The Illustrated Side of John Lennon

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All images copyright Yoko Ono/Used by Permission
"But I'm One of Your Biggest Fans"
John Lennon drew long before he was in the Beatles, becoming an accomplished student at one of the UK's leading art schools. When the iconic band split up, Lennon put his musical activities aside for several years to spend time with his new family but kept right on drawing; maybe more than ever. If he had never even met Paul, George and Ringo, someone in an excellent position to know thinks Lennon would have done at least as well in the art world as he did in the recording studio.

"Most definitely," says Lynne Clifford, curator of the traveling exhibit "The Art of John Lennon," which opens today at Houston's Off the Wall Gallery.

"Yoko has sometimes said [that] I think he'll someday probably be known equally well for his drawings as his music," adds Clifford. "I mean, he was really a renaissance man -- I know people throw that terminology around a lot, but he was a composer, a musician, a poet, an artist. I mean, there wasn't anything that he couldn't do."


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Jimi Hendrix Has New Music Out...and It's Legal

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Experience Hendrix/Legacy Recordings
Before the fiery guitars and feather boas, Curtis Knight & the Squires: "Jimmy" Hendrix (left) with (clockwise) drummer Marion Booker, Bassist/Tambourine player Ace Hall, and singer Curtis Knight.
Before he became a psychedelic shaman and the most lauded guitar player or his (or, arguably, any) era, Jimi Hendrix was "Jimmy" Hendrix.

A jobbing, wandering axeman for hire, he spent lean years lending his brewing talents onstage and in the studio by backing acts like Little Richard, King Curtis, the Isley Brothers, Don Covay and even Joey Dee and the Starlighters. One of his more lasting relationships was with the Harlem-based R&B combo Curtis Knight and the Squires, with whom he both performed and recorded numerous sides in 1965-'66.

That was before ex-Animal bassist Chas Chandler whisked him away to England, where he became a sensation and the most talked-about American import since Elvis. And then returned him to these shores for Monterey Pop and worldwide success. Now, fans can finally hear a number of those cuts with Curtis Knight and the Squires -- legally, and after decades of litigation -- on the new compilation You Can't Use My Name: The RSVP/PPX Sessions (Experience Hendrix/Legacy Recordings).


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Confidant's Janis Joplin Memoir Is One of the Best Yet

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Photo by John Byrne Cooke
Janis Joplin, spreading her wings in 1968.
On the Road with Janis Joplin
By John Byrne Cooke
Berkley, 432 pp., $26.95.

Popular conception of Janis Joplin is that of the bluesy, boozy, hey-lawdy-mama who was a fireball onstage in a swirl of hair, sequins, fringe, and Southern Comfort. And with a raw, raspy voice that could take tunes by songwriters ranging from George Gershwin and Jerry Ragovoy ("Time Is On My Side") to Kris Kristofferson to church hymns and make them her indelible own.

That conception is true. But, as this exceedingly well-written and descriptive memoir by Cooke -- her former road manger, friend and confidant -- makes clear, that was hardly the only side to the girl from Port Arthur, Texas.


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J. Geils Band Throws a Raucous German Haus Party

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Photo by Manfred Becker/Courtesy of Eagle Rock
The elastic fantastic Peter Wolf's powers as a frontman are evident on this DVD.
The J. Geils Band
House Party Live in Germany
Eagle Rock Entertainment (CD/DVD), 68 mins. $19.98

They are likely best known -- and came into most general music fans' consciousness -- via their '80s MTV-era hits "Come Back," "Love Stinks," "Freeze Frame" and of course the No. 1 smash "Centerfold." But from their 1967 founding through the entire next decade, the J. Geils Band were a tough, tight and white R&B/blues band whose songbook included both originals and covers of long-lost deep cuts.

Filmed before a German audience in April 1979 for the Rockpalast TV show, this concert DVD showcases the Boston boys at the precipice between their two distinct eras of sounds. It is also possibly the most energetic captured concert I've ever seen.


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They Came From the '60s! The Zombie Invasion Continues!

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Photo by Andrew Eccles
The Zombies today: Tom Toomey (guitar), Rod Argent (keyboards/vocals), Jim Rodford (bass), Colin Blunstone (vocals), and Steve Rodford (drums).
So imagine this sonic scenario. You are a member of a '60s British Invasion band looking to distinguish yourself from various Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Animals, Pacemakers, Hermits, Troggs and Pretty Things.

Your group has had a couple of Top 10 hits in America a few years before, both nothing that was sustainable careerwise; or reflective of the new, heavier, and trippier sound that is in vogue.

Then -- partially to the thanks of a well-known U.S. record-industry insider who brings a copy of your most recent record back across the pond -- one song goes into heavy rotation on radio and is picking up steam. Interest and curiosity in your band begins to surge, inquiries are made from promoters about tours, and the music press begins to take note.


