Oct 12

While my Blackberry gently weeps

SMG_Harrison_EgmondI highly recommend the new Martin Scorsese documentary about the late Beatle George Harrison. Called 'Living in a Material World', the HBO film is chock full of terrific interviews, rare photographs and outtakes and deep insight into the man known as the quiet Beatle.

It's a MUST see for anyone, young or old, who believes in lifelong learning. In fact, if there's one fundamental difference that set George apart from the other members of the Fab Four, it had to be his continual quest for spiritual enlightenment while battling his very real appetite for, shall we say, worldly pleasures?

Scorsese’s movie shows the many, many sides of a gifted artist who was, and always will be, overshadowed by John Lennon and Sir Paul McCartney. But, while Lennon focused on anti-war activities and McCartney continued writing 'Silly Love Songs', Harrison plunged deeper and deeper into the very meaning of life.

I must admit to having been somewhat alienated by Harrison during his Hare Krishna days but, having now viewed the new documentary, I understand it was just another stage in the man's unending quest to better understand himself and the world around him.

The documentary is well worth seeing and, for me, has added new insights to some of my favorite Harrison songs, including: 'Wah, Wah,' 'All Things Must Pass' and, in my opinion, his best love song of all: 'Long, Long, Long'.

As an aside, whenever I'm pressed by college and university students to name the key to career success, I always say, “lifelong learning”. In researching the song's origins, I found out that Harrison's quest for lifelong learning partly inspired him to write, 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps'. Mine certainly inspired me to entitle this particular blog, 'While my Blackberry gently weeps'.

One Harrison lyric from Guitar is more relevant than ever: 'From every mistake, we must surely be learning'.  We clearly weren't learning when Harrison first wrote the lyric in 1968 and, lord knows, we've learned even less in 2011. And that's why his guitar and my Blackberry still weep.


Sep 19

(Keith can’t get no) satisfaction

KeithHaving just finishing reading Keith Richards' autobiography, I have no doubt that he, and not Mick  Jagger, deserves to be a Knight of the British Empire.

For Millennials who may not recognize the name, Keith Richards is lead guitarist, co-founder and, as the book reveals, almost always the number one idea man driving the 'world's greatest rock and roll band', The Rolling Stones.

Written in an e e cummings stream of consciousness style, Keith's book is called 'Life'. And, trust me, it's as jagged, ragged and engrossing as the Stones themselves.

'Life' is a treasure trove of fascinating facts, figures and background stories that told me many, many things I never knew about one of my favorite groups.

For example, do you know the answers to these questions:

– Linda Keith was Richards' first true love. She dumped him while he was touring in America to take up with Jimi Hendrix instead. What song did his subsequent heartache drive Keith to write?
– Who inspired Keith and Mick to write 'Jumpin Jack Flash'?
– What event that occurred right outside Keith's London flat produced 'Gimme Shelter'?
– Who were Keith and Mick mad at when they wrote 'Get Off of my Cloud'?
– What city's 1968 riots inspired Keith to compose 'Street Fighting Man'?
– Who was 'Sister Morphine'?
– Whose outrageous stage act and patronizing treatment of his band mates inspired Mick to follow suit (which, in turn, caused the media to incorrectly nickname the group 'Mick & the Boys')?
– Who was Keith thinking about when he wrote 'Wild Horses'?

As you might expect, the book also cites chapter and verse on Keith's never-ending battles with heroin, cocaine, the law, and legions of redneck hooligans who constantly tried picking fights with one of the world's best known rockers.

Life is also a raw, kiss-and-tell tome that simultaneously praises and buries Keith's alter ego, Sir Mick Jagger.

What finally comes through the purple haze (which, FYI, was the nickname for a high grade form of heroin) IS this: Keith is the heart and soul of the Stones. To wit:

– Keith's the guy who covered for Brian Jones for two years as the group's second guitarist descended into a world of madness and eventual suicide.
– Keith's the guy who kept the group together while Sir Mick went MIA for months at a time to chill with his latest lady friend and/or intimate circle of beautiful people.
– And, it was Keith's shoulder on which all those women whose hearts were broken by Sir Mick over the years cried their hearts out and asked, “What should I do?” As Keith tells you, he always responded by saying, “How the f*ck should I know? You're the one who's sleeping with him. Not me.”

