Cross Road Blues was written by blues icon Robert Johnson in 1936. Over time, and perhaps with more than a little help from Eric Clapton, the song is more commonly known in rock and roll circles as Crossroads. The song tells the now mythic tale of a man who sold his soul to the devil in exchange for an extraordinary gift (in Robert Johnson's case, incredible guitar skills).
Selling one's soul to the devil for fame and fortune is a familiar scenario. It's been played out in endless comedy sketches, movies and songs, but history bears witness to Robert Johnson's particular case. More than a few books regardiing the blues, (Robert Palmer's Deep Blues in particular), contain interviews from other iconic bluesmen, Son House especially, who recall Robert Johnson being a sub par guitarist at best. House had recounted how Johnson, after trying to make it and failed, as a blues guitarist, traveled around the South for a short time and returned to the Delta region with incredible guitar skills. Their only conclusion, (backed up Robert Johnson's own account), was that his skills were indeed obtained from Satan in exchange for his soul. Johnson would further fuel rumors about his "deal with the devil" in his song "Me And The Devil Blues". In the song, Johnson sings "...When you knocked upon my door, And I said 'hello Satan' I believe it's time to go."
Unfortunately for Robert Johnson, his widespread fame would not come for almost 30 years after his death. Discovered by young British blues fans, such as The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, and of course Eric Clapton, Robert Johnson and fellow blues musicians such as Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf's music experienced a renaissance in the early and mid 1960's, that still exists today.
Although "Crossroads" had been recorded a handful of times since Robert Johnson version, notably Elmore James, and a pre Cream Eric Clapton, with a young Steve Winwood, Jack Bruce and Paul Jones in tow (the one shot group The Powerhouse - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross_Road_Blues), it wasn't until Clapton recorded the now iconic version with Cream in 1966, that Crossroads became the song recognized by millions of rock fans today, although with some minor editing on Mr. Clapton's part. Cream's version contain the lyrics " Going Down to Rosedale, take my rider my side" which are actually lyrics from another Robert Johson song, Travelin' Riverside Blues... http://www.metrolyrics.com/traveling-riverside-blues-lyrics-robert-johnson.html
You can see Robert Johnson's original lyrics here... https://genius.com/Robert-johnson-cross-road-blues-lyrics and you can Clapton's revised lyrics here... https://genius.com/Cream-crossroads-lyrics
And finally, you can hear Robert Johnson's original version of Cross Road Blues, here... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yd60nI4sa9A
Additional sources for this post are https://timscoverstory.wordpress.com/2015/03/31/cross-road-bluescrossroads-robert-johnson-and-cream/ and http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=1285
Released in 1967 on Richie Havens' debut album, FOLLOW is one of my favorite new old songs. I started to re-discover the music of Richie Havens a few years ago. I had been a semi fan, but I started to dig a little deeper into his song catalog, when a good friend (Hi Debi), told me to listen to Follow, and I fell in love with it. It's now one of my all time favorite songs... one of those songs that makes you shush the entire room when it comes on, and makes you crank it and sing it out loud when you're alone.
Written by songwriter Jerry Merrick, Follow is a song about having the strength to find and pursue you're true purpose. The lyrics are a gentle push for us to listen to our inner voice. The lyrics open with "Let the river rock you like a cradle...Climb to the treetops, child, if you're able" urging us to have faith in our "dreams" and use them to find our true path in life.
But the singer acknowledges that that road calling may not be easy, "And close your eyes, child, and listen to what I'll tell you. Follow in the darkest night the sounds that may impel you. And the song that I am singing may disturb or serve to quell you." We're reminded of the expected norms society has set for us, but we're encourage to push forward.... "While the church bell tolls its one-note song, And the school bell is tinkling to the throng. Come here where your ears cannot hear."
The singer asks us to have the courage to live our lives for ourselves instead of living up to other's expectations... "And close your eyes, child, and look at what I'll show you; Let your mind go reeling out and let the breezes blow you, And maybe when we meet then suddenly I will know you.", or is the singer actually our own self conscious, begging us to be true to ourselves ?
