971 two years to the day Brian Jones dies, Doors frontman Jim Morrison dies in Paris France of a heart attack.
July 5 - Happy Birthday to The Band member, Robbie Robertson 1943, and San Francisco Popmeister Huey Lewis 1950
July 6 - The Beatles A Hard Day's Night premieres in London.
July 6 - Happy Birthday to Bill Haley of Bill Haley and the Comets 1925
July 7 1980 - John Bonham plays his last Led Zeppelin concert in Eissporthalle, West Berlin
Recorded almost 41 years ago to the day, (4th of July 1976), Tom Petty's "American Girl" was one of three singles off of Tom Petty and The Heartbreaker's first album, the other two being "Breakdown" and "I Need To Know." While it never charted during it's initial release, it has become a rock staple on FM stations in the time since.
Tom Petty's sound over the past few decades is usually likened to Bob Dylan's, but his early records bore a sound more similar to Roger McGuinn and the Byrds. Not only is this evident in the guitar work of American Girl, but you can also hear the band using a Bo Diddley beat as it's base. ("When Petty and the Heartbreakers recorded “American Girl,” Petty told his bandmates to go for a “Bo Diddley” sound, recalled Stan Lynch, the Heartbreakers drummer at the time." - http://www.gainesville.com/news/20080602/rock-pioneer-bo-diddley-dies)
American Girl holds a place in Rock and Roll Urban myth lore, as being about the suicide of a female co-ed who lept to her death from her dorm room balcony at the University of Florida. Local geography and similar song lyrics may have led creedence to that, but the myth has been quickly discounted by both Tom Petty, and the school on numerous occasions. "Urban legend. It's become a huge urban myth down in Florida. That's just not at all true. The song has nothing to do with that. But that story really gets around... They've really got the whole story. I've even seen magazine articles about that story. 'Is it true or isn't it true?' They could have just called me and found out it wasn't true." - Tom Petty. - (Zollo, Paul. Conversations with Tom Petty (2005) p.195-196) & https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Girl_(Tom_Petty_song)
Switching gears, this was created entirely in Adobe Illustrator. I purposefully took a more thoughtful approach to the color palette then I usually do. I tried to use colors that by definition were more complimentary to each other instead what I instinctively felt would look good. The halftones were a set of vectors I purchased from Go Media (http://arsenal.gomedia.us/shop/vectors/abstract-halftones-vector-pack/). The font I used for the text is called Glamour Brush Regular, which can be found here (https://creativemarket.com/Cultivatedmind)
I hope you enjoyed this month's design and little history lesson. I'm always looking for new classic songs with descriptive lyrics to interpret in my style. I've gotten a few suggestions, such as T.Rex's Bang A Gong, and Dr. Hook songs in general... (Cover of the Rolling Stone would be real fun), but please keep them coming. Tell me what you'd like to see.
Thanks for being here. Until next time, "Take it easy baby, make it last all night".
THE SONG: Recorded in 1973, for The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle, Bruce Springsteen's second album, ROSALITA was never released as a single - and has no official chart rank. It's an iconic song that relates the classic story of a young man's pleading with his girlfriend to abandon the "security" of home and join him in his escape and search of freedom. The main difference between Rosalita and the hundreds of other "come with me" rock songs, is Springsteen's incredible talent for writing very visual, moving lyrics.. "You pick up little dynamite, I'll pick up little gun, And together we're gonna go out tonight and make that highway run", "We're gonna play some pool, skip some school, Act real cool, stay out all night, it's gonna feel alright", and the classic "Windows are for cheaters, chimneys for the poor. Oh, closets are for hangers, winners use the door. So use it, Rosie, that's what it's there for". That's just lyrical magic. The song is also one of the earliest examples to highlight the incredible large sound the E Street Band would soon become famous for, in particular the legendary, late Clarence Clemons.
