Video Fridays: R.I.P. Paul Kantner

Airplane's Paul Kantner At Altamont

Wow, January’s been one helluva month for deaths of musicians and entertainers that I’ve admired, so much so that I haven’t been able to keep up and post my reactions.

I managed to mark the passing of David Bowie and Alan Rickman, but then came Glenn Frey of the The Eagles (not someone I was a big fan of, but a ubiquitous figure who inspired a lot of people to listen to and make music); the lovable actor Abe Vigoda (this time, for sure), cuz face it, who didn’t love him as Fish?; and now, sadly…

Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane/Starship fame.

Kanter, and Jefferson Airplane more generally, were — along with other favorites of mine, the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, and others — part of the extraordinary late 1960s San Francisco music scene, a scene that produced music of incredibly raw, wild, psychedelic power, thoroughly reflective of the explosive counterculture of the period.

Kanter was an archetypal rhythm guitarist, eschewing the spotlight that lead guitar players naturally attract in favor of playing an essential supportive role. Indeed he, along with a handful of other players, were my inspiration for becoming a rhythm guitarist myself.

One of the first vinyl LP records that I ever owned was the 1970 compilation, with its wonderfully ironic title, The Worst of the Jefferson Airplane, given to me in the mid 1970s by a cousin determined to rescue me from Top 40 music.

Though I listened to the album when I got it, the rescue ended up taking a few years. Eventually, after revisiting the record several years later, it was obvious just how fantastic the music was and how much better it was, by magnitudes, in comparison to most of what was popular at that time.

So, thanks, Paul Kantner, for all of the amazing music, for inspiring me as a musician, and for singing about revolution, still relevant to me today, as the candidate I’m supporting for President of the United States is calling for a non-violent political revolution.

Video Fridays: Happy Birthday, John Lennon!

lennonSo, John Lennon would have turned 75-years old today if some lunatic with a gun hadn’t taken him down nearly 35 years ago.

Don’t get me started again on guns.

Lennon was a polarizing figure for sure, a flawed human being like everyone else, but there’s no question that his is one of the greatest stories in music history, and I’ve got to say that he’s been a huge influence on me, musically and otherwise.

John Lennon, the Beatle, seemed to have everything: superstardom, adoring fans, a critically acclaimed body of work, a loving wife, and a beautiful son. He could have coasted the rest of his life on that wave, but he chose to evolve as a musician and a human being, gradually drifting from the relatively clean-cut guy who wrote Please Please Me, to psychedelic poster child, to hippie activist, and beyond, never looking back.

He alienated his fans, he alienated his songwriting partner, he left his wife and son, and he left the greatest band the world has ever seen.

Like I said, one helluva story.

I’ve never been one to argue who the best Beatle was, as is common amongst fans, and I never disliked any of them, though I’ve not always liked all over their post-Beatles material.

And yet, there’s no doubt that John was my favorite. I’ve always, on the whole, loved his music more than the work of the others, ever so slightly more in some cases, and yet it was his emergence as a peacenik activist in the late 1960s that won me over completely. That he was willing grow out his hair and beard in the face of stifling and oppressive conservatism, that he was willing to leverage his massive celebrity to promote love and peace at a particularly volatile period of history, moved and influenced me deeply.

Yes, you were not and still are not the only dreamer, John.

But like I said, he was no angel. He was part hippie and part raunchy Rock&Roller, kinda like me!

And so, for this Video Fridays installment, I thought I’d show both sides of John Lennon, starting with his first overtly peacenik song, All You Need Is Love, a song that, in it’s message, however naive some may call it, still makes my eyes drip; and followed by one of my all-time favorite live performances, the White Album track Yer Blues, performed with Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, and Mitch Mitchell at the 1968 Rolling Stone’s Rock & Roll Circus.

Happy Birthday, John, and Happy Weekend, everyone!

To Man Bun, Or Not To Man Bun?

man-bunWhen I first heard my 17-year old son refer to some guy’s hairstyle as a “man bun”, I chuckled heartily.

Little did I know at the time just how much of a thing man buns are!

See, I’ve lived here in Bellingham, Washington for 22 years, and there has always been a visible, healthy, active, engaged hippie presence in town. Since the late 1960s, men with long hair, tied up or flowing freely, have been decidedly commonplace, and so modern hipster culture‘s embrace of long hair, and the man bun in particular, just didn’t register for me.

Well now, thanks to an article at Vox titled Man buns, explained, posted by a friend on Facebook today, I know much more about this trendy-once-again hairstyle than I thought I needed to know, including the names of some of the many man bun variants:

manbunchart

Interesting timing, all this, because I just got a haircut, my hair had reached a length that could very nearly support a man bun if I was so inclined, and yet I have a very complicated relationship with my hair, it’s a hair paradox, really.

I’m the type of person who prefers a low-maintenance appearance, partly based in an effort to avoid vanity, and partly out of simple laziness. I like to spend as little time as possible looking at myself in the mirror, fussing with clothes and hair and such. I’ve got MUCH more important things to spend my time on!

And yet, my hair is a major pain in the ass. It’s incredibly thick, curly, and dry and frizzy. It’s easiest to simply towel dry and forget about it when it is very short, but it grows so damned fast that I’d have to get a haircut every other week to keep it that easy, and yet, paradoxically, bi-weekly haircuts are not low-maintenance at all!

Conversely, if frequent haircuts are too much maintenance, you could argue that another solution is to just let the hair keep growing and eventually tie it up into a ponytail or, I don’t know, let’s say, a man bun, and forget about it.

Only, with hair like mine, the longer it gets the more work it takes to tame it: more shampoo to get it clean, more conditioner to keep if from being ridiculously frizzy, more time painfully running a brush through it to get out all of those insidious knots, cuz no offense to Rastafarians everywhere, but I ain’t doing dreadlocks.

Conclusion: Even if I was a hipster, which I’m decidedly not, and may be too old to try to be with any self-respect, (See the recent Noah Baumbach film While We’re Young), the answer to the question “To Man Bun, Or Not To Man Bun?” is clearly: Not.