With 'Life,' it seems Keith finally did what HE wanted to do. He wrote the best rock and roll book this blogger's ever read. I just hope it gives the guitarist some satisfaction after all these years. Because, if even half of 'Life' is accurate, Keith Richards was unquestionably the band's 'Beast of Burden' and he sure deserves a whole lot more recognition (and satisfaction).

Jun 14

Good-bye to you

Ever happen to hear an old song that not only evokes a frozen moment in time, but also perfectly expresses your current feelings about a person, place or thing? No? Well, I have.

It just happened this past Saturday as I was working out in the gym at our corporate apartment. Having forgotten my trusty iPod, I was forced to listen to the gym's music, which was blasting out a VH1 'Remembering the '80s' mix. That's when I heard Patty Smyth and Scandal belt out their memorable “Good-bye To You”.


Note: In addition to being head-over-heels in love with the then 25-year-old Smyth (not to be confused with the cadaverous Patti Smith), I always loved her independent, free-wheeling interpretation of the lyrics (and thought it perfectly captured my own wayward bachelor's POV on life and love at the time).

As I listened to it again for the first time in a quarter century, though, I realized the song also nailed my current feelings for the New York Mets. (I'm neither pleased nor embarrassed to say I've yet to watch a single half-inning of Mets baseball this entire season. They bore me.) And, that's what the song's lyrics capture:

These last few weeks (years)of holding on, the days are dull, the nights are long, guess it's better to say, good-bye to you

I've said good-bye to the Mets once before— right after they traded away Tom Seaver and before they began building the great '86 championship team.

I think it's ok to walk away from a person, place or thing if, like the Mets, they're causing too much psychic or physical damage. I've abandoned other 'things', including:

– All American-made cars
– Devil Dogs (after 30 years, I still consider myself a recovering Devil Dogaholic)
– The Roman Catholic faith
– TV sitcoms (minus 'Curb', 'Seinfeld' and 'The Office')
– TV reality shows (minus 'Mob Wives' 'I Shouldn't Be Alive' and 'Intervention')
– Attending any event in the Meadowlands (traffic, noise and hooliganism trump any upsides)
– Working for a holding company PR firm (life's far too short to have to deal with the internal politics, bureaucracy and shark-infested waters).

I may say hello to the Mets sometime in the future. I have before.

In fact, I imagine they'll one day reach out to me with an unexpected e-mail entitled, “Hi, do you remember me?” And, like a jilted lover, I'll respond tentatively with a, “Um, yes, I remember. You broke my heart.” And, the Mets will suggest getting together again over a drink. And, sucker that I am, I'll agree. And, then I'll be hooked.

But until then, I'll heed Patty Smyth's final lyrics and tell the Mets, “Good-bye baby. So long darling. Good-bye to you!”


Apr 19

The death of the role model

Remember role models? They were the athletes, celebrities and other influencers who we looked  up to as kids. Mine included Joe Namath, Paul McCartney and Muhammad Ali. And, while each had a dark side (Joe Willie had a fondness for the ladies, Sir Paul liked his hallucinogenic drugs and Ali perfected, if not invented, trash talk), none ever purposely endorsed products that were bad for kids.

Snoop-dogg-smokingBut, that was then and this is now. Now, we have role models such as Charlie Sheen, Barry Bonds and the Kardashians. They're all train wrecks. But, their personal lives aside, some of today's role models have become dangerous because they're endorsing products and services that are anything but good for our nation's kids.

Take Snoop Dogg. Please.

  An article in Monday's New York Times profiles a new advertising campaign for Blast from Colt .45. Snoop stars in the fully integrated campaign. In a YouTube video, for example, the Dogg poses in a white fur coat, surrounded by models in skimpy dress and holding a can of Blast. So what's my problem? Well, it turns out that Blast is the latest, coolest, cutest and hippest gateway beverage that introduces kids to the wonderful world of alcohol. One alcohol industry watchdog calls Blast, which comes in flavors such as grape and raspberry watermelon, an “alcopop."

Tom Burrell, author of Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority, says: “What is happening here is an obvious attempt to foist this stuff on young African-American men. Colt .45 has invested in the black consumer market for years, and if they weren't looking for an African-American audience they wouldn't be using Snoop Dogg.”

