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Singer-songwriter Roger McGuinn is 81 years old today
Roger McGuinn at Bob Dylan's Highway 61 CD-ROM release party, New York City, 1995
Photo by Frank Beacham
Roger McGuinn is 81 years old today.
A singer-songwriter and guitarist, McGuinn is best known for being the lead singer and lead guitarist on many of the Byrds' records.
Born and raised in Chicago, McGuinn became interested in music after hearing Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel," and asked his parents to buy him a guitar. (During the early 1980s, he paid tribute to the song that encouraged him to play guitar by including "Heartbreak Hotel" in his autobiographical show).
Around the same time, he was also influenced by Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Gene Vincent and The Everly Brothers. In 1957, he enrolled as a student at Chicago's Old Town School of Folk Music, where he learned the five-string banjo and continued to improve his guitar skills.
After graduation, McGuinn performed solo at various coffeehouses on the folk music circuit where he was hired as a sideman by folk music groups in the same vein as the Limeliters, the Chad Mitchell Trio and Judy Collins.
He also played guitar and sang backup harmonies for Bobby Darin. Soon after, he relocated to the West Coast, eventually Los Angeles, where he eventually met the future members of The Byrds.
In 1962, after he ended his association with the Chad Mitchell Trio, McGuinn was hired by Darin to be a backup guitarist and harmony singer. At that time, Darin wanted to add some folk roots to his repertoire because it was a burgeoning musical field. Unfortunately, about a year and a half after McGuinn began to play guitar and sing with Darin, the singer became ill and retired from performing.
Subsequently, Darin opened T.M. Music in New York City's Brill Building, hiring McGuinn as a songwriter for $35 a week. During 1963, just one year before he co-founded The Byrds, he was a studio musician in New York City, recording with Judy Collins and Simon & Garfunkel.
At the same time, he was hearing of The Beatles — whose first American tour would begin in February, 1964 — and wondering how Beatlemania might affect folk music.
By the time Doug Weston gave McGuinn a job in at the The Troubadour in Los Angeles, McGuinn had included Beatles' songs in his act. He gave rock style treatments to traditional folk tunes and thereby caught the attention of another folkie Beatle fan, Gene Clark, who joined forces with McGuinn in July, 1964. Together they formed the beginning of what was to become The Byrds.
During his time with The Byrds, McGuinn developed two innovative and very influential styles of electric guitar playing. The first was "jingle-jangle" — generating ringing arpeggios based on banjo finger picking styles he learned while at the Old Town School of Folk — which was influential in the folk rock genre.
The second style was a merging of saxophonist John Coltrane's free-jazz atonalities, which hinted at the droning of the sitar — a style of playing, first heard on The Byrds' 1966 single, "Eight Miles High." It was influential in psychedelic rock.
While "tracking" The Byrds' first single, "Mr. Tambourine Man," at Columbia studios, McGuinn discovered an important component of his style. "The 'Ric' [Rickenbacker guitar] by itself is kind of thuddy," he noted. "It doesn't ring. But if you add a compressor, you get that long sustain. To be honest, I found this by accident.
“The engineer, Ray Gerhardt, would run compressors on everything to protect his precious equipment from loud rock and roll. He compressed the heck out of my 12-string, and it sounded so great we decided to use two tube compressors [likely Teletronix LA-2As] in series, and then go directly into the board.
“That's how I got my 'jingle-jangle' tone. It's really squashed down, but it jumps out from the radio. With compression, I found I could hold a note for three or four seconds, and sound more like a wind instrument. Later, this led me to emulate John Coltrane's saxophone on ‘Eight Miles High.’ Without compression, I couldn't have sustained the riff's first note.
"I practiced eight hours a day on that 'Ric,'" he continues, "I really worked it. In those days, acoustic 12s had wide necks and thick strings that were spaced pretty far apart, so they were hard to play. But the Rick's slim neck and low action let me explore jazz and blues scales up and down the fretboard, and incorporate more hammer-ons and pull-offs into my solos.
“I also translated some of my banjo picking techniques to the 12-string. By combining a flat pick with metal finger picks on my middle and ring fingers, I discovered I could instantly switch from fast single-note runs to banjo rolls and get the best of both worlds."
