Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore psychedelic tunes from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!

Album: Blonde on Blonde (1966)

Mobile is a town in Alabama that is known for folk music, while Memphis, Tennessee is known for blues and rock.

A few different characters show up in the narrative, starting with “the ragman.” Dylan did offer a rare song interpretation when he told Robert Shelton, author of No Direction Home: The Life and Music of Bob Dylan, that the ragman is Satan. Many of Dylan’s lyrics are filled with biblical images, but shrouded in inscrutable stories.

It is often said that Dylan “found God” in the ’80s, but the Bible and God have been running through his work in a very serious way ever since the very beginning. Dylan later said that if he had to “do it all again,” he’d teach theology or ancient Roman history.

Dylan session artist Al Kooper’s memoir, Backstage Passes and Backstabbing Bastards , tells many fun anecdotes of the time around the recording of Blonde on Blonde. Anecdote the first: He was delayed on his way to Nashville for the first day of recording with Dylan, due to a night with some lady fans. So he delayed the plane the next morning while he came riding up beside it in a jeep. He boarded literally minutes before the plane’s wheels would have left the runway, only to turn around and discover that this flight had originated in New York and was half-full of people who knew him.

Kooper Anecdote the second: He was on foot in the city when a gang of thugs started chasing him with the idea of beating him up. He ducked into a bookstore and called to Dylan’s manager, Al Grossman, from a phone booth (remember this was in the day before mobile phones). Al Grossman dispatched Lamar Fike, a bodygaurd who had also worked for Elvis, to the scene in a Cadillac to retrieve Kooper from his imminent curb-stomping, thoroughly freaking out the thugs in the process.

Kooper Anecdote the third: one of the session players for Blonde on Blonde was a keyboard player named “Pig,” who happened to be blind. On a night when the band was drinking and blowing off steam, winding around the streets of Tennessee, they decided to let Pig drive. Pig was doing quite well, supplemented by directions from the passengers, until the Highway Patrol pulled them over.

Some notable uses of this song include the opening credits of I’m Not There, both the film and book version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas play it and mention it, respectively, and the various Grateful Dead covers throughout the ’60s and ’70s.

One of the lines in the song was inspired by “I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground,” by Bascom Lamar Lunsford. Lumsford, who was known as the “minstrel of the Appalachians,” wrote:

‘Cause a railroad man they’ll kill you when he can
And drink up your blood like wine


Which compares closely with Dylan’s:

Mona tried to tell me
To stay away from the train line
She said that all the railroad men
Just drink up your blood like wine

Mona tried to tell me/To stay away from the train line/She said that all the railroad men/Just drink up your blood like wine/And I said, “Oh I didn’t know that/But then again there’s only one I’ve met/And he just smoked my eyelids/And punched my cigarette

Attempting to ascribe specific meanings to Bob Dylan lyrics is most often a fool’s errand. As with abstract paintings or films like 2001: A Space Odyssey or TV shows such as Twin Peaks, everyone who experiences a Dylan song comes away with his or her own unique understanding of what was being communicated and to what it all might (or might not) add up. 

As part of the 1966 landmark Blonde on Blonde, speculation over “Stuck Inside of Mobile” often suggests the sprawling words and Ferris Wheel structure of the song relate to Dylan’s revolutionary “going electric” at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival.

The idea, it’s been said, is that Mobile, Alabama could represent old-style, acoustic music, while Memphis had forever been transformed by the plugged into rock of Elvis Presley. 

All that comes close to being likely is that Dylan makes reference to an age-old mountain ballad titled “I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground” that contains the words, “I don’t like a railroad man/A railroad man, he’ll kill you when he can/And he’ll drink up your blood like wine.”

As for the smoking of an eyelid and punching of cigarettes: that’s just Bob Dylan for you.

Psychedelic Lunch

There’s something to be said for the curious art of bands hiding hidden messages, and even entire songs on their recordings.

From The Beatles arguably being the first to introduce the idea in the late 60s, to the accusations of evil messages hidden in the songs of seventies rock bands; right through to the popular 90s tradition of tucking away hidden tracks at the tail-end of a CD’s running time – it’s always been a particularly physical phenomenon.

It’s also something that’s harder to achieve in the digital era, so sit back and enjoy as we uncover the more interesting hidden stories and messages, the secret and not-so-secret things that musicians have attempted to bury.

Guns N’ Roses – ‘Look At Your Game Girl’

While hidden tracks are a left-field move for any band, covering a song by a convicted murderer and cult leader goes beyond contrariness. But that’s exactly what Guns N’ Roses did with the Charles Manson-penned ‘Look At Your Game Girl’, which appeared hidden away on their 1993 album The Spaghetti Incident; and it almost seems wrong to say, but the original is better.

Led Zeppelin – ‘Stairway To Heaven’

In 1982, a US television program alleged that hidden messages were contained in many popular rock songs through a technique called backward masking. The cited example was ‘Stairway To Heaven’, which the show claimed included satanic references. The alleged message occurs during the song’s middle section (“If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow…”). Which very loosely translated to: “Oh here’s to my sweet Satan. The one whose little path would make me sad, whose power is Satan. He will give those with him 666. There was a little tool shed where he made us suffer, sad Satan.”

You Am I – ‘Forget It Sister’

Widely considered one of the finest Australian albums of all time, Hourly, Daily is a sprawling tour of suburban Sydney through the eyes of the laconic Tim Rogers. One of the album’s highlights is the hidden track, ‘Forget It, Sister’ which arrives after a few minutes of silence following the closer, ‘Who Takes Who Home’. Unexpectedly, Rogers chimes in with “good morning baby” bringing the record full circle to the early hours, and opening “Good Mornin” – an ode to breakfast radio.

Nirvana – ‘Endless, Nameless’

The nihilistic squall of this hidden track, buried at the quintessential grunge band’s iconic Nevermind showcases Kurt Cobain’s love for the Pixies’ style dynamics – but without his usual interest in pointed pop melodicism. Instead it’s a crash and bash of tuneless distortion, and feverish squeals of nonsense. If ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ broke Nirvana into the mainstream, ‘Endless, Nameless’ was a reminder that Kurt and co. were still noisy rebels at heart.

The Beatles – ‘Her Majesty’

Rounding off 1969’s Abbey Road is ‘Her Majesty’, a Paul McCartney ditty that appears 14 seconds after ‘The End’, the album’s last listed song. At less than 30 seconds long, there’s not much going on – it’s just Paul, acoustic guitar, a lovely vocal melody, and some amusing lyrics including “Her majesty’s a pretty nice girl / but she doesn’t have a lot to say”. In fact, the Fab Four are often credited with inventing the secret track phenomenon, with the sound collage at the end of Sgt. Pepper’s that loops infinitely on vinyl players.

The Jam – ‘English Rose’

While Paul Weller spent the ’80s revelling in his newfound feminine side with The Style Council, he wasn’t always so comfortable with such outward displays of sensitivity. So goes the story behind ‘English Rose’, a beautiful acoustic ballad that appears on side one of 1978’s All Mod Cons. While it plays conventionally as track four on all copies of the record, its obscurity is owed to the fact neither the song’s title nor lyrics were printed on the sleeve because Weller believed it was too personal.

Blur – ‘Me, White Noise’

The hidden track from the Britpop luminaries’ last studio album before their hiatus, 2003’s Think Tank, recalls one of their most famous collaborators, the voice behind ‘Parklife’ and mod icon, Phil Daniels. Entitled ‘Me, White Noise’, the song appears in the pre-gap (the portion of audio before track one). Clocking in at nearly seven minutes, Damon Albarn spits gravel over a midnight dance beat. Those desperate for Blur rarities would do well to check this out.

Eels – ‘Mr E’s Beautiful Blues’

Mark Oliver Everett and his musical outfit had a minor hit in 2000 with ‘Mr E’s Beautiful Blues’, reaching number #11 on the UK Singles chart. The lead single from their third record Daisies Of The Galaxy, the band threw fans a curve ball by leaving it off the track listing on original pressings of the album. Which means that the song may be the most commercially successful hidden track ever. Sneaky stuff.

