James Hillis

Archive for June, 2014|Monthly archive page

Reflections of my Weekend

In Uncategorized on June 24, 2014 at 7:08 am

Just some shots of how I spent my Weekend

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The Chase

In Uncategorized on June 23, 2014 at 2:29 pm

This Is A Story I wrote almost 6 years ago but continues to appear in the top 10 read story’s on my site every year. And with all the new readers I have accumulated I just thought I should re-run it.

One thing about my family is that you come to expect the unexpected. And when you throw a Nun,my Dad, a couple of shots of brandy and the Jehovah Witness,you wind up with an interesting afternoon. Such an occurrence happened and thank my stars I was there to witness it.
The year is, hazy but I was still in high school so I guess it would have been around 1972 or 1973. My mother’s sister was in fact a sister. Aunt Grace to us but Sister Francis Regis to the rest of the world. She always loved to come home to Cooper Street and sit out on the back patio talking to my mom and dad and enjoying the family life. This day she and my dad had opened the brandy and had a couple of shots when the doorbell rang and my Dad got up to answer it, when he came back he told Aunt grace that there were two Jehovah Witness’s at the door and he had told them that there was someone who wanted to talk to them and they waiting patiently at the front door for her. Now in those day’s the Nun’s still wore all the habits and as luck would have it my Aunt’s was on the chair beside her and she gladly threw them on and went to the door. but what happened after that is why this story sticks in my mind. Walking briskly up cooper Street were 2 Jehovah Witness’s being pursued by a Catholic Nun in all her glory yelling “come back, we have a lot to talk about”, never had I been more amused at something my family had pulled off and I swear my Dad almost split a gut laughing so hard heck even my Aunt and my mom could hardly stop laughing. Ah Summer, memory’s are made of this. Aunt Grace is no longer with us but everytime I think of her I have to smile. I mean how could a little woman like this scare two grown men, really?

31 Songs of Summer

In Uncategorized on June 17, 2014 at 5:32 am

With Summer almost upon us, I have put together a list of my 31 songs of summer. Now this has no scientific research or polling, just the songs I like about summer, or songs that when I hear them I think of summer. Yes, they are all from the past, but damn it, these are what I listen to, so feel free to suggest others that are newer and perhaps by next summer, I may be listening to them.  Now, why 31 songs you may ask, well with July and August having 31 day’s, it just seemed like a right number. Plus with so many to choose from I had a tough time getting it down from there.  So here they are, the top 31 of Summer.

31. Highway Star-Deep Purple===not really a summer song but one that you can roll down the windows and blast away

30. Thunder Island-Jay Ferguson==A great beach song

29. Hot August Night-Neil Diamond==The atmosphere of this song is so good you can almost see Brother Loves traveling Salvation Show

28. I get around-Beach Boys==No summer list is complete without the beach boys.

27. Stoned Soul Picnic-Laura Nyro==”Can you Surry,can you picnic” Laura ask so sexually on this song, that a summer picnic is what you want.

26.-Beautiful Sunday-Daniel Boone==Not really about summer, but brings about memory’s of warm Sunday day’s in the summer

25. Sweet City Woman-The Stampeders==A song that is so full of joy, you just can’t help feeling that summer is what it is about

24. Summer in the city Loving Spoonful==A dark but great song about the other side of summer

23. Summer Breeze-Seals and Crofts==The answer to the Loving Spoonful

22. Under the Boardwalk-The Drifters==I can taste the hotdogs from here

21.Sunshine Superman-Donovan==”Sunshine came softly upon my window today”

20. Beach Baby-First Class==A song about young summer love, something we all have had

19. Summertime Blues-Eddie Cochran==There ain’t no cure, but write an infectious song about it and that helps.

18. Hot Fun in the Summertime-Sly and the Family Stone==One of those slow rhythm and blues songs that keeps our toes tapping

17. Saturday in the Park-Chicago==”People laughing, people smiling, a man selling ice cream”

16. Indian lake-The Cowsills==Substitute any local lake or swimming hole and this song is about that.

15. Margaritaville-Jimmy Buffett==C’mon, you knew this song was going to be on here somewhere, Damn Parrot Heads.

14. California Sun-The Rivieras==Just makes you want to dance

13. The Party-Max Webster==”Were all here for a celebration” no list from my generation would be complete without the Max Machine

12.Low Rider-War==Sitting around with our souped up cars, and the cowbell at the beginning of this song shouted summer.