Another sound that McGuinn developed is made by playing a seven string guitar, featuring a doubled G-string (with the second string tuned an octave higher).
The C. F. Martin guitar company has even released a special edition called the HD7 Roger McGuinn Signature Edition, that claims to capture McGuinn's "jingle-jangle" tone which he created with 12 string guitars, while maintaining the ease of playing a six-string guitar.
The Byrds recorded several albums after Mr. Tambourine Man in 1965. The single, "Turn! Turn! Turn!," written by Pete Seeger with the lyrics drawn from Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament, was The Byrds' second #1 success in late 1965.
In 1969, McGuinn's solo version of the "Ballad Of Easy Rider" appeared in the film, Easy Rider, while a full band version was the title track for the album released later that year. McGuinn also performed a cover of Bob Dylan's "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" for the Easy Rider soundtrack.
His "Untitled" album featured a 16-minute version of The Byrds' 1966 hit, "Eight Miles High," with all four members taking extended solos representative of their "jam-band" style of playing during that period.
After several personnel changes, the group disbanded in 1973, with Chris Hillman playing bass with the band for their final show in February of that year. Notable band members included David Crosby, Gene Clark, Michael Clarke, Clarence White, Skip Battin and Gram Parsons — all of whom went on to form successful groups.
In 1968, McGuinn helped create the groundbreaking Byrds album, Sweetheart of the Rodeo, to which many attribute the rise in popularity of country rock. The album was originally conceived as a blend of rock, jazz and other styles. However, Gram Parson's and Chris Hillman's bluegrass-western-country influences came to the forefront.
Other artist's albums, and even Byrd songs by Hillman on previous albums, showed a strong country influence, but "Sweetheart" was the first full fledged country rock album.
After the break-up of The Byrds, McGuinn released several solo albums throughout the 1970s. He toured with Bob Dylan in 1975 and 1976 as part of Dylan's "Rolling Thunder Revue."
In late 1975, he played guitar on the track titled "Ride The Water" on Bo Diddley's The 20th Anniversary of Rock 'n' Roll all-star album.
Here, McGuinn performs Pete Seeger’s “Turn, Turn, Turn.
George McGovern accepts the Democratic nomination for president in 1972 — 51 years ago
Photo by Frank Beacham
Fifty-one years ago tonight, under the influence of Mescalin — a hallucinogen — photographer Ron Lindsey and I stood on the floor of the 1972 Democratic National Convention in Miami to watch George McGovern accept the nomination for the presidency of the United States.
Actually, to be completely accurate, the presidential acceptance speech ran late — very late.
It occurred at 2:48 a.m. — long after midnight and most TV viewers had gone to bed — so it was technically the following day. But, to us, it was all a blur anyway.
I was at the convention working as a reporter for Gannett newspapers. I had been offered a job with the McGovern campaign by Gary Hart, but had told him no. I wanted to be a reporter instead.
On this night, in all the hoopla, I was having second thoughts about giving up that opportunity to work for McGovern.
The night dragged on and on over the selection of a vice president. McGovern picked Sen. Thomas Eagleton of Missouri for his vice presidential running mate.
Eagleton later withdrew from the race when it was disclosed that he had undergone mental health treatment, including electroshock therapy. He was replaced on the ballot by Sargent Shriver. That hurt McGovern badly — perhaps fatally.
The Democratic convention itself was one of the most unusual in recent American history. Sessions began in the early evening and lasted until sunrise the next morning. Previously excluded political activists gained influence at the convention at the expense of elected officials and traditional core Democratic constituencies, such as organized labor.
When McGovern finally spoke, Lindsey and I were standing a few feet in front of him at the podium. We were both, to put it mildly, high as a kite.
I had been sprayed by tear gas earlier in the day and was then running on adrenalin. Lindsey wasn’t really working the convention. He was on vacation at the time.
But, to show how lax security was then, he borrowed the credential of another photographer to gain entry to the floor. I wasn’t actively working either. I just wanted to see history in the making. While we hallucinated on the convention floor, Lindsey was snapping away with his Nikon F with a 200mm lens. He thought his pictures were average.