Tool – ‘10,000 Days’

It’s one thing to hide a song in the pre-gap of an album, or bury at the end; but the hidden track on Tool’s 10,000 Days is a wildly different (and more inventive) proposition. Essentially, it’s a DIY secret that only enterprising Tool fans (is there any other kind?) will be able to piece together. Joining ‘Wings of Marie’ and ‘Vigniti Tres’ together, and then playing them alongside the 11- minute title track, reveals a densely layered epic. Cryptic and clever, huh?

Pink Floyd – ‘Empty Spaces’

Isolated on the left channel of this track from the classic Pink Floyd album The Wall is a secret message. When played backwards, Roger Waters’ voice appears saying: “Congratulations, you have just discovered the secret message. Please send your answer to Old Pink, care of the Funny Farm, Chalfont.” A clever nod to the music world’s obsession with ‘satanic messages’ hidden in popular music.

Public Enemy – ‘Ferocious Soul’

Hidden in the gap before the opening track of the furious rap group’s 1994 album Muse Sick-n-Hour Mess Age is ‘Ferocious Soul’. A cutting freestyle attack on those who claimed Public Enemy were “anti-black” for criticising the “negative message” of gangster rap, it’s scathing stuff. It ends with a blunt message that leads into the album proper; “Don’t fuck with me.”

Franz Ferdinand – ‘Michael’

Played forwards, “Michael” is a risqué indie-rock song about a secret bromance, notable for lyrics such as “stubble on my sticky lips”, and “beautiful boys on a beautiful dance floor”. Played backwards however, there’s a secret message, with a voice saying: “She’s worried about you, call your mother.” According to a fan site, the message is a homage to bassist Bob Hardy, who was worried about calling his mum back home while on tour.

The Clash – ‘Train In Vain’

Given its popularity in the canon of Clash songs, it’s hard to believe ‘Train In Vain’ was not in fact originally listed on the band’s 1979 opus London Calling. It’s a little-known fact that instead, a sticker was attached to the cellophane wrapper on the record. This was because the song was added to the album at the last minute, after the sleeve had been produced.

Radiohead – In Rainbows and OK Computer

Deep within Radiohead circles, it’s believed that In Rainbows was released as a complementary piece to the Oxford quintet’s landmark 1997 album, OK Computer. The conspiracy goes that In Rainbows came out 10 years after OK Computer and was released on October 10 (10/10). Fans believe if you create a playlist, alternating between the two albums and crossfading, they mesh perfectly.

Some of the best hidden tracks and messages in famous songs

It must have been odd to hear Led Zeppelin in church, particularly one of the Fundamentalist Christian persuasion, but in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, youth pastors around the country began playing “Stairway to Heaven” in services, to illustrate the Satanic messages they claimed the band had hidden in the song.

These messages could be heard when playing the song backward, they said, but the subliminal effect of the messages was said to be just as potent, even when the song was played in the usual direction, at regular speed.

Ridiculous, huh? There was, however, definitely a market in religious books, films and presentations in that period on the issue of backmasking — the alleged planting of subliminal messages in recordings, usually for dark purposes. It caused preachers and kids alike to ruin the belt drives on their turntables playing Led Zeppelin IV and dozens of other records backward.

Where did this stuff begin? Not entirely surprisingly, famed occultist and Fundamentalist bugaboo Aleister Crowley is credited with starting the whole thing. In his 1913 treatise on meditation, Magick: Book 4, Crowley promoted the idea of “listen[ing] to phonograph records, reversed,” to train one’s brain to think backward. Subsequently, avant-garde composers such as John Cage and Edgard Varèse (a favorite of Frank Zappa) used reversed tape effects in their versions of musique concrète, or experimental music that used recorded sounds as quasi-instrumentation.

In rock ‘n’ roll, the effect became an important tool for experimentation in the late ‘60s, as musicians began using the studio to explore sounds that were more radical than the typical guitar/drums/bass/keyboard setup. The Beatles were probably the granddaddies of using tape effects — John Lennon was an unabashed fan of avant-garde artists, and incorporated their techniques first on “Tomorrow Never Knows,” the final song on 1966’s Revolver, and all through 1967’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

That experimentation, coupled with the elevated place the Beatles had in popular culture, led listeners to do odd things to their Beatles records. A widely believed urban legend that Paul McCartney had died sent some fans looking for clues in the music. Of course, they found what they were looking for; playing the “Number 9” segment of the White Album’s “Revolution 9” backward yielded a sound that resembled “Turn me on, dead man.” Backward spins of “I’m So Tired” led fans to hear “Paul is dead. Miss him, miss him.”

These were unintentional sounds made when one played the record in an unintended fashion. People heard what they wanted to hear, or what others suggested they hear.

Meanwhile, around the same time, Jimi Hendrix was making Electric Ladyland, an album that opened with “And the Gods Made Love,” a track that intentionally incorporated backmasking. Play the garbled voice on the song backward, and you hear Hendrix say, “Yes, yes, yes, I get it. Okay, one, okay, one more time.”

At some point in the next decade or so, Fundamentalist preachers took up backmasking as an example of Satanic influence in rock music, another method the pointy-tailed one used to degrade the morals of vulnerable youth, right under the noses (and ears) of their unsuspecting parents.

For example, fans of Electric Light Orchestra who bought 1974’s Eldorado for “Can’t Get It Out of My Head” would have allegedly received a Satanic message, had they flipped the album over and played the title track. Those with ears for these things played the lines “Here it comes, another lonely day / Playing the game. I’ll sail away / On a voyage of no return to see” backward and heard “He is the nasty one — Christ you’re infernal — It is said we’re dead men — Everyone who has the mark will live.”

he Eagles’ 1976 hit “Hotel California,” one of the seminal songs of the decade, is said to have hidden in its first verse and chorus a message that includes “Satan had ‘em; he organized his own religion.”

Styx were accused of implanting a Satanic message (“Satan move in our voices”) in “Snowblind,” off 1981’s Paradise Theatre. That controversy provided the seed of an idea that led Dennis DeYoung to create the character of Dr. Righteous in 1983’s Kilroy Was Here, and to plant an intentional backmasked message in “Heavy Metal Poisoning.”

Cheap Trick, not exactly avowed devil worshipers, were said to have injected the message “Satan holds the keys to the lock” in their song “Gonna Raise Hell.”

Not all supposed backmasking was in praise of the devil. Queen’s international hit “Another One Bites the Dust” was said to contain a message encouraging listeners to “Decide to smoke marijuana.”

Not to be outdone by other artists allegedly doing creepy things on their records, Pink Floyd put a congratulatory message in “Empty Spaces,” on The Wall.

The whole thing got so silly, even “Weird Al” Yankovic got into the act, intentionally backmasking the message “Satan eats Cheez Whiz” on his 1984 album cut “Nature Trail to Hell.”

Accusations of backmasking reached a heated and tragic pitch in 1990, when Judas Priest were taken to court over the accusation that their lyrics and embedded backward messages had driven two fans to suicide. Attorneys argued that they heard the words “do it” in the song “Better by You, Better Than Me.”

Priest were exonerated of the charges; the band’s defense had proved their culpability so untenable as to cast backmasking from the courtroom back to the pulpit.

And thought there are still some who continue to find evil or naughty hidden messages in today’s pop music (Lady Gaga and Britney Spears, in particular, stand accused), the issue remains relegated to the minds of those who want to hear what they want to hear in a bunch of backward noise. In the end, that’s probably where the issue belongs.

Hidden Secret Messages On Vinyl

Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore psychedelic tunes from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!

Steely Dan, Album: Gold 1982

You know the story: a band goes in the studio to record tracks for an album only to find out they recorded more than what they needed for that album, so they leave one or two tracks off it. You’ve also seen this play out: a major act comes out with a blockbuster album, so the label seeks to cash in by rushing out a “greatest hits” compilation while they wait for the band’s delayed follow-up. And if they find any worthwhile, unreleased tracks still laying around, they’ll put that out, too.

I mention these two common occurences, because they are both at the center of the story for this fine, overlooked odds ‘n’ ends track by Steely Dan, “Here At The Western World.”