On its release Ken Emerson of Rolling Stone dubbed it "a raucous celebration of desire."  Robert Christgau described it as "more lyrical and ironic than you could have dreamed."  George P Pelecanos of Uncut magazine has called it "One of the great rock'n roll performances, and as close to a perfect song as anyone's ever recorded," while Chris T-T in the same publication declared "Never mind The Beatles or The Rolling Stones, this is the best rock'n roll track of all time."The song is one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosalita_(Come_Out_Tonight)
While Springsteen has called the song, "A kiss-off to everybody who counted you out, put you down, or decided you weren't good enough."- http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=974
While I played with halftones a bit with the last edition, they're a little bit more prominent this time. I think the colors I chose, also allow the halftones to show up a bit more. I've always loved the look of well placed halftones. I think they give my designs a vintage and unique cartoon look. I also played down the heavy watercolor look this time. I enjoyed playing with that, but I need to study that look a bit more, and I don't want to get tired of it either. Both the watercolor brushes and halftone brushes I used in this piece are by a brilliant digital artist named Kyle T. Webster. If you enjoy creating digital art, or just enjoy looking, I highly recommend his website... http://www.kyletwebster.com
That's it for now kids. I hope you enjoyed it, and please feel free to leave a comment. And if you're feeling real generous, please share this with all you cartoon / music junkie friends. Thanks for being here.
"I don't know what it is that I like about you, but I like it a lot.", goes part of the opening lyrics to Led Zeppelin's Communication Breakdown. A lyric on the tongues of boys and men throughout the ages.
I'll readily admit, I'm not the biggest Led Zeppelin fan, but a handful of their songs, Black Dog, Rock and Roll, and of course, Communication Breakdown really cook... I mean "roll down the car window and crank it" cook. (Sorry Stairway to Heaven, but radio killed you in my heart and mind).
Released in 1969 (we're talking 47 plus freakin' years ago people), on their debut album, Communication Breakdown is pretty basic lyric wise... a tribute to un-verbalized love. Unfortunately, in our singer's case, this seems to be the norm, per the lyrics "...It's always the same I'm having a nervous breakdown..."
Various sources on the web (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communication_Breakdown & http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=301) attribute Eddie Cochran's "Nervous Breakdown" as an influence. I never thought of that before, but after repeated listens of each song, it makes sense. Someone had to be a guitar idol for Jimmy Page, right ? Another interesting side note is that this is one of the few Zeppelin songs in which Jimmy Page is credited with a backing vocal.
And yes, I know the quote in the design is from Zeppelin's other song "Houses of the Holy"... but it fit what I was trying to convey.... it could have been worse, I could have used a quote from a Justin Bieber song.
I'm continuing my reborn love affair with Photoshop, and exploring water color brushes. Hopefully it's not too small to see, but I did use some "halftone" brushes from my recent purchase from Kyle Webster (https://gumroad.com/kyletwebster). Please note... that is not a "paid for" sales pitch. I just like to share good resources with my fellow artists. While I admire the numerous water color inspired designs I find by other artists, I'm trying to develop my own style and look as well. I don't know if this is how other artists work, but I started applying different brush effects on separate layers, playing with the brush settings, etc. One thing I did here that I really like for now, is applying a "splatter" brush on top of the water color brush (again on a separate layer).
That's it for this installment, share your thoughts and let me know what you think. Thanks for being here, I truly appreciate it.
Released in 1978, on The Kink's album Misfits, "A Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy" is the culmination of several events happening at the time, both inside and outside The Kink's universe. Two of the band members, bassist Andy Pyle and pianist John Gosling quit the band during the recording of Misfits. Drummer Mick Avory was also considering leaving. This most likely contributed to the lyric "...you say you want out, want to start anew, throw in your hand, break up the band, start a new life, be a new man"
The second event that effected the writing was the death of Elvis Presely in 1977, just prior to "A Rock n Roll Fantasy" 's release. "You say we've got nothing left to prove. The King is dead, rock is done..."
