RISE AGAIN LEE SCRATCH PERRY | PLAYING CRAZY TO CATCH WISE

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“For me to survive, me have to find something for myself and it was like a spiritual vibration, so me said– me going to make spiritual music.  This spiritual music coming– they call it Reggae.”

–Lee “Scratch” Perry 

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Reggae and Dub master, Lee “Scratch” Perry is often overshadowed by the Reggae giants that followed in his footsteps– namely Bob Marley.  Not that Marley doesn’t deserve praise– Perry is just long overdue, and grossly under-acknowledged.  Growing up in rural Jamaica, he later moved to Kingston and worked his way up from music studio janitor to songwriter and producer. Perry’s debut single “People Funny Boy” was one of the first recordings to sample– the sound of a baby crying.  In fact, what “Scratch” Perry was able to lay down on old, broken-down, low-tech equipment is nothing short of genius.  Perry’s crazy garb and outlandish, eccentric behavior have oft played perfectly to his reputation for being crazy– but many believe (and by his own admission) it was more a ploy to shield himself from the brutality of Jamaica’s badasses.

Now, to coincide with Lee “Scratch” Perry’s 75th birthday, there’s the release of the new album Rise Again, and documentary film called The Upsetter (narrated by Academy Award Winner Benico Del Toro)which chronicle’s Perry’s epic songwriting and producing career– highlighting his pioneering recording techniques, and ground-breaking (and still influential) contributions to reggae and dub music.

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Reggae / Dub master Lee “Scratch” Perry at his Black Ark studio in Jamaica

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Lee “Scratch” Perry

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Jamaica, 1976 — Lee “Scratch” Perry (and The Heptones) — Image by © Kate Simon  via

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PEOPLE ALWAYS CALLED ME BLONDIE | AT SOME POINT I BECAME DIRTY HARRY

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“Hi, it’s Deb.  You know, when I woke up this morning I had a realization about myself.  I was always Blondie.  People always called me Blondie, ever since I was a little kid. What I realized is that at some point I became Dirty Harry.  I couldn’t be Blondie anymore, so I became Dirty Harry.”

–Debbie Harry

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Debbie Harry of Blondie, Coney Island, NY, 1977 — Image © Bob Gruen

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“It was in the early ’70s and I was trying to get across town at two or three o’clock in the morning.  This little car kept coming around and offering me a ride.  I kept saying ‘No’ but finally I took the ride because I couldn’t get a cab.”  

“I got in the car and the windows were are rolled up, except for a tiny crack.  This driver had an incredibly bad smell to him. I looked down and there were no door handles.  The inside of the car was stripped. The hairs on the back of my neck just stood up.”  

“I wiggled my arm out of the window and pulled the door handle from the outside.  I don’t know how I did it, but I got out. He tried to stop me by spinning the car but it sort of helped me fling myself out.”

” Afterwards I saw him on the news–  Ted Bundy.”

–Debbie Harry

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Debbie Harry, NYC, 1976 –  Image © Bob Gruen

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1978 — Debbie Harry of Blondie — Image by © Martyn Goddard/Corbis

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CHUCK NOLL AND THE STEEL CURTAIN | FANS’ REACTION: “WHO’S JOE GREENE?”

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In a move that would forever change the Pittsburgh Steelers, and create the cornerstone for their legendary “Steel Curtain,” a little-known defensive big man named Joe Greene from North Texas State was drafted in the first round. The silence was deafening.

Fans’ Reaction: “Who’s Joe Greene?” — headline from The Pittsburgh Press, January 28th, 1969.

The day before, 37 yr old Chuck Noll, was brought in as Head Coach to brutally retool what was considered to be the worst team in all of the NFL– Yep.  The Pittsburgh Steelers.

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Feb 1oth, 1982, Pittsburgh, PA — Steelers’ defensive tackle Joe Greene displays his number 75 jersey after announcing his retirement. Greene was the foundation (and many argue, the Steelers’ greatest and most valuable player) used by coach Chuck Noll to build four Super Bowl Championship teams. — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

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Defensive Captain at the time, Andy Russell (with the Steelers since ’63) recalls his first meeting with new Head Coach Chuck Noll–

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Back in the ’60s, the Steelers were– pretty bad. We just could not consistently win games. We would lose games by the most bizarre circumstances– we’d find a way to lose every time. So, it was quite a frustrating experience — and a remarkable change — when Chuck Noll came.

