Sunday, August 28, 2022

Zenspark: Tales from the Sea

 Ben Marcune has created his magnum opus with “Tales From The Sea.” The twelve tracks that make up this collection of music showcase not only Ben’s fantastic guitar playing but his outstanding songwriting and production talents. The concept and music evolved over a period of time that roughly coincided with the Covid Pandemic. This music can be a healing balm for the many people that have survived the tumultuous chaos that we were exposed to the last few years. It can broadly be described as Progressive , melodic, ambient music that encompasses a full range of emotions. Shimmering 12 string acoustic guitars combine with tasteful electric guitar leads and keyboard/drum/bass to create an uplifting sound that is unique in today's music world. When was the last time you listened to a complete album in which all songs and instruments were written, played and produced by one person ? I’ve been a music fan, concert goer and reviewer for over fifty years and this music needs to be heard! 

-Jim Webb

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Sweet - Action - Top Of The Pops 24.07.1975 (OFFICIAL)

All That Glitters


The American experience of an early 1970’s UK music style known as Glitter Rock and/or Glam Rock is quite different from what our older cousins across the pond enjoyed. Though some cross pollination in dress, style, attitude and musical craft occurred between the two Rock Tribes, the Brits embraced it in an all-round much bigger way. The ever-changing 70’s Rock scene was characterized by the swiftness in which new musical fads appeared, dominated the charts, and then became extinct. How did Glitter and Glam take hold? Gradually, and then suddenly, like a tidal wave heading toward shore that no one sees until it’s massive waves are breaking over your head.

The period of 1967 - 1970 is known as the Blues Power era in England, and had a big spillover effect in the U.S. as well. The original power trio Cream featured Eric Clapton, and their reworking of Robert Johnson’s 1934 dusty acoustic blues song Crossroads into an electrified Rock assault signaled the beginning of long solos as well as the need for a “Blues Feel'' to be part of the new hip sound. A high level of musicianship had to be present, no amateurs allowed onstage; Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac (ex-members of John Mayall’s Blues Breakers), Free, Ten Years After, and a whole slew of groups required to have "Blues Band" in their title.
But soon enough the lads got tired of listening to Chicken Shack, and the whole Blues Rock scene crumbled under a bland conformity in sound. Meanwhile, Marc Feld (Bolan) and David Jones (Bowie) had been lurking, ligging, and busking around the London music scene for so long they were almost invisible to everyone, just a couple of wannabes who would do anything to get a record deal and become stars. Ultimately, they understood that fashion, style and presentation would be as important as their sound. If long hair, beads, flowing blouses, and Hippie music were in, then they would follow that path until it dead-ended. In June of 1970 Ray Davies, bard of the British Rock Scene, released his most prophetic song yet: “ Girls will be boys, and boys will be girls, it’s a mixed-up, muddled-up shook up world.” The Future would be for those unafraid to try
something new.

British Rock fans were growing slightly older and now listening to “serious” rock music;
The Cold Wind of Prog Arsery was in a full force gale during the early 70’s with King
, Yes, and ELP leading the way. The technical musicianship of those bands had no
appeal to the youth who wanted to have a good time. Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, and Rory Gallagher -to name but a few- all supplied crunching riffs to their predominantly male fan base, but the younger teen crowd watching Top of the Pops needed something flashy. The Glitter/Glam attire of platform boots, makeup, wild fashion and hair styles all created a distinct look that emphasized glamour and fun.

Bolan smashed through first with his glitter pants, makeup, and Boogie guitar riffs,
understanding that the look was important - but the kids still had to dance. T.Rex helped unleash a need to have fun, look crazy, and escape from the conformity that society tries to impose on everyone. Bowie became the ultimate chameleon who would nick a good idea (dress, sound) from anyone. His N.Y.C. fascination with The Velvet Underground and Lou Reed led him to the early New York Dolls. He saw first-hand how outrageous the reaction was for men to dress up like women; he could now wear make-up onstage (like his old performances with the Lindsay Kemp Mime Troupe.) Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust creation showed he wasn’t going to let his pal Bolan get too far ahead in the race for Stardom. T.Rex, David Bowie, Slade, and The Sweet were all part of the huge first Glam wave that engulfed the U.K. Rock Scene circa 1971-1973. The mass hysteria and adulation for the new sound was reminiscent of Beatlemania just ten years before.