The song peaked at #30 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S.m the band's best charting American single since 1970's "Lola." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Rock_'n'_Roll_Fantasy
I'm continuing my exploration and learning curve of Photoshop with this series. The addition of a new, faster, Mac with a lot more storage, makes this much easier, as well as enjoyable. I had avoided working in Photoshop for a long time due to my older Mac's limitations working with newer versions of software (it was 9 years old.... ancient in Mac graphics terms). I'm also still fascinated by a lot of water color simulated artwork I'm seeing on the web, and trying to adapt that look into my work. I'm striving for a more mature look, and I think I'm getting there. Two tool sets that I'm currently enjoying working with that help with that process are sets of Photoshop brushes.. https://www.kylebrush.com which I cannot recommend highly enough. The owner, Kyle Webster is a class act, and his products are incredibly affordable in addition to being addictive and useful . The other is Grutbrushes.com . Another fun and very versatile set of brushes.
With that said, I hope you enjoy this installment of the MartyToons newsletter. If so, do me a favor, if you'd be so kind... know a music junkie who'd appreciate this ? Turn them onto it... I'd really appreciate it. AND.... if you have a favorite song with some really great lyrics that you'd like to see me tackle... pass 'em my way for some consideration for future installments. Until then...as Ray suggests, if you ever feel the world is closing in, turn your stereo way up high. - till next time, keep on rockin' - Marty
Okay, to call I Can See Clearly Now a classic rock is a bit of a stretch, I'll admit, but it is a classic Pop
Rock song. Since this is the start of a new year, the song's message of hope and perseverance, makes it an appropriate selection for the first edition of 2017.
Released in 1972, Johnny Nash's I Can See Clearly Now reached number one on the billboard charts and stayed there for four weeks. The lyrics relate the singer's elation after overcoming "obstacles" that have hindered his path to happiness. It's never stated, but I like to imagine that, like a lot of us, the singer was seeking his purpose in life, some answers to why he's here and what he's supposed to be doing. The song isn't about the journey itself, it's about seeing the answer(s) on the not to distant horizon, within grasp.
The song is also credited by some as giving the US population it's first general exposure to reggae music. (http://www.allmusic.com/song/i-can-see-clearly-now-mt0034212200). I never noticed before researching this, but the song does have more than a touch of reggae influence. Numerous references on the internet report Johnny Nash spending an extensive period of time prior to recording I Can See Clearly Now, in Jamaica, where he recorded and wrote songs with a still yet to be famous Bob Marley. He had originally travelled to Jamaica to work in the movie, Take A Giant Step with Burt Lancaster.
Perhaps almost as famous, is the Jimmy Cliff cover version, released 1993 for the John Candy movie, Cool Running, about the Jamaican Olympic bobsled team. Others who covered the song include, Anne Murray, Bobby Goldsboro, Dobie Gray of Drift Away fame (who for some reason, I often confuse with Johnny Nash), Ray Charles, and Richie Havens. Various versions of the song also appear in such films as Grosse Pointe Blank, The Break-up, Thelma & Louise, Antz, and Deep Blue Sea.
So as this first month of the new year starts to disappear, I hope the answers you may be seeking are within your horizon. If they're not, I hope you're on the path to finding them soon. Until next time, I leave you with a link to Johnny Nash singing his hit song. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSsqWHtg7Ig
Smooth sailing, and keep on rocking' - Marty
"Snoopy's Christmas" is one of my favorite guilty pleasures (a close second to the Monkees, but that's a post for another day). The first time I remember hearing it was way back in the mid 60's when I was in elementary school... somewhere between first and fourth grade. It's message of peace is shared by so many other Christmas songs, but it's jangly Rickenbacker-ish (for all you guitar nerds out there) 60's garage rock vibe is what makes it so enjoyable.
