Steve Hunter: Tone Poems Live

As Seen on Classic Rock Radio (UK)

Originally Published: 03 Nov 2014

Uncle G’s FUN Music Reviews
New Music from Classic Rockers
Spotlight: Steve Hunter – Tone Poems Live (Audio CD 2014 Singular Recordings / Gokuhi, LLC)

By Gary “Uncle G” Brown
Twitter @GBrown0816

Steve Hunter - Tone Poems Live - cover

If I had to describe Steve Hunter’s newest release, Tone Poems Live, then I’d say it’s an instrumental album with feeling. “Retro sounding”, a local professional Houston bass player told me. In a warehouse environment, I played it aloud for that little piece of the world to hear. Questions directed at me on what happened to be a beautiful Sunday afternoon ranged from who was the artist we were hearing, to what’s the name of the CD, and one of my personal favorites…are you going to Pink’s Pizza later on? A slice of good old fashion cheese pizza, and memories of my youth flash before me. Included in that is the guitar stylings of Steve Hunter. For back in the day and more recently, Steve played with Alice Cooper. Both the band and solo artist. Really not a bad lick anywhere, which is why I imagine they keep asking him to come back. Alice rocks!! And in part due to Steve’s musicianship over the years, Vince/Alice has received the recognition that equals that of his work with the original Alice Cooper band. Example, on Welcome 2 My Nightmare (2011) Alice’s follow-up to his mega debut solo smash hit album Welcome To My Nightmare (1975), Steve’s playing steals the show on the opening song, ‘I Am Made of You’. Since doing this professionally, Mr. Hunter has performed with the legendary Lou Reed (RIP), David Lee Roth, Meat Loaf (toured), and Peter Gabriel; then add his own catalog of solo material. An outstanding career, and one that gets spotlighted in this newest live release.

For the record, this review is all about the audio CD. I have yet to view the DVD. In soon enough time, believe me, I will. In the meantime, the audio disc is holding me over nicely.

The word “live” does not, in this case, mean Steve and his band are playing in front of thousands of people doing a concert somewhere, but instead performing all together at the same time in a recording studio. Considered old school nowadays, and the way Steve is comfortable getting the task done. The results pay off.

Joining Mr. Hunter on this project is Mr. Tony Levin on bass. I would have purchased the new CD with it being a new Steve Hunter release, even if Tony wasn’t in the band. Now, I have two reasons why to purchase it. Have been a Tony Levin fan for some time now. As a new aspiring bass player with two lessons under my belt, I can safely say the man will inspire me to play the bass to the best of my abilities, till my last dying day. And by the way, Tony is having a GREAT year also. Besides working with Steve, Mr. Levin just put out the coolest traditional jazz album with his brother Pete entitled Levin Brothers (Lazy Bone Recordings). As they say, variety being the spice of life, I do branch out from classic rock from time to time. Doing just that, I came across The Levin Brothers – the CD, a newly released gem. Back to Steve, his playing is a bit of everything; bluesy, jazzy, funky, and the dude rocks! Steve Hunter – Tone Poems Live proves that with every repeated spin. Assisted by Dave Mason’s drummer, Mr. Alvino Bennett, and a very cool keyboardist with yet another impressive past, Mr. Philip Aaberg.

The Music:

Each track is a part of Steve, even if not the composer. All my years of hearing Steve on record, or on live recordings, I can only assume after all this time, that the guitar and Steve are one. That the instrument is akin to a soul mate. Something special/dear to him. I’d like to strive for the same regarding my own bass playing. With some musicians, entertaining is nothing more than a job. Pays the bills. I never get that feeling with Steve Hunter. That guitar playing isn’t just a learned skill, but when done right, the sounds emitted, a universal language enjoyed by damn near all who reside on this planet. I have met a few people over the course of my life, who say they don’t like/get music. Puzzles my mind.

The first two songs on Steve Hunter’s Tone Poem Live, ‘The Idler’ and ‘222 W. 23rd’ absolutely blow me away! From precise to funky, to even sexy. The volume is now set to LOUD. It’s not that it gets better but instead stays consistent. That’s the magic. No vocalist here and the center of attention just happens to be one of the best guitarists in music today and his friends. Accompanied by those behind the scenes that make this all a solid CD from beginning to end. Nice!!

Rating: I could go on and on about each track and how wonderful I find sitting back and enjoying each and every song. Instead, I’ll speed up the process and just say flat out that if anything I said up to this points interest you, then go check this out. Just stick Steve’s Tone Poem Live CD in your home stereo, press play, and let its marvelous sounds fill the space you feel secure enough to walk around naked in from time to time. Not too loud that the cops come banging on the door. Kills the mood.

Uncle G’s rating of Steve Hunter – Tone Poems Live, using the one to five star rating system commonly found on the Internet, I give 5 Stars (and five exclamation points). This CD is worthy of major awards and at least one follow up project with the same musicians.

Uncle G’s Helpful Weblinks


Space City Comic Con 2015: The Trade

As Seen on Classic Rock Radio (UK)
First Published: 12 Aug 2015
Space City Comic Con 2015
Chapter Three: The Trade
By Gary “Uncle G” Brown
Twitter @GBrown0816

Space City Comic Con 2015 - BannerStar Trek: Voyager 20th Year Anniversary – Space City Comic Con 2015 Reunion Banner

So I walk up to actor Garrett Wang’s table, looking to do a trade. Garrett is best known at least to this convention, for his role as Ensign Harry Kim. A popular character that lasted all seven seasons, on the third spin-off from the original 1960’s Star Trek television program. Fan favorite; Star Trek Voyager. First run episodes ran from 1995 to 2001. Closer to what I personally think the original Star Trek show was about; exploring the unknown, character development, and having scenes of good lookin’ women in heavenly attire. The science fiction series in total, filmed one hundred and seventy episodes. I have many favorites. Most of which center around Jeri Ryan and her 7 Of 9 character (wink wink). Excellent storytellin’ throughout its entire run. State of the art effects used back in the day (14 years ago). Bravo to all the series employed, behind the scenes and in front of the camera. Now, back to Garrett.

The day before this, I had an opportunity to ask Mr. Wang a question for a story idea I thought of. Had to do with Voyager’s Holodeck, and using its technology, being able to recreate one musical event of the past. For yours truly I used Woodstock as an example. The main reason is that I was still in my single digits when that took place. If older I’m sure I would have at least tried to attend. Using the fictional spacecraft’s technology, I could do that. For those who read my story, Garrett’s answer was he’d use the Holodeck so he could attend an Elvis Presley concert. In my mind, a super cool answer. In part because outside the NGR Center, in which we were, was the Houston Astrodome. Still standing and in need of a little renovation. I’m being sarcastic here. The place looks like a shit-hole, as compared to its glory days. Has been voted by city residents to be torn down. Yet, there it is. Historical in a sense that grand events from the past taken place there, including Elvis playing at the annual Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. The last time was back in 1974. Played two shows, for a combined attendance of; 88,119. During one performance Elvis commented about the large size of the audience saying it was the largest crowd he’d ever played for. Like they say, things are bigger in Texas.

So forty-one years ago across the hot parking lot from the building Garrett and I were in, was where the legendary Elvis Presley and his band played.

Walking up to Garrett, I thanked him for being cool the day before and answering my question. Next came the setup for a proposed trade I wanted to do with him. I said (paraphrasing) I will trade you your autograph on a 3×5 card that I will supply, costing you nothing, and in return I will give you this CD, and I hand it to him. Now, remember everything I said up to this point. Here’s the CD I made a copy of only a few hours beforehand; Elvis Presley – Event Number Eight: Houston, Texas, U.S.A. March 3, 1974.

