Tommy Ramone: Last of the Punk-Rock Pioneers

Boomers growing up in the mid- to late 1970s may have felt bored and alienated by the classic rock that their older brothers and sisters listened to. That’s why so many of us were especially excited about a band called the Ramones, who were pretty much the opposite of the handsome stadium-rock gods who dominated the airwaves with their synthesizer bombast and 10-minute guitar solos. With their misshapen hair, torn jeans, cheap sneakers and biker jackets, the Ramones looked like …

Tom Laughlin: The Renegade Who Challenged Hollywood and Won

Action flicks of the 1970s featured an army of  two-fisted tough guys with hard stares and gritted teeth, who angrily defied the establishment and did things their own way, especially if that entailed acts of violence at frequent intervals. But none was angrier, more defiant or more willing to kick butt and take names than Billy Jack, the protagonist of a trio of films by actor-director-producer Tom Laughlin. Laughlin, who died on Dec. 12 at age 82 in Thousand Oaks, …

Remember ‘O-o-h Child’ by the Five Stairsteps?

Clarence Burke Jr., who died on May 26 at age 64 in Marietta, Ga., was the lead singer, guitar player, sometime songwriter, and choreographer of the Five Stairsteps, four brothers and a sister from Chicago who got their name because their mother said that when the siblings stood together, they looked like stairs. While the Five Stairsteps achieved an impressive string of R&B hits in the 1960s and 1970s, their shining moment was “O-o-h Child,” a 1970 single that became their …

To My Dad: Memories of the 8-Track

In late 1970, my Dad brought home a new car–a cobalt blue Chevy Caprice Classic with an 8-track tape deck installed under the dashboard. That tape deck, in that car, was my springboard to my technology adventures. As soon as I got my drivers’ license in early 1971, I got behind the wheel of that bright blue baby, and cruised my neighborhood, with tape recorded music playing inside this car.  Most of my friends had only heard of eight track …

Levon Helm Passes

Levon Helm, drummer for The Band, has passed, aged 71. We’ll be watching The Last Waltz tonight. Did you ever see Helm or The Band in concert?