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The Bitter Battle Over "Fifth Beatle" Billy Preston's Estate

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"Billy Preston 1901720021" by Heinrich Klaffs is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Billy Preston in Hamburg, Germany
Written by Nate Jackson

On Nov. 21, 2005, the man known as "The Fifth Beatle" lay on a hospital bed, dressed in street clothes, thrashing and gasping for air. Billy Preston had just arrived at the Intensive Care Unit at Daniel Freeman Marina Hospital in Marina del Rey, Calif., rushed there from the Canyon, a nearby drug-rehab center. A large, frustrated nurse wrestled with the legendary, 59-year-old organ player (and native Houstonian), struggling to fit a black oxygen mask over his face. Eyes wide with fear, Preston dodged his head back and forth, unable to breathe.

Holding his hand at his bedside was Preston's manager, Joyce Moore. She tried in vain to calm him down.

"I gripped him tight and said, 'Boo, you gotta relax,'" Moore says. "I thought he was having a panic attack. I kept saying, 'Breathe with me...breathe with me.'"

But it wasn't a panic attack or the pangs of crack withdrawal. Years of drug abuse had culminated in malignant hypertension and pericarditis, the internal drowning of the area around Preston's heart. He mustered the strength to push the mask away, look up at Moore and painfully utter his last words: "I...can't!"


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Fleetwood Mac Gives Houston an Extended Encore

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Photos by Jack Gorman
Stevie Nicks remains in fine shawl even 60 dates into Fleetwood Mac's reunion tour.
Fleetwood Mac
Toyota Center
March 3, 2015

Tuesday night marked, according to Stevie Nicks, the sixtieth show on this string of dates for Fleetwood Mac. It's a hell of a run. It's even the second time they've hit Houston's Toyota Center. How do they maintain the fire? Even 60 shows in, they are just as energetic, just as vital and just as masterful as ever.

Nicks's comment was actually in reference to the fact that she had been welcoming back keyboardist and singer Christine McVie after a 16-year hiatus from the band for 60 shows, and that it was a bit redundant at this point. Put simply, she's back. The same could be said for the entire band.


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The Late Jack Bruce Throws a Belated Birthday Party

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MVD Visual
Fiery guitar legend Gary Moore (left) helped Jack Bruce celebrate his 50th birthday in 1993, jamming on some Cream classics.
Jack Bruce: The 50th Birthday Concerts
MIG Music, Multiple Formats

When Jack Bruce passed away late last year at the age of 71, every story and obituary led, understandably, with his best known musical job as the bassist for Cream. But in fact, Bruce had a wide and diverse journeyman career before and after the relatively short lifespan of the legendary power trio with Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton.

As a solo artist, bandleader and band member, music he composed and/or played touched not just on hard blues-rock, but also jazz, world music, avant-garde, and classical. And he was just as comfortable at the piano or holding a guitar as the bass.

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Aerosmith Drummer Joey Kramer: Coffee Kingpin & Part-Time Texan

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Fathom Events
Aerosmith: Boston Strong for more than four decades: Brad Whitford (guitar), Tom Hamilton (bass), Steven Tyler (vocals), Joe Perry (guitar), and Joey Kramer (drums).
There is no more quintessential "Boston" rock band than Aerosmith. Since their formation some 45 years ago(!) they've proudly stood for everything Beantown, and even have an official city historical plaque in front of their old living/rehearsal space.

But goddamn -- it's cold up there right now! And as of this writing, the city is likely to break its record for most snowfall in a season due to blizzards happening with more frequency than Steven Tyler's stints in rehab. That's why drummer Joey Kramer is more than happy to spend the winter of 2014-15 in his current home (and warmer climate) of Texas.

"It's wonderful to live here in Austin," says Kramer, whose wife is originally from Cypress in North Houston. "I lived in New England for 40 years, and the winters were brutal. And they're getting slammed again. I'm glad to be out of the cold!


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Jorma Kaukonen Ain't in No Hurry Anymore

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Photo by Barry Berenson
Jorma Kaukonen's relaxing new record reflect where he's at now in his life.
As the quintessential American troubadour, Woody Guthrie recorded hundreds of original songs in addition to his adaptation of traditionals. He performed even more than he recorded, and wrote more than he performed. And that's still not the end of his musical fountain. Which is how Jorma Kaukonen recently ended up co-writing a song with a man who died nearly 50 years ago.

"Woody's legacy is carefully guarded. And I'm sort of buddies with his daughter, Nora," Kaukonen says from Fur Peace Ranch, his home/concert venue/guitar camp/recording studio in Pomeroy, Ohio. "He apparently wrote thousands of poems that nobody has ever seen!"

So when Kaukonen was putting together material for his new record, Ain't No Hurry (Red House Records), he included covers of Depression-era standards like "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out," "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" and the Carter Family's "Sweet Fern." He also penned a few like-minded originals, such as "In My Dreams," "Seasons in the Field and "The Other Side of the Mountain".

But the chance to do a posthumous collaboration with Guthrie? Yes, please.


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