However later, while processing the film, he found an exquisite photograph of McGovern on the last frame of film (36A) in a victory pose after his acceptance speech with a dejected looking Hubert Humphrey behind him. That single image said it all.
Later, McGovern would see fit to hang the picture at his home. Lindsey’s accidental image was widely published and won the National Press Photographer’s best picture of the year in 1973.
In later years, I asked McGovern to sign a copy of the picture that Lindsey had given me. McGovern lingered while observing the image, clearly savoring it and still finding it fascinating.
I have the only signed copy of the picture in existence.
That was 51 years ago tonight (well, at least loosely).
Below is Ron Lindsey’s lucky photo — my signed version
Frank Beacham with protesters in Miami Beach's Flamingo Park at the 1972 national political conventions 51 years ago. I was a reporter at the time for Gannett Newspapers.
Photo by Ron Lindsay
Released on this day in 1973 — 50 years ago — Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid was the 12th studio album and first soundtrack album by Bob Dylan.
It was released for the Sam Peckinpah film, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. Dylan himself appeared in the film as the character “Alias.”
Consisting primarily of instrumental music and inspired by the movie itself, the soundtrack included “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door,” which became a Top 20 hit.
Certified a gold record, Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid reached #16 in the United States and #29 in the UK.
One of the biggest and most famous signs in history was dedicated on this day in 1923 — 100 years ago — in the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles.
The 50-foot-tall letters, “H-O-L-L-Y-W-O-O-D-L-A-N-D,” were installed to promote sales in a housing development called — you guessed it — Hollywoodland.
Large, white-painted panels formed each letter, which were mounted to a framework of pipes, wires and telephone poles. For pizazz, light bulbs were added. Meant to be a short-lived advertisement, the letters quickly became a symbol of the glamour of American show business. By the mid-1940s, the sign began to crumble.
The developers soon pulled out of the neighborhood. The sign came to be part of a public park and control of it fell to the city of Los Angeles. The last four letters were removed in 1949, after the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce paid for the sign’s refurbishment.
After losing one of the “O’s” to termites, the sign was torn down in 1978 and rebuilt. The 450-foot-long landmark remains a beacon — though not for homes in the area. Those tend to sell themselves.
Above photo by Alex Pitt
Thanks New York Times!
Looters and residents of the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn after the 1977 power failure.
Photo by Tyrone Dukes
The New York City blackout of 1977 occurred 46 years ago today.
The electricity blackout affected most of New York City on July 13–14, 1977. The only neighborhoods in the city that were not affected were in southern Queens; neighborhoods of the Rockaways, which were part of the Long Island Lighting Company system; and the Pratt Institute campus in Brooklyn which operated its own historic power generator.
Unlike other blackouts that affected the region, namely the Northeast blackouts of 1965 and 2003, the 1977 blackout was localized to New York City and the immediate surroundings. It resulted in citywide looting and arson.
The events leading up to the blackout began at 8:37 p.m. on July 13 with a lightning strike at Buchanan South, a substation on the Hudson River, tripping two circuit breakers in Buchanan, New York.
The Buchanan South substation converted the 345,000 volts of electricity from Indian Point to lower voltage for commercial use. A loose locking nut combined with a slow-acting upgrade cycle prevented the breaker from reclosing and allowing power to flow again. A second lightning strike caused the loss of two 345 kV transmission lines, subsequent reclose of only one of the lines and the loss of power from a 900MW nuclear plant at Indian Point.
As a result of the strikes, two other major transmission lines became loaded over their normal limits. Con Edison, the power provider for New York City and some of Westchester County, tried to start fast-start generation at 8:45 p.m. However, no one was manning the station and the remote start failed.
At 8:55 p.m., there was another lightning strike at the Sprain Brook substation in Yonkers, which took out two additional critical transmission lines. As before, only one of the lines was automatically returned to service.
This outage of lines from the substation caused the remaining lines to exceed the long-term operating limits of their capacity. After this last failure, Con Edison had to manually reduce the loading on another local generator at their East River facility, due to problems at the plant. This made an already dire situation even worse.
