'All you need is love and rock 'n' roll'
Next month, my favorite band, the Rolling Stones will turn 50. On July 12, 1962, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Brian Jones gave their first performance as the core of a band called the Rollin' Stones, at the Marquee in London. In January 1963, after a series of personnel changes, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts rounded out the Stones' lineup.
From the beginning, the Rolling Stones' music was rooted in blues, rhythm-and-blues and soul.
Their first album in the United States, "England's Newest Hit Makers," won me over as soon as their version of Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away" blasted from the speakers in my bedroom.
Mostly covers, with only one Jagger/Richards original -- "Tell Me (You're Coming Back)" -- it was a great-sounding R&B album.
I have all the Stones' albums and have seen them live many times; they put on an absolutely incredible show -- a total rock 'n' roll experience.
I'm hoping they'll tour next year and that I can snag a couple of seats for one of their concerts, on what will surely be an awesome and historic rock 'n' roll tour.
What follows are some rock 'n' roll ramblings and rave-ups, past and present:
The fifth annual Record Store Day took place on April 21. This is the one day of the year that all independently owned record stores come together with artists to celebrate the art of music. It's a day to celebrate vinyl and what record stores have meant to so many people. The official ambassador for the event was Iggy Pop -- I'll never forget the afternoon I spent hanging out with Iggy at the Sidewalk Cafe in Venice Beach, Calif. -- and more than 400 different releases were made for the day.
I've always loved independent record stores. The Times Square Record Store, Cousins Music on Fordham Road in the Bronx and Bleecker Bob's Golden Oldies in Greenwich Village were homes away from home, places to escape to and hang out with friends, be turned on to new music and browse through a sea of 45s and LPs, in a vinyl-only world.
Music was a physical commodity, as opposed to a digital file to be downloaded. Nothing beats browsing in a record store; it's great to be able to talk about music to people who are knowledgeable and love it as much as I do. Music-obsessed people hanging out together in hip and magical places.
On my travels throughout Europe, Canada and the United States, I've made it a point to drop in on the local indie record stores, where it's easy to while away the hours rummaging through the record and CD racks and talking shop with fellow music lovers. Of course, there's always the possibility I'll come across an LP or CD that I have to add to my collection; the joy of finding something new or a rare gem is untold. They were the coolest teenage hangouts; sadly there are very few indie record stores left. In the past decade 3,000 independent record stores have closed across America; there are about 700 remaining. An important part of our rock n roll culture is becoming extinct.
"A Teenager in Love," released by Dion and the Belmonts in March, 1959, is considered one of the greatest songs in rock 'n' roll history -- for me it definitely is. He also had the hit "I Wonder Why" with the Belmonts and later on his own with "The Wanderer" and "Donna the Prima Donna." Fifty-three years later, Dion is still making great music, with the release of his latest CD "Tank Full of Blues."
Bruce Springsteen said: "All hail Dion, the real link between Frank Sinatra and rock 'n' roll. He could've been in either the Rat Pack or the E Street Band if either had been lucky enough to have him." Dion was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.
In the works is a play titled "The Wanderer -- The Life and Music of Dion." It will focus on Dion's life from 1957 through the late 1960s, a time that brought him his greatest success and biggest tragedies. The man has been rockin' for 53 years; he is still creative and relevant. From a kid from the Bronx to another kid from the Bronx, "Thank you!"
It doesn't happen all the time, but it happens a lot, and I always take it as a compliment and am flattered when someone notes a resemblance to a rock musician, even if I don't always see the resemblance. Recently, a Stamford High School student told me I looked like Mick Jagger, two days after seeing him on Saturday Night Live; a fellow concert-goer at the Rick Derringer show at StageOne in Fairfield told me I looked like a British rock musician; a woman at Trader Joe's told me I looked like a rock guitarist.
My favorite resemblance moment of all time was when Emma, an eighth-grade student at Villa Maria Learning Center in Stamford, told me I looked like an old rock 'n' roller. When I tried to get her to drop the old part or change it to young, she looked at me and said, "No, you definitely look like an old rock `n' roller." I laughed and thought to myself, "Hey, much better to look like an old rock 'n' roller than not a rock 'n' roller at all." Later, her father told me she loved '60s and '70s rock and roll and was giving me a compliment.
My rock 'n' roll journey has taken me to some of the coolest clubs and venues: The Fillmore East, Cafe Au Go Go, the Garrick Theater, the Bottom Line, CBGB and Max's Kansas City in Manhattan, the Whiskey A Go Go in Los Angeles, the Marquee Club in London and the Paradiso in Amsterdam.
Nothing beats seeing live music, especially in small clubs.
After years of either driving into the city or taking the Metro-North with my buddy, Alex, to go to shows at the Bottom Line, Beacon Theater or Town Hall, I found StageOne, a very cool and intimate venue with a little more than 200 seats, in Fairfield.
Music has been an integral part of my life; it has raised my spirits, provided loads of unforgettable moments, helped me deal with the insanity of the morning commute on I-95, and been the perfect stress reliever. "Music is a safe place. It really heals people in many ways. It's a higher place," said Tom Petty.
My childhood was filled with the sound of music: in my parents' apartment, in record stores all around New York City and listening to doo-wop groups on street corners in the Bronx. The soundtrack of my life has included rock and roll, rhythm and blues, doo-wop, blues and jazz.
As Danny & the Juniors sang in "Rock and Roll is Here To Stay" in 1958, "Rock and roll will always be, I dig it to the end, it'll go down in history, just you watch, my friend." Isn't that the truth.
Barry Halpin is a prevention specialist for Liberation Programs, a substance abuse health-care agency based in Stamford that provides substance abuse counseling to adolescents and their families in Darien. He's also the director of the countywide Peer Players, an adolescent theater company. Check out his blog at http://blog.ctnews.com/halpin/. Email him at email@example.com.