This tune was part of the sessions that produced 1976’s The Royal Scam, but for some reason, it got left on the cutting room floor. It stayed on the floor for Steely Dan’s next album, their signature record Aja (1977). When it became evident to their record company ABC Records that there would be no “1978″ Steely Dan record, ABC promptly created their own by putting out a Greatest Hits Album, a compilation that oddly includes “East St. Louis Toodle-Oo” and not “Deacon Blues,” or the current Dan hit at that time, “FM.” But they did find a home for “Here At The Western World.”

The theme of this song is a favorite of Walter Becker and Donald Fagan’s: a darkly sarcastic look at drug-addled depravity they saw in contemporary America, a theme they would visit time and time again (“Babylon Sisters,” “Jack Of Speed”). This time, the object of illicit desire is most likely cocaine (“we’ve got your skinny girl”), as well as prostitution. Once again, Becker and Fagan do a masterful job painting vivid imagery in hip lingo without explicitly explaining what is being sung about, but you certainly get the general idea.

Sonically, I kind of get why this didn’t make it on The Royal Scam; it’s not because the track is a clunker because it actually would have rated as one of the better tracks on that album. No, it just wouldn’t have fit so well on a record that was dominated by either reggae vibes or Larry Carlton’s hard rocking guitar. “Here At The Western World,” with it’s sultry backup female vocals and urbane, note-perfect production in retrospect sure seems like a harbinger of what was coming the following year. It’s so tantalizingly close to that jazz-pop nirvana Aja, it could have been tacked on to that album and probably no one would notice that it came from an earlier session. Fagan supplies the lead vocals, as usual, but the rest of the chores were left to crack session musicians like Dean Parks, Chuck Rainey and Bernard Purdie.

ABC Records, who very shortly afterwards became gobbled up by MCA Records, may have been looking for a way to make a quick buck, but by rescuing “Here At The Western World” from obscurity, they did Steely Dan fans a favor. It may not have been truly a “greatest hit,” but most other bands would kill to have outtakes like that one.

Psychedelic Lunch

Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore psychedelic tunes from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!

Jimi Hendrix, Album: Are You Experienced? (1966)

“Hey Joe”, The Jimi Hendrix Experience (1966)

“Hey Joe” is simultaneously one of Hendrix’ iconic tracks that nevertheless sees him threatening violence and death against an allegedly-cheating woman, with the lyrics, “I’m going down to shoot my old lady / You know, I caught her messing around with another man.””Hey Joe” was written by a singer named Billy Roberts, who was part of the Greenwich Village folk scene in the early ’60s. The song is structured as a conversation between two men, with “Joe” explaining to the other that he caught his woman cheating and plans to kill her. They talk again, and Joe explains that he did indeed shoot her, and is headed to Mexico.

Billy Roberts copyrighted this song in 1962, but never released it (he issued just one album, Thoughts Of California in 1975). In 1966, several artists covered the song, including a Los Angeles band called The Leaves (their lead singer was bassist Jim Pons, who joined The Turtles just before they recorded their Happy Together album), whose version was a minor hit, reaching #31 in the US. Arthur Lee’s group Love also recorded it that year, as did The Byrds, whose singer David Crosby had been performing the song since 1965. These were all uptempo renditions.

The slow version that inspired Hendrix to record this came from a folk singer named Tim Rose, who played it in a slow arrangement on his 1967 debut album and issued it as a single late in 1966. Rose was a popular singer/songwriter for a short time in the Greenwich Village scene, but quickly faded into obscurity before a small comeback in the ’90s. He died in 2002 at age 62.

This is the song that started it all for Hendrix. After being discharged from the US Army in 1962, he worked as a backing musician for The Isley Brothers and Little Richard, and in 1966 performed under the name Jimmy James in the group Jimmy James and the Blue Flames. Hendrix introduced “Hey Joe” to the band and added it to their setlist. During a show at the Greenwich Village club Cafe Wha?, Chas Chandler of The Animals was in the audience, and he knew instantly that Hendrix was the man to record the song.

Chandler convinced Hendrix to join him in London, and he became Jimi’s producer and manager. Teaming Hendrix with Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell, Chandler had the group – known as The Jimi Hendrix Experience – record “Hey Joe,” and released it as a single in the UK in December 1966. It climbed to #6 in February 1967, as Hendrix developed a reputation as an electrifying performer and wildly innovative guitarist.

America was a tougher nut to crack – when the song was released there in April, it went nowhere.

The song incorporates many elements of blues music, including a F-C-G-D-A chord progression and a story about infidelity and murder. This led many to believe it was a much older (possibly traditional) song, but it was an original composition.Hendrix played this live for the first time at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. It was the first time the group performed in America.

This was released in Britain with the flip side “Stone Free,” which was the first song Hendrix wrote for The Jimi Hendrix Experience.

The song was released in the UK on the Polydor label in a one-single deal. Hendrix then signed to the Track label, which was set up by Kit Lambert, producer for The Who.

Dick Rowe of Decca Records turned down Hendrix for a deal, unimpressed with both “Hey Joe” and “Stone Free.” Rowe also turned away the Beatles four years earlier.

This is one of the few Hendrix tracks with female backing vocals. They were performed by a popular trio called the Breakaways (Jean Hawker, Margot Newman, and Vicki Brown), who were brought in by producer Chas Chandler.

The Hendrix version omits the first verse, where Joe buys the gun:

Hey Joe, where you goin’ with that money in your hand?
Chasin’ my woman, she run off with another man
Goin downtown, buy me a .44


In the original (and most versions pre-Hendrix), Joe also kills his wife’s lover when he catches them in bed together.

This was the last song performed at Woodstock in 1969. The festival was scheduled to end at midnight on Sunday, August 17 (the third day), but it ran long and Hendrix didn’t go on until Monday around 9 a.m. There weren’t many attendees left, but Hendrix delivered a legendary performance.

While Jimi’s version is by far the most famous, “Hey Joe” has been recorded by over 1000 artists. In America, three versions charted:

The Leaves (#31, 1966)
Cher (#94, 1967)
Wilson Pickett (#59, 1969)

Hendrix is the only artist to chart with the song in the UK, although a completely different song called “Hey Joe” was a #1 hit there for Frankie Laine in 1963.

Some of the notable covers include:
Shadows of Knight (1966)
Music Machine (1966)
The Mothers Of Invention (1967)
Deep Purple (1967)
King Curtis (1968)
Roy Buchanan (1973)
Patti Smith (1974)
Soft Cell (1983)
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds (1986)
The Offspring (1991)
Eddie Murphy (1993 – yes, the comedian)
Walter Trout (2000)
Popa Chubby (2001)
Robert Plant (2002)
Brad Mehldau Trio (2012)

The liner notes for Are You Experienced? say this song is “A blues arrangement of an old cowboy song that’s about 100 years old.”

The phrase “Hey Joe” is something men in the Philippines often shout when they see an American. Ted Lerner wrote a book about his experiences there called Hey, Joe: A Slice Of The City-An American In Manilla.

In an early demo version, Hendrix is caught off guard by the sound of his voice in the headphones, and can be heard on the recording saying, “Oh, Goddamn!” Then telling Chas Chandler in the booth, “Hey, make the voice a little lower and the band a little louder.” Hendrix was always insecure about his vocal talents, but thought if Dylan could swing it, so could he.

6,346 guitarists played “Hey Joe” simultaneously in the town of Wroclaw, Poland on May 1, 2009, breaking a world record for most guitarists playing a single song.

The BBC apologized after “Hey Joe” was played following a report on the Oscar Pistorius trial, following the disabled athlete’s shooting of his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. (The song includes the lines: “Hey Joe, where you going with that gun in your hand? I’m going out to shoot my old lady, you know I caught her messing around with another man.”)

This was one of five bonus tracks added to the album Are You Experienced? when it was re-released in 1997. The only song on the album not written by Hendrix, it is credited to Billy Roberts.

Not much is known about the song’s writer Billy Roberts, who apparently got in a car accident in the ’90s that left him impaired. Royalties from this song go to him through the publisher Third Palm Music.