But, why should Snoop care? According to industry analysts, the flavored malt beverage category generated some $967 million last year. And, the Dogg's getting a long, green sip of that brew courtesy of his endorsements. Proving what a terrific role model he is, Snoop's been nice enough to mention Blast on his Facebook page (where he has eight million followers) and on Twitter (where 3.1 million fans follow him). He also mentions Blast in "Boom", a single in his new album, 'Doggumentary'. Daren Metropoulos, who owns Pabst, Colt's parent company, says Snoop's adoration of the toxic beverage is “…just him being a true partner and saying I'm not just an endorser.” That Snoop. What a stand-up guy!

Would Namath, McCartney or Ali have knowingly promoted gateway drugs in their prime? It's hard to say. But, I doubt it.

In the meantime, we're left with role models like Snoop Dogg who make sweet-tasting, brightly colored, highly potent alcoholic beverages seem cool to unsuspecting, underage kids. Snoop is one dog who's leading his pack astray and being paid handsomely to do so. And, here's the saddest part of the tale: we're doing nothing to stop Pabst, Colt .45 or Snoop.

Apr 12

The five most influential composers/ musicians in Repman’s life

Since last week's blog about the five most influential TV shows in my life prompted such an  avalanche of comments (insert link), I thought I'd follow-up with the five most influential composers/musicians in my life.

Here, in chronological order, is my list:

Record_player 1.) Luigi Boccherini, Italian classical composer. His 'Minuet for String Quartet in E' was the theme song for, believe it or not, an Abbott & Costello movie called, 'The Time of Their Lives.' The captivating melody ushered a five-year-old RepToddler into the wonderful world of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and all things classical and operatic. FYI, I arranged for the Boccherini minuet to be played at my wedding. It had that kind of effect on me.

2.) The Beatles (naturally). Along with millions of other Americans, the nine-year-old RepBoy was completely mesmerized by the Fab Four's invasion of America in February, 1964. All-time favorite song? 'Polythene Pam'.

3.) Dave Brubeck. The 19-year-old RepYoungAdult was shooting pool with Northeastern University roommates Mike Murray and Dom Friscino when I first heard Brubeck's 'Take Five' and 'Blue Rondo a la Turk.' I was hooked. The tunes were my introduction to jazz. I now listen to WGBO-FM every morning, loving every nuance of Miles Davis, Mingus, Coltrane, Sinatra, et al.

4.) Harry Chapin. Like so many rock/folk stars, Chapin died at the height of his popularity. His signature song 'Taxi' is easily the most evocative tune from my RepYuppie days. I still think of a certain someone each and every time I hear it.
Now, that's what I call influential.

5.) Ziggy Marley. Chris 'Repman, Jr.' Cody first turned me on to the Marley clan in particular and reggae music in general. I now have 50 or more reggae albums on my iPod and always listen to the genre when I'm feeling down. Favorite Ziggy song? 'Looking'.

I believe the music one listens to and the programming one views helps mold the image we project to the world at large. To a degree, these five artists have helped shape who I am.

So, in that same vein, I'd love to know the most influential songs in your life (and why).

Jan 31

Sippin on some Sizzurp

Until this past week, I thought I had nothing in common with Hip Hop musicians or their 'songs'. 36mafia6 But then, felled by an absolutely hellacious ear and throat infection, I began a regimen of antibiotics and cough syrup (and, fell head-over-heels in love with a Hip Hop drug of choice: codeine).

I've always heard the best high came in a dentist's chair, courtesy of sweet air. But, I'm here to tell you that codeine-laced cough syrup is 'A number 1, top of the heap.' It numbs while it cures (and wouldn't that serve as an ideal brand promise for the syrup's manufacturer?)

It turns out that Hip Hop artists have known about codeine's amazing high all along (Silly me. How could I have doubted these artists for one second?).

Rappers, particularly those in the Southwest, absolutely adore cough syrup. They'll mix it with Sprite, Mountain Dew or Jolly Ranchers, and chug or snort the mixture until they're higher than the proverbial kite. One Hip Hop group in particular, 36 Mafia, has written a song about the experience, called, 'Sippin' on Some Sizzurp'.

Rappers have other names for sizzurp, including: lean, barre, purple jelly and Texas Tea. I'd add 'mule kick', to the list, because that's what I felt like after I'd swallowed a mere teaspoon (as directed, of course).

Hip Hop Nation: all is forgiven. I get it. I get you, I get your music and I now get at least one of your drugs of choice.

In fact, come to think of it, I've actually embraced two popular phrases used in the demi-monde that is Hip-Hop: 'Child, please' and 'Sippin' on some sizzurp.' One can teach an old dog new tricks.

