Archive for January, 2012

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Just Sitting Here Missing Michael

January 23, 2012

On Wednesday January 25 it will be three years since many of us here in north-central Ohio lost a good friend, who also happened to be perhaps the most natural-born talented bass player ever. Michael Ervin Johnson, only 48, passed on thanks to heart failure.

Still pisses me off.
 
Back in the 70’s Michael first picked up a bass and was a natural, instantly. He could listen to a tune once and play the bass lines perfectly. Many musicians back in the day remarked how proficient, how effortlessly, how quick to adapt and learn songs he was. A truly gifted musician. And although he didn’t do it often enough, Michael was one hell of a singer, a talent that he shared with his family.

Michael played in a number of bands in the 70’s in our little region of Ohio. He was also a ready substitute and fill in for various bands and while he shown brightly as a full time member of assorted bands and permutations he probably had the most fun and most recognition as a founding member of Damage, a hard rock band out of Wayne County (primarily Orrville & Wooster musicians) that built a solid and popular reputation during the latter years of the 70’s throughout the Wayne County – Canton – Akron – Mansfield region.

In Damage Michael, a black man, played the heaviest, funkiest, sweatiest, crunchiest rock ‘n roll bass riffs around. He was untouchable, as numerous musicians have stated over the years. Talented, gifted, he could play any style of music proficiently, whether it was rock ‘n roll, R & B, funk, soul, gospel, you name it, if Michael liked it, he could play it. He was the USA answer to Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy.

In Damage Michael was often times ‘the show’. Meaning, if the vibe wasn’t quite right, if the crowd was moody or cranky, Michael would slap the crap out of that bass even more and start working his ‘moves’ on stage that nearly always got the crowd in a more festive, and dancing, mood.  Yes, Michael knew all about ‘the show’ part of show business and the others did their best to emulate him.

                                          DAMAGE taking no prisoners!

Besides Michael, who also contributed back up vocals, Damage consisted of Jerry Kirven and Mark Good on guitars, drummer Tom ‘Bones’ Morrison and singer Rick Thistlethwaite. Rick Gidley joined the band as the light & sound tech (and many other duties).

Beyond the music, just as a person, Michael Johnson was one hell of a good guy. Have so many good and fun memories of him from back in the day, through high school and just beyond a bit. Michael was cool in a variety of ways, chief among his ‘cools’ was he never showed any pressure, anxiety or worry. He was cool, calm & collected.

And funny as hell!

Damn, we had some good times. (And no, I’m not going to share them with you. Unless you were with us at the time! Since the whole band was involved, I may tell the story of the $2,000 bar tab sometime….)

I’ve lost quite a number of friends over the years and it will likely continue, but sitting here tonight planning my week, it just hit me why January 25 was significant. Michael! Too young.

This website owner (far right), Michael & Castle Theatre manager watch Rick Gidley do all the heavy lifting prior to a gig at the Castle Theatre.

I remember going to the services for Michael and the place was absolutely packed, wall to wall people, standing room only! I had to smile. Of course, everyone loved Michael! The hardest part was watching his family, his siblings, send him off. The wonderful Bishop Lottie Smith handled the services with his brother Rev. Jimmy Johnson reading scriptures while his brother Rufus sang. Oh yeah, can Rufus ever sing. Ask around. As good as Michael was on a bass, Rufus is that good with his voice. Another generation of pure talent who performed was Michael’s niece, Tiffany Johnson.

And of course sister Ruth, a friend from high school, was there to comfort their Mother, Mrs. Gertrude Johnson-Howard, a precious, sweet lady who, over the years, never knew a stranger and welcomed any stray (like myself) who wandered into their home with one of her kids. A beautiful lady (and who graciously sent me one of the sweetiest, most cherished letters afterwards).

Michael left behind his wife, Pamela, and children Erica Johnson, Nathan & Nikolas Johnson. And lots and lots of memories that hundreds of people who knew him will not likely forget.

How good was Michael Johnson as a bass player? No less than Kim Simmonds, legendary lead guitarist of the British Blues Band, Savoy Brown, once commented about Michael after watching him perform with Damage: “Why the hell isn’t he in the big time? He’s amazing! That kid can go far, he feels the music. He’s bloody damn well good, he is.”