While T.Rex and David Bowie had the most obvious early success in The States, Alice Cooper and Lou Reed were homegrown leaders of the Shock Rock style that still emphasized makeup, costumes and outrageous behavior onstage. With Bowie off to conquer America, Slade and The Sweet dominated the Pop charts. They were soon joined by Roy Wood’s Wizzard ,
Mott the Hoople, Gary Glitter, Mud, and Detroit's own Suzi Quatro. While this was all happening, Gene Klein (Simmons) and Stanley Eisen (Paul Stanley) were plotting how to create a band that would encompass the Glam style of platform boots and make-up but also adding a new theatrical component that would create a fantastic explosion of lights and music. The Kiss Army was about to start their march across the globe.

When the Glam/Glitter Era began to collapse in England around 1974/75, it was time for a
new flavor of the month. Teens now had The Bay City Rollers to scream over, Freddie
was leading Queen onward with his dramatic look and, in the Summer of 1975, John Lydon stood in front of a jukebox with his I Hate Pink Floyd T-Shirt and mimed to Alice Cooper's School's Out with a few friends. Punk Rock would officially bury Glam, like they eventually
buried Prog Rock and other passé music forms. The kids could now dress up in ripped clothes, wear their spiky hair in multi colors, and claim an angry, powerful sound that was all their own. Marc Bolan died in a car crash in 1977. At the time of his death, his music career was at a low ebb, never having found a way forward musically after his early Glam peak. David Bowie continued to ch-ch-ch-ch change through the years, from a heavy Soul period ( Young Americans) to a new character labeled the Thin White Duke. Bowie always embraced change, a true chameleon who took pleasure in revamping his whole sound and look periodically. The Punk style that

started the initial 1976-77 revolution soon made room for Power Pop, labeled “New Wave” by the record companies, who hoped to generate more mass sales. With music trends, you never knew when one was going to end and the next one begin. The Rock scene changes, gradually and then very suddenly. It’s how the music business has always worked.

-Jim Webb

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Secret Museum

Wal-Mart Country: No Shoes, No Shirt, No Music

 The summer concert season is about to begin, and that’s when most big name artists start their annual ritual of playing the large outdoor amphitheaters located across the U.S. These glorified sheds are basically just big square boxes for a stage, with facilities able to hold fifteen to twenty thousand paying customers. We are accustomed to hearing the basic outdoor warnings about using sunscreen, wearing light colored clothing and hats. It’s finally time someone spoke about the real danger that has plagued concertgoers and the listening public for many years: Wal-Mart Country.

What exactly does Wal-Mart Country mean you are asking, and what’s it got to do with music? You know that all Wal-Mart stores are bland, sanitized structures that are built to maximize income, with absolutely no deviation allowed for any originality or style. Same store layouts, same signage, thousands of similar stores all across the country, all designed to soothe the average customer while maximizing profits.

Wal-Mart Country is the description of a type of music being played by today's so called “Country” artists. You know the names, but here’s a partial rundown to start; Kenny Chesney, Keith Urban, and Brad Paisley. These singers all have the same basic sound, same image, and sing about the stuff that is guaranteed to increase their fame and fortune. Yes, their goal, like Wal-Mart stores, is to get the hard earned money in your pocket to be put into their pocket. They’re masters at spinning phony tales about pickup trucks and flag waving heroes. The original Country music artists from the 40s, 50s, and 60s were real people singing about everyday problems. You didn’t have to be beautiful to sing songs; even average looking men and women could, and did, become popular. Good shit kickin’ honky tonk music can’t be faked, and that’s why it doesn’t exist anymore. You have to go all the way back to Hank Williams to hear it start, and while you’re at it spend a little time with Lefty Frizzell, George Jones (who recently dropped his body, probably sick of all the Wal-Mart Country singers everywhere), Buck Owens, and Wynn Stewart. It was the song that mattered then, where today you better look like a model, or don’t even try to get a song recorded.

 What’s wrong with singing, swaying and sippin’ wine coolers to Chesney, the longtime mayor of Wal-Mart Country? To borrow a phrase from John Lydon – Chesney gets the cash, and you get the lies. It’s a robbery of your precious time on the planet and your money. Let’s say you went to a gala event thrown by the master rip-off artist Bernie Madoff before he was imprisoned. You didn’t know that the champagne, caviar and entertainment were paid with stolen money. If someone asked you how the evening went, you would probably say it was very enjoyable. If you found out Madoff was a thief, stealing from others to pay for his extravagance, you would never spend an evening with him again. Switch the name Madoff for Chesney, and you now become an accessory to fraud by willfully participating in Kenny’s charade. Don’t try and say, “I didn’t know”. From here on out you’ve been informed about how his con game works. You are responsible for your musical decisions. If anyone now buys Chesney downloads or concert tickets, you are contributing to a massive Ponzi scheme that only benefits him. No shoes, no shirt, no music.