This was used in the 1994 movie Forrest Gump when Forrest starts a fight at a Black Panthers gathering, but the song wasn’t included on the official soundtrack.

Psychedelic Lunch

Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore psychedelic tunes from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!

Album: Louie Louie: The Kingsmen In Person

This was written by an R&B singer named Richard Berry in 1955. With his group The Pharaohs, he was also the first to record the song; it got some airplay in some cities in the Western US when it was released in 1957. Various garage bands heard it and started covering the song until it became a phenomenon with the Kingsmen’s 1963 version. While much of the song’s notoriety comes from the indecipherable lyrics, in Berry’s original version words are quite clear: The song is about a sailor who spends three days traveling to Jamaica to see his girl.

Dwight Rounds, author of The Year The Music Died, 1964-1972, writes:

The words to “Louie Louie” are almost impossible to understand, and are rumored to be obscene. No question that this added significantly to the sales of the single. There was probably a leak somewhere that the lyrics were obscene; otherwise no one would have realized it. It could be the most ingenious marketing scheme ever. The FBI tried to track down Richard Berry, The Kingsmen, and various record company executives. They were never able to determine the actual lyrics used. The Kingsmen insisted they said nothing lewd, despite the obvious mistake at the end of the instrumental, where Jack Ely started to sing the last verse one bar too soon, and can be heard yelling something in the background. Ely also said that he sung far away from the microphone, which caused the fuzzy sound, and that the notoriety was initiated by the record company. The words sound much more like the official version seen below, especially the word “rose” instead of “bone.” The lyrics rumor could indeed be a sham. The official lyrics are listed below in plain print, with one of the many alternative versions in italics.

Chorus: “Louie, Louie, oh no. Me gotta go. Aye-yi-yi, I said. Louie Louie, oh baby. Me gotta go.”

“Fine little girl waits for me. Catch a ship across the sea. Sail that ship about, all alone. Never know if I make it home.”

“Three nights and days, I sail the sea.” Every night and day, I play with my thing.
“Think of girl, constantly.” I f–k you girl, oh, all the way.
“Oh that ship, I dream she’s there. On my bed, I’ll lay her there.
“I smell the rose in her hair.” I feel my bone, ah, in her hair.

“See Jamaica, the moon above.” Hey lovemaker, now hold my thing.
“It won’t be long, me see my love.” It won’t take long, so leave it alone.
“Take her in my arms again.” Hey, senorita, I’m hot as hell.
“Tell her I’ll never leave again.” I told her I’d never lay her again.

The FBI launched an extensive investigation into this song after Indiana governor Matthew Welsh declared it “pornographic” in early 1964 and asked the Indiana Broadcasters Association to ban it. The investigation spanned offices in several states, with technicians listening to the song at different speeds trying to discern any obscene lyrics. None could be found; the FBI eventually figured out what happened when they contacted the FCC. The report details this correspondence:

“She explained that for approximately two years her company has been receiving unfounded complaints concerning the recording of ‘Louie Louie.’ She advised that to the best of her knowledge, the trouble was started by an unidentified college student, who made up a series of obscene verses for ‘Louie Louie’ and then sold them to fellow students. It is her opinion that a person can take any 45 RPM recording and reduce its speed to 33 RPM and imagine obscene words, depending upon the imagination of the listener.”

Many bands in the Northwest US played this at their concerts. The Kingsmen lifted their version from The Wailers, a Seattle band who missed out on the song’s success.

The Kingsmen version of this song was prominently featured in the 1978 film Animal House, starring John Belushi, even though the song was released in 1963 and the movie is set in 1962.This cost $50 to record. The Kingsmen went to the studio after a radio station executive in Portland saw them perform it live and suggested they record it.

Paul Revere and The Raiders, also on the Northwest touring scene, recorded their version the day after The Kingsmen at the same studio. Their version was superior musically, but was just a regional hit because they could not generate the publicity The Kingsmen did.

This was the only Kingsmen song with lead vocals by Jack Ely. Before it became a hit, he quit when band leader Lynn Easton assumed vocals and ordered Ely to drums. On TV performances, Easton would lip-sync to Ely’s vocals.

Ely later tried to capitalize on the success of “Louie Louie” by releasing similar songs on his own, including “Louie Louie 66,” “Love That Louie,” and “Louie Go Home.”

In the FBI report, the alleged dirty lyrics were submitted by some concerned citizens, which the agency compared against the copyrighted published lyrics. The offensive lyrics FBI lab workers were listening for were:

Lou-ai Lou-ai Oh, no
Grab her way down low
This line least clear

There is a fine little girl waiting for me
She is just a girl across the way
When I take her all alone
She’s never the girl I lay at home
(chorus)

Tonight at 10 I’ll lay her again
We’ll f–k your girl and by the way
And… on that chair I’ll lay her there
I felt my bone… in her hair
(chorus)

She had a rag on, I moved above
It won’t be long she’ll slip it off
I held her in my arm and then
And I told her I’d rather lay her again
(chorus)

This became a national hit when a disc jockey in Boston played it and declared that it was the worst song he ever heard.

According to lead singer Jack Ely, the studio had a 19-foot ceiling with a microphone suspended from it. Ely claims that was the cause of the “garbled” lyrics, but Paul Revere and the Raiders recorded their version of “Louie Louie” in the same studio the day after the Kingsmen’s session and their partly ad-libbed lyrics are clearly heard.

On August 24, 2003, 754 guitarists played this at “Louie Fest” in Tacoma, Washington. The event was held to raise money for music programs. Dick Peterson from The Kingsmen was one of the guitarists.

The “see” in the line “see Jamaica” comes in one line too early and is repeated.

This was used in the 1996 movie Down Periscope with Kelsey Grammer. As a submarine captain in a series of war games, Grammer and his crew sing this song loudly to confuse their pursuer’s radar into thinking that they were a fishing trawler full of drunk fishermen.

Iggy Pop recorded a version with new lyrics for his 1993 album American Caesar. His band The Stooges would often play the song and change the words to the supposedly offensive lyrics. This version of the song was the last one they played at their February 9, 1974 show at the Michigan Palace, which would be their last until a reunion in 2003.

According to Kenny Vance, who was the musical director on Animal House, John Belushi sang in a garage band that used to perform this song at fraternities. Belushi would sing his version of the dirty lyrics, which he did in the studio while recording his vocals for the movie. Sadly, the tape of Belushi singing his dirty version of the song was lost in 2012 when Hurricane Sandy wiped out Kenny’s home in Queens.

In the 1990 movie Coupe de Ville, Patrick Dempsey, Arye Gross and Daniel Stern star as brothers who have an argument over the meaning of this song. They debate if it is about lovemaking, or if it is a sea shanty.

In 1966, The Sandpipers took this song to #30 in the US. Another notable cover: The West Coast punk band Black Flag recorded it in 1981 and released it on their album The First Four Years.

This was used in a 1986 commercial for California Cooler wine coolers. The beachgoers in the clip sing along to the tune.

This is one of the most famous rock songs of all time, but The Kingsmen were not museum material. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame took this on by inducting “Louie Louie” into a “singles” category in 2018 along with five other songs performed by artists who were not in the Hall:

“The Twist” – Chubby Checker
“Rocket 88” – Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats
“Rumble” – Link Wray
“A Whiter Shade Of Pale” – Procol Harum
“Born To Be Wild” – Steppenwolf

Ray Manzarek told Rainer Moddemann of The Doors Quarterly that the first song Jim Morrison ever performed on stage was Richard Berry’s “Louie Louie.” This was while Manzarek was in Rick & the Ravens; Morrison wasn’t yet part of the band, but Manzarek called him up to sing it after he repeatedly yelled from the back “sing Louie Louie!”

Morrison was always intrigued with this song after hearing the lyrics were dirty. He went onstage and sang himself hoarse.

The Kingsmen, from left, Don Gallucci, Jack Ely, Lynn Easton, Mike Mitchell and Bob Nordby.Credit…Gino Rossi

Psychedelic Lunch

Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series, “Legends,” where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore psychedelic tunes from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!