11. Sunny Day’s-Lighthouse==Laying around in my backyard, sipping a Dr.Pepper “There’s nothing better for your soul, than laying in the sun and listening to Rock and Roll”

10.Centerfield-John Fogerty==The best song ever about the great game of Baseball.

9. Dancing in the streets-Martha and the Vandellas==Right from the start this song grabs you and makes you want to be outside.

8. Sunny Afternoon-The Kinks==Great melody equals a great summer moment

7. In the Summertime-Mungo Jerry==A jug band playing rock and roll, a summer classic

6. Summertime-Billy Stewart==There are hundreds of versions of this old classic but Billy Stewart makes it his own.

5. Heat Wave-Martha and the Vandellas==Another great one from Martha

4. California Girls-The beach Boys==Heck, they could have all top ten, but that wouldn’t be fun would it?

3. Schools out-Alice Cooper==When I was in High School this was the song that was always played on the last day of School. A great summertime moment.

2. Long Cool Woman(in a black dress)The Hollies==I still can’t understand all the words that they sing, but when this plays the windows go down in the car and the stereo gets louder. Not about summer but it feels like it.

1. Wipeout-The Safaris==Beach, guitars and let’s face it, who hasn’t banged their fingers on the desk pretending you are doing the drumming at the beginning of this song. To me, when I hear this song in the dead of winter I smile cause I know summers coming.

Well, that is my list so pick it apart and let me know.

5 Musical Passings of 2013

In Uncategorized on June 11, 2014 at 6:51 pm

Sadly as we age, our musical heroes age also and every year more and more of them pass on to the musical heavens, and we are left with their music and our memories of them. 2013 was not a great year for some of my favorite musical acts, and while some passing’s were highly written about, like Lou Reed, others passed quietly with little fanfare here in North America, and so I present to you my memorial for those who left us too early.

Some of these artists were well know such as Lou Reed, George Jones, Ray Manzarak and even Slim Whitman. Here in Canada we lost Stompin’ Tom and Rita McNeil. But there were a whole group of other musicians that passed away that were influences on myself and others, but less known and perhaps did not get the headlines that they so deserved.

Sammy Johns of Chevy Van Fame.

Reg Presley,he was the lead singer of the Troggs

Rick Huxley, he was the bassist for the Dave Clark Five

Stanley Knight, guitarist for Black Oak Arkansas

Trevor Bolder, he was a guitarist who played with Uriah Heep,Wishbone Ash and was a member of David Bowie’s Spiders From Mars.

And there are too many to list here, but I have left 4 passing’s of note off the previous list, and these 4 plus 1 other are the 5 deaths that touched me the most in 2013..

5. Alvin Lee was 68 when he died in March, and the world lost one of the great rock and roll guitarists of my generation. “The Fastest guitarist in the West” was the leader of TEN YEARS AFTER and their appearance at Woodstock gained them instant fame. Ten Years after had only one real top 40 song “I’d Love To Change the World”, but the Woodstock version of their ‘I’m Going home” is considered a classic. Alvin Lee had a long career even after he left Ten Years After, performing and recording with Artists such as Eric Clapton, George Harrison,Stevie Winwood and Peter Frampton.  Lee’s overall musical output includes more than twenty albums, his last album, Still on the Road to Freedom, was released in September 2012.

Alvin Lee died on March 6th in Spain. According to his website, he died from “unforeseen complications following a routine surgical procedure”. He was 68.