Yeah, Michael was that good.

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Gotta Love It!

January 22, 2012

Click on image to enlarge!

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Shhhhh! Lauren Is Really….

January 20, 2012

All Good Vibrations & Positive Energy & Good Things To You Lauren!

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School Daze!

January 9, 2012

Everyone has ‘skeletons’ in their closet…. like old photgraphs from grade school, junior high and high school. As part of the Class of ’76 our 35th reunion was held several months ago and the glancing through a yearbook from back in the day and seeing the same folks 35 years later…. can be alarming, amusing & amazing. (Some people age better than others. I am not part of the former.)

Anyway, here’s a slew of grade school and high school photos of some rock star icons. Recognize any of them? Identifications at bottom of this post.  Click on images to enlarge!


1) Neil Young 2) Janis Joplin 3) Steven Tyler 4) Debbie Harry 5) James Hetfield/Metallica 6) John Lennon  7) Paul McCartney 8)Axl Rose 9) Alice Cooper 10) Jim Morrison 11) Bruce Springsteen 12) Paul Stanley 13) Curt Cobain 14) Eddie Van Halen

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‘Gettin’ It On’ For Four Decades

January 6, 2012

40 years ago this month, T.Rex’sBangagong (Get It On)’, one of my all-time favorite songs (gee, ya think?) hit the USA Billboard Top Ten charts. While it ‘only’ reached as high as #8 in the USA charts, it was a huge million-selling plus mega-hit in Britain. The song, which clocks in at 4:25 has now become an iconic song of the 70’s and of British rock ‘n roll. 


 ‘Bangagong (Get It On)’, which appeared on T.Rex’s Electric Warrior album, was released as single on the Fly label in the IK and Reprise in the USA. Written by Marc Bolan, of course, the track was produced by Tony Visconti and engineered by Roy Thomas Baker.


 Besides Bolan the T.Rex band who recorded this included Mickey Finn, percussionist; Bill Legend, drums and Steve Currie, Bass. Background vocals were by the Turtles’/Flo & Eddie’s Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman. Playing saxophone the track is Ian McDonald, who co-founded King Crimson and Foreigner with Rick Wakeman on piano and Burt Collins on flugelhorn. percussionist percussionist percussionist
 
Over the years the song has been used in films, television, commercials and a number of bands and performers have recorded their own versions.


 In 1971, British band Top of the Poppers covered “Get It On” on their Top of the Pops, Volume 18 album. When Blondie’s 1978 classic Parallel Lines was reissued a live recording of the song was included as a bonus song. In 1979 Witch Queen released a disco version while soon after Joe Perry recorded for his Joe Perry Project album Once A Rocker, Always A Rocker. In the past dozen years or so it’s also been recorded by The Boomtang Boys, Los Bunkers, Ministry, Cinema Bizarre, Porno Graffiti and in 2010 Carlos Santana recorded for his Guitar Heaven: The Greatest Guitar Classics of All Time with Bush’s Gavin Rossdale on lead vocals.

Fly Records – UK 45 RPM Record Sleeve

The song was featured in many films, including The Stoned Age (1994), Blue Juice (1995), Billy Elliot (2000), The Trip (2002), Meet the Fockers (2004), Flying Boys (2004), Jarhead (2005), The Bank Job (2008) and Barney’s Version (2010) and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2010).

Get it on, indeed!

‘Get It On’ UK Chart History

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Ultimate Marc Bolan/T.Rex Album Art

January 5, 2012

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Rock ‘N Roll Eye Candy

January 3, 2012

The previous post featuring the Sunset Strip in 1974 sparked some memories after seeing the Mott The Hoople and David Bowie billboards. I can remember once in the mid-1970’s driving north to Cleveland and being shocked to see a billboard along I-71 advertising KISS’ Destroyer album. I knew they had the coolest rock ‘n roll billbaords in New York, London and L.A. cause magazines like Creem, Circus, Hit Parader and the like would on occasion publish a photo of one. Seeing rock ‘n roll themed billboards promoting new albums and upcoming concerts (World Series of Rock, etc…) would be a bit more frequent over the next couple years around Cleveland and Akron but like all things, they too faded.

Here’s some billboards from ‘back in the day’, the glory years of rock ‘n roll. Click on images to enlarge!

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