John Winston Ono Lennon MBE was an English singer, songwriter and peace activist who gained worldwide fame as the founder, co-lead vocalist, and rhythm guitarist of the Beatles. His songwriting partnership with Paul McCartney remains the most successful in musical history.

Who Was John Lennon?

Musician John Lennon met Paul McCartney in 1957 and invited McCartney to join his music group. They eventually formed the most successful songwriting partnership in musical history. Lennon left the Beatles in 1969, and later released albums with his wife, Yoko Ono, among others. On December 8, 1980, he was killed by a crazed fan named Mark David Chapman.

Early Life

Famed singer-songwriter John Winston Lennon was born on October 9, 1940, in Liverpool, Merseyside, England, during a German air raid in World War II.

When he was four years old, Lennon’s parents separated and he ended up living with his Aunt Mimi. Lennon’s father was a merchant seaman. He was not present at his son’s birth and did not see a lot of his son when he was young.

Lennon’s mother, Julia, remarried but visited him and Mimi regularly. She taught Lennon how to play the banjo and the piano and purchased his first guitar. Lennon was devastated when Julia was fatally struck by a car driven by an off-duty police officer in July 1958. Her death was one of the most traumatic events in his life.

As a child, Lennon was a prankster and he enjoyed getting into trouble. As a boy and young adult, he enjoyed drawing grotesque figures and cripples. Lennon’s school master thought that he could go to an art school for college since he did not get good grades in school but had artistic talent.

Forming the Beatles

Elvis Presley’s explosion onto the rock music scene inspired a 16-year-old Lennon to create the skiffle band called the Quarry Men, named after his school. Lennon met Paul McCartney at a church fete on July 6, 1957. He soon invited McCartney to join the group, and the two eventually formed one of the most successful songwriting partnerships in musical history.

McCartney introduced George Harrison to Lennon the following year, and Harrison and art college buddy Stuart Sutcliffe also joined Lennon’s band. Always in need of a drummer, the group finally settled on Pete Best in 1960.

The first recording they made was Buddy Holly’s “That’ll Be the Day” in 1958. In fact, it was Holly’s group, the Crickets, that inspired the band to change its name. Lennon would later joke that he had a vision when he was 12 years old — a man appeared on a flaming pie and said unto them, “From this day on, you are Beatles with an ‘A.'”

The Beatles were discovered by Brian Epstein in 1961 at Liverpool’s Cavern Club, where they were performing on a regular basis. As their new manager, Epstein secured a record contract with EMI. With a new drummer, Ringo Starr (Richard Starkey), and George Martin as a producer, the group released their first single, “Love Me Do,” in October 1962. It peaked on the British charts at No. 17.

Lennon wrote the group’s follow-up single, “Please Please Me,” inspired primarily by Roy Orbison, but also fed by Lennon’s infatuation with the pun in Bing Crosby’s famous lyrics, “Oh, please, lend your little ears to my pleas,” from the song “Please.” The Beatles’ “Please Please Me” topped the charts in Britain. The Beatles went on to become the most popular band in Britain with the release of such mega-hits as “She Loves You” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand.”

Lennon married Cynthia Powell in August 1962. The couple had one son together, Julian, who was named after Lennon’s mother. Cynthia was forced to keep a very low profile during Beatlemania. She and Lennon divorced in 1968. He remarried the following year, on March 20, 1969, to Japanese avant-garde artist Yoko Ono, whom he had met at the Indica Gallery in November 1966.

Beatlemania

In 1964, the Beatles became the first British band to break out big in the United States, beginning with their appearance on television’s The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964. Beatlemania launched a “British Invasion” of rock bands in the United States that also included the Rolling Stones and the Kinks. Following their appearance on Sullivan, the Beatles returned to Britain to film their first film, A Hard Day’s Night (1964), and prepare for their first world tour.

The Beatles’ second film, Help!, was released in 1965. That June, Queen Elizabeth II announced that the Beatles would be named a Member of the Order of the British Empire. In August 1965, the foursome performed to 55,600 fans at New York’s Shea Stadium, setting a new record for largest concert audience in musical history. When the Beatles returned to England, they recorded the breakthrough album Rubber Soul (1965), noted for extending beyond the love songs and pop formulas for which the band was previously well-known.

The magic of Beatlemania had begun to lose its appeal by 1966. The band members’ lives were put in danger when they were accused of snubbing the presidential family in the Philippines. Then, Lennon’s remark that the band was “more popular than Jesus now” incited denunciations and Beatles record bonfires in the U.S. Bible belt. The Beatles gave up touring after an August 29, 1966, concert at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park.

After an extended break, the band returned to the studio to expand their experimental sound with drug-influenced exotic instrumentation/lyrics and tape abstractions. The first sample was the single “Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever,” followed by the album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), considered by many to be the greatest rock project in musical history.

The Beatles Break Up

The Beatles then suffered a huge blow when Epstein died of an accidental overdose of sleeping pills on August 27, 1967. Shaken by Epstein’s death, the Beatles retrenched under McCartney’s leadership in the fall and filmed Magical Mystery Tour. While the film was panned by critics, the soundtrack album contained Lennon’s “I Am The Walrus,” the group’s most cryptic work yet.

Magical Mystery Tour failed to achieve much commercial success, and the Beatles retreated into Transcendental Meditation and the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, which took them to India for two months in early 1968. Their next effort, Apple Corps Ltd., was plagued by mismanagement. That July, the group faced its last notably hysterical crowd at the premiere of their film Yellow Submarine. In November 1968, the Beatles’ double-album The Beatles(also known as The White Album) displayed their divergent directions.

By this time, Lennon’s artist partnership with second wife Ono had begun to cause serious tensions within the group. Lennon and Ono invented a form of peace protest by staying in bed while being filmed and interviewed, and their single “Give Peace a Chance” (1969), recorded under the name “the Plastic Ono Band,” became a national anthem of sorts for pacifists.

Lennon left the Beatles in September 1969, just after the group completed recording Abbey Road. The news of the break-up was kept secret until McCartney announced his departure in April 1970, a month before the band released Let It Be, recorded just before Abbey Road.

Solo Career: ‘Imagine’ Album

Not long after the Beatles broke up, in 1970, Lennon released his debut solo album, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, featuring a raw, minimalist sound that followed “primal-scream” therapy. He followed that project with 1971’s Imagine, the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed of all Lennon’s post-Beatles efforts. The title track was later named No. 3 on Rolling Stone magazine’s “All-Time Best Songs” list.

Peace and love, however, was not always on Lennon’s agenda. Imagine also included the track “How Do You Sleep?,” a vehement response to veiled messages at Lennon in some of McCartney’s solo recordings. The friends and former songwriting duo later buried the hatchet, but never formally worked together again.

Lennon and Ono moved to the United States in September 1971, but were constantly threatened with deportation by the Nixon Administration. Lennon was told that he was being kicked out of the country due to his 1968 marijuana conviction in Britain, but the singer believed that he was being removed because of his activism against the unpopular Vietnam War. Documents later proved him correct. (Two years after Nixon resigned, in 1976, Lennon was granted permanent U.S. residency.)

Lennon and Ono reconciled in 1974, and she gave birth to their only child, a son named Sean, on Lennon’s 35th birthday (October 9, 1975). Shortly thereafter, Lennon decided to leave the music business to focus on being a father and husband.

In 1972, while battling to stay in America, Lennon performed at Madison Square Garden in New York City to benefit mentally handicapped children and continued to promote peace. His immigration battle took a toll on Lennon’s marriage, and in the fall of 1973, he and Ono separated. Lennon went to Los Angeles, California, where he partied and took a mistress, May Pang. He still managed to release hit albums, including Mind Games(1973), Walls and Bridges (1974) and Rock ‘n’ Roll (1975). During this time, Lennon famously collaborated with David Bowie and Elton John.

Lennon and Ono reconciled in 1974, and she gave birth to their only child, a son named Sean, on Lennon’s 35th birthday (October 9, 1975). Shortly thereafter, Lennon decided to leave the music business to focus on being a father and husband.