Now for those who want to Google and buy this CD themselves, it’s really not for sale. At least not legally. This is what is typically referred to in the trading circles as a: bootleg. A ton of Elvis’s shows was recorded back in the day. Many of them soundboards. Which is what ‘Event Number Eight’ is. Sounds better then if at the actual event.

Anyone who attended a concert at the Astrodome in person, in which I did more than once, knows the sound was borderline horrible. Plain and simple, the acoustics sucked. Makes sense the soundboard recording is better sounding. Listening to this treasured recording would be a real trip for those who I bump into every now and then who attended either one of the performances. I stay about thirty-five minutes away from the Astrodome. Many of those in attendance at either one of the two shows that fateful day is still alive. I’ll run into folks every blue moon who once they find out that I write for a classic rock station, want to tell me every detail of their being there. Talked about like it was the historical event that it was. Entertaining recollections indeed. All the world loved Elvis, especially Houston Texas.

So Garrett has the home-made CD-R in his hand. He starts reading aloud what took me almost an hour to print. One word explanation; arthritis. But it’s cool. Something I wanted to do. Got the idea while having morning coffee going over the day before events. A light bulb went off over my head when I was reading Garrett’s answer to my holodeck question.

For like a year, a decade ago, I got into a serious Elvis Presley kick. Started buying his CDs. Since a kid, I have been into trading. Too poor to buy everything. Pertaining to music, not regular products. I always loved broadcasted concerts, and pretty early on would stay up late at night and record them over the radio. And then I make copies and trade. Others did the same thing with musicians/bands they liked. Then I discovered bootlegs. As a collector of music and having thousands of CDs, some of these rare recordings are too good to pass up. I found a serious Elvis collector who also liked Prog-Rock, so off to the races we went. I remember one he wanted was Yes @ Roosevelt Stadium, back in the 1970’s. A concert I was at as a matter of fact. Broadcast by what was at the time, New York City’s top rock station; WNEW FM. And that Ladies and Gentlemen is how I got a very special collector’s CD of Elvis at the Astrodome in 1974. The entire show, afternoon performance. Broke attendance records, only to that night, break another attendance record. That’s impressive!

So Garrett is reading aloud the cover I made of the CD. Has a hint of excitement in his voice as he’s going down the tracks, reciting one great song title after another; All Shook Up, Love Me Tender, Hound Dog, Fever, Suspicious Minds, and then the closing number, Can’t Help Falling In Love. Garrett looks at me and says; “I’ll trade!”. Took my 3×5 card and signed it. We both smiled. I thanked him and left so he could get back to business and sign autographs for money.

Elvis Presley - Event Number 8 - backing (text)                                                Track Listing and ACTUAL photo!

So how cool is that? Thanks to Garrett Wang for playing along TWICE with me. I hope very much he enjoyed listening to the live Elvis recording. It was more a gift than it was a way of obtaining his autograph. Afterward, I thought it would make for a cool story to tell. That’s what I do right? I explained to a Space City Comic Con volunteer while just hanging out, that I was in all actuality, a storyteller. Not that I wasn’t able to be a stick to the facts reporter. I learned journalism 101 back in high school. Writing to me is more fun this way.

While at the Con, and observing that which was going on around me, I happened to watch Garrett with his fans. The dude can’t be any cooler. Doing a simple Google search will show one picture after another of Garrett behaving wonderfully with whoever approached him. I would recommend if the opportunity ever arose of being able to attend a convention and Garrett was there, to go up and say hello. Just bring your wallet. Leave the trading up to the professionals.

Garrett Wang (in person_25 July 2015)Garrett Wang Star Trek: Voyager Promo Photo + Garrett Wang autographed 3×5 card

Uncle G’s 420 Reviews: Uncle G’s Corner (#07) “MEDICATED MOMENTS”

WARNING! WARNING! (age 21+ Cannabis)

16 February 2018
Uncle G’s FUN 420 Reviews – Uncle G’s Corner (#07) “MEDICATED MOMENTS”

Words and Street Lamp Photography by Gary “Uncle G” Brown
Twitter @GBrown0816

Seeing how this is an archival website, I’d like to introduce to my newer 420 readers, a series of essays I did for a non-profit pro-cannabis website out of New York City, some years ago. One that I’ve been involved with since the year 2011. The webmistress is the wonderful Arlene Williams aka Ganja Granny. I love her to death! The website: Green Ribbon World.

Please note … regarding this republishing. We’re going back in time. Six years ago. I was married for the second time. This past February (2017) that union was dissolved one day shy of us being a couple 22 years. No resentment or hard feelings. I’d rather look forward more than backward.

Editing: Versions 2.0 … my aim is to clean up any remaining typos and grammar errors. The originally published essays could be found on the Green Ribbon World website. When finally done (this could take some time) archiving all the past essays published, I’ll start writing new ones. In a way, I already have done so: Uncle G’s FUN 420 Reviews.

Uncle G’s Corner
Number: 7
August 2011

Topic: Medicated Moments – The “let’s go to a play” Experience

Driving there as we were getting close, I had this bad feeling in my gut. Think neighborhoods. Think plays. Think New York City. Are you thinking? OK, follow me.

Broadway is known for its theater. The best shows, starring the best performers. For productions that for whatever reasons are not currently on the great white way, those are said to be located; off-Broadway. Nicer than saying it still needs a little work and thus is not ready for the big time just yet. Or maybe never will. Other plays, perhaps due to the lack of investors they had, or that they simply weren’t that good, the more off-Broadway they were.

Completing the set-up, if I may. Here it comes.

Freneticore Presents
Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version Of The War Of The Worlds
Performance: 19 Feb 2011

Should this have been in New York City, you’d find it in New Jersey. Rimshot, please.

Exit 105 if one believes in fate. But this was Houston. Highway 45 heading south towards Galveston. At exit whatever, make a left. A few miles into the hood we go. An old part of Texas settled in the early 1800’s.

The theater we were going to call home a building that one might guess, use to be some kind of warehouse. First impression anyway. And like just about everything else over there that surrounded it, major renovations were needed. This part of Texas has indeed seen it’s better days. Even the main theater sign, could have used a refreshing coat of paint. Arriving, we parked on the side of the building. Was pretty much well-lit up. About the same as us (pot humor — don’t you love it).

My eyes looked all around. Potholes. Broken concrete. My wife’s like; are you sure this is it? My inner voice kept repeating; “great…..just great.” For this was just the beginning. Next, a nauseating feeling in the stomach, followed by a trip to the land of total disappointment. So buckle up.

My pretty wife and I were the first patrons there. And it appeared at least for a while, that we’d be the only ones to arrive. As eight o’ clock approached (show time), a few people did start showing up. Then more. Most dressed rather casual foregoing the proper attire for an evening like this. I’ve been to plays in the past. In New York City. On Broadway. And also downtown from where I am now; The Houston Theater District. Guys typically wore suits & ties. The misses and I dressed nice, and like just about everyone else, more on the comfortable side. This was a rock musical after all. In total, maybe 40 to 50 people showed up. Add the cast and folks that worked the theater. I’m guessing somewhere around 75 there, either in front of or behind the stage.

So, after sitting in the car a while, we went inside. There was a box office set up, on the right hand side. An employee was there. Glancing back and forth I could see the lobby was just that, a lobby. Nothing special. Like the sign outside, it too could have used, a fresh coat of paint. Dirty white walls. And not much furniture. Was mostly barren except for a few fliers made from Xerox paper, scattered here and there.

They had an official program for the show we were about to see. Nothing out of the ordinary. Plays usually do. This one here, nothing fancy/glossy. Not like that promotional postcard they had. The cover for Wayne’s album; Musical Version Of The War Of The Worlds. Showed what they called a war machine, attacking a ship. Cool drawing. Science Fiction Fantasy. I so dig that. And like I said, this was printed on nice looking, glossy card stock paper. Too bad, the program that I was holding, was nothing like that. In my hands instead was a few pieces of white regular twenty pound printer paper, folded together that someone higher up in the organization, must have assumed would do the trick. Not even color ink. Another cost saving decision. Let’s have; a generic playbill. Grade schoolers could have done better here.