If you do find yourself at an outdoor music venue this summer take all necessary precautions. Drink a lot of water, limit the amount of fried foods you’re eating, and have a designated driver. If it’s a “Country” music concert at least you’ll now be aware of the scam. Also know that Bernie Madoff will be laughing hysterically in prison while you’re at the concert. He always appreciates when a well-planned heist has been pulled off. Welcome to Wal-Mart Country.

Have a nice summer,
Jim Webb

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Secret Museum: 
Maher Shalal Hash Baz
-  Be Quick if You Steal!

    Maher Shalal Hash Baz started in 1984 as a noise/punk rock group in Japan before eventually heading out into more conceptual waters. Band leader Tori Kudo is the visionary force behind their music, and is joined by his wife Reiko and a rotating cast of fellow musicians for their projects( some ex -members have formed the group Tenniscoats). They very quickly dropped the “constraints” of writing three minute rock songs, for the “liberating” effect of even shorter pieces. The music falls somewhere between psych – folk, and pop, with helpings of experimental and purely improvised group interplay added to the mix.
What would you say if I told you this band have released a two cd set that has 177 songs on it, with most between thirty to sixty seconds long! We might debate over what actually constitutes a “song”, but there is no denying the audacity of their 2009 release titled “C’est La Dernier Chanson” (English translation from my almost 24 yr. old daughter Mackenzie who majored in French  from The University of New Mexico is : “This is the Last Song”). Mr. Kudo has likened listening to this music as if you are visiting an art museum. The general public normally spends a couple of hours walking through a museum, stopping at various paintings briefly before moving on to the next offering. Most people will find this 2 cd set from Maher Shalal Hash Baz: A) their most enjoyable, or B) their most maddening. I think you already know without listening to a note of it what side you’ll be on. When I first read it was 177 songs on 2cds, with most under a minute in length (some only five to fifteen seconds!), I had to have it. Others might recall a painful trip to the dentist when reading about such brief snippets of arrangements and melodies. I think you will find it very likeable, as long as you accept the brevity of the music. Some might call this simple music, and that wouldn’t be an inaccurate comment, but it is very difficult to know what exactly should be simplified to make great art, or music.
The Velvet Underground, for one example, derived great power from their less is more approach to rock n’roll, and understood the hypnotic effect of well placed repetition in their songs (“Sister Ray”, “Heroin”). Kudo also knows how to strip down the unnecessary parts of a song to make great music. He has been involved with pottery for a long time, being taught the basics of that craft by his father, and knows how to strip clay, and now music, down to its most essential core. After many years of practice and discipline in cutting away the unneeded parts to his songs, what’s left is a beautiful simplicity to his music that is rarely attained by others. While the band’s primitive sound and lyrics that express real emotion may not be for everyone, it comes from their heart, and isn’t that all you could ever ask for from musicians?
 They have infrequently performed live through the years, and it’s also hard to find their music since they have been on a number of smaller independent labels (Geographic, Yik Yak, and K Records). You can pick up a handful of Tori and Reiko’s solo releases from the Japanese label PSF Records, but some of the band's titles are getting impossible to find and are quite collectable (3 cd Return Visit to Rock Mass, 1996).  If the 2 cd “Chanson” seems too daunting to start with, you might try “Blues de Jour”, or “Maher on Water”, both of those releases have more of a pop/guitar oriented sound. The instrumental/group improvisational stuff is featured more on“Faux Depart”, and “Live Aoiheya”, but any of the releases will have their trademark minimalism, and abrupt writing style. Their name Maher Shalal Hash Baz comes from a biblical passage from the book of Isaiah, and band leader Tori Kudo’s translation of the phrase is, “Be quick if you steal”.  I don’t know about Maher Shalal Hash Baz being thieves, but there is no doubt that they are very fast indeed!