Tragic Death

In 1980, Lennon returned to the music world with the album Double Fantasy, featuring the hit single “(Just Like) Starting Over.” Tragically, just a few weeks after the album’s release, Mark David Chapman, a deranged fan, shot Lennon several times in front of his apartment complex in New York City. Lennon died at New York City’s Roosevelt Hospital on December 8, 1980, at the age of 40.

Lennon’s assassination had, and continues to have, a profound impact on pop culture. Following the tragic event, millions of fans worldwide mourned as record sales soared. And Lennon’s untimely death still evokes deep sadness around the globe today, as he continues to be admired by new generations of fans. Lennon was posthumously inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.

Psychedelic Lunch

Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series, “Legends,” where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore psychedelic tunes from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!

John R. Cash was an American singer, songwriter, musician, actor, and author. He is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold more than 90 million records worldwide. His genre-spanning songs and sound embraced country, rock and roll, rockabilly, blues, folk, and gospel.

The “Man in Black” was a bundle of contradictions. Johnny Cash — the name really needs no explanation. He was a larger-than-life figure during his lifetime, whose legend has continued to grow after his death — and whose name has become synonymous with country and rock music.

Photo: Bettmann/CORBIS

His hit recordings and memorable live performances have a lot to do with it, but the way that he lived his life certainly does, too. He embraced tradition, and yet he exercised the freedom to follow his own mind; he was both a god-fearing Christian and a rebellious outlaw; he moved among presidents and yet remained a man of the people; he believed in home and family and yet spent much of his life on the road performing for thousands of people. These contradictions made the “Man in Black” the compelling figure he was, and along with the integrity he exhibited throughout his life, they invested his music with a unique power that continues to resonate long after his passing.

Unfortunately, becoming a legend often translates into becoming an image more than a human being. There has been a tendency in recent years to bake down Cash’s personality into dress code, a handful of iconic photographs, a simplistic movie bio or even a not very representative late-career video. But Cash was much more than a defiant gesture, a fashion statement, and a few records recorded in prisons. He was a complex man with varied and unusual life and career.

Johnny Cash is not his real name

Upon first meeting Cash for the first time, Sam Phillips, the producer of his first records, thought that Cash had made up his last name. It sounded like “Johnny Dollar” or “Johnny Guitar.” In fact, the family name of Cash can be traced back almost a thousand years to Scotland, to the ancient kingdom of Fife. It was the “Johnny” that was an invention.

The story goes that Cash’s parents were indecisive about what their fourth child’s name should be. His mother’s maiden name was Rivers, and she stumped for that; his father’s name was Ray, and he held out for that. “J.R.” was a shortcut to avoid conflict. It was not uncommon for Southern kids to have names made of initials in the days of the Depression, and  Cash was called J.R. all through his childhood (except to his father, who nicknamed him “Shoo-Doo”). He was still J.R. even after he graduated high school; “J.R.” is the name on his diploma.

It wasn’t until Cash joined the Air Force in 1950 that he had to assign himself a name. The recruiter would not accept a candidate with a name comprised of initials, so J.R. became “John R. Cash.”

He helped dig his brother’s grave

Cash experienced tragedy in his family at a fairly early age, when he was 12. He grew up admiring and loving his brother Jack, who was two years his senior. Jack was a mixture of protector and philosophical inspiration; despite his young years, he was deeply interested in the Bible and seemed to be on his way to becoming a preacher. Jack worked to help support the large Cash family, and while cutting wood one Saturday, he was accidentally pulled into a table saw. The saw mangled Jack’s midsection, and he exacerbated the problem by crawling across a dirty floor to reach help.

Jack lingered for a week after the accident, but he stood no chance of surviving. His death had a profound impact on the young Cash, who until that time had been a gregarious boy, full of jokes. By all reports, he became more introspective afterwards and began to spend more time alone, writing stories and sketches. Jack’s deathbed words about seeing angels also affected him deeply on a spiritual level.

According to his sister Joanne, on the day of Jack’s funeral, Cash went to the gravesite early. He took up a shovel and began to help the workers dig Jack’s grave. At the service, his clothes were dirty from the effort, and he wore no shoes since his foot was swollen from stepping on a nail.

Cash’s devotion to his brother Jack would remain a constant throughout his life, and in an echo of the famous Christian phrase “What would Jesus do?”, Cash would ask himself “What would Jack do?” when he was faced with a difficult situation.

He bought his first guitar in Germany

Cash’s oldest brother, Roy, was the first Cash to make a small splash in the music industry. Roy started a band called the Dixie Rhythm Ramblers, who for a time had a show on radio station KCLN and played all around Arkansas. Cash’s family also regularly sang spirituals together, either at the family home or at his grandparents’ dinner table. Cash himself sang at school and in church, even once winning a talent show and the $5 that went with the victory.

Despite his obvious interest in music and talent for it, Cash wouldn’t get a guitar and start seriously writing songs until he joined the Air Force and was shipped away to Germany. His guitar, purchased in Öberammergau, cost about the same amount he’d won in that talent show years before. Soon, he was playing with a bunch of like-minded servicemen in a ragtag band branded the Landsberg Barbarians. He began to write songs, too, including the first version of his first big hit, “Folsom Prison Blues.” Although he would make half-hearted attempts to work a “real” job on his return from the service in 1954, mostly to support his new wife and children, Cash had found his path in life and pursued it from then on.

He was a novelist

Cash wasn’t only a songwriter. He was a writer, plain and simple. He wrote sketches and poems as a child, stories as a teenager, and continued to write even after joining the Air Force. In fact, his first published piece, called “Hey Porter,” appeared in Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper, during his Air Force hitch (the title was later recycled for one of his early hits). He wrote letters to family and friends, and even letters to himself, year in and year out. He also wrote two autobiographies, Man in Black (1975) and Cash: The Autobiography (1997), which he wrote in longhand on lined notebook paper.

What many people don’t know is that Cash was also novelist. In 1986, he published the novel Man in White, a fictional account of six years in the life of the apostle Paul, including his conversion on the road to Damascus. The novel was an outgrowth of Cash’s ever-deepening interest in Bible study in the early 80s, particularly after he had a relapse into the prescription pill addiction that plagued him in the 60s. It’s not difficult to see the parallels between Paul, a Pharisee who came to Christ through a dramatic conversion out of blindness, and Cash, who also saw himself as saved from blindness by the “man in white.” The novel was moderately successful and received positive reviews, mainly from religious periodicals, but more importantly, it was a source of pride for Cash, who considered it one of the achievements he was most proud of.

He became an ordained minister

Cash was well-known for his “outlaw” image based on his reputation as a hellion, particularly in the 60s, when he would smash up hotel rooms, drive his Jeep while hopped up on pills, and have brushes with the police. This period of his life reached a head when he was drummed off the Grand Ole Opry for dragging a mic stand across the footlights of the stage in a fit of temper, disrespecting the “mother church” of country music. Afterward, he ran his car into a utility pole, knocking out several of his teeth and breaking his nose. Most of Cash’s behavioral excesses were the result of drug abuse.

Once he remarried to June Carter of the famous Carter Family in 1968, Cash began a decades-long re-examination of his life and re-dedication to his Christian roots. This culminated in two and a half years of study in the late-70s, after which he received a degree in theology and became a minister. He was encouraged in his studies by the Reverend Billy Graham, who became a close friend of the Cash family during these years. Although he never attempted to marshal a congregation or play a guiding role in church services, Cash did preside at the wedding of his daughter Karen. Becoming a minister was the utmost expression of the religious feeling that characterized much of his life.

He was arrested seven times

Cash’s most popular and best-selling albums were the live albums he recorded in prisons: namely, Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison in 1968 and Johnny Cash at San Quentin in 1969. Throughout his career, he performed in prisons, sympathetic to the plight of inmates who ran afoul of society. Although he himself never spent any great length of time in jail, he was arrested seven times and spent a few nights in jail.

Perhaps his most famous arrest occurred in El Paso, Texas, in October of 1965. Cash had crossed over the border into Juarez to buy cheap amphetamines, which he had become addicted to in the early 60s. News reports said that he was found with 668 Dexadrine and 475 Equanil tablets in his luggage. He received a suspended sentence and paid a small fine, but the image of Cash being led away in handcuffs was not a hit with Cash’s conservative audience, as edgy as it may seem to contemporary eyes.