Performed by The Royal Guardsmen in 1967, a six-piece from Ocala,Florida, and signed to Laurie Records. Almost 50 years later, "Snoopy's Christmas" enjoys oldies Christmas Rock status. A followup to the Royal Guardsmen's earlier "Snoopy vs. the Red Baron", the song is about how Snoopy had fought the Red Baron in an ariel battle on Christmas Eve during World War 1, and is forced to land behind enemy lines. Instead of disposing of our hero, the Red Baron offers Snoopy a holiday toast instead, and salutes Snoopy with a "Merry Christmas my friend !"
The song is based on a legitimate historical event. In 1914, "The Christmas Truce" was initiated by German soldiers as a good will gesture to the English troops that they were fighting with in opposing trenches. the truce varied in length in close by different locations, some as brief as Christmas Day and some as long as the week between Christmas and New Year's Day. Small accessable gifts were exchanged across the lines, between the opposing sides. " - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snoopy's_Christmas & http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=4085
I'm digging into my archive of designs for this edition. The rapidly approaching Christmas season is having me scramble on many fronts, as I'm sure it is for all of you, so I'll keep this edition brief. I'm posting one of my personal favorite original designs, which was actually inspired by a classic rock song. This particular holiday season, the song's essential message seems especially appropriate as well. I hope you enjoy...
Recorded in 1971 for his Teaser and the Firecat album, Peace Train would become one of Cat Steven's ( aka Yusuf Islam), most popular songs. One of numerous "protest" songs during that era, Peace Train offers a vision of hope and promise, for a time of war and uncertainty. It's only call to action is to believe in, and pursue peace. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be an end of times when that vision isn't needed. Despite whatever side of the fence your beliefs and situation find you, perhaps you can find hope in the song's lyrics "For out on the edge of darkness, There runs the peace train"
Peace Train would reach #7 on the Billboard charts during the week of October 9, 1971, becoming Stevens' first US Top 10 hit. -https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peace_Train
THE DESIGN: This was done completely in Adobe Illustrator over a period of several months. I can't remember the exact details, but I think it started just as a random sketch, and it grew over time, working on it here and there as I had time. The train imagery came first... I think at the time I was focusing on creating art that would be appropriate for really young children. The design has a very obvious Peter Max influence, which is on purpose. I love Peter Max's style and I just let that happen. Oddly, I added the Peace symbol to the train while in Peter Max mode, and the Peace Train connection just hit me. It was a Homer Simpson moment.... DOH !
As always, I hope you like it, and if you know any fans of good music and fun art inspired by said good music, please share this with them. I'm going to try and squeeze one more edition out before Christmas, a special Christmas edition, featuring one of my all time favorite "rock" Christmas songs... it's vintage, it's classic (in my eyes), and I'll bet you'll never guess what it is, but I guarantee it'll bring a smile to your face.
In closing, let me leave you with a video of the man himself performing Peace Train at his induction into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, in 2014 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HExjPn547Z0
Recorded & released in December, 1966 by Buffalo Springfield, Stephen Still's iconic song is largely misinterpreted. Assumed by many to be a protest song fueled by the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movement of the 1960's, the song's origin is from a much smaller and local uprising.
Stills wrote the song in response to imposed curfews on the Sunset Strip. The numerous "night/music" clubs on the strip, including the famous Whiskey a Go Go, (where Buffalo Springfield had become the house band) had been attracting large amounts of the local youth, and the local businesses and residents had started to become increasingly annoyed. The actual closing of one of the clubs, Pandora's Box, resulted in a staged "funeral" for the club, and close to 1,000 demonstrators took part. The "event" eventually turned into a small scale riot, resulting in clashes with law enforcement, and the arrest of numerous protestors. - http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=3035
Some other quick facts about the song:
"For What It's Worth" would eventually be covered by such diverse acts as, Cher, The Staples Singers (I'd love to hear that version), Ann Wilson of Heart, Ozzy Osbourne, and drumroll please.. Sergio Mendez & Brazil '66 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/For_What_It's_Worth_(Buffalo_Springfield_song)
It's very easy and tempting to draw parallels between the assumed origin of "For What's It's Worth", and our current political / social climate, but I'll resist, and leave that to you if you so desire.
