Monday, March 20, 2017

Farewell Chuck Berry



Passed away at 90, would popular music - as we know it – even exist without Chuck Berry? 

By: Ringo Bones 

March 18, 2017 would probably be remembered as the saddest day for Rock n’ Roll as one of the music’s founding fathers passed away aged 90. Born Charles Edward Anderson Berry, is better known to the music world as Chuck Berry was born in October 18, 1926 and became well known back in the 1950s as one of the pioneers of Rock n’ Roll music. Even though he is no longer the “undisputed king of Rock n’ Roll”, Chuck Berry, nevertheless managed to make early African American Blues, R&B and Rock n’ Roll music not only accessible to white European Americans but also to rock music enthusiasts from the rest of the world. Not only that, he also regularly been playing live and touring since the mid 1950s well into his 80s. 

Chuck Berry’s iconic hit Johnny B. Goode was introduced to a new generation of fans during the mid 1980s when accidental time-traveler Marty McFly (played by actor Michael J. Fox) played his own rendition of Johnny B. Goode in the movie Back to the Future. Another version of Johnny B. Goode by the heavy metal band Judas Priest also managed to introduce young 1980s era metal-heads to the musical genius of Chuck Berry. And both versions were probably instrumental in the induction of Chuck Berry into the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame back in 1986. Before he passed away, Chuck Berry was currently working on a new album after his previous one was released 35 years ago.      

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Bob Dylan: Most Unseemly Nobel Literature Laureate Ever?



Even though it is undeniable that Bob Dylan is one of the greatest songwriters in the great American songwriting tradition, but does this make the “old hippie” the most unseemly Nobel Literature laureate ever?

By: Ringo Bones 

When the news first broke out that Bob Dylan won the Nobel Literature Prize for 2016, many of my “audio-buddies” immediately quipped “who will the Nobel Committee award for next year’s Nobel Literature Prize – Tori Amos, Liz Phair?” Despite of the inextricably unprecedented move, the Nobel Committee did state their justification for awarding the 2016 Nobel Literature Prize to Bob Dylan – but is Bob Dylan, despite his great musical achievements since the 1960s, truly deserving of the Nobel Literature Prize? 

Bob Dylan’s place as one of the world’s greatest artistic figures was further elevated on Thursday, October 13, 2016 when Dylan was named the surprise winner of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”. After the announcement, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, Sara Danius, said it had “not been a difficult decision” and he hoped the Swedish Academy would not be criticized for its choice. 

On Bob Dylan’s 2016 Nobel Literature Prize win, Swedish Academy secretary Sara Danius advised those unfamiliar with the works of Dylan to start with the 1966 album Blonde on Blonde in which she said “I’s an extraordinary example of his brilliant way of rhyming, putting together refrains, and his pictorial way of thinking.” Though to me at least, Bob Dylan’s 1975 album The Basement Tapes is the one that faithfully captures Dylan as a singer songwriter. 

Whether or not Bob Dylan is truly deserving of the 2016 Nobel Literature Prize could be down to how the Swedish Academy interpreted Alfred Nobel’s original will governing the rules of awarding the Nobel Literature Prize. Originally interpreted as embracing not only writings in the field of belles-lettres (i.e. beautiful writing of artistic merit), but also of other works provided they possessed literary merit. Given this rather still-ambiguous clarification, Bob Dylan winning the 2016 Nobel Literature Prize could be justified – but should Tori Amos and Liz Phair or other great singer-songwriters should be in the running for the Nobel Literature Prize?

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Should Musicians Boycott North Carolina?


While a significant number of famous musicians already have cancelled their upcoming tours to North Carolina over the state’s controversial “bathroom bill” should others follow suit?

By: Ringo Bones 

When General Electric – the corporation that designed the Fukushima nuclear power plant and the famous porn-site xHamster is boycotting your entire state, you know you’ve done something horribly wrong. But this day and age, an overwhelming majority of us no longer tolerate the discrimination of the LGBT community – especially if its done though a “manipulated” dogma of organized religion. And this has resulted in the recent banning of local LGBT nondiscrimination ordinances. 

Since April 2016, there’s a growing list of famous musicians with a very huge fan-base deciding to cancel their upcoming tours to North Carolina over the state’s controversial “bathroom bill” that only allows transgender people to use the bathroom that matches the gender of their birth certificate. The top three musicians who have decided to cancel their tours include Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr and Bryan Adams and more are set to follow suit.  