He called me in on the off-season. I’d made my first Pro Lowl in ’68, prior to him coming, and I thought, “Oh, he’s calling me in to congratulate me.” So I went in to see him. We shook hands, but he wasn’t overly friendly. He looks right at me and says–

“You know, Russell, I’ve been watching the game films since I’ve taken over the job here– and I don’t like how you play. You’re too aggressive… You’re too out of control… You’re trying to be the hero… You’re trying to make big plays. I’m going to change the way you play. I’ll make you a better player than you are right now– because you’re not disciplined enough.”

I was just stunned!

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1972 — Pittsburgh Steelers’ coach Chuck Noll beams after Franco Harris scored the winning touchdown against Oakland to win 13 to 7. On the play, Steelers’ Terry Bradshaw passed to Frenchie Faqua. Faqua and Oakland Raider Jack Tatum collided and the ball bounced to Franco Harris. Tatum denied he touched the ball but the official ruled he did.American Football Playoffs — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

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When we got to our first training camp, Chuck Noll’s first speech to the team goes–

“Look, I’ve been watching the game films since I took the job.  And I can tell you guys that the reason you’ve been losing is not because of your attitude, or your psyche, or of that ‘STUFF.’  The problem is– you’re just not good enough.  You know, you can’t run fast enough, you can’t jump high enough, you’re not quick enough.  You’re techniques are just abysmal.  I’m probably going to have to get rid of most of you– and we’re going to move on.”

And you know– five of us made it from that room to our first Super Bowl following the ’74 season.

–The Steelers’ Andy Russell

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1975, Miami, FL — Members of the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers pose for pictures as the AFC pros opened training.  (L to R)  Franco Harris, Andy Russell, L.C. Greenwood, Jack Ham, Roy Gerela, and Joe Greene relaxing on the sod.  – Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

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AIR-HEAD AROUND THE WORLD | ELSPETH BEARD ON HER BMW R 60/6

Three decades ago, 24 year old architecture student, Elspeth Beard, set out to ride her bike around the world– a trek that would take 3 years and over 48K miles. The young Englishwoman, who’d been riding since she was just 16 yrs old, had already taken a few solo journeys to Scotland and Ireland– and now was ready to take on more before she finished school and settled down into a career.

Beard’s bike was a used 1974 BMW R 60/6 flat-twin, already with 30K miles, that she bought from a friend of a friend. Her around-the-world bike trek began in New York– “It cost $340 to send the bike and $197 for my own air fare,” she recalls. From NYC she rode up through Canada, then headed south through Mexico and Los Angeles– racking up 5K miles. From LA Beard shipped the bike to Sydney, while she first headed to New Zealand for a visit while her motorcycle was en route.

That’s when her luck started to run out…

elspeth beard bmw motorcycle

Elspeth Beard and her ’74 BMW R 60/6 that she rode around the world over the course of three years. “I worked for months in a pub saving the money to buy my BMW 600. That gave me the bug for travel on a bike. It’s the best way to get around – cheap, efficient and I enjoy the freedom.”  –Elspeth Beard (photo of Elspeth shortly after returning home by Peter Orme) (via) She also made her BMW’s lockable top-box and panniers out of riveted aluminum sheets while living and working in Sydney during her around-the-world trek. It was a necessary stop when the funds she’d scraped together as working student ran out– she’d end up spending a total of seven months apprenticing with a firm in Sydney.

young elspeth beard bmw motorcycle

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SHEL SILVERSTEIN | FREAKIN’ AT THE FREAKERS BALL IN THE SKY

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Shel Silverstein– the late, great, cartoonist, poet, author, playwright, singer, songwriter, musician… photo by Alice Ochs

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“Sometimes he wears a beard, and shaves his head.  Sometimes he shaves his beard, and wears his head.

Sometimes he’s writing articles, and drawing cartoons for Playboy magazine.

He’s in Hollywood working on movies.  Sometimes, he’s lonesome.

But wherever he is, he’s the one and only Shel Silverstein–

and one of the most talented guys I’ve ever met.”

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–Johnny Cash quoting one of America’s most prolific and revered songwriters, Harlan Howard.

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Shel Silverstein– Songs and Stories

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HOLLYWOOD’S INNOVATIVE KUSTOM KULTURE LEGEND | DEAN JEFFRIES

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Legendary painter, customizer, racer, and stuntman Dean Jeffries is one of those guys whose soft-spoken nature has allowed other, more self-promoting figures (read: George Barris, the Don King of Kustom Kulture) to steal a lot of his thunder.  Barris has tried to hire on Jeffries as an employee many times over the years, and Jeffries always rebuffed– preferring either to rent his own space, or work freelance.  Their histories are forever entwined, and the tales of rivalry, and particularly Barris’ trickery, are the stuff of legend.  Many of Dean Jeffries’ most recognized works (like the Monkeemobile, for one)– George Barris came behind and unrightfully claimed credit for them. It’s dumbfounding and downright sleazy– we’ll get to that later.