I'll bet if he were still alive, the late Rick James would have made one slight alteration to his now classic, one-liner on the Dave Chappelle Show. He's have inserted 'codeine' for 'cocaine.'

Tip o' the hat to Chris "RepMan, Jr." Cody for this idea.

Jun 07

Give the cute one his props

Guest Post By Julie Farin (@JulieFarin)

June 7
In a White House ceremony recently, Paul McCartney was awarded the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, which was created by the Library of Congress to honor artists “whose creative output transcends distinctions between musical styles and idioms, bringing diverse listeners together and fostering mutual understanding and appreciation.” Part of this honor recognizes McCartney for making “an impact far beyond music through his humanitarianism and activism around the world, which are emblematic of the spirit of the Gershwin Prize.”

A writer for NPR Music, Tom Cole, questions whether Sir Paul actually deserved this honor in the absence of his equally talented songwriting partner John Lennon, since The Beatles music catalog is comprised predominantly (with a few exceptions) of Lennon/McCartney tunes.  Cole challenges us to name a post-Beatles McCartney song that “holds even a dim candle to what they wrote together.” Furthermore, he feels that Lennon was the true humanitarian and activist, not McCartney, saying it’s unfair that “the Library’s website does not even mention John Lennon’s name.” 

While Lennon’s activism during the Vietnam era has been well-documented, most notably his 1969 anthem “Give Peace a Chance” still being used today in anti-war rallies, McCartney has also stood behind causes he feels strongly about, such as Animal Rights and Meat-Free Mondays.

Regarding his post-Beatles body of work, I would argue that “Live & Let Die,” “Here Today” (which he wrote for Lennon in 1982 and still performs in concert) and “Maybe I’m Amazed” are among McCartney’s finest compositions. Although the Library of Congress website might not have mentioned Lennon by name, President Barack Obama certainly made sure he did on the night McCartney was honored.

John Lennon has always been my favorite Beatle. But no one is implying that Lennon was less of a songwriter than McCartney by bestowing this honor on Sir Paul, who turns 68 on June 18th. And while the work McCartney has produced and continues to produce in the 40 years since the Beatles dismantled may not be everyone’s cuppa English tea, even the staunchest Macca foe would have to admit that the man and his music have staying power. Let’s see if anyone remembers Lady Gaga 40 years from now.

“In Performance at the White House” airs on PBS July 28 at 8 pm ET/PT.

Feb 10

The Who should know when to say when

February 10 - who Did you catch the surviving members of The Who performing at the Super Bowl halftime show? It was grim.

Don't get me wrong. I admire the energy and passion Messrs Daltry and Townsend demonstrated in Miami. But, the ravages of time sure showed.

Daltry's voice was raspy and he didn't dare try his microphone acrobatics in front of millions of viewers (I could just see it coming down and plunking him on the noggin). Nor did we see Townsend do his patented slide along the stage on his knees or bash the bejesus out of his guitar when he finished his licks.

These elder versions of The Who just didn't have it in them. But, how many 65-year-olds would?

Which is why The Who should know when to say when. I liked what I saw. But, what I saw was a bit of a bus wreck.

But, who am I to say The Who are through? So, I thought I'd take a quick, but wide-ranging, demographic sounding to ask others what they thought of the dino rockers. Here's what I got:

– 21-year-old Catharine Cody: 'Well, we liked the graphics and recognized the songs, but wondered why someone younger and cooler like Lady Gaga wasn't performing.'
– 24-year-old Chris 'Repman, Jr,' Cody: 'The homies and I love classic rock and enjoyed The Who. Renny (his friend) especially enjoyed 'Teenage Wasteland.'
– A 20-something Peppercom employee: 'We hit the mute button and listened instead to music we like.'
– 30-something comedian Clayton Fletcher: 'I turned it off. That says it all.'
– A 50-something corporate communications chief: 'I was grossed out seeing Pete Townsend's navel poking out from his shirt.'
– 55-year-old Tommy Powers: 'Their performance reminded me of an over-the-hill Willie Mays stumbling in centerfield in the 1973 World Series. They were way off their game at the Super Bowl.'
– Septegenarian Richard Harte: 'I loved their energy and envied the amount of money they must have been paid.'