The top three musicians who decided to boycott North Carolina were quite surprising to those old enough to have lived through 1980s Ronald Reagan’s America because these musicians’ works were – back then – frequently played in outlaw biker bars that catered for Vietnam War Veterans. Probably the last on the list back then to give a rat’s ass about LGBT issues. That was then, but this day and age, even outlaw bikers who are into online hardcore porn and classic rock – well, most of them anyway – no longer tolerate the government and religiously sanctioned discrimination of the LGBT community. How the times have changed indeed. 

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Rolling Stones Playing In Cuba: Has “Never” Finally Happened?



Given that at the height of the Cold War it is more likely that all of humanity will perish in a thermonuclear holocaust than Mick Jagger and his fellow Stones touring past 40, is the Stones’ recent Cuba concert an “unprecedented” rock n’ roll event? 

By: Ringo Bones 

 Given that “older” Stones fans probably thought that at the height of the Cold War that it is more likely that humanity will perish in a thermonuclear holocaust compared to Mick Jagger and his fellow Stones still touring after all of them have turned 40, their concert in Cuba in the grounds of Havana’s huge Ciudad Deportiva venue is indeed unprecedented. Until about 15 years ago Cuba’s communist government had banned most Western rock and pop music and even some music from Latin American countries with a “capitalist theme” as it was deemed decadent and subversive. But Cuba has changed significantly in recent years, particularly in the past 18 months as the process of rapprochement with the United States - as initiated by the Obama administration – has quickened. 

Thousands of Rolling Stones fans have shown up in the Ciudad Deportiva venue on March 25, 2016 after Mick Jagger and his fellow Stones have been granted approval to play there for free, granting the long awaited wishes of Cuban Stones fans. Even Mick Jagger joked that U.S. President Barack Obama was their “opening act” after his state visit earlier this week. All of which is very fortunate indeed that The Rolling Stones and the rest of humanity managed to outlive the “thermonuclear Sword of Damocles” of the Cold War. 

But the “revolution” that paved the way for “The Rolling Stones Live in Havana” happened almost 16 years ago. During the 20th Anniversary of the murder of former Beatle John Lennon, John Lennon Park or Parque John Lennon – a public park located in Vedado district in Havana, Cuba - was unveiled back in December 8, 2000. A John Lennon bronze sculpture sculpted by Cuban artist José Villa Sobern with an inscription from the line of Lennon’s song Imagine – allegedly viewed as the former Beatle’s “fascination” with Marxist Leninist Socialism.    

Monday, February 15, 2016

Malawi Prison Band: Unlikeliest Grammy Nominees Ever?


Even though its kind of hard for them to pay their dues touring the bar band scene because they’re in prison, are Malawi’s Zomba Prison Band the most unlikeliest musicians to get a Grammy nomination?

By: Ringo Bones 

Malawi’s Zomba Central Prison, the maximum security prison had gained notoriety because it is old, unsanitary, overcrowded and housed Malawi’s most dangerous murderers and rapists. But it will soon get the unlikeliest image boost ever after its prison band got nominated for the 2016 Grammy Awards. The makeshift studio where 14 prisoners and two guards recorded an unusual album of songs about the lessons of loss, sin and forgiveness which as luck would have it is now shortlisted with the works of other well-known performers slated to win a Grammy for the World Music category that finally allows the small, impoverished nation of Malawi its first chance of winning a Grammy Award.

Music producer Ian Brennan discovered them a few years ago and was surprised by the prison band’s talent given that the music program of the prison is only supposed to be as a means to relieve the tedium of prison life. Surprisingly, most of the Zomba Prison Band members had only discovered their musical talents after enrolling in the prison’s music program given that it is by so far the most interesting activity to do inside the prison. 

Even if they win a Grammy or not, proceeds of their album sales goes to fund the legal representation of the band members. AIDS remains a problem among the staff and inmates at the Zomba prison, which was built in 1895 during British colonial rule and houses 2,400 prisoners, about triple the facility’s capacity. Malawi’s most hardened criminals are incarcerated here, but there are also inmates who never received proper legal representation or who are simply lost in Malawi’s overburdened justice system.