Dean Jeffries grew up immersed in Los Angeles auto culture– his dad was a mechanic, and next door to his dad’s garage was a bodyshop.  The young Jeffries was drawn to the creative expression allowed in bodywork over turning a wrench (“too greasy!”) like his ol’ man– the bodyshop became his hangout of choice.  After returning from the Korean War, he became buddies with another future legend of Kustom Kulture– Kenny Howard (AKA Von Dutch), and started pinstriping.

“We’d do freelance pinstriping on our own, then get together and hang out. I also worked during the day at a machine shop doing grinding. But pinstriping really took off then–I was painting little pictures and medallions on cars. My first job was pinstriping a boat. I didn’t have no shop back then. You were lucky if you got $5 for a whole car. If you got $25 in your pocket in a day you were King Kong. I thought it was great.” –Dean Jeffries

More than anything else, I’ll always remember Dean Jeffries for painting the infamous “Little Bastard” badge on the Porsche owned by his racing buddy– James Dean.

“For years Barris claimed he painted it– now he just says he can’t remember and somebody in his shop painted it. Sure. I used to bum around with James Dean. I wasn’t trying to be his movie friend. We just had car stuff between us. We hung out, got along together real bitchin’. But one day Dean asked me to paint those words on his car, and I just did it.” –Dean Jeffries

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Love this pic.  There’s the obvious knockout pinup, Carol Lewis (Dean Jeffries’ high school sweetheart in front of his ’47 Merc), posing for his pinstriping pleasure, but also check out Dean Jeffries’ paint box.  “The Modern Painter Has Arrived.” It’s an incredible piece of work in itself.

“The above shot comes from a publicity shoot done ironically, at Barris’ shop, with George behind the camera. Jeffries was just out of high school, and Barris tried to hire him, but Jeffries wanted to sub-contract to Barris, so Barris cleaned out a storage area in his shop, and Jeffries based himself out of there. Pretty slick on Barris’ part– he could grab Jeffries any time he wanted a striping job.” –Thanks to Irish Rich for the story on Carol Lewis.

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Carol Lewis’ custom 1956 Chevrolet– Dean Jeffries high school sweetheart.  –image via Kustomrama “It was Jeffries who was having dinner across the street from Barris’ shop when he spotted the smoke coming from the start of the disasterous Dec. ’57 Barris shop fire. He ran across the street and broke in, and managed to get Lewis’ 56 Chevy out of there before the flames got too out of control. Lewis’ Chevy was done in a similar style as Jeffries’ ’47 was.” –Irish Rich

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THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN | BRITISH RACING LEGEND BARRY SHEENE


“Your arse, if you’re going fast enough.”

–Barry’s famous retort when asked by BBC, “What goes through your mind during a crash?”

In a brilliant racing career in which he amassed back-to-back World Championships (’76 & ’77), 23 Grand Prix victories, and 52 Podium finishes in all– the late, great Barry Sheene is one of the most loved and remembered motorcycle racing legends to this day. The victories alone, as impressive as they were, would not be enough immortalize the man. It was Sheene’s fearless spirit & iron will, a body that was repeatedly broken but not beaten, and his witty charm & handsome looks, that have eternally endeared him to racing fans around the world. It’s that old cliche– every woman wanted him, and every man wanted to be him.

Barry’s career was no doubt impacted by two major crashes that are forever a part of motorcycle racing history. The 1st occurred in 1975– at the Daytona 200, a locked rear wheel at 170 mph jerked him violently and Barry lost control. It’s a wonder he survived at all– amazingly, he didn’t even lose consciousness. In fact, he later recounted the crash in detail as the unforgiving track pummeled his flailing body. He suffered a shattered left leg, smashed thigh, broke six ribs, a wrist, and his collarbone.  When Barry awoke at the hospital, he didn’t miss a beat– asking the attending nurse for a fag (cigarette, for you Yanks out there). The 2nd came in 1982–  the two-time World Champion crashed (again going 170 mph) at Silverstone during practice for the British Grand Prix. Barry later recalled, “Wasn’t my fault; came over a hill and there was a wreck right in front of me.” They feared he’d never walk again, let alone return to the racetrack. His legs were compared to “crushed eggs,” taking eight hours to piece back together– with the aid of two stainless steel posts, two steel plates and almost 30 steel screws. After Barry was told he might be able to bend his knees in three months time, he did it in two and a half weeks– and returned to racing the following year. Some took to calling him– Bionic Barry. How you like them apples?