         Jim Webb

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Bevis Frond Map Guide

The Secret Museum

By Jim Webb

Nick Saloman is one of the most underappreciated guitarists/songwriters of our generation. Notice I didn’t say singers, even though he does have a unique voice; that is more of an acquired taste. He is “Bevis Frond”, even though other mates of his (Adrian Shaw, Martin Crowley to name two) have periodically contributed to the musical journey. Working out of his bedroom led to a certain lo-fi ambiance on his earlier recordings, with the initial LP titled “Miasma” appearing in 1986. While there is a wealth of diverse styles that Nick is comfortable writing in, it is important to know what recordings might be most compatible with your tastes. Why waste time trying the song- oriented releases, if what you really wanted was the psychedelic inspired guitar freakouts. I will not say “they’re all great”, that’s a fanatic’s phrase that shows he’s been so captured by a musician’s spell that he’s now lost in the forest of infatuation. The Bevis Frond just recently ended a seven-year hiatus with the release in 2011 of “Leaving London.” I think it’s time to navigate the musical topography that he has travelled these last twenty-five years, and point out a few significant sites along the way.

The Lo-Fi / Psych - Guitar Blow Outs:
Miasma / Inner Marshland / Triptych / Acid Jam / Auntie Winnie/Through the Looking Glass

While there is any number of great shorter “songs” on any of the aforementioned releases, they are dominated by piercing lead guitar work, longer instrumental passages, and watery keyboard/organ fills. Psychedelic might mean Grateful Dead/Quicksilver Messenger Service to some, to Nick it is a hyperextension of what Jimi Hendrix was doing. He layers plenty of raw guitars that explode out of the studio speakers, no time limit as to when the lava will stop flowing off his fret board. The problem with trying to classify his output is that you have such ultra-Pop gems like “Lights Are Changing” (Triptych) on the same cd with the 19:47 long “Tangerine Infringement Beak”. Let’s not split hairs- Saloman will always be a stylistically divergent cat. Remember that a maps job is to get you close to where you want to be.

The Bard of Walthamstowe:
Any Gas Faster / New River Head / Son of Walter / North Circular

I do not mean in any way, shape or form that these are Sweet Baby James, Jackson Browne confessional diary-type songs that can be used as sleep aids. Nick has always taken the time to write interesting lyrics with a personal slant, he still has a lot of muscular guitar riffs flying around on these songs; they just seemed to get compacted into a shorter structure. The two cd North Circular is the high water mark to these ears, with New River Head not far behind. Some of these riffs during this period wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a Dinosaur Jr. cd for an American reference, but Saloman’s words (Stars Burn Out) and vocal delivery take him way above other talented three chord masters. The song “New River Head” shows just how far Nick has come, lyrically and melodically.

Riff City:
Gathering of Fronds / Superseeder / London Stone / Scorched Earth

Ok, Scorched Earth is a side project from 2008, but “Woman Gone Bad” has such a heavy slamming riff that Ron Asheton shat his pants when he first heard it (I’m assuming). London Stone features the slashing “Well Out of It”, that riff you could loop into a thirty minute remix and I wouldn’t get tired of it. “Gathering” compiles a lot of rarities onto a full-length cd, featuring a guest appearance by guitarist, and Nick’s boyhood friend, Bari Watts. If you like the heavy guitar aspect of Bevis Frond, then Bari’s band The Outskirts of Infinity should also be checked out.

Other Stuff:
It Just Is / Vavona Burr / Valedictory Songs / What Did for the Dinosaurs

I wouldn’t call anything from The Bevis Frond “bad” but there are a few that didn’t do much for me. His various styles from these cds all had better songs on other releases, and a little bit of the old Bevis energy seems to have dropped a notch. All of them still have a few nuggets (High on a Downer from Valedictory), but not surprisingly Nick took a brief break from his Bevis activities from 2004 to 2011. The most recent cd titled “Leaving London” shows that Nick Saloman remains as creative as ever, and doesn’t intend to get bogged down in following other people’s ideas of style and order in his music. You can expect, and get, anything from a folk inspired bash to a full-blown guitar rave up. Let’s hope we get another twenty-five years of Nick Saloman’s music, God bless The Bevis Frond and all who sail with her.

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Secret Museum: The Hare Krishnas, The Misunderstood, & Me

I have had a long standing interest in the Hare Krishna movement since the first time I bumped into them outside of the Spectrum arena in Philadelphia. They were distributing their magazines and selling incense on a hot summer day in July of 1975 before the rock band Yes played later that night. Through the years I've read a lot of their books and visited the Radha - Krishna Temple in West Philly a number of times, I haven't tired in keeping track of what has happened to "them" these last 35 plus years. There is something fascinating to me about this large group of American devotees that have renounced meat eating, alcohol, gambling, and sex ( other than sex for procreation), and also accepted a 16th century Bengali holy man from India, Caitanya Mahaprabhu, as the incarnation / avatar of God (Krishna). Krishna appeared as Caitanya to bring the singing and chanting of the Lord's holy name to the masses during these harsh godless times known as Kali - yuga (which we are still in). Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare. Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare.

