Monday, December 8, 2008

John Lennon: He Asked To Give Peace A Chance

Today is a sad day for me, and I am sure for millions of other music lovers as well. We all lost a musical genius 28 years ago and I miss him terribly. Here is an article I wrote several years ago, it's very hard to summarize everything John Lennon was and is, but I think this does it well:

written by Robert Benson

He dreamed of world peace. He was an artist, poet and an outspoken voice of the hippie generation. He was an influential musician, a peace activist, an absent father and a devoted lover and husband. He abused alcohol and drugs, sneered at normality, yet took time off from his rock and roll career to raise his son. But most of all, he was a Beatle. He was and still is, John Winston Lennon.

Born in Liverpool on October 9, 1940, John Lennon was shot to death on December 8, 1980 by a fanatical fan. The world mourned his death as millions grieved for the man who was the heart and soul of the world's best rock and roll band, the Beatles.

He had an unusual childhood, shuttled back and forth between his mother Julia and her sister Mimi. John eventually spent his formative years with his aunt Mimi and Uncle George and as Mimi recalls, “His mind was going the whole time, and it was either drawing, or writing poetry, or reading.”

Yet, he was an unruly, stubborn and a disobedient, troubled youth. He failed at art school, yet swore to his aunt that "one of these days I'm going to be famous and you'll be sorry.”

John had a premonition of things to come, as he knew he was a bit different than most people. As he looked back, he explained: “I always knew I was going to make it, but I wasn’t sure in what manifestation. I knew it was just a matter of time.”

There are many words to describe John Lennon. He called himself a leader, yet did some of his best work alone. He was an alleged wife beater, very outspoken, often putting out controversial quotes to the media; either to make a point or just to be outlandish. But when he spoke, people listened.

He was a partner with his boyhood friend, Paul McCartney and together they left a musical writing partnership and a legacy that are unequaled to this day and may never be. The Beatles, with their producer George Martin, changed music in dramatic fashion, with studio techniques that had never been attempted.

They pioneered the concept album with "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band,” which the editors of Rolling Stone magazine list as the greatest rock album of the rock era.

He had the attention of our government with his antiwar protests and at one point was under FBI investigation. He sang of love and peace and living in harmony, with all people coming together as one. There are some who called him a genius. He could be nasty, resentful and meanspirited. He fought his demons and it seems he was winning, until December 8, 1980.

We can only recall his career, from the beginning, until the end and who doesn't know the story about the four lads from Liverpool. He was part of the group that changed rock and roll music history.

We can only wonder what John Lennon would be doing if he were alive today. How active would he be in promoting world peace? Would he still be creating wonderfully crafted rock and roll songs? All we can do is Imagine, and that is the shame of it all.

Take some time today, celebrate his music and life and remember the greatest musician of our time.

Picture Discs

written by Robert Benson

The vinyl record resurgence is in full swing and going hand-in-hand with this phenomenon is a renewed interest in picture discs. Not only are they graced with fantastic artwork or a photo of the artist or band, these marvels of vinyl are usually made in limited quantities making them highly sought after and collectible.

Picture discs are manufactured to be a collectible and not meant to play as well as a conventional vinyl record. This is due to the manufacturing process as each side is coated with layers of PVC (poly vinyl chloride); sometimes up to five layers. As this process is being done, a continuous groove of music or even a band interview is pressed onto the playing surface.

Picture discs made their debut in the 20’s and 30’s with various methods and materials utilized for their production. Early picture discs were manufactured using a sheet of thin vinyl film which was placed over a thick paper print and then pressed with the grooves with varying degrees of success. Early pioneers of picture discs included RCA Victor, which released some special edition picture discs of their top performers, Musika Postkarte Company of Germany, Trusound of Great Britain and Sav-Way Industries of Detroit, Michigan, who sold their recordings under the Vogue Records moniker.

These Vogue picture discs were invented in the 40’s by Tom Saffady and were sold during the 1946-47 for fifty to seventy-five cents apiece. With seventy-four titles in all, they featured such artists as Lulu Belle, the Charlie Shavers Quartet and Patsy Montana and were ten inches in diameter and were made of an aluminum platter covered with vinyl. However, due to poor sales, the company filed for bankruptcy, leaving a legacy of highly collectible picture discs.