4. Richie Havens. Another artist who made his mark at Woodstock,As the festival’s first performer, he held the crowd for nearly three hours with his improvised song Freedom becoming one of the most memorable moments from the festival. He joined Folk,Soul and Rhythm and Blues with a unique guitar style.  He recorded 21 studio albums and ironically while known more for his live performances he only recorded two live albums, and only had one song hit the top 40 in North America and that was in 1971 when he did a version of George Harrison’s version of Here Comes the Sun,which I actually prefer to the original.

On April 22,  Havens died of a heart attack at home in New Jersey.

3. John Weldon Cale. If you listen to Classic Rock Radio you hear his music all over the place, After Midnight,Cocaine,Call Me The Breeze and Crazy Mama are just a sampling of what he wrote. Known professionally as J.J. Cale the list of artists who covered his tracks are legendary and while the covers tend to get more airplay than his versions, one listen to the originals and you hear a different sound and yet familiar at he same time as he played what he called the Tulsa Sound, which was a more laid back approach while Clapton tended to rock out his versions. As for his chart success, his biggest North American  hit single, “Crazy Mama”, peaked at #22 on the charts in 1972.

J.J.Cale died of heart failure in July at the age of 74,

2. Lou Reed. The most well know on this list, Lou was also perhaps the most influential as well. From his day’s with Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground to his long solo career there is very few music fans that did not know the name Lou Reed if not his music.   ‘Walk On The Wild Side” was his biggest commercial success even though “Perfect day” has gained popularity over the last few years and who would have thought that a Lou Reed composition would be used regularly as background for TV Commercials. Lou Reed was known for his distinctive deadpan voice, poetic lyrics and his ability to create controversy which allowed him to connect with his fans.

Metal Machine Music, his 1975 double album is considered to be either a joke, a grudging fulfillment of a contractual obligation, . The album features no songs or even recognizably structured compositions, there is no melody or rhythm just feedback and guitar effects  mixed at varying speeds by Reed himself

New York released in 1989 is considered his finest album and is my favourite of his. The lyrics vent anger at many public figures in the news at the time. Reed mentions by name the Virgin Mary, the NRA, Rudy Giuliani, “the President”, the “Statue of Bigotry”, Buddha, Mike Tyson,Bernard Goetz, Mr. Waldheim, “the Pontiff”, Jesse Jackson, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Swaggart, and Morton Downey. It is one of those albums that should be listened to as a whole and not a bit at a time.

In May 2013, Reed underwent a liver transplant , afterwards he claimed on his website to be “bigger and stronger” than ever, but on October 27,  he died from liver disease at his home in  New York, at the age of 71.

1. Kevin Ayers.  Who is Kevin Ayers?  Kevin Ayers was an English singer-songwriter and a major influential force in the English Psychedelic sound of the late 60’s and 70’s. He was a founding member of Soft Machine, and he recorded a series of albums as a solo artist and over the years worked with Brian Eno, Syd Barrett, John Cale, Elton John,Robert Wyatt, Andy Summers and Mike Oldfield, among others.  As a solo artist he had 17 albums released and over 20 singles released mainly in Europe, with his  best known songs being  Oh Wot! A Dream, Shouting in a Bucket Blues, Stranger In Blue Suede Shoes and Don’t Let it Get you Down.

His albums were always full of engaging songs mixed with avant-garde instrumentals and a heavy dose of whimsy. For an unknown artist on this side of the pond, there are around 20 live and compilation recording available of his to go along with his 17 studio albums.

But why do I put him at #1 ahead of the other’s, well it’s hard to explain but his voice and his lyrics and the way he lays it all down on record just jumps out at me and I still listen to stranger In Blue Suede shoes and Don’t let it get you down on a regular basis and like Lou Reed, he is an acquired taste, but well worth the excursion of finding out.

Kevin Ayers died in his sleep on February 18th in Montolieu, France, aged 68

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