Recorded by the legendary Howlin' Wolf ( aka Chester Burnett) in 1956 on Chess Records, "Smokestack Lightning" is an early rock/blues classic. Howlin' Wolf said his inspiration to write the song came from watching trains in the night: "We used to sit out in the country and see the trains go by, watch the sparks come out of the smokestack. That was smokestack lightning."
The musicians joining Howlin' Wolf on Smokestack Lightning, included guitarists Willie Johnson, Hubert Sumlin, bassist Willie Dixon, and drummer Earl Phillips. While perhaps "unknown" at time of the recording, the revered status of these musicians, in todays musical circles, would certainly grant this lineup the status of Super Group.
Sparse on meaningful lyrics, Smokestack Lightning is more recognized for it's animalistic, primal tone and flavor. Whether it is mournful, passionate, aggressive or predatory is for each listener to decide. The song, along with several other blues standards, would become a performance staple in the early careers of English Blues bands, and would end up in the catalogs of a who's who of rock-n-roll, including The Animals, The Yardbirds, George Thorogood, and Aerosmith.
Smokestack Lightning's status as an iconic and influentional song is cemented by it's inclusion in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame list of the "500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll" and in 2009, it was selected for permanent preservation in the National Recording Registry of the U.S.Library of Congress. - courtesy of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smokestack_Lightning
I'm continuing to flex and discover my Photoshop muscles. I'm still infatuated by the "watercolor" effect I see alot of my fellow artists use online. There's an excitement in "playing" and experimenting with Photoshop's various tools and settings, that I'm not familiar with. For now, it's fun for me to have a general direction I want to take a design, and try to find the tools that will help me get there. It's even more fun when I tool I'm using, helps me find a new direction that I enjoy even more.
The original sketch for this was created on my iPad using ArtRage. Once I had a good sense for what I wanted, I imported that into Adobe Illustrator, where I created just the black line art. That in turn, was imported into Photoshop, where all the color work was done.
I hope you like. Please feel free to comment, and if you have a music, art fan in your life, that you feel may enjoy this, please share.... even better, ask them to subscribe to the newsletter... who know, it'll give you something to talk about after you both get a chance to look it over.
Thanks again for stopping by. I really appreciate it.
Recorded and released in 1956, "Who Do You Love ?" is an iconic Rock-n-Roll standard, written by Ellas McDaniel, more commonly known as Bo Diddley. Regarded as one of Bo Diddley's strongest lyrical efforts, "Who Do You Love ?" uses numerous voodoo related images. It is believed the title itself is actually a play on words, referring to HooDoo, an African American religion, which has origins in West Africa, similar to Voodoo. Released on Checker Records, a subsidiary of Chess Records, "Who Do You Love failed to reach the record charts, until it was re-released on Bo Diddley's first compilation of hits in 1958, according to Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Who_Do_You_Love%3F_(Bo_Diddley_song)
According to Songfacts.com, http://forum.songfacts.com/index.php?/topic/10582-meaning-of-lyrics-who-do-you-love/ , some of the obscure yet fascinatingly descriptive lyrics can be translated this way... " for the 47 miles of barbed wire. It means he's been in jail a long time, walking outside in a courtyard surrounded by barbed wire for half an hour per day, at the most." "An 'ice wagon' was also slang for a hearse, or the ambulance that picked up a dead body."
Considered a classic among many rock artists, "Who Do You Love ?", would be recorded by numerous iconic rock stars, including, Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks (aka The Band), Quicksilver Messenger Service, and George Thorogood and the Destroyers.
One final footnote, and also according to wikipedia, Rolling Stone magazine ranked "Who Do You Love" at number 133 on it's list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time". In 2010, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences acknowledged it with a Grammy Hall of Fame Award, which "honor[s] recordings of lasting qualitative or historical significance."