Between the years 1959 to 1968, Cash was arrested for public drunkenness, reckless driving, drug possession, and memorably, picking flowers. In the small town of Starkville, Mississippi, Cash was drunkenly exploring the town at 2 a.m. when he decided to pick some flowers in someone’s yard. Arrested by local police, he was not a penitent guest at the Starkville jail; he screamed and kicked at the cell door so hard that he broke his toe. He later wrote a song about his experience that became a highlight of his At San Quentinalbum.

One experience he didn’t write about in song but recounted in his first autobiography was a night in jail in Carson City, Nevada. Sharing a cell with a threatening lumberjack who refused to believe he was Cash, he spent most of the night singing his big hits and gospel songs to pacify his intimidating cellmate. The man never did believe he was Cash, but he fell asleep and Cash survived the night intact.

He had a side career as a motion picture and TV star

In the late 50s, Cash moved out to California. A successful singer at this point, he had notions of following his friend Elvis Presley’s lead and making the move into motion pictures. This aspect of his career never took off in a big way, but throughout his life, Cash did appear in various movies and TV shows.

His first appearance was in the popular TV Civil War drama The Rebel in 1959. His first film followed two years later, the low-budget crime drama Five Minutes to Live, in which he played the role of Johnny Cabot, a criminal who holds a bank president’s wife hostage (future TV star and director Ron Howard also appeared in the movie). The film was not a success, and Cash’s movie involvement for several years would take the form of performing a song or writing the theme until he starred with Kirk Douglas in A Gunfight, a dark 1971 western about two aging gunfighters who sell tickets to a duel likely to result in their deaths.

The movie project that was closest to Cash’s heart, however, was a movie he financed and produced himself in 1973 called Gospel Road: A Story of Jesus. Enamored with the Holy Land, Cash and his crew filmed the life of Jesus on location in Israel. Although the film met with limited success, with prints showing primarily to church groups, Cash considered it his finest cinematic achievement.

In the 70s and 80s, Cash would appear in a few TV movies and guest star on TV shows like Columbo and Little House on the Prairie, but he did them mostly for fun and no longer nurtured ideas of becoming a movie star. His most significant achievement on TV was The Johnny Cash Show, a TV variety show that ran for two seasons from 1969-1971 on ABC and featured guests like Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson and Joni Mitchell. Along with Glen Campbell’s similar program that ran during the same period, Cash’s show brought country music to a mainstream audience for the first time.

He didn’t write his biggest hit

Cash had many hits during his long career, both on the pop and country charts, but despite having composed a large share of them, his all-time bestseller was a song he didn’t write.

In 1963, Cash recorded the song “(Love’s) Ring of Fire,” a song that Anita Carter released as a single a few months earlier. The song was co-written by June Carter, Anita’s sister, and singer-songwriter Merle Kilgore, who had some hits of his own in the early 60s. Anita Carter’s version of the song was not a hit; Cash heard it, decided to add Mexican-style mariachi horns to his arrangement, and released his own version of the song as “Ring of Fire.”

The song was an immediate hit, hitting #1 on the country chart and even making the pop Top 20. It stayed at #1 for seven consecutive weeks. Cash played the song at almost every concert he performed from then on.

At this time, Cash was friendly with the Carter sisters and often toured with them and their mother Maybelle of the original Carter Family. June Carter often explained that she wrote “Ring of Fire” about feelings she had for Cash, at a time when both of them were married to other people. It wouldn’t be until 1968 that the ring of fire would be extinguished when Cash married Carter and she became June Carter Cash.

He didn’t actually always wear black

Although he wrote a song called “Man in Black” that explained the philosophy behind why he always dressed in black (essentially, until people were treated fairly and injustices were addressed), Cash didn’t always perform wearing black clothes, and he didn’t always wear black in his day-to-day life.

Originally, Cash wore black on stage because he and his backing musicians, the Tennessee Two, wanted to have matching outfits and the only garment they had in common was a black shirt. But early pictures of the group show them wearing lighter colors, and there was no hard-and-fast rule. Cash would often wear a white shirt with a sport coat in appearances and in photos. Sometimes he would even wear an entire suit of white. Album covers show him in stripes, plenty of blue denim, and even a grey shirt with a flower design.

In the 70s, with the popularity of the Man in Black image, Cash began to wear black clothes more consistently, but even in his old age, he could be spotted in a light windbreaker or a denim shirt. Certainly, Cash’s fashion statement had a rippling effect on the generations of punk and gothic rockers to come, but he was far less doctrinaire than the myth of the Man in Black would have us believe.

He windshield-wiped Faron Young’s ashes

Befitting his status as one of the most prominent men in country music, Cash never failed to celebrate older musicians he admired, such as the Louvin Brothers or Ernest Tubb, or draw attention to younger musicians and songwriters such as Kris Kristofferson (whose “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down” would become a big hit for Cash) or Rodney Crowell (who would eventually marry Cash’s daughter Roseanne). He seemed to know everybody at one point or another, from Patsy Cline and Ray Charles to the members of U2. Cash counted several country stars among his best friends, including Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, and the “Hillbilly Heartthrob,” Faron Young.

Faron Young was one of the greatest proponents of the honky-tonk-style of country music in the 50s and 60s, a rhythmic style that dealt with intense themes of heartbreak, excessive drinking, and adultery. From 1953 to 1973, he charted 70 Top 40 country hits, many of them Top 10. He made several movies and also co-founded the popular Nashville music periodical Music City News.

Although he continued to perform and occasionally record through the 80s and 90s, Faron Young no longer troubled the hit parade, and his health began to fail due to a bad case of emphysema. In 1996, depressed about his health and declining career, he committed suicide by shooting himself.

Young was cremated, and the Cashes asked Young’s son if some of his father’s ashes might be sprinkled in the garden at their home. Unfortunately, during the ceremony, an unexpected wind blew some of Faron’s ashes onto the windshield of Cash’s nearby parked car. Cash wasn’t home at the time, but when he returned, he cleared his windshield of the ashes, later remarking that Faron’s remains “went back and forth, back and forth, until he was all gone.” A marker was erected in Cash’s garden naming it “The Faron Garden” in tribute to his departed friend.

Psychedelic Lunch

Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series, “Legends,” where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore psychedelic tunes from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!

Bob Marley and The Wailers performed at the Roxy in Los Angeles during the ‘Survival’ tour in 1979 to benefit the Sugar Ray Robinson Foundation. (Photo: Getty Images)

Robert Nesta Marley, OM was a Jamaican singer, songwriter and musician. Considered one of the pioneers of reggae, his musical career was marked by fusing elements of reggae, ska, and rocksteady, as well as his distinctive vocal and songwriting style.

Few musicians remain as beloved and revered as the late Bob Marley, whose music continues to inspire and influence music, fashion, politics and culture around the world.

Bob Marley was just 36 years old when he died of cancer in 1981, but the Jamaican-born reggae legend left a massive musical legacy.

In addition to selling millions of albums—his retrospective Legend has spent more than 570 weeks on the Billboard Top 200 chart since its 1984 debut—Marley received The United Nations Peace Medal of the Third World in 1978. He was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. The BBC proclaimed Marley’s “One Love” as Song of the Millennium. And in 2001, Marley was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammys.

Marley’s music continues to inspire and influence music, fashion, politics and culture around the world. But as the seven facts below illustrate, he lived an exceptionally full life in a very short amount of time.

Nicknamed ‘White Boy’

Nesta Robert Marley was born on February 6, 1945, in St. Ann Parish, Jamaica. His father was a white British naval captain named Norval Sinclair Marley, who was nearly 60 at the time. His mother, Cedella, was a 19-year-old country village girl. Because of his mixed racial makeup, Bob was bullied and derogatorily nicknamed “White Boy” by his neighbors. However, he later said the experience helped him develop this philosophy: I’m not on the white man’s side, or the black man’s side. I’m on God’s side.”

