Snowy White Fields Forever

Today is the fortieth anniversary of John Lennon’s death.

Forty Decembers, forty agos are gone
since an assassin’s senseless gunshot blast.
Aghast and gasping, grasping for breath, clasping his chest,
the working class hero dropped to the dirt and died,
his body stilled, his blood (from the kill)
redly spilled upon the snowy white fields forever.
Years before that deathly eve of a deadly winter’s night
when his widow grieved, his fans mourned, five mates formed
a band, took off abroad for Hamburg to play
in Germany eight days a week seven nights a day.
These sons of Elvis—John was one, Paul another,
George the third with Stu their friend and Pete on drums—
these lads from Liverpool learned their Rock ‘n’ Roll trade
as they played a mach schau raucous roar in the caverns and clubs of the Reeperbahn,
their northern song sound a revolution such a revelation that
when they returned to the hard streets of home, though they returned without
Stu, the dreamer who did not return, they returned
a name soon to be written deep into the snowy white fields forever.
But Pete was out. His beat was not what the band was about.
With a Ringo from the Dingle for a drummer,
these Scousers made the Nashpool city walls shake.
The four young Merseyside friends ferried merrily cross the Mersey
and set out on a long and winding road across the universe
to become the Beatles they were born to become.
1964, it was only months since Oswald blew the President’s mind out in Dallas,
a blue funk of a time when the Blue Meanies in their pinstriped suits
and their pop singer wannabees ruled the whole of Pepperland,
for Rock ‘n’ Roll was dead,
Chuck Berry in jail, Elvis making his millions making movies, Buddy Holly gone,
his chartered Beechcraft crashing into an Iowa farm field five Februaries before,
and those blue suede shoes, semi-retired, covered with dust.
“Yet, in Pepperland,” John was heard to sing, “anything is possible.”
Even Rock ‘n’ Roll. “So, let’s brush off those shoes and give the world a bit of a rush.”
“The British are coming! The British are coming!”
read the headlines everywhere on the planet
as the Four touched down and landed in New York City, a British invasion
ready to conquer America from Boston, Mass to ’Frisco, C A,
from Ed Sullivan’s Really Big Sunday night CBS Show to Shea
Stadium’s screaming crowds screaming their screams of delight
for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
and the footprints they left in the snowy white fields forever.
But the music was lost, couldn’t be heard,
crushed by the sound of the fame and the fanysteria,
the helter-skelter of that Fellini Satyricon the press dubbed
Beatlemania. Seeking a little sanity inside the inanity,
George turned east to Krishna, the sitar and Monty Python,
Paul went walking barefoot, wearing no shoes,
and Billy Shears? He remained an unchanged Ringoesque—
with a little help from his friends, of course.
On a Day in the Life of a Beatles Man, John,
restless, struggling with his struggle within and the loss of his Julia twice,
once as a boy, again when his mum was struck down by a car,
motherless, fatherless John, entered the Indica
and encountered Yoko’s inscrutable oriental smile.
“A Yes on the ceiling,” he said, dropping his Elvis Beatle to reveal the real John Lennon,
“is a no where, man, on the floor, goo goo g’joob.”
The Rumours announced: “Paul is dead.
Perhaps John is in bed or in France, and Yoko his spouse.”
From Mendips to Yellow Submarine ships,
from Strawberry Fields to the Walrus Watching the Wheels,
the man who became John Lennon after the booze, the drugs and the women
–and the lost weekends too and whatever got him through—
flew west for Toronto and peace. But, Christ, you know it ain’t easy;
Nixon was out to crucify him.
Then, on April 10, 1970, the sixties ended.
The Beatles were to Beatle no more
nor come together on the snowy white fields again.
But it was not in the nature of Lennon not to Lennon,
and Lennon John did, kicking the world in its pretty
with Two Virgins, acorns for peace and his brand of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Jumping from therapy to therapy until his therapy was done,
he bid his monsters a rest-in-peace fare-thee-well.
In New York City at the Dakota, a Double Fantasy
of a husband, and the dad of a beautiful Sean, and Yoko his wife
one moment, the next a bullet slammed him into forever.
Now John goes walking on the snowy white fields again.

The Big Unh-huh

He was a hunka-hunka burning love, this Elvis, and all the girls loved him for it. Just to hear their screams during his shake-rattle-and-rolls on stage and you knew how much. He was a magician and he gave us a magic that shot electricity through every performance and right down to our bones. When he delivered with his pelvic motions and his unh-huhs, we stood up and danced.

If jazz has a face, it’s Satchmo; if rock ‘n’ roll has a face, it’s Elvis. Not Elvis Presley. Just Elvis, the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. But all that was before Col. Tom scooped him up and took him off to Hollywood, and the movies tamed the wildness out of him.