This started as a sketch on my ipad, using my go to app, ArtRage. I laid down the colors I felt I wanted to go with, and when I was semi satisfied with it, I imported it to my iMac, recreated the line art in Adobe Illustrator, imported that into Photoshop as a smart object and used it for my line art layer.
I used some water color brushes to lay down the type of background I wanted, and also to search and find the water color brushes that I would use for the rest of the painting. As I worked on it, I found various objects in the line art that I wanted to change, or that I felt needed re-working, particularly the Cobra head. In the original sketch it didn't look enough like a cobra. At first it didn't bother me, but the more I looked at it, the more I felt it needed to be fixed. Once you start thinking like that, you need to listen to the voices in your head.
I also decided early on, not to paint the background with any amount of detail. I wanted the character to be the focal point of the design. I felt keeping in just shades of one color would be a good way to do that. What do you guys think ?
As always, I look forward to your comments. If you think you know someone that may enjoy this, please share...http://www.martytoons.com/newsletter
Thanks... talk to ya next time.
I found very little information on line regarding the history of Chuck Berry's song, Hail Hail Rock n-Roll. Google will provide numerous links to the Chuck Berry documentary with the same title (a very interesting film by Talyor Hackford, featuring a much younger Keith Richards, check it out if you get the chance). But I can only assume the song is one of the 26 singles Chuck Berry released between 1955 and 1962, on Chess Records, according to Gibson.com http://www.gibson.com/News-Lifestyle/Features/en-us/hail-hail-chuck-berry-invents-rock-0726-2012.aspx . An educated guess is that due to the fact that songwriting back then may not have been as introspective as it would become in the next few years, a history per se, just doesn't exist. Maybe Chuck just needed a song and he slapped this together, like many others of that era. That's not to say it isn't a good song, many great songs have been written quickly. Chuck Berry's library of hit songs is iconic at the very least. With that said, Hail Hail Rock n Roll simply seems to be about one teen's dreary day at school, simply watching the clock until he (or she) can hit street and head "right to the juke joint" and dance that days's blues away. That's good enough for me... it is rock and roll after all.
I have to be honest, the more I look at last week's post, the more I'm dissatisfied with it. It looks rushed, and very unpolished. I wanted to avoid that this week, so I decided to dust off Photoshop and see what I could do. It's been awhile since I did anything intensive in Photoshop, so I really just explored alot as I was working. I've been looking for a more a layered, textured look for some of my designs, and I believe I came close to what I was looking for here.
The first thing I did, was rough out the initial design in my sketchbook, and lay down some colored pencils, for what would become my guide when I brought it into my Mac. Those of you who follow me on Instagram (@martytoons) may have seen this as one of my recent posts.
The next thing I did was create the black line art in Illustrator, using the pencil sketch as a template. I imported the .ai file into Photoshop, and then used a ton of layers to color, shade, and add detail. For almost the entire coloring process, I experimented with various water color brushes until I got the effect I was looking for.
As always, I hope you like this. Please feel free to leave a comment below. I look forward to hearing from you. Until next week, keep Chuck's wise words in mind...
"Long live rock and roll
The beat of the drums, loud and bold
Rock, rock, rock and roll
The feeling is there, body and soul" - Marty
Released in October of 1976, Bob Seger's Main Street is one of my favorite Seger songs to this day. The album Night Moves, from which it comes, began Seger's transition from gutsy blues / soul influenced inner city rocker to his more popular rock-n-roll top 40 hit machine style that would last for another ten plus years.
While the song title is Main Street, the locale of the track itself, is actually a street off of Main Street in downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan, Ann Street, according to various sources, (http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=1232 & http://www.songplaces.com/Mainstreet/Ann_Street_Ann_Arbor_Michigan/). The change came, I'm sure, for song flow and listeners being able to relate better to a "Main Street".