For those of us who can't believe, those of us too rooted in what's expected of us, there is an out..."If all the things you feel ain't what they seem. And don't mind me 'cos I ain't nothin' but a dream". But I truly hope you don't take it.
FOLLOW is a beautiful song... I hope you take the time listen to it if you aren't familiar with it. Here is a link to Richie Haven's version... enjoy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QjefIsixrfU
Here in upstate NY, we've been experiencing the doldrums of winter. You know that feeling... cold chilly air, gray cloudy skies... the happy sense of carefreeness that the holiday had brought is gone... a new year has started, and for alot of people that also brings a time of reflection and maybe even some reevaluation. That feeling is well represented by Simon and Garfunkel's 1966 classic, A Hazy Shade of Winter. For those two young to remember back that far, you might recall The Bangles recording of it from 1987, for the Robert Downey Jr. classic, Less Than Zero (yes, the word classic is used very loosely).
I have to admit, all the times I listened to the song, I never really paid attention to the lyrics. I loved the tone of the song and just appreciated it for that alone. While searching for a song about winter to post this time around, A Hazy Shade of Winter popped up and I was intrigued. At face value, the lyrics are pretty depressing. Paul Simon uses the gray bleakness of the season as a metaphor for a midlife collapse of one's vision of their life. The singer has reached a point in his life where his dreams have died. The song uses the past tense and images of regret to convey a sense of surrender to failure..." Time, time See what's become of me. While I looked around for my possibilities, I was so hard to please", "Hang on to your hopes my friend, that's an easy thing to say".
There's even a sense of death, of dreams and perhaps even our narrator... "But if your hopes should pass away, Simply pretend That you can build them again." and "Seasons change with the scenery, weaving time in a tapestry, won't you stop and remember me at any convenient time? "
The singer's sense of despair is so bleak it's overwhelming. Do we as the listeners allow ourselves to be overcome as well, or do we take offense to his telling us to just pretend to build our dreams again ? Do we defend our dreams and keep pushing to make them a reality ? I live on the push side of the fence, and I hope you do too.
So if your leaves are brown and sky is a hazy shade of winter... knuckle down, gut it out, and believe. Warmer weather is coming and with it, clear skies. Stay true to your dreams and don't pretend... believe.
Written by Paul McCartney for the The Beatles 1968 "White Album", Blackbird is associated with the Civil Rights movement. While this is a subject Paul McCartney has addressed in numerous interviews, I think the song can also act as a metaphor for personal struggle, not just racial.
It's easy to succomb to personal set backs, whether it's in a career, a relationship or even financial, but we really have to ? Alexander Graham Bell said " When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us." (http://thinkexist.com/quotation/when_one_door_closes-another_opens-but_we_often/12671.html)
"Take these broken wings and learn to fly....
All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arise...
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see...
All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to be free...
Black bird fly... Into the Light of the dark black night...
Full lyrics can read here... https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/beatles/blackbird.html
So when dealt an unfortunate set of circumstance, ask yourself if it's really an opportunity instead. Is this indeed the moment you've been waiting for ? Even better, is this chance going to come again ? The New Year is supposed to be a time for renewal, commitment and rejuvenation. So my promise to myself, and feel free to do the same if you haven't already, is to take your wings, broken or not, and learn to fly... and to recognize, that yes perhaps you have been, all your life, waiting for this moment to arise.
Happy New Year everyone.
It can be argued that some of our fondest childhood memories leave a lasting impression for the rest of our lives. Such is the case with "Do You Hear What I Hear?", one of my all time favorite Christmas songs.
Back in the 1960s, variety shows were very popular on TV. Carol Burnett, Dean Martin, Flip Wilson and Glen Campbell hosted some of the most popular versions of this now non existent TV show format. The favorite variety show in my parents house, though, was The Andy Williams Show, and it was on this show that I first heard Do You Hear What I Hear. 30 seconds into Andy's version is all it took to make me fall in love with his version. Andy Williams iconic ,calm, soothing tone, dramatically rises, combined with the choir acting as the sound of wind, and heralds the rise of the bright night star that signals the birth of Christ in Bethlehem.