I'll go with the majority and stick with my original opinion: The Who need to know when to say when. And, I think the NFL needs to know when to say when, when it comes to trotting out washed up rockers. Rock and roll may never die, but the Super Bowl halftime viewership ratings surely will if the producers don't wise up and book younger performers with broader appeal.

I’d like to open it up to you. Who would you like to see perform next year?

Jan 20

My g-g-g-generation

January 20 - tehshow-superbowl Have you noticed how ever since Janet Jackson’s infamous Super Bowl halftime show wardrobe malfunction in 2004, the NFL powers that be have opted for burnt out rockers? Fearful of another prime-time, real-time show-and-tell, the league has brought us Sir Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, Prince, Tom Petty, Bruce and, now, the surviving members of The Who.

Don’t get me wrong. I love staying tuned to see what these dinosaurs still have left and, with the exception of Sir Paul’s gig (which I witnessed firsthand in frigid Jacksonville), have really enjoyed the shows.

But, knowing market demographics as well as I do, I wonder what’s going on. Is the average NFL fan an aging Baby Boomer whose idea of cutting-edge music some combination of ‘Live and Let Die,’ ‘Start Me Up,’ ‘1999,’ ‘Born in the U.S.A. or  ‘Magic Bus’? My gut tells me the average fan’s age has to be decidedly younger and, dare I suggest it, skewing towards urban and country tunes. Yet, we continue to see senior citizen rockers playing dramatically shortened, sanitized version of 40-year-old classics.  

And, that’s just fine by me. In fact, borrowing a phrase from The Who’s ‘My Generation’ classic, ‘….I hope I die before I get (real) old…’ and have to suffer through Snoop, Sizzla, Tim McGraw or Faith Hill performing at halftime. I think, instead, I’ll just f-f-f-fade away.

Thanks to Tom Powers for his assistance in researching this topic.

Sep 21

Survey Says: Paul Is Still the Cute One

By Guest Blogger, Julie Farin ( http://twitter.com/JulieFarin) PR pro and Beatlemaniac – not necessarily in that order.


Who is your favorite Beatle?  That seems like a question one might have been asked on February 10, 1964, the day after the four lads from Liverpool first performed on The Ed Sullivan Show to more than 70 million viewers across America, officially pulling the trigger on The British Invasion. 

But with months of multimedia marketing leading up to the 09/09/09 release of The Beatles Rock Band video game along with the release of digitally remastered “boxed sets” of the Fab 4’s historic music catalogue, it seems like just about everyone is climbing aboard the Beatlemania Reloaded bandwagon.

It comes as no surprise that Zogby International recently decided to poll Americans and ask them which of the Mop Tops – John, Paul, George or Ringo – they like best. “Paul was always more popular than the rest of us,” John Lennon once told Tom Snyder in a 1975 interview.  Well, Lennon would not be surprised to learn that Sir Paul McCartney continues his 45-year reign as the most popular Beatle with 27 percent naming him their favorite, Lennon taking a distant second at 16 percent, George Harrison coming in a dark horse at 10 percent, and Ringo Starr an even darker one at 9 percent.

What surprises me most about this seemingly unscientific survey is the admission that nearly a quarter of those polled said they didn’t even like the Beatles, while three percent said they weren’t familiar enough with the band’s music to make an informed decision.

“It must be the crazy love songs and ‘Yesterday’,” said John Zogby, the CEO of the firm that conducted the poll.  He attributed McCartney’s popularity to his looks (Paul was always considered The Cute One), and his longevity (he’s 67-years old and is still releasing albums and selling out concert tours).  Zogby adds, “Interestingly, John is the main answer for people who never go to church.”  That seems too convenient a statistic to associate with an outspoken man who once infamously proclaimed, “We’re more popular than Jesus” and who also considered himself “basically a Zen pagan.”

It also seems a little unfair to compare the two Beatles who are still living, performing, and releasing albums, with the two who have been dead for many years.  Therefore, it doesn’t surprise me how well McCartney topped this poll.  [Disclosure:  John Lennon has always been my favorite Beatle, and yes, I do go to church and consider myself a spiritual person.] 

Don’t get me wrong, I still think Paul is fab and quite gear after all these years.  In fact, my good friend Michael Starr (no relation to Ringo) has nicknamed me “Lady Macca” because I never miss a McCartney concert when he comes to my town (New York City).  The results of this survey seem as irrelevant and invalid as asking a card-carrying Beatlemaniac to name his or her favorite Beatles song.  That’s “Something” I can never “Imagine” doing.