Our tickets were 15 bucks a piece. So they had a limited budget I’m sure. It stated in their ad/promotion that the City Of Houston gave them some cash. Were they talking loose change? Here’s three quarters, and two nickels. Now beat it! Sure could not have been much. What appeared as a serious lack of funds, reflected on everything. Think of the movies of yesterday when you heard; “Let’s put on a show!” The Little Rascals did this. In a run down location. Props were trash they found scattered around. Shields used for a sword fighting scene were actually garbage can lids. Need I say more?

In the lobby, they had beverages you could purchase. Pepsi / Diet Pepsi / Doctor Pepper…all in a can. Yours for two bucks each. At least it was cold. I did see one beer can; Lone Star. Texas proud I guess. And one bottle of whiskey. No shot glass. No cups that I saw anywhere in sight. Not even plastic ones, as I would expect from what I have seen so far of this establishment. Maybe one just took a drink of the intoxicating liquor, right out of the bottle? All that shared bacteria. Yum yum! The girl who two hits ago had a sore throat. Congratulations, so do you now. Then again the bottle could have been there for looks? Sure did look like a display of what they were offering. Purchased soda for ourselves, and threw a dollar in a tip jar. He looked needy.

Finally, we were let in. Ends up they were experiencing some kind of difficulty. The show started late. When called, like cattle, we all proceeded through the tall black, swing open and close, black door. A few steps to the stage, and seating. Think small. Theater seating. A hundred seats maybe? Not new looking. A dark red fabric covered the seats. Had that broken down, well used porn theater kind of look. Stale smell in the air. At least the floor wasn’t sticky.

We had front row seats. A three seat setup, on the left side of the theater. My wife took the inside aisle. I in the middle. And this younger heavyset woman, on my right. A complete stranger. And strange she was. Had her phone out so she could text the entire time. Add the word annoying to her description. Made these suppose to be sexy, suggesting sounds to a guy that was working the play throughout the evening. My wife and I just looked at each other. WTF? Sounded more like a cat with a huge ass hairball caught in its throat. Too funny. Meanwhile, the one my seat neighbor publicly lusted after, was busy working. Stagehand. There he was in front of us, on his knees, hooking up a speaker I swear I saw in a stoners bedroom, back in the 1970’s.

The stage was bare. Two projection screens in the background, where they used still images to help set the mood. Over the years, I’ve seen rock bands do this, and frankly much better. Porcupine Tree does a cool projection show. For one, the imagines they project, tend to fit the screen behind the band. Music synchronized perfectly. This one here, sometimes the pictures didn’t fit right. Was crooked a little. More icing on the cake. Now envision still being stoned and sitting there watching this all unfold before your eyes? From all we have seen and experienced so far, it is hard to conceive that things could get much worse.

Up to now, patrons of this event have not seen anything visual representing the play they were about to see, but for the official cover drawing that Jeff Wayne used for his project. The second time I mention this. Not to say I have not witnessed a lot since our trip coming here started. Much has happened between us getting ready to see the play, to where we were now.

Before walking out the door at home, we smoked weed. Not a huge amount. Folks are allowed an alcoholic drink or two right and be within the legal limits to drive safely. With pot, enough to get a light, pleasant buzz. We were out for the evening. To see a play. This is cool, right? Ever since making that exit off Hwy 45, it’s really been one buzz kill, right after the other. Still, there was hope. That is until the play began. Very quickly dreams were crushed that anything good was going to happen throughout the rest of the proceedings.

On top of all my other complaints, or as I see them, observations, one main one was directly right in front of me as I sat there dumbfounded as to what I was witnessing. Did I mention that the stage wasn’t elevated? I actually did see plays in New York City. I saw Godspell twice. It was the free wine at intermission that I liked best. They had an elevated stage. Had to walk up a few stairs to have the guy playing Jesus whose now playing bartender, come over and fill up my cup.

The straw that broke the camels back. I tell myself; I say self, we’re never coming back here again. We fled as a matter of fact, right after the show ended. No looking back when driving away. Foot on the gas. But I digress. Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of HG Wells War Of The Worlds has just begun, with sounds hitting my ears, being played out of a badly operated sound system. Everything was coming out of the right speaker(s). To make it even worse, mostly re-recorded music/speech/vocals. Imagine hearing parts of Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of HG Wells War Of The Worlds, being performed by a lounge band in a Holiday Inn Hotel. No Justin Hayward. No David Essex. And no one even attempting to sound anywhere as good as them. Why bother? Just make it up as you go along. That seemed at times to be the approach.

So here on a wooden floor, right in front of us, they proceeded to give this a go, as only I’m sure, they could. Did I mention that this theater’s history, is dance? Lots of dancing. Wish I’d had known beforehand. Might have given me a clue as to what was to come. I would understand advertising that stated it was their own interpretation of Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version Of The War Of The Worlds. If I would have been informed of that, I would have stayed home. Could have played Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version Of The War Of The Worlds on the stereo, medicated, and with the misses, had a much better time.

In this performance, maybe ten dancers/performers or so. More female than male. Not a bad or good thing. Just an observation.

They had a Martian. A guy in what looked like a really used, sports mascot, head to toe suit. Furry, and having a horribly bad hair day. A suit that I’m sure would be deemed by Major League Baseball, to be not appropriate for use in front of a live crowd, ever. A character not in the original story if I remember it right. The Martian’s did send out mechanical scouts. But I don’t recall beings. Not a human being like this wearing a prop probably gotten from a Salvation Army store. Discounted. Priced to go, I’m sure. See what I said about making shit up.

Check this out. Super unexpected. Girls did what seemed to me, and more than once, lesbian dances. It’s how I interpreted it. Lots of rolling around on the floor, and touching. At one point, three of them wore red/pink bodysuits. Very tight. Tight enough, we now got; cameltoe. Think anatomy class. And I remember reading on the postcard promoting the play that it was family friendly. No children in this audience. A good thing. I can only imagine if there was; Mommy….why is that ladies right nipple, sticking out more than her left one? In which Mom replies; too much dry ice, Dear.

Like a real Broadway type play, there was an intermission. All of this activity ceased, giving one a type of reprieve, and the time to form an updated opinion of the nights’ affairs, so far.

Question. Could this play be it’s so bad, that’s it’s good? Think the classic 50’s horror film; Plan Nine From Outer Space. A movie that by regular movie standards, is terrible at best. Lite up a joint and the jokes write themselves. Funny how that is. One can make a film and later on have it appreciated for being something the filmmaker never intended it to be. And that’s OK. Remember; Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes? As many people will tell you that movie sucked, that will tell you it’s good. There really is magic in the movies.

There were periods of the first part of this play, that I laughed harder than I have in ages. Because it’s so horrendously terrible. A build-up of one horrible thing, after another. And here, the silver lining. The awful barren stage look. Add to that, the terrible acting. Even worse singing when not pretending with the prerecorded vocals. And I sensed they really didn’t know the lyrics they were doing lip synchronization too. Hard to believe any of the performers were fans of the album, before getting involved with this.

I’ll admit this crap, was unbelievably funny. But not laughing in their faces so to hurt their feelings. A benefit of the doubt, we can say the performers were trying. Some harder than others. Besides, it’s not polite to be in public and have bad manners. At least, not on purpose. Unless they deserved it. In which these thespians didn’t. They were just in a bad production. Management of the theater should take responsibility. It shocks me that no one during rehearsal just stated honestly, that this really sucked. It’s a bad presentation of what really is a cool play. This includes real special effects as one can look up on the Internet. Google it. The biggest special effect this play had, was dry ice. And way too much of it. Like they didn’t know how to shut off the machine. Or they were purposely trying to cover up the whole state of stinky affairs they had going on. Someone should have punched the person who signaled this play to start this evening. “Ladies & Gentlemen” — pow.