Fast forward to December 28, 2011 and I've been reading up on all of the recent ISKCON ( International Society for Krishna Consciousness) related news. Two or three times a year I'll check out the numerous web / blog sites and try and get a feel for the current issues that they are dealing with.The whole modern Hare Krishna movement was begun single handily by a 69 year old Indian reunciate preacher In a small Second Ave. N.Y.C. storefront in 1966. It slowly splintered apart almost from the day the founder of ISKCON, A.C.Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada, died in November of 1977. Before passing away he named eleven senior devotees to be in charge, but all too quickly there were various power struggles and conflicts that still haven't been totally resolved as of today. The late 1970's, and into the 1980's sadly had numerous cases of young children being sexually molested in the movement's school system, and many of the original eleven handpicked disciples that formed the Governing Body Commission (GBC) had either quit (" fell down" ), died, or been forced to resign over various sex, drugs, and money issues. ISKCON today is very vibrant in its native India, and has had varying degrees of success in finding new devotees in Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia. The U.S. temples have gradually changed from a proselytizing emphasis based on distributing Prabhupad's books, to one of retrenchment that now largely caters to the local Indian communities that are their major support group. The counter - culture in 1966 was ready to throw off all of the "Establishments" views including having a career focused life, with traditional Christian values and rituals. More than a few people decided to tune in, turn on, and drop out. But it wasn't all drugs that they were turning on to.

I googled Santa Fe, New Mexico ( where I now live) for things related to Hare Krishna and got a wide assortment of choices to investigate. I wasn't surprised at all to see that in 1968 Santa Fe had one of the first ISKCON temples opened in the U.S.A. on Water Street, not far from the historic downtown plaza. New Mexico has been home to many religious denominations, hippie communes, art communes, writer groups and just about every alternative life style choice that North America has to offer. Currently the Vedic Cultural Center is one of the few Hindu related organizations active in nearby Pecos, NM and is led by Hamsavatar Das (Howard Beckman), and his wife. He was a disciple of Prabhupad in the 1970's/80's and has commented through the years on all of the changes ISKCON has gone through, and is also an esteemed Vedic astrology and gem specialist. His website led me back to google where I found another Krishna devotee named Hrisikesh (Richard Shaw Brown)who also currently specializes in gems, but has an interesting footnote in his personal biography. Richard Shaw Brown was the lead singer in a legendary California psychedelic rock band from 1966 named The Misunderstood.

The Misunderstood have a great web page at, and you should definitely check that out, loads of audio clips and info there to bone up on. I immediately sent that weblink to my friend and Secret Museum founder Mike Mooney, knowing that he would appreciate all things related to psychedelic/garage bands circa 1966. After emailing him, I suddenly had the feeling he might had heard of them, even though they were a very obscure group with little recognition. Mike is currently the lead singer/guitarist in the New Mexico garage rock band Manby's Head with Peter Greenberg. I then decided to google - The Misunderstood,Manby's Head, and was surprised to find on the 6th entry on the page a link to LOFTHOLDINGSWOOD, MY OWN BLOG SITE WITH MR. MOONEY!! Mike had indeed mentioned The Misunderstood in a piece he had written a year before on guitarist Randy Holden.

So what does this all mean? I guess anyone can play an Internet version of six degrees of Kevin Bacon, but I didn't think my googling of Hare Krishna would lead so quickly back to my own blog site! Maybe it means Mike is destined to join up with Richard Shaw Brown and create some intense music with him in 2012 ( I just hope we get more Greenberg / Mooney music in the new year). The Mayans were right, we have to expect a lot of big changes this coming year, and Hamsavatar Das agrees wholeheartedly with massive changes due based on where the planets are aligned right now. I was thinking of having Hamsavatar Das work up a full astrological reading on me, the real advanced type where they need not only your exact date and time of birth, but your parents exact date and time of birth as well. It's not a bad deal, for $175.00 I'll know what to personally expect in 2012. Instead, maybe one of these days I'll finally realize that all you have to do is chant Hare Krishna, ... and be happy.

Happy New Year,
Jim Webb

Friday, February 25, 2011


The Horse Fly does not appear to be returning to print. We haven't shopped the column elsewhere. Jim should be filling space here soon.
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