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October 4th, 1958, Southwark, London– Motorcyclist Frank Sheene here pictured with his young son (the future legend Barry Sheene) at Club Day —Image by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis. Barry’s old man, Frank Sheene, was no slouch on a bike himself– and could even turn a wrench.  The young and fearless Barry was on a bike at the wee age of 5 yrs old–  a Ducati 50cc motorbike. He entered his first competitive race at the age of 17 at Brands Hatch. He Crashed, (DNF). Wasting no time, Barry entered again the very next weekend and won the bloody thing. The Barry Sheene racing dye was cast.

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1980′s OLD SCHOOL BMX RADNESS | FREESTYLE FLYIN’ & STREET STYLIN’

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Full disclosure — I was the kid with the crappy bike.  No Haro, no Redline, no Mongoose.  Not even a brand new POS Team Murray.  Mom bought me a brand new bike from Pep Boys the summer before 5th grade.  I picked it out.  I didn’t know diddley yet–  I was a kid from Rochester who listened to Van Halen. I just knew it had red rims and looked like the bikes the cool kids were ridin’.  It had that tiny sprocket that couldn’t keep up.  Tiny sprockets suck. No worries, it was stolen.

I didn’t get schooled in bikes until we moved to Anaheim in 1980, and it was all about BMX… and Blondie.  Thought I’d finally made it when I bought my friend’s used Rampar with heavy duty rims. Damn bike was stolen three days later while I played Tron in the local Fry’s.

No, I never was that fly freestyle guy with the rad bike.  But I can still dream.

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Kettering, 1986. via

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Old School BMX/Freestyle –All rights reserved by vincent frames

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“The Condor” Mat Hoffman, mid-flight, Oklahoma City. –All rights reserved by TenEyck Media. via Snapshot from the old Hoffman Bikes HQ in Oklahoma City. Hoffman’s contests were an annual pilgrimage for serious freestylers back in the day.  Between competitions, Hoffman would get towed via motorcycle up to speed, hit the giant quarterpipe and soar. Everyone in attendance held their collective breath until he landed.

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BLUESMAN STEVIE RAY VAUGHAN | TRIBUTE TO AUSTIN’S FAVORITE SON

From the desk of Contributing Editor, Eli M. Getson–

Life has now taken me to the great city of Austin, Texas.  You can usually find me walking next to Lady Bird Lake early Saturday morning,completely stuck in my own head, and with my son in tow.  He’s a bit of a freak for guitars, and on one of our walks he asked me, “Who is that statue of the man with the guitar?” As we walked closer a smile crossed my face…

It has been twenty years since we lost Stevie Ray Vaughan in a helicopter crash– arguably one of the greatest blues guitarists ever, and one of the greatest musicians to come out of the Austin music scene. He was only 35 when he passed away, and was on a high from being clean and sober for four years. Stevie was making some of the best music of his life and then– gone in an instant.

Stevie Ray Vaughan played in my hometown of Chicago quite a bit while I was growing up.  Any serious blues player will tell you that all roads lead to the Windy City– and Stevie was no different.  He had a reverence for the blues and its history.  Stevie was heavily influenced by Chicago legend Buddy Guy (who along with Albert King, Otis Rush, Lonnie Mack, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, and Jimi Hendrix really sculpted his style) and would show up at Buddy’s club Legends to jam after hours when he was in town.  I was lucky enough to see him play there several times.   You could tell that Dallas-born Stevie had cut his teeth playing the small clubs around Austin– he really liked that environment and usually played some great stuff.  You had to be willing to stay well into the morning hours to catch Stevie jam with Buddy and any number of Chicago’s finest players, but it was well worth it.  Well before the days of cell phone cameras and YouTube, most of these sessions will only live in the memory of those of us that were there to witness two of the greatest guitar legends take turns on classics– like Born Under a Bad Sign, Red House, Not Fade Away, and Mannish Boy.

I often pass Stevie’s statue on my Saturday walks, and wonder if others still stop and reflect on his greatness.  Do they know how truly special this guy was?  Sadly, time has a way of dulling our memory, and we can forget.  Man, I hope not.  I feel blessed to have seen Stevie play guitar back then.  His incredible sound was pure Blues and pure Texas.

Eli M. Getson

 

The legendary Texas Bluesman and guitar great, Stevie Ray Vaughan, going behind the back.

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