The lyrics and haunting music paint a very realistic picture of a grown man looking back at his past, whether it's reminiscing about a lost romance, first love, or a simple reflection on a more innocent time in his life. Whether he is doing so fondly, or forlornly is not answered. The slow rolling piano intro, stays steady throughout, setting the tone for our narrator's hazy dream like look back on his long past romantic interest with the "long lovely dancer in a little club downtown". He's an outsider looking in. Whether that's because he's too young, or because he lacks confidence to fully enter into the smokey world of the hustlers and the losers that he watches through the glass, is left unanswered as well. A simple Google can answer that, but that would wipe away from some of the "feel" of the song.
I jumped back to digital art for this one for a few reasons....
1) Time constraints... I started the sketch for this in the ArtRage app on my ipad, while I was away from my studio, and while I was at home but in a different room doing other things. The best reason for artists to own an iPad in my opinion. (Apple, you can send my endorsement check to.....)
2) I wanted to NOT get rusty with the ArtRage program as well... like any software, the longer you don't use it, the more you forget how to use it. Graphics software especially, is filled with so many tools and settings, that it's easy to forget where and what they are if you don't use them frequent enough.
3) Bit map based art programs like ArtRage, (and Photoshop ) allow me to add a texture quality to my designs that aren't as easy to add in vector programs such as Illustrator.
4) and for all you fontaholics out there, in case you're wondering, the font I used to set Mr. Seger's lyrics into the design, is Artful Beauty, which you can find here... https://creativemarket.com/PhotographyLogos/403350-Artful-Beauty-brush-font
That's it for this week kids. I hope you enjoyed it. As always, feel free to leave a comment below, let me know what you think.
Thanks for taking a minute to stop by. - Marty
The Martytoon Newsletter
The Thoughts, Designs & Process of Marty Qatani aka MartyToons.
Hi and welcome to the first blog post / newsletter of the all new revamped MartyToons website. Where to start ? I suppose a quick intro is in order for those of you who may be unfamiliar with me and what I do. I'm a cartoonist / character designer/ humorous illustrator. That sounds like a lengthy title, but none of those by themselves seems appropriate enough by themselves to describe what I do.
If I call myself a cartoonist, people tend to think I create a comic strip.... not true. If I call myself just a character designer, it seems a little limiting to me. I like to think I do a little bit more... make people think... wake people up, help someone remember a happy thought.... maybe even put a smile on people's faces.... hopefully. Calling myself just a humorous illustrator, just doesn't seem to have any "punch", "pizzazz", "sparkle"... you get the picture. I do like the sound of "Creator of Visual Enhancements for Artistically Challenged and Cartooning Impaired." It has a pretty cool ring to me, but it's a little hard to fit on a business card and still look cool.
What can you expect here ? How's a little doodle sound ? A little peek into what goes on in my working process and maybe even in my thought process ? That's my plan... I hope you enjoy. So let me dig into my archive, maybe shed a little light on happened and then invite you to comment. Sounds good ? Good... then lets get to it.
This is an early sketch of one of my favorite designs I'm working on. It's inspired by one of my favorite music artists, Cat Stevens, who know goes by the name of Yusuf Islam https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cat_Stevens . Check him out if you get the chance and are a fan of 70's "Soft" Rock, and especially if you're a fan of songs about being positive, hopefullness, and becoming a little wiser.
Music is playing more and more a part in my designs. I love many styles of music and I always have it playing in my studio while I'm creating. Alot of times I let the music direct what I'm going to sketch when I intentionally sit down to sketch, sometimes I'm not planning on sketching at all, but I hear a song and an image will just pop into my head, and I have to get it down on paper. I believe that's what happened here, but to be honest, I came up with this sketch several years ago, and I can't remember the exact circumstances that gave birth to this.
So there you have it. I hope you enjoy it. Got any questions ? Feel free to comment below.