Bob Marley was named Nesta Robert at birth and nicknamed ‘Tuff Gong’ as a teenager for his ability to defend himself in Jamaica’s Trenchtown ghetto. (Photo: Getty Images)

From Juvenile Fortune Teller to Singer

When he was a small child, Marley seemed to have a knack for spooking people by successfully predicting their futures by reading their palms. At seven, after a year spent living in the ghettos of Kingston, he returned to his rural village and declared that his new destiny was to become a singer. From then on, he refused all requests to read palms. By his early teens, Marley was living in Kingston’s Trench Town, a desperately poor slum. 

He and his friends Bunny Livingston (given name, Neville O’Riley Livingston) and Peter Tosh (given name, Winston Hubert McIntosh) spent a lot of time listening to rhythm and blues on American radio stations. They named their band the Wailing Wailers (later shortened to the Wailers) because they were ghetto sufferers. As practicing Rastafarians, they grew their hair in dreadlocks and smoked ganja (marijuana) because they believed it to be a sacred herb that brought enlightenment. 

International Stardom

The Wailers recorded for small Jamaican labels throughout the 1960s, during which time ska became the hot sound. Marley’s lyrics took a more spiritual turn, and Jamaican music itself was changing from the bouncy ska beat to the more sensual rhythms of rock steady. When the group signed with Island Records in the early 1970s, they became popular with international audiences.

The Wailers in 1973 consisted of Earl ‘Wire’ Lindo, Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett, Bob Marley, Peter McIntosh ‘Tosh’, Carlton ‘Carly’ Barrett, and Neville ‘Bunny’ Livingston. (Photo: Getty Images)

Music and Politics

When Livingston and Tosh left for solo careers, Marley hired a new band and took center stage as singer, songwriter and rhythm guitarist. He produced a string of politically charged albums that reflected the keen social consciousness that came to define his lyrics. He wrote about the soaring unemployment, rationed food supplies and pervasive political violence he saw in Jamaica, which transformed him into an influential cultural icon. In 1976, two days before he was set to play a free “Smile Jamaica” concert aimed at reducing tensions between warring political factions, unknown gunman attacked him and his entourage. Though bullets grazed Bob and wife Rita Marley, they electrified a crowd of 80,000 people when both took to the stage with the Wailers. The gesture of defiant survival heightened his legend and further galvanized his political outlook, resulting in the most militant albums of his career.

Children Always Welcome

A little history of Marley and his wife Rita: He married her at 21 (she was a Sunday school teacher at the time) and stayed married to her until his death. He adopted her daughter and they had four children together during their marriage. Marley also had at least eight more children with eight different women. Rumors allude to several other unclaimed children but those named officially are: Imani, Sharon, Cedella, David (aka Ziggy), Stephen, Robbie, Rohan, Karen, Stephanie, Julian, Ky-Mani, Damian and Madeka.

Now a Global Marijuana Brand

As celebrity endorsements go, it certainly seems like a perfect fit: Under the label Marley Natural, the reggae icon fronts a global marijuana brand. Products include the “heirloom Jamaican cannabis strains”—purportedly the very same one Marley himself purportedly enjoyed—along with smoking accessories, creams, lotions and other items. Marley’s daughter Cedella calls the brand an “authentic way to honor his legacy by adding his voice to the conversation about cannabis and helping end the social harms caused by prohibition. My dad would be so happy to see people understanding the healing power of the herb.”

A Perennial Top-Earning Dead Celebrity

Bob Marley died on May 11, 1981 and received a Rastafarian funeral service at the Ethiopian Orthodox church in Jamaica on May 21st. He was laid to rest in a mausoleum in his birthplace of Nine Miles. (Photo: Getty Images)

In late 2018, Forbes Magazine listed Marley as fifth on the list of the highest-earning dead celebrities. In addition to Marley Natural, his family has also licensed brands of coffee, audio equipment, apparel and lifestyle goods. Of course, Marley has also sold more than 75 million albums in the past two decades. Legend, a retrospective of his work, is the best-selling reggae album ever. More than 12 million copies have been sold internationally and several thousand new units sell every week.

Marley died of cancer on May 11, 1981 in Miami. His body was flown back to Jamaica to be buried and, in one day, 40,000 people filed past his coffin as his body lay in state in Jamaica’s National Arena.

Psychedelic Lunch

Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series, “Legends,” where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore psychedelic tunes from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!

Freddie Mercury was a British singer, songwriter, record producer, and lead vocalist of the rock band Queen. Regarded as one of the greatest lead singers in the history of rock music, he was known for his flamboyant stage persona and four-octave vocal range.

The son of Bomi and Jer Bulsara, Freddie spent the bulk of his childhood in India where he attended St. Peter’s boarding school. He began taking piano lessons at the age of seven. No one could foresee where a love of music would take him.

The rest is rock history. EMI Records and Elektra Records signed the band and in 1973 their debut album ‘Queen’ was released and hailed as one of the most exciting developments ever in rock music.

Very soon Queen’s popularity extended beyond the shores of the UK as they charted and triumphed around Europe, Japan and the USA where in 1979 they topped the charts with Freddie’s song ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’

Through Freddie’s ability to project himself and the band’s music and image to the four corners of 70,000 seater venues they became known as the prime developers of stadium rock, a reputation perpetuated by their pioneering tactics in South America where in 1981 they performed to 231,000 fans in Sao Paulo, a world record at the time. They also became known as the key innovators of pop videos as their catalogue of 3-minute clips became more and more adventurous in style, size and content.

In the mid 80’s, Freddie started concentrating on his solo career, which was to run in tandem with Queen (“the mothership”) for several albums commencing with the 1985 release of ‘Mr. Bad Guy’. Freddie’s much loved sense of self-parody reached a zenith with his cover version of The Platter’s song ‘The Great Pretender’ in 1987, the video of which recorded him descending a sweeping staircase among acres of identical cardboard cutouts of himself.

While most publicly recognised as the front man to one of the most progressive rock bands of the 70’s, Freddie defied the stereotype. A taste for venturing into new territories – a trait that was to have a marked influence on the direction Queen would take – took Freddie to explore his interests in a wide spectrum of the arts, particularly in the areas of ballet, opera and theatre, even taking a participating role: in October1977 the sell-out audience of a charity gala at the London Coliseum organised by Royal Ballet Principal dance Wayne Eagling received the surprise of an unannounced appearance by a silver-sequinned leotard-clad Freddie performing an intricate routine choreographed for him by Eagling. In 1987 he made a one-night appearance in Dave Clarke’s Time at the Dominion Theatre, although legend has it Freddie occasionally turned up at the theatre to support friend Clarke’s musical, one night selling ice-creams in the stalls! Freddie would have loved the fact that The Dominion now plays host to the band’s phenomenally successful musical We Will Rock You which has now held the Dominion stage nearly seven years longer than Time’s two year run.

Freddie Mercury, who majored in stardom while giving new meaning to the word showmanship, left a legacy of songs, which will never lose their stature as classics to live on forever. Some of the most poignant of these were immortalised on the Queen album ‘Made In Heaven’ released in November 1995. The sleeve of the album shows a view from Freddie’s Montreux home.

September 5, 2010 saw The Mercury Phoenix Trust launch ‘Freddie For A Day’, a major annual initiative designed to celebrate Freddie’s life each year on his birthday and to support the on-going work of the Trust. The project encourages fans to dress as Freddie for a day and in doing so raise funds for MPT through sponsorship. No one could have imagined the extraordinary response which resulted, with fans from 24 countries around the world, from Argentina to Ukraine, seizing on the idea to pay their own special tribute to Freddie.

Some sent pictures strutting their stuff at home, singing into a microphone in their bedroom. Others took the plunge and spent the whole day as Freddie, including one US enthusiast who dressed herself as ‘Slightly Mad’ Freddie and then spent her day at the local mall and then at Columbus Zoo in Ohio with a penguin and a gorilla. Another took a TGV trip from France to Switzerland dressed in a harlequin leotard. The stories of extraordinary and fun days spent come in their hundreds, and as a result, Freddie For A Day is now an annual event.

A major Hollywood movie about Freddie and Queen, produced by GK Films, Robert de Niro’s Tribeca Productions and Queen Films is expected to start shooting shortly.

Psychedelic Lunch