I have to admit, the second part of the play was better than the first. Could be because the realization that this was as good as it gets, applied. There was a standout performer. A lady; Ekanem Ebinne. Played her part well. Sang well. Not a huge part. Seemed to make it her own. Everyone else made me laugh. Of course, we know that wasn’t their intention.

The play ended. People applauded believe it or not. We got up, and as I said before, immediately walked to our car. My wife commented on the way home, that she liked the dancing parts. Think I replied with; my balls itch.

Here’s my short review; absolutely dreadful. A misrepresentation of the actual play. End of review. See, I said it was short.

Disappointed? Sure. But it was a night out. We don’t get a lot of those. The words, “weird experience” sums it up nicely. I bet we’ll never forget the evening. That’s for sure.

In the theater’s advertisement, it reads: …..”will thrill and entertain you with a new take on the timeless classic.” That could very much apply to the real Jeff Wayne’s Musical World Of The Worlds. Unless Freneticore meant a new take, on a new take? From the HG Wells classic book to the Orson Welles famous radio production in 1938, to thrilling movies, to Wayne’s musical. Which this wasn’t. One leap after another. And they did end up taking something from me; my money. Maybe that’s the only “take” these folks at Freneticore were going for?

Oh…..when we got home, the misses and I got totally wasted smoking hydro. And laughed. This time, out loud.

Onward through the fog…..

Uncle G

Music played while typing: Yes – Fly from Here (album)

Remembering Peter Banks

As Seen On Classic Rock Radio (UK)
Originally Published: 09 May 2013

Remembering Peter Banks

Story and Photography by
Classic Rock Radio (UK) American Correspondent Gary “Uncle G” Brown
Twitter @GBRown0816

Peter Banks - Tribute Story

Part One

In reflection, maybe I should have written this sooner. It’s now been some time…over a couple months…since Peter passed away. I, like everyone else, have my share of problems dealing with death. First off, it’s so damn final. Add to that the grief associated with it. When my parents both passed by the time I was eleven, I figured I used up all my tears, and sorrow. Every Blue Moon I find that to be not true. Something bad happens, or someone I know passes.

Peter Banks was a good acquaintance. This was due to us having a mutual friend; William “Billy” James. Billy helped Peter with his autobiography. Part of the book launching included Peter having an Internet platform. That’s where I came in. A big enough deal to where Mr. Banks called my home a few times. Our chats were enjoyable, and on his dime, rather long ones. We both were comfortable talking to each other, so much so we even discussed our wives and his liking for going to the pub at night. I found his conversations very entertaining. Was a pleasure to chat with. Peter even mentioned us getting together one day for a brew. An invite I was never able to accept. Between us, we had more than 4000 miles and some rather vast bodies of water. Cool to say we at least entertained the thought.

I lost touch with Peter after the book came out. A failed attempt to get Banks together with a musician friend of mine who was visiting the UK crashed and burned. Add to that the world’s technology was changing so rapidly. Yahoo Groups, who reigned supreme for discussion groups and what we used for an official Peter Banks newsletter, in time advanced itself to MySpace. That was for a time, all the rage. Someone else who knew far more about internet technology was helping him with that. My job was done.

Regarding Peter’s music, I didn’t know who he was until Atlantic Records released a record of past Yes material, put out before their success here in the States. Graced with beautiful artwork from Roger Dean, they called the album: Yes – Yesterdays (1975). It motivated me down the road to get the first two Yes albums Peter was on: Yes (1969) and Time And A Word (1970). As time went by I played those two first releases till I knew them note for note. If I had to pick a favorite song; Astral Traveller.

In the mid to late 1990’s, I was music CD shopping in Webster, Texas one day when I found an interesting one filed within the Yes bin (so to catch a fan’s attention): Affirmative – The Yes Solo Family Album (1993 OoP). One of the tracks was a new Peter Banks piece called “Dominating Factor.” I bring it home. HOLY SHIT !!! The groove…the cool sound bites…and that kick ass guitar playing…I LOVED THIS SONG !!! Motivated me to buy the CD it originated on called: Peter Banks – Instinct. Peter’s then second solo record. After the first few initial plays, I was hooked and collecting music with Peter’s involvement in it became a part-time hobby. I was aware of Peter’s band after Yes called Flash so I got all their CD’s. Then came the band Empire. Likewise, I got all those CD’s. Later, I was introduced via the world wide web and electronic mail to Mark Murdock. He was the drummer on Empire’s Mark III (archived and then released by One Way Records Inc. 1996). A contributor to Peter’s newsletter.

Maplecrest - Yes Collection - bookcase

So, by the time Billy James included me in his promo machine, I had become a serious fan of Peter’s work. His solo albums, in my opinion, are guitar instrumental masterpieces. And get this…the dude can shred !! So much so that Banks felt he must give warning. One can find this written on the backing of Peter’s solo 1995 CD, Self Contained:

“Contains guitar riffs which some people may find offensive.”

When I mentioned how much I enjoyed his solo music to him, Peter came across as being proud, but at the same time brushing it off like they weren’t the achievements they really were. Still, sensing I was interested, Peter took the time educating me on some of his recordings and playing techniques. Extremely fascinating and I clung on to his every word.

I remember my first phone conversation with Peter. My mission was to sell Peter on the idea of an internet newsletter. This is when he informed me he knew nothing about computers or the Internet. Mr. Banks had a reputation for seriously NOT wanting to talk about his past association with Yes. Now he was at a place where he was cool with a whole book coming out about him that not only dealt with Yes, but with everything else as well. Or was he?

So here I was, pitching the newsletter. Taking a deep breath, I spit it out and hoped for a good reaction. My pitch went something like this; (The newsletter)… “would celebrate your past, yet center on today and what is currently going on with your career.” I heard silence for a few moments and then we went over the concept. All was fine. He then told me about his good friend in the States: George Mizer. With Peter in the UK and Billy and I here in America, it was cheaper to use George as a go-between when considering the costs of phone calls. Mr. Mizer and I ended up working well together. Wasn’t a paying gig for either of us. Our reward was knowing the launching of the book was a success. And that it was.


In my opinion, Peter made some of the best rock guitar instrumental albums on the planet. His estate should put out re-issues and also issue a greatest hits. With the right marketing, his CD’s should be consistent sellers for decades, and centuries to come. I have yet to play any aloud and NOT have whoever was around me, at least not like what they were hearing. Well, birds of a feather do flock together. Yet, Peter had his critics. My own personal interactions and observations conclude the Yes community, on the whole, didn’t embrace Peter’s music. Or maybe it was just, Peter? At least that was my experience when I was helping coordinate his newsletter. One borderline YesFanatic told me how anyone can pick a guitar fast like that when referring to Banks ’90’s solo CD’s. Majority interest of the YES FAN BASE was the so-called “classic line-up” (Anderson, Howe, Squire, White, and Wakeman) in which Banks was not a part.

Part Two

Truth be told, if it was Steve Howe, the same guy who brushed off Peter’s ability to play fast (yet precise) would be saying how skilled Howe was for his ability to shred. In essence, do the same damn thing! YesTool. I had the strange feeling as if Banks threatened a certain percentage of Yes’ fan base. I never could put my finger on it. Personally speaking, I got into Banks music as much as I did any of the other past or present Yes members. I have a shitload of CD’s in a cabinet (under lock and key) that I call my “Yes-related” collection. Am proud to have most of Peter’s catalog of officially released CD’s. Some are out of print now and worth a few bucks, especially after Peter’s passing. It’s all “YesTreasure” as far as I’m concerned. It’s been more than a good hobby. My whole Yes and YesRelated CD Collection…an archival of outstanding music in which Peter, is and will forever be a part.