At 9:14 p.m., over 30 minutes from the initial event, New York Power Pool Operators in Guilderland called for Con Edison operators to "shed load." In response, Con Ed operators initiated first a five percent system-wide voltage reduction and then an eight percent reduction. It turns out they misinterpreted the term, making the situation worse.
Con Ed could not generate enough power within the city, and the three power lines that supplemented the city's power were overtaxed. Just after 9:27 p.m., the biggest generator in New York City, Ravenswood 3 (also known as "Big Allis"), shut down and with it went all of New York City.
By 9:36 p.m., the entire Con Edison power system shut down, almost exactly an hour after the first lightning strike. Power was not fully restored until late the following day.
The blackout occurred when the city was facing a severe financial crisis and its residents were fretting over the Son of Sam murders. The nation as a whole was suffering from a protracted economic downturn, and commentators have contrasted the event with the good-natured "Where Were You When the Lights Went Out?" atmosphere of 1965.
Some pointed to the financial crisis as a root cause of the disorder, others noted the hot July weather, as the Northeast at the time was in the middle of a brutal heat wave. Still others pointed out that the 1977 blackout came after businesses had closed and their owners went home, while in 1965 the blackout occurred during the day and owners stayed to protect their property. However, the 1977 looters continued their damage into the daylight hours.
Looting and vandalism were widespread, hitting 31 neighborhoods, including most poor neighborhoods in the city. Possibly the hardest hit were Crown Heights, where 75 stores on a five-block stretch were looted, and Bushwick, where arson was rampant with some 25 fires still burning the next morning.
At one point two blocks of Broadway, which separates Bushwick from Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, were on fire. Thirty-five blocks of Broadway were destroyed: 134 stores looted, 45 of them set ablaze. Thieves stole 50 new Pontiacs from a Bronx car dealership. In Brooklyn, cars were backed up to targeted stores for looting.
LaGuardia and Kennedy airports were closed down for about eight hours, automobile tunnels were closed because of lack of ventilation and 4,000 people had to be evacuated from the subway system.
ConEd called the shutdown an "act of God," enraging New York Mayor Abraham Beame, who charged that the utility was guilty of "gross negligence."
In all, 1,616 stores were damaged in looting and rioting, and 3,776 people were arrested, the largest mass arrest in city history. Many were stuffed into overcrowded cells, precinct basements and other makeshift holding pens.
Shea Stadium went dark at approximately 9:30 p.m., in the bottom of the sixth inning, with Lenny Randle at bat. The New York Mets were losing 2–1 against the Chicago Cubs. Jane Jarvis, Shea's organist and "Queen of Melody," played "Jingle Bells" and "White Christmas." The game was completed on September 16, with the Cubs winning 5–2.
For much of July 14, most of the television stations in New York City were off the air (as the areas where those TV stations were located were still without power for much of the day).
During the blackout, numerous looters stole DJ equipment from electronics stores. As a result, the hip hop genre, barely known outside the Bronx at the time, grew at an astounding rate from 1977 onward. Three decades later, Grandmaster Caz recalled that he took advantage of the widespread looting in their part of the Bronx to get a mixing board, as did other aspiring rappers and DJs.
"After the blackout, all this new wealth … was found by people and they just — opportunity sprang from that," he recalled. "And you could see the differences [in their sound] before the blackout and after."
The city was eventually given over $11 million by the Carter administration to pay for the damages of the blackout. After an investigation, significant changes were made to guard against a similar occurrence. They are still in effect today.
Ernő Rubik, inventor of the Rubik Cube, is 79 years old today.
A Hungarian inventor, architect and professor of architecture, Rubik is best known for the invention of mechanical puzzles including Rubik's Cube (1974), Rubik's Magic, Rubik's Magic: Master Edition and Rubik's Snake.
While Rubik grew to fame based on the Rubik's Cube and his other puzzles, much of his recent work involves the promotion of science in education.
Rubik is involved with several organizations such as Beyond Rubik's Cube, the Rubik Learning Initiative and the Judit Polgar Foundation all of whose aim is to engage students in science, mathematics and problem solving at a young age.
Auto junk yard near Easton, Pennsylvania, 1935
Photo by Walker Evans