In the 70’s, some record companies pressed picture discs as a novelty and production became more of a promotional tool. Most discs replicated the front of the album cover art but some included rare images of the band or artist or specifically modified artwork. Because of the limited quantities, unique shapes and different pressings, theses picture discs are highly sought after by collectors. They are framed and prominently displayed to show off their full color glory.

In the late 70’s major record companies like Capitol Records, Epic Records and Columbia Records started to manufacture picture discs in large numbers. Hot selling groups like the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Blondie and the Steve Miller Band, among many others, flooded the market and still command top prices in today’s market, forty years after their release.

The 80’s saw the picture disc market booming and it was a very important element to any artists or bands release campaign. With the boon of digital music in the late 80’s and 90’s, and along with the demise and decline of the vinyl record, production dropped and the picture disc was utilized as more of a limited release item or for promotional purposes.

With vinyl now seeing a resurgence, so too has the interest in picture discs. Indie bands as well as top mainstream artists and bands are producing top rate picture discs and the market shows no sign of letting up and these future collectibles are now in collector’s hands and framed for display.

Picture discs are by far my favorite collectible. They 'hold' their value very well, are great to look at and are easy to resell (if you choose to do so). Certainly, a weakness in my collecting genes, I will continue to add to my collection of picture discs for years to come. I have also made an 'a-store' and have selected some of my personal favoites. Check it out here:

Classic Rock Videos

The Doors - The end

Local Music Store News

A local Milwaukee music store is thriving in these tough times:

Lotus Land celebrates 8 years in Riverwest

By Bobby Tanzilo

The music business might be taking a hit from digital music distribution and illegal downloading, but vinyl fiends help keep local music hot spots like Bull's Eye going.

Despite the crunch of the tough economy, Lotus Land, 832 E. Clarke St., celebrates its eighth birthday at The Mad Planet on Saturday, Dec. 20. The free event features music, food and giveaways.

Co-owner John Kuester admits that the tough economic times aren't going easy on the vintage vinyl business, but says Lotus Land has a devoted following.

"In-store business is about a sh*itty as it can get right now but we have always been more of an online business," says Kuester candidly. "Sales online are steady but I'm keeping a close eye on things."

That's a big change from when co-owner Andy Noble -- a local musician who currently plays bass with Kings Go Forth and did DJ gigs with his brother a Super Noble Bros. -- told us in 2002 that the store was doing the bulk of its business through the front door rather than the ether.

"As of now, we are still usually making more in the shop," Noble said. "It's swinging towards the Web site more every day, though. The people who are buying stuff in here are buying really different stuff from the mail order business. Milwaukeans are still really into like, shiny new records and the Europeans are really into rare black music."

The original shop opened on Center Street in Riverwest, across from Fuel Café, in 2000. But after closing for a few months to move earlier this year, Lotus Land reopened in mid-April at its current location near the old shop.

Back in '02 Noble said, "It was a natural extension of what we were doing, acquiring insane amounts of vinyl and meeting more and more collectors and DJs that were looking for rare and exotic music but didn't have the time to go digging for it everyday in its natural element (houses, warehouse storage spaces, etc.). Also, the space kind of magically opened up in front of the apartment we were living in."

After that, Noble, Kuester and Noble's brother Tom -- who was a partner in the store before moving out west -- got into the action of making records, too, reissuing ultra rare funk, soul, jazz and hip-hop. That side of the business is still growing, says Kuester, who performs as a rapper and DJ under the moniker Kid Millions.

"The record label has done six releases so far and we have a few things in the works. We are also about to sell six songs from our label to the new 'Guitar Hero' video game 'DJ Hero'."

Lotus Land is open Tuesday through Saturday from noon until six. The store sells records on the Web at


Album Cover Art

Let's continue our look at's list of the top 50 dirtiest and sexiest album cover art, this time #15 (Gigwise comments in quotes):

15. Red Hot Chili Peppers: 'Abbey Road EP' - "The Californian funk rockers paid dirty homage to the original Beatles image of crossing the West London road at the famous studios with the help of their infamous 'socks on cocks' routine (repeated a number of times by the band). We just wonder what they're hiding?"

I guess if we can have naked women on album covers, we must also include naked men with socks on their wonkers....makes perfect sense to me.