If one reads Peter’s book, or the liner notes in the Yes archive CD he helped with called Yes – Somethings Coming, then you would know Peter had a pretty good sense of humor. Highly sarcastic at times. I could understand how people might have taken his comments, either in print or audio, negatively. He used newspaper/magazine/liner notes or audio (music or speech) to make a point. Anything at his disposal. Example, on his first solo record, Two Side Of Peter Banks, one can hear something very similar to a tune Yes came out with after Peter’s departure from the band called “Roundabout.” Banks had said how when the band did warm-ups that he would play what he believes eventually became Yes’ biggest hit at the time. Overall one got the impression Banks felt cheated, especially when it came to royalties/money. Peter made some comments about that subject that I’ll just never forget. At the intro to a song called “Fathat” found on Peter’s solo Reduction, one hears the following with music in the background, but turned down so one can hear what is being said:

A Ladies Voice: “Where does a man get inspiration to write a song like that?”

A Guys Voice Replies: “He gets it from the landlady once a month.”

In the Peter Banks song “Sticky Wicket” from his Instinct CD, here’s the dialogue blended in with some of the coolest guitar playing you’d ever want to hear:

A Guys Voice: “Oh I wouldn’t like that and neither would my daughter.”

Found on the next track of the CD Shortcomings:

A Ladies Voice: “And I just wanna know, like with the reunion coming up where are, like the other ones and like, whatever happened to the other guys and why not bring out Peter Banks? I’d like to know where he is.” (note: transcribed to the best of my ability – GB)

Taken from a nationally broadcast radio program when members from Yes, who were a part of the Union Tour, were taking questions from folks who called in. The sound bite, perhaps a reference to a Yes reunion that went horribly wrong. Yes was on their successful Union Tour. Peter was scheduled to do an encore with them at one show. The exciting day arrived, Peter the professional musician that he was, showed up on time as was planned, and it didn’t happen. A sad story to hear, let alone watch the words come out of his mouth in the 2006 documentary: Yes – Classic Artists (2006).

On Peter’s album Self-Contained (1995), at the end of the fourth track called “Massive Trouser Clearance,”…well…this does sound somewhat bitter. If I may say so…

Announcer: “Although it made classic rock in a commercial sense, some critics argue that Yes’ music is pretentious and empty.”

Peter Banks: “Yeah that’s valid. I’d go along with that as well.”

Now that’s a real Peter Banks deep cut…ouch.

Update 2013 and I understand that communication was re-opened having some positive results with certain past individuals associated with Yes. Also worth noting, that whatever his professional gripes were, Banks pushed all that aside and showed great respect to his parents on solo recordings. Inspired by his Mom, he made beautiful music. For us others, Peter could rock your socks off.

Years ago, one Summer day when at an ice cream joint with Michael Bruce (original Alice Cooper member), playing over the loud system was Lionel Richie’s hit song “Hello.” Michael knew Peter played on the tune. It was my turn to order and I looked behind me to see what MB was getting and the dude wasn’t there. I excused myself and got out of line. Started looking around for Brother Bruceski. Found him in the back of the joint, by the speakers. Michael told me he wanted to hear Peter’s guitar work better and then added when the song finished, how impressed he was with his smooth playing. I noticed when I was helping Peter with his newsletter that other musicians really dug Peter’s ability and knowledge of the six-string instrument he mastered. Other ex-Yes members noticed (Billy Sherwood_Oliver Wakeman), and were so kind to have Peter on their projects. A win-win situation for everyone after hearing the results of the collaboration. Seeing Banks name on a new project, was always good news for me and as a fan as I was never disappointed in whatever Peter’s contribution was.

The catalog of music Peter left behind is enough for him to indeed leave his stamp that he was here. I have faith that folks until the end of time will find Peter’s music and appreciate it the same way I and so many others have and will do throughout our lifetime.


Peter Banks Empire – The Mars Tapes (2014)


As Seen on the Website of Classic Rock Radio (UK)

Originally Published: 07 January 2015

Uncle G’s FUN Music Reviews

Spotlight: Peter Banks Empire – The Mars Tapes (2014)

By: Gary “Uncle G” Brown

Twitter @GBrown0816


Peter Banks Empire - The Mars Tapes - cover

Imagine my panic when, on the day I set aside to write about Peter Banks Empire – The Mars Tapes, that it’s revealed that the second disc of the two-disc set is…MISSING! Lucky for me, I knew where it was. In an automobile that I rented and gave back to its rightful owner the day before. Listened to both discs driving up and back to San Antonio during the recently passed Christmas holidays. When returning the vehicle I made double sure to look and make sure I didn’t forget anything, neglecting to check the fancy CD player we used the entire four hundred mile round trip. Would have sucked if the CD was lost/thrown away.

A couple days after returning the vehicle, a happy ending took place as I was reunited with the disc at the Enterprise Car Rental place in Katy, Texas. Nice people over there. In the meantime, while missing the second disc, I played the first disc a few more times. Worked out fine, really. Oh, wait…I caught a nasty ass cold, and after that had three back teeth removed in my lower jaw (receiving stitches in my mouth). The pain once the novocaine wore off…Holy Shit! I promise myself that I’d NEVER do that EVER again. It hurt so much. The first few days after was pretty unbearable 24/7. Then every day after that, a tad less painful than the day before. In total, about five or six weeks of agony! And all through this, I’m playing mostly this new Empire / Peter Banks archival two CD project. Now having survived, I can say it helped me through by rearranging my focus. Shifted my attention onto something else. Along with some hot tea and honey, Peter Banks Empire – The Mars Tapes became a cool distraction from everything I was physically having to deal with. Onward through the fog.

I would be remiss if I neglected to mention that I once worked with Peter Banks, trying to help him promote an autobiography, he penned with the help of William (Billy and not William regarding the authorship recognition first name) James; titled ‘Beyond And Before…The Formative Years of Yes.’ This is back at the turn of the century. Sometime after publication, I lost touch. Enjoyed the contact I had with Peter. With him in the United Kingdom and myself in the United States, the phone and fax machine was our main source of communication. Peter was always nice to me, at least until one of my good friends royally screwed up involving getting his wife (after Sidonie) and himself free admittance into an Alice Cooper show, and then hanging out after the show together. The whole thing planned ahead of time. Very professional actually. Never happened. My friend got so involved with what he was doing that he totally forgot about Peter and his wife, leaving them hanging at the door. My part was being a go-between, and setting everything up. I drew up an itinerary, that my musician friend, totally ignored, being caught up in all the excitement. Wasn’t on purpose at all. Was seriously disappointed with the outcome. Again, nothing I directly did. Frankly, I’d be super pissed as well with the traveling that was required, and be it all for nothing. So there went my contact with Peter. Still, I remained a loyal listener. Up to the end, he stayed active, and his playing was still top-notch. Broke my heart hearing the news of Peter’s passing (2013).

Think how shocked I was when towards the end of 2014, here comes along some unreleased Empire music. Of course, I’m interested. Could my review be biased? A distinct possibility, so much so that I’d say YES myself. Be it as it may, I decided the BEST thing to do would be if I went down another path. Therefore, instead of a straightforward review, the following are my impressions, listening to what I believe is one of the best archival projects to come down the pike in a while. From a band led by a man labeled the architect of Progressive Rock. Empire’s music encompassed many styles even containing a hint of what was popular on the charts via record company/companies request. Remember disco? A tune called ‘Dancing Man’ comes to mind that Empire did. Rehearsed to play live as well, as a part of a Empire medley. Included in The Mars Tapes (disc one) for your listening pleasure.