In those very early days of the mid-1950s, he was a hound dog man all shook up. And he was one of us. Only more so. A little bit larger than life ’cause he was on his way to the Valhalla of the Greats. You could hear the pure rock ‘n’ roll in that voice of his that was tenor, baritone and bass all rolled into one big yeah. Sam Phillips of Sun Records had said so, and he ought to have known. It was the sound he had been looking for all his life.

Oh sure, there’d been rock ‘n’ roll before Elvis. Bill Haley and the Comets were rocking around the clock a year before Sam heard the magic. And there was the rhythm and blues that Elvis poured into his rock ‘n’ roll. Had been for years. But that r & b was a black folks music played and sang by the likes of LaVern Baker, Lloyd Price, Ruth Brown and Big Joe Turner. Black magic, the preachers called it. The devil’s music, and it would drive all the teenage listeners mad with lust.

No. Elvis was different. He was safe. He called his elders sir and ma’am and he went to church regular-like. He worshipped his mamma like the Southern boy he was. Yet there was that Voice. He was a white boy with a black man’s voice. In the recording studio of Sun Records, he let it rip. Sam Phillips was ecstatic. He had found his singer.

And so had American music. The dam broke and the musical waters flooded the air waves. There was no stopping it. Soon there was Little Richard and Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and Richie Valens, Carl Perkins, Buddy Holly and Gene Vincent. Down the road a-ways, there would be the four lads from Liverpool, England. There was no putting the rock ‘n’ roll genie back in the bottle. The world was never to be the same as it had once been before rock ‘n’ roll. And Elvis.

In a long history of Unh-huhs, Elvis has got to be one of the Big Kahunas of Unh-huh-dom. Yeah, baby. It’s hard to say where America ends and Elvis begins. That’s like asking where the unh-huhs end and the pelvis begins when it comes to Elvis. It’s just not possible. It’s also another way of saying that deep down we all want to be Elvis, and it’s a fact that we United Statesians have a bit of Elvis in each of us.

Just look at Lady Gaga. She has done an Elton John so she can be the latest incarnation of the King. This should tell us about the state of the world. Not. All it tells us is that we have a need to tie down Elvis’ pelvis and tame those unh-huhs. Then they can be marketed and we can make a lot of sales. If tain’t the truth, then why did they let Elvis keep making all those corny movies. It was for the dough, the moolah, the benjamins. It sure wasn’t ’cause he was still the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. He wasn’t. Even the Beatles said so when they met him in 1965. Looked like Col. Tom had buried that Elvis years before.

Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Song: Learning To Fly

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Spotlight Song is Tom Petty’s “Learning to Fly“.

When Jason Aldean appeared on Saturday Night Live the Saturday after that awful Vegas tragedy, what did he play? He played a Tom Petty song, “I Won’t Back Down”. That choice was so right in so many ways.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers on “I Won’t Back Down”.

Man, I love Tom Petty. He was something else. For me, he represented that link to the best in rock ‘n’ roll. It wasn’t rock that he played. These days rock has gone in dozens of directions. No, Tom Petty played that kind of rock I call Straight ahead Rock ‘N’ Roll.

Tom Petty always stood for that which was authentic in rock ‘n’ roll. Something that was honest and optimistic and working class and had a swing to it. In other words, he was a hell of a rocker, and he did the kind of music that said, “I ain’t gonna take no shit from anybody.” He was a musician who’d earned his spurs. He worked harder at his craft than most. He never forgot his roots. He never forgot the place he came from.

And that voice. It could be so kickass. Then turn around and be so sensitive and gentle.

He had one hell of a band. You don’t get to front a band like his unless you are the Real Deal. And I loved his work in The Traveling Wilburys with Roy Orbison, George Orbison, Bob Dylan and Jeff Lynne. Wanna see a Rock ‘n’ Roll Supergroup. The Traveling Wilburys were that group.

And he never cheated his audience. He gave some of the best shows. Because he cared about his craft and he cared about his audience.

That we lost him, it seems such a damned shame. But I gotta say that those who lost their lives that Sunday night in Vegas were treated to one kick-ass of a concert.

Thanks, Tom, for all the joy you brought us. We miss you. As Johnny Cash said of Tom Petty, he “was a good man to ride the river with.”

And just in case, you haven’t had enough of the great Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, watch this:

Uncle Bardie’s Weekly Music Pick: Ship to wreck

It’s Thursday again. You know what that means. Uncle Bardie’s Weekly Music Pick. Uncle Bardiie gives a double thumbs up to this week’s selection: Florence and the Machine and “Ship to wreck”.

I have been a fan of F&TM since I saw them on Saturday Night Live. I just love the fullness of the sound they give out. And, man, that Florence can sing. On top of all that, many of her songs are lyrically strong. Unlike many of the songs being produced by the majors these days. And what great rock ‘n’ roll they produce. They remind me of bands like Yes, Pink Floyd, the Moody Blues and ELP. Enjoy.