Written by Noël Regney and Gloria Shayne Baker in 1962, "Do You Hear What I Hear" was a plea for peace during the Cuban Missile Crisis. According to a 2008 Los Angeles Times article about the death of Gloria Shayne Baker, who composed the music, Noel Regney wrote the lyrics "Said the night wind to the little lamb, Do you see what I see ?" and "Pray for peace people everywhere" after watching infants being rolled in strollers by their parents, on the streets of New York. Baker is quoted as saying "Noel wrote a beautiful song," Baker told an interviewer years later, "and I wrote the music. We couldn't sing it, though. . . . Our little song broke us up. You must realize there was a threat of nuclear war at the time."
Released shortly after Thanksgiving in time for the Christmas season in 1962, the song was originally recorded by the Harry Simeone Chorale, but it was Bing Crosby's version in 1963 that catapulted the song into popular Christmas radio rotation. Since then, the song has been covered by legendary recording artists, both old and new, as Perry Como, Jim Nabors, Ann Murray, The Carpenters, Patti LaBelle, Martina McBride, and even Bob Dylan on his 2009 Christmas album, and as a duet between Rosie O'Donnell and Sesame Street's Elmo.
I created this in ProCreate on my iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil. I took the opportunity to play with some new brushes and techniques. I learned a little of what to do and what not to do. I tried to capture the essence of the song's lyrics, which in my opinion are very descriptive. I'm reminded alot of the animated Christmas classic, The Little Drummer Boy by this song. http://christmas-specials.wikia.com/wiki/The_Little_Drummer_Boy
With that said, I hope you've enjoyed this latest edition of my blog. I also hope this Christmas season finds you and your's healthy and happy. Merry Christmas everyone.
Released by The Byrds, in 1967, "So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star" is,at first listen, about the desire to become a rock and roll star. Numerous stories attribute the song being written in response to The Monkees rise to fame, often nicknamed the "Prefab Four, and whose television series had recently debuted in America. In later interviews, both Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman, (the song's writers) claimed the song was in response to the state of the music industry in general at the time.
The following is taken from "History of The Byrds", Zigzag, Frame, Pete. (February 1973), "We were thumbing through a teen magazine and looking at all the unfamiliar faces and we couldn't help thinking: 'Wow, what's happening...all of a sudden here is everyone and his brother and his sister-in-law and his mother and even his pet bullfrog singing rock 'n' roll.' So we wrote 'So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star' to the audience of potential rock stars, those who were going to be, or who wanted to be, and those who actually did go on to realize their goals."
While the song starts off very similar to the satirical nature of Bachman Turner Overdrive's "Taking Care of Business" recorded six years later... "Just get an electric guitar, Then take some time and learn how to play, And with your hair combed right, And your pants fit tight, It's gonna be all right ", the song quickly shifts to a more realistic tone in regards to the nature of the business of the industry, with the lyrics "..Sell your soul to the company, who are waiting there to sell plastic ware " and "The price you paid for your riches and fame
Was it all a strange game, you're a little insane, The money that came and the public acclaim. Don't forget what you are, you're a rock and roll star". These later lyrics are more reminiscent of the complaints The Beatles would verbalize in response to their own rapid rise to superstardom.
I've been sketching alot with my new iPad Pro, Apple pencil and ProCreate... all excellent investments in my opinion. NOTE:.. this is not a paid endorsement, but "Hey APPLE... I'm available... My ability to draw, sketch and create while on the go is at a whole new level with these tools.
What I was aiming for here was to replicate the "toned" sketch look that I've done in the past. Why not just do a toned sketch you may ask ? Well.. I wanted to see if I could replicate it.. and again, I was out, wanted to sketch and I used the tools that I carry around with me. I doubt I will ever completely abandon my physical sketchbook, pens, and markers.. in fact they are sitting just to my right as I type this... with pieces for a new print that will soon be available.... BEACH BLANKET ROCK n ROLL fans stay tuned.
So let me know what you think... share your opinions, good and bad, and if you have a spare minute, share with your rock and roll / art loving friends.
Thanks for being here.
Information source. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/So_You_Want_to_Be_a_Rock_%27n%27_Roll_Star
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
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.