Imagine if you will, a professional, established progressive rock musician trying to jump-start a band to his liking, when music not of his kind, is ruling the airwaves. The promotional norm at the time by newer and younger rockers was to simply talk shit about established bands. One example was labeling the chart toppers “Dinosaurs”. This said with intent to kill interest in them, while at the same time boosting their own popularity. The musical tide was surely changing, and unfortunately, just never in the direction Peter or Empire needed it to go.

Fact is Peter Banks Empire was a band that had three major attempts at becoming a commercial musical act, and failed at doing so, ALL three times. In their defense, years after the band broke up and went their separate ways, the music they created did see the light of day. Three CD’s labeled Empire…featuring Peter Banks, Mark I, Mark II, and Mark III. One Way Records in the 1990’s put these out. Yours truly being the BIG Peter Banks fan, of course purchased all three at the time of their release. Out of print and collector’s items nowadays. Note, knowing I would write something about the newest P.B’s Empire release (The Mars Tapes), I re-acquainted myself with these recordings recently. The third CD of demos/studio recordings, Mark III, compliments this recent release very well. Same musician roster. Here’s the band practicing what would have been a pretty cool setlist if they even got a chance to perform anywhere in front of a paid crowd. And they would have had that, had Mark I have been released properly, and money spent promoting the song, ‘Out Of Our Hands’ been made a single. Could have been a hit, or at least got respected airplay. Its success would have launched the band towards popularity, and that is what makes money and keeps things afloat. As humans mature, sometime during the process most of us learn, and it’s usually always the hard way, that hopes and dreams cost money. Adds up quickly. As does time in a professional recording studio.

Empire had a six-year history with major occurrences happening between projects. This was Peter’s group. He devoted his all to this. The time frame was 1974 to 1980. When the financially, bad times hit, he slept on people’s couches while playing salesman, trying to get the band it’s BIG break. From his own personal accounts, Peter’s attitude came off as ‘all or nothing’. Unlike other rock bands he participated in like Yes or Flash, Empire as a whole had no one to answer to but Peter. With authority came responsibility. At times the money was there, and at others, it wasn’t. Unfortunately, in the business world in which music, like it or not, is a BIG player, deals fall through. Peter’s actions dictated the man certainly tried, doing all he could to make Empire not only the band he wanted, but a success as well. A hard working / well rehearsed musical group that made chart topping albums, and went out on tour. A band that actually played live gigs in front of paying crowds. None of that ever happened to Empire. I conclude what a major shame that was, because the material when presented in the right environment was there. I base this on the three (Mark I, II, and III) now Out of Print (OOP) Empire factory pressed from the now-defunct One Way Records CDs that I have. All these years later since their release is further testimony to a conclusion, with the double CD; Peter Banks Empire – The Mars Tapes.

Let’s talk content. The two CD’s that make up Peter Banks Empire – The Mars Tapes amount to around ninety minutes of unreleased music from what would be the third major, and I guess final line-up of the group. Rehearsal tapes recorded at Mars Studios in Los Angeles, California. Music that represents not only the three past failed studio recordings, but Peter as its star as well. He was the music guy, and his once wife and Empire’s lead singer, Sydney Foxx (nowadays Sidonie Jordan) had the task of doing lyrics. Having been in all three incarnations of Empire, it was her band as well as it was Banks. The truth was it was her lyrics and singing that provided the cohesiveness the band needed. Since her Empire days, Sidonie has seen a variety of success, as did the bands’ drummer, Mark Murdock. He’s currently rocking Tokyo, Japan, with a group called Machine Messiah in which material like that found on this CD, could be heard/seen in concert. Mark also is very involved with a very cool progressive/jazz-rock band called, Cymbalic Encounters. Their sophomore studio release will be out here shortly. Includes Percy Jones and John Goodsall from a band Phil Collins was in at one time called; Brand X. As for the others involved with Empire, we are after all talking a few decades ago; R.I.P.

Did I just speak his name? One of the best drummers in prog-rock history, Mr. Phil Collins is included in Empire’s history, being a session man in the band’s beginning days. Friends of Peter’s, it was another band he was in called Genesis that kept him from perhaps being Empire’s full-time drummer. As an admitted fan of Empire, be it whatever line-up, featuring Peter Banks, I just think it’s so cool he contributes. Makes for an excellent footnote. A man behind the drum kit that I would have loved to have at least once witnessed in person, seeing him play live. With everything else I witnessed over the decades, it’s hard to believe I missed something like that. A lifelong friend with Empire’s final drummer, Mark Murdock also. Phil rocks! Good singer/showman also. Oh…on The Mars Tapes, Mr. Collins appears on disc two. On a song called ‘Sky At Night’. A beautifully layered prog-rock song if there ever was one. Sydney / Sidonie’s vocals shine here, and I dig the tabla playing (by Sam Gobal). Another one with hit potential, and I bet would have been cool to see them do in concert. Give the prog rock band Renaissance a run for their money.

Uncle G Rating: Using the one to five-star rating system with one star pretty much meaning, “pass”, to five stars meaning it’s cool to spend your hard earned cash on, I rate Peter Banks Empire – The Mars Tapes – 5 Stars! From the concept, which would include an awesome representation via the artwork that accompanies this release, by Paul at Studio 3 (as listed in the CD’s credits). Makes for slick looking promo ads as well. A GREAT idea using an obvious Sci-Fi twist based on the name of the studio. Nice work! Progressive rock and Outer Space do go together nicely.

Speaking of Mars, a couple instrumentals found on the second disc of The Mars Tapes by Peter Banks Empire, captures the spirit of the project. The first being a tune called ‘Ascending To The Planet Mars’. Songwriting credits go to Peter and the whole band. And also containing the same spirit is a song called ‘The Fall Of The Empire’, which gets my attention every time played. Always trying to be honest, I LIKE the second disc of Peter Banks Empire – The Mars Tapes more than the first. Different listeners, different reactions. Remember, I’m more into the actual music itself. It’s Peter’s guitar playing that holds my focus. All other players were outstanding, and having to be so to keep up with Peter in the first place.

Note: Please understand what an archival project is before paying all that money for postage. You know, should one be buying the physical CD itself. Available for official download also. The recordings themselves reflect recording devices and techniques reflective of the time the music was recorded. Just pointing out the obvious. Saying that, sounds very well being blasted out of a powerful home stereo system. Comparable or better to that of the One Way Record releases. On the negative side, a couple songs could have had better endings, and not sound so like they abruptly stop. Maybe could have faded out sooner? Maybe due to glitches in the source tapes themselves? A wild guess really. I once was involved with a Billion Dollar Babies three-disc CD archival project called, Complete Battle Axe (2002). Learned many valuable lessons, helping Michael Bruce with that one. Another story for another day. Back to the way a couple songs ended, it’s really the only bad thing I got to say about the whole project. Having worked on an archival project before, was taking an above novice educated guess as to why.

Before this turns into a two-parter, I sign out forever a fan of Peter Banks music. His sound will outlive us all. The possibility of a human being on the planet Mars listening to music Peter was involved with, or better yet, this very recording, will increase as time goes by. In the vast far reaches of outer space…may the vibes proceed the jive. Isn’t that Seventies sounding?

Downes Braide Association – Skyscraper Souls

As Seen On Classic Rock Radio (UK)

Uncle G’s FUN Music Reviews

Spotlight: Downes Braide Association (DBA 3) – Skyscraper Souls (2017)

Label: Cherry Red Records

By: Gary “Uncle G” Brown

Twitter: GBrown0816

Downes_Braide - DBA 3 - cover

On first listen, I wasn’t immediately drawn in. Neither was a good friend of mine. My advice to him was to not forget our ‘play twice rule’. It was agreed upon over twenty fives ago between the two of us that if we listened to something twice and hated it … that we would move onto the next musical offering. My buddy, KDiddy, a brother from another mother, always seemed to have a bigger musical palette then I did. Our taste in music is similar but at the same time, different. For over a quarter century now, we have been turning each other on to each other’s music collection. Between us both, we could seriously set a playlist for a 24/7 radio station. Would be second to the best classic rock station already on the PLANET; Classic Rock Radio (UK).

