Category Archives: Music

John Lennon’s 80th Birthday

John Lennon would have been 80 years old today. This is my favorite photograph of him. It was taken by Jürgen Vollmer in 1961, during an early Beatles gig in Hamburg, West Germany, at Wohlwillstraße 22, Jägerpassage 1.

The blurry figures in the foreground are: George Harrison (who died in 2001 in Los Angeles), Stuart Sutcliffe (died in 1962 in Hamburg), and Paul McCartney.

Jürgen Vollmer, who together with Astrid Kirchherr and Klaus Voormann befriended the Beatles in Hamburg, became a successful artist, musician, and record producer. His friendship and occasional collaboration especially with John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr continued throughout the decades.

In 1975, the photo was used for the cover of John Lennon’s solo album, “Rock ‘n’ Roll”.

Here is the location photographed in 2011.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia User Lipinski

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Young Johannes Brahms in 1853

I came across this somewhat rare picture of the German computer Johnannes Brahms (7 May 1833 – 3 April 1897), taken in 1853.

Johannes Brahms, 1853

Johannes Brahms, 1853

Brahms was 20 years old at the time the picture was taken. Photographer and location are unknown, but 1853 turned out to be the year of fate for Brahms. All in that same year, he went on his first musical tour as accompanist for the Hungarian violinist  Eduard Reményi. In Weimar, one of the cultural capitals of Europe at the time, Brahms met  Franz LisztPeter Cornelius, and Joachim Raff. Falling asleep during a Liszt concert, young Brahms caused ill feelings and was fired as a result.

After a foot journey through the Rhineland, Brahms took the train to Düsseldorf to meet  Robert Schumann, at whose house he showed up unannounced. Schumann recognized his talent and invited the youngster to stay for a while. Brahms proceeded to fall madly in love with Schumann’s wife, Clara who was 14 years older than him and had 7 kids, with one more on the way.

A few months later, in early 1854 Schumann became mentally ill. After a suicide attempt in February, he was taken to a mental institution in Bonn, where he was confined for the two remaining years of his life. Torn between loyalty for Schumann and his feelings for Clara, Brahms continued to live in their house in Düsseldorf until shortly after Schumann’s death on July 29, 1856 at the age of 46.

Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms carried on a very extensive correspondence over the years. Although Brahms asked for the letters to be destroyed, quite a few have survived and have been published, though they represent only a fragmented account of the complex relationship between Clara and Johannes.

Johannes Brahms went on to become one of the the world’s most famous and influential composers.

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Watching The Wheels

My favorite photograph of John Lennon is this one, taken by Jürgen Vollmer in April of 1961. At the time, the Beatles were on their second engagement in Germany. The location is a doorway at Jägerpassage 1, Wohlwillstrasse 2 in Hamburg.

(click to enlarge)

Vollmer recalls how the image was taken.

This picture was one of John Lennon’s favorites as well. In February of 1975 it hung, framed, on a wall at the home he shared with Yoko Ono at the Dakota building in New York:

(click to enlarge)

The object in the background is a jukebox filled with 45-singles Lennon found influential.

The same Hamburg photo also appears on the cover of “Rock ‘n Roll“, a compilation of Lennon’s versions of classic rockabilly tunes.

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Etta James, 1938 – 2012

Jamesetta Hawkins, born January 25, 1938 in Los Angeles to a teenage prostitute, never knew her father and grew up in various foster homes. She became a major recording and performance artist under the name “Etta James”. She passed away on January 20, 2012 in Riverside, California.

Etta James on Wikipedia

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Sharing Audio Files

I have long been wondering why there isn’t something like YouTube – but for high quality sound files instead of video. Now there is. The German firm SoundCloud has just opened offices in San Francisco.

SoundCloud allows users to upload just about any audio format, host it in the cloud, and share it over social networks, private sharing, or HTTP embedding. Listeners can be allowed to post comments, re-share a file, download or purchase files.

The service was originally created for musicians who wish to share their files, but I think it will also be extremely useful for radio reporters and those who want to embed sound files in their blogs or social media sites. In addition, direct web sharing can turn a small portable device into a sound recorder with virtually unlimited recording capacity.

SoundCloud is a lot simpler and more flexible than other audio file hosting services, for instance the one offered by AvidAudio, the makers of ProTools.

Unique is also that SoundCloud offers simple apps for portable devices. For instance, the iPhone app places a ‘record button’ on the iPhone, which allows direct recording to the cloud.

There are also plenty of related apps for the iPad, one of which turns the iPad into a portable recording and sound editing studio, which allows direct recording to the cloud.

Basic SoundCloud accounts are free.

http://www.SoundCloud.com

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Gene Krupa

My favorite jazz drummer, Gene Krupa would have been 101 years old today. In the following clip from the 1941 comedy Ball of Fire, he is performing one of my favorite tunes of the era. (The script was written by Billy Wilder & Charles Brackett; the film, also known as The Professor and the Burlesque Queen, starred Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck. Stanwyck appears in this scene, but her singing voice belongs to Martha Tilton).

And below, Krupa is seen in a 1958 performance with Lionel Hampton and Chico Hamilton. (Note how smooth the transitions are. None of them even misses a beat at the handovers!)

Even more impressive: Lionel Hampton wasn’t only an expert on the drums, but also on the piano and vibraphone.

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The Beatles At the Hollywood Bowl

25 years ago, the Beatles performed at the Hollywood Bowl and, as reported by the Los Angeles Times, “escaped with their lives”. The report goes on:

“With 18,700 fans shrieking hysterically, not much of the mop-haired quartet’s singing could be heard”.

“The sight of ticket-takers wearing Army helmets presaged a possible blitz of World War II proportions. When nearly 3,000 girls in all manner of odd attire surged the gates at 5:20 p.m., officials decided to let them in 40 minutes early. Many broke into happy tears. ‘Oh, my God, we’re in, we’re going to see the Beatles,’ they screamed.” (From the L.A. Times).

Apparently, the concert lasted only for 30 minutes — enough to make pop history.

More information is here.

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