So it ends up when playing DBA 3, that I got past the ‘play twice rule’ easily. Every listen thereafter helping me conclude that this newest studio release from Geoffrey Downes/Christopher Braide … exceeds anything I would ever hope for in a modern-day progressive rock album. Not that I completely gave up hope on such a thing. 

Uncle G’s … Past First Impression(s)

A well engineered/mixed recording. Perfect length. Piano/Keyboard heavy. An abundance of lyrics. Keys and vocals unite! Stand out backing musicians. Beautiful artwork by Roger Dean. Am jumping around … I conclude DBA 3 Skyscraper Souls; “ a work of genius!” I’ll explain.

Was shocked when the CD started. Vocals at the very beginning. The more you listen, the more the eardrums respond. The brain awakens. Something exciting is about to happen. And it does! Track one entitled ‘Prelude’ will also help give this nine-track album, a very nice outro. Lead vocals by Christopher Braide. I was told by the sweetest lady here in Fort Collins that Chris’ singing really stood out. That he had a nice tone. She’s a musician herself. Peer to peer evaluation. I will tell folks that Chris’ vocals are pleasant to these ears. So many kings of keyboards worked with singers whose performances make a person want to spew. I actually own a lot of Geoff’s music catalog. The man has done better than most celebrated piano/keys players regarding vocalists; Asia – RIP John Wetton.

It’s track two, the title track, Skyscraper Souls, that is totally mind blowing. Clocks in at around 18 minutes. Totally seamless. And this is where the word ‘masterpiece’ comes in. Accompanied by complimenting backing vocalist. Intelligent lyrics akin to the kind of poetry one reads under a tree, escaping the everyday pressures of being an adult. Amazes me each and every time I give it a spin. All nine songs contain lyrics worthy of paying attention to. Adult musings/observations. I try to sing along, but when I do the dogs in the hood gather, and then start vocalizing loudly in my general direction. Widdled it down to it now being a sing-along, or a request from the entire pack to get me to stop.

CO - Fort Collins_Evergreen - Vanna - 01 (2017 07 01)

Vanna (photo by “Uncle G”)

Typically when playing music, I listen to an album, from start to finish. No skipping around like it’s a greatest hits offering. I recommend those interested, to do the same … DBA 3 Skyscraper Souls. Rewards are plentiful. A wonderful array of professional musicians are included to help complete the nine compositions. Three core players: Ash Soan (drums_percussion), Andy Hodge (bass), and Dave Colquhoun (lead guitar). Andy Partridge (multi-instrumentalist_singer) is on four tracks. Various talented background singers; Matthew Koma_Tim Bowness. Guitarist Patrick Howley guests on; Angel On My Shoulder. Throw in the flute (David Longdon), a trumpet (Matt  Bourne Jones) and a cool guy doing narrative: Barney Ashton Bullock. All tracks are written and produced by; Geoffrey Downes and Christopher Braide. For myself … what’s not to like? Awashed with reminders of the 1980’s; The Police, Toto, and a group called; The Buggles. Remember them? Not a hard rock offering by any means. There are upbeats moments where you can wiggle your bum while under the DBA 3 influence.

Gary “Uncle G” Brown RATES … Geoffrey Downes – Christopher Braide: Skyscraper Souls (2017)

Using a one to five-star rating system whereas one star would mean it’s not even worth a free download, to five stars … the best of the best. “Uncle G” gives DBA 3 – Skyscraper Souls … 5 STARS! I played this on hundred dollar headphones … wow! Could only imagine what DBA 3 would sound like on … two hundred dollar headphones! Maybe one day the opportunity will present itself?

Helpful Websites

Official Roger Dean Website:

Uncle G’s 420 Reviews: Uncle G’s Corner (#06)

WARNING! WARNING! (age 21+ Cannabis)

09 January 2018
Uncle G’s FUN 420 Reviews
Words and Red Ashtray Photography by Gary “Uncle G” Brown
Twitter @GBrown0816

Seeing how this is an archival website, I’d like to introduce to my newer 420 readers, a series of essays I did for a non-profit pro-cannabis website out of New York City, some years ago. One that I’ve been involved with since the year 2011. The webmistress is the wonderful Arlene Williams aka Ganja Granny. I love her to death! The website: Green Ribbon World.

Please note … regarding this republishing. We’re going back in time. Six years ago. I was married for the second time. This past February (2017) that union was dissolved one day shy of us being a couple 22 years. No resentment or hard feelings. I’d rather look forward more than backward.

Editing: Versions 2.0 … my aim is to clean up any remaining typos and grammar errors. The originally published essays could be found on the Green Ribbon World website. When finally done (this could take some time) archiving all the past essays published, I’ll start writing new ones. In a way, I already have done so: Uncle G’s FUN 420 Reviews.

Uncle G’s Corner
Number: 06
JULY 2011

Topic: Headphone Memories

By age twelve, weed had entered my life. It’s sidekick; music. But really rockin’ out should be first in that order. So it’s sidekick; weed. Either way, in my life so far, they both have always been interesting, and wickedly entertaining in one sort or another, either separately, or combined.

Way before I became a cannabis user for medical reasons, and while just a wee lad, I fell in love with music. To this day it’s an important ingredient in my general makeup. Mom having had been the one to plant that seed. A professional musician. Her name was Thelma. Unfortunately, I don’t know as much as I would have liked about her. Already mentioned in previous Uncle G’s Corner’s, she passed away. At age 49. I was seven years old at the time of her death.

Alcoholic. Hardcore. Whiskey. Would have fit right in with Bill W’s first one hundred. Hid bottles all over the house. Disregarded the consequences. Ingested liquor with total abandon. As a result, many a time got sloppy, fall down drunk. Let’s assume at any given opportunity. Entertained in bars. Booze consumed the woman. Yet every time I looked her way, there was a vision only a small child sees. She was beautiful. All courtesy of unconditional love. Bottom line, she was my Mum. Sure I witnessed bad situations. But I was too young to comprehend fully what was going on around me. Which actually saved me. Was a natural protection mechanism. Fact is children don’t completely understand everything they fall witness to. Not the same way an adult does. Elementary my fellow potheads, it’s all in the skull. The time spent with Mom, my brain was nowhere near being fully developed. Not in seven years. I was a bright child. Memory worked. Processing those as I got older. Like playing tapes over and over, which sometimes caused apprehension. To say the least. I struggled for years coming to peace with past events that off and on, sometimes daily, bothered my subconscious.

I remember Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass. My Mom really dug them. I can recall her recording on a reel-to-reel tape system, an appearance they did on The Mike Douglas show. Daytime chat program. This is in the 1960’s. The album I remember from them more than any other; Whipped Cream And Other Delights. The green cover with a brunette woman wearing nothing but whipped cream. Hence the title I imagine. The dairy industry must have loved this. Sales through the roof. Whipped cream now being eaten, and not at all times from a plate of ice cream, or on anything made from flour, found in a bakery. The image, forever stuck in my young mind, igniting further my fascination with the female race. Get this…..speed up time….it’s now the wonderful 1990’s. I purchase a Herb Alpert Greatest Hits CD. Take it home. Play it. I know every song that he’s with the Tijuana Brass. Note for note. I could whistle along with it (my bird loves when I do that). Embedded in my brain all that time. I went thirty years not hearing many of those songs. And still, I remembered them.

Thelma Brown (re-stored 2013)

Promotional Photo: Thelma Willnetta Brown_Cordo Tones (Texas mid-1960’s)

My Mom played piano and accordion. She also sang. My favorite song that she performed; Red Roses For A Blue Lady. It’s a dear song that I hold very close to my heart, yet with over the two thousand music compact discs that I have, I don’t have a version of that song by anyone. This tune is from 1948. I actually think if a good vocalist recorded that song now, with some solid updated music behind the vocals, that it would chart and make money. Up the tempo. Just saying. Maybe that guy Casey Abram from the last American Idol? Season 10. He can play that stand up bass. Do the Wolfman styled vocals. He grunts. Surprised he never howled. Make Steven Tyler shout out; crazy good! And speaking of, what a loose cannon he was on that program. I was fascinated just keeping up with him. My only time watching a whole season of the show. By the way, my pick(s) lost. Imagine that.

Now let’s take a jump back. Back to my teenage years. At the second home, I lived in, after my parents were both dead. A pair of Sennheiser headphones. I’d go outside and smoke some weed. Then come inside, and put on the headphones. What music was I listening to you ask? Remember, this is around the middle of the 1970’s. OK? Here you go:

Uncle G’s Top 10 Headphone albums (cd’s that were meant to be listened to with the stereo headphones on, while under the influence of pot). And here we go:

Jeff Beck – Blow By Blow
Kraftwerk – Autobahn
Mike Oldfield – Tubular Bells
Yes – Fragile
The Beatles – Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band
Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Brain Salad Surgery.
Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti
Pink Floyd – Dark Side Of The Moon
Nektar – Remember The Future
Alice Cooper – Billion Dollar Babies

Honorary Mention: The Who – Who By Numbers / Who’s Next

Note: Listened to these two Who studio releases on 8-Tracks, while smoking weed, and having dropped blotter acid one night. What a trip! Made me a fan of the band for life. And Pete’s solo material as well. His album: Psychoderelict. The misses and I so dig this. Came out the year we started dating (1993).

I later on while under the influence of said reefer we were smoking, and the acid I dropped, decided to go to the beach. A cool place to trip. Done it already a few times. Here I was with this girl name Diane. A cute blonde. She stayed straight that night. Our guardian angel for the evening. Me and another guy whose name escapes me at the moment. While totally peaking, we go to a pool parlor. A block from the boardwalk. The place was named; The Wild Carrot. And this is in Manasquan. So there I was playing a game of pool. I swear, the balls glowed. Could not finish the game. Ended the night on the beach. Most my experience with acid was good. Once while doing it, I jumped head first into a big bush thinking it was a giant mushroom. One track mind.

While a young teenager, I hung with guys who sometimes had older brothers in their life. And their friends. Socialized after school. On weekends. At get-togethers (like they say nowadays; just chillin’), or parties. Big, small, and by private invite only. Lots of weed. And always playing in the background, was the tunes. My mind was one big sponge soaking up whatever sounds that were out there. Explored what I liked. Ends up, I got turned on to lots of good bands/musicians just by being around like-minded individuals.  Unfortunately, I lack any ability to play a musical instrument. A friend gave me a bass not that long ago. It sits in my living room. “One day” I still tell myself.

For the most part, I stayed in two small seashore towns; Manasquan, and Long Branch. Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band were huge in that part of the World. The Jersey Shore. The same way, ZZ Top is big in Texas. Each having their own respected local followings. Way before becoming national celebrities.

From what I can tell, The Boss has stayed loyal to the Jersey Shore over the decades. Good for him. You know, he once gave my first wife tickets to a show. She worked for his answering service. One day Bruce was rehearsing and he hurt his foot/leg. He ends up impressed, and thankful for the speedy service she gave him finding a Doctor. Gives her two tickets to the Thanksgiving Madison Square Garden performance. She baked him a loaf of banana bread.

Springsteen had just come out with The River. Double album. A very important performance. Critics. We sat with the press/record company folk. They for the most part just sat there and watched the concert. No jumping up and down and actually getting into it. And we did have one drunk try to fuck with us. He got flagged. Bruce and the band were great. Another long show. We had to leave before the end so we could catch our train home; the night owl out of Penn Station.

As I got older I started disliking Springsteen, mainly due to his politics. One example. He publicly supported John Kerry. And here’s what killed me. Not for any specific reason. Only because he opposed Bush. On national TV this came out. It was an interview. Asked why he supported Kerry, Springsteen said nothing. The quietness was deafening. Spoke more to me than if he opened his mouth.

Regarding entertainers. Let me get this straight. I’m spending hard-earned money, and precious free-time consuming myself with their products, not just Springsteen’s, due to their performance abilities. That’s why I purchase the concert tickets and their latest releases. I’m attracted to their acquired musical skill, and or their talent to entertain. I’m not doing this because of their current views on drilling for oil in the Gulf, or whatever the hot topic of the day is. Mix those two, and you lose me. My singers, I want to sing. My actors, I want to act. Not educate me, or instruct me as to how to conduct myself in certain situations. It’s a pet peeve. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Throwing controversy aside, Springsteen & The E Street Band, especially the early material, is simply outstanding. Worth getting, or checking out if not in your collection already.

As a youth, I collected albums. Had some of the most simplistic home sound systems I could barely afford. Foster kid. No money. Check this out….I had one empty cigarette box, housing a tweeter. My friend would have Pioneer speakers, and I’d have Marlboro. But it worked. And I’d be playing all this great music. Would sometimes put pennies on the tone arm so the needle would not skip. And all this enjoyment, mostly under the influence of cannabis.

Attended concerts. My first rock show was Yes. They were touring the album, Relayer. Played two summers in a row. I attended both concerts. Roosevelt Stadium, Jersey City, New Jersey. The second summer show was on the radio; WNEW 102.7 FM. Out of New York City. Where most of the entertainment came from when living in New Jersey. I have wonderful memories of this radio station. One of them was a DJ name; Scott Muni. What a natural deep radio voice he had. We’d turn the bass up when he was talking. Would rattle the windows. Made us stoners laugh, every time. Then there was Alison Steele…The Night Bird. Listening to her late at night, could turn a penis hard, and keep it there till morning. Like it was an antenna zoomed in on her radio frequency. Besides the dee-jays, for many years they played what was new then, and now the classic rock hits of today. Would spin whole albums; Emerson, Lake, & Palmer’s – Pictures At An Exhibition. The 1970’s. A wonderful time for radio. And music in general. I once heard Steve Howe of Yes / Asia / GTR fame, say in an interview how the record companies were way more relaxed back then, allowing complete freedom to create. Lucky them. And lucky me. And Lucky Man was one of my favorite songs. One of the many that made for a cool soundtrack to my growing up. And life today as well.

Music CD’s playing in the background while I typed this; Jon Anderson – Survival & Other Stories / Steve Hackett – Out Of The Tunnel’s Mouth / Ant-Bee: Electronic Church Muzik.

Bonus Paragraph:

I saw Led Zeppelin. At Madison Square Garden. June 13, 1977. Pot everywhere. Got super wasted just walking around the outside of the Garden. Joints being passed to anyone who wanted a hit. Not to mention inside the place. What a blowout! Was hanging out with a pretty smelling young lady. We hitchhiked from Long Branch to the city. Was at Zep’s Swan Song office building most of the day. Met a lot of characters. And later that night saw one of the best rock bands ever. These guys were like Gods. A concert I’ll never forget. When back home the wee hours of that evening, my then new girlfriend and I detoured a couple blocks from her home, and we went into the woods. Sometime later, she was yelling “I’ll be right there Mother” with her panties down, and me munching on her custard pie.

Onward Through The Fog

Rest In Peace: Clarence Clemons (January 11, 1942 – June 18, 2011)