Friday, December 26, 2014

"Skydog": The Life and Legacy of Duane Allman

Even though it has been almost 45 years since legendary guitarist Duane Allman last performed onstage or in a recording studio, and even though there have been several articles written about him within that 45-year span of time, I figured that it was time for me to put my two cents' worth into this discussion. Hey, better late than never, right?

My first introduction to Duane as a guitarist was rather unpleasant, to say the least. I was three years old when the song "Layla" by Derek and the Dominos was beginning to receive airplay on radios all over America in March of 1971. Having little knowledge or awareness of hard rock music at the time, I became terrified when I first heard Duane's wailing, high-pitched slide-guitar solo on "Layla". It was unlike anything else that I had ever heard before, and it scared the hell out of me.
As I became more aware of guitar playing, I found myself beginning to appreciate Duane Allman's contribution to "Layla", especially after hearing the full-length version of the song. I began to understand Duane's talent as an interpreter of blues guitar to the point that whenever I hear "Layla" now, I can't help but feel stupid for having been so terrified of the song back in 1971. The naivete of youth makes us all feel like idiots in the long run, I suppose.

My appreciation for Duane Allman as a guitarist would grow on me as I became more aware of his work with the Allman Brothers Band. It was during this time that I realized just how talented he was at being versatile as a musician. His ability to combine blues music with jazz and hard rock seems effortless when listening to songs like "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" (an instrumental written by fellow Allman Brothers' guitarist Dickey Betts while sitting in Rose Hill Cemetery in Macon, Georgia), along with other notable songs like "Whipping Post" and "Stormy Monday".
One could make the argument that Duane Allman was the American equivalent to such British contemporaries like Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck, and I personally don't believe that such a comparison would be too much of an exaggeration. Like Page, Clapton and Beck, Duane would begin his career working as a studio musician before attempting to form bands of his own. And also like Page, Clapton and Beck, Duane was gaining recognition for his talent at improvisation when it came to performing with different artists in the studio during the 1960s.

Duane Allman with Wilson Pickett during the "Hey Jude"
recording sessions in November of 1968

From 1961 until the time of his death, Duane Allman had recorded numerous guitar tracks for different artists whose music ranged from rock and pop to R&B and soul. Throughout the decade, Duane was able to earn a living by traveling to different studios and working with such artists as Doris Duke, Clarence Carter, King Curtis, Aretha Franklin, Otis Rush and Boz Scaggs, to name a few.   
It was his work on Wilson Pickett's rendition of The Beatles' song "Hey Jude" in November of 1968 that brought Duane Allman's name to the attention of other notable artists in the music industry, including guitarist Eric Clapton...

 "I remember hearing Wilson Pickett's 'Hey Jude' and just being astounded by the lead break at the end. I had to know who that was immediately---right now."

Ironically, Duane had to talk Pickett into adding a cover of "Hey Jude" to the list of songs for his album. After its release in 1969, Pickett's version of "Hey Jude" would reach number 16 on the pop music charts, and it secured full-time work for Duane at the FAME/Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Sheffield, Alabama. Not bad for a guitarist who had dropped out of high school in Daytona Beach, Florida so that he could focus his attention on having a career in music. 

The Allman Brothers Band in 1969 (left to right): Duane
Allman, Dickey Betts, Gregg Allman, Jai Johanny 

"Jaimoe" Johanson, Berry Oakley and Butch Trucks

It was also in 1969 that Duane and his younger brother Gregg were forming the Allman Brothers Band. The two brothers had attempted to form a couple of bands during the 1960s, but were unsuccessful in their efforts. 
After Gregg was having a difficult time working as a studio musician for Liberty Records in Hollywood, California, Duane gave Gregg a phone call from Jacksonville, Florida telling him to come back so that he could join a new group that he was putting together. Duane himself had grown weary of working as a studio musician and wanted to form a band that was unlike any other at the time. Gregg agreed to the offer, and then flew back to Jacksonville to join his brother.

The Allman Brothers Band were Duane Allman (guitar), Gregg Allman (keyboards, guitar, vocals), Dickey Betts (guitar, vocals), Berry Oakley (bass), Jai Johanny "Jaimoe" Johanson (drums, percussion) and Butch Trucks (drums, percussion). In May of 1969, the band would take up residence in a friend's apartment building at 309 College Street in Macon, Georgia, where they would be met with disapproval by conservative locals in the city because of their long hair and liberal attitudes towards music, psychedelic drugs and racial integration. Duane would later move into a separate apartment at 1125 Bond Street in Macon.

The Allman Brothers' self-titled debut album was released on Atco/Capricorn Records in November of 1969 and was received with little accolades (it sold less than 40,000 copies). However, the group would form a bond with each other during the recording of this album, and that bond would become a literal brotherhood by the time their second album "Idlewild South" was released in September of 1970. In March of that year, the band moved into a large, Victorian-style house at 2321 Vineville Avenue in Macon which Berry Oakley's wife (named Elizabeth) had rented. The house would come to be known simply as "The Big House".   

 "Skydog" and "Slowhand": Duane Allman (far-right) with
Eric Clapton (center) and the other members of Derek
and the Dominos in 1970

While working on "Idlewild South", veteran producer Tom Dowd received a phone call to inform him that Eric Clapton would be working on an album with his new band at Criteria Studios in Miami, Florida during the month of August, 1970, and that Clapton wanted to know if Dowd would be available to help produce the album. The name of Clapton's new group was "Derek and the Dominos", and the working title for the album was "Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs". 
Upon hearing the news from Dowd, Duane indicated that he would love to drop by Criteria Studios and watch Eric Clapton and his new band record the album, if it was okay with Clapton. Duane called Dowd later to inform him that the Allman Brothers Band would be in Miami to perform a benefit concert on August 26th. When Clapton learned of this news from Dowd, he insisted on attending the concert, saying, "you mean that guy who plays on the back of (Wilson Pickett's) 'Hey Jude'?...I want to see him play...let's go."

After the concert, Duane met with Clapton and asked if he could come by the studio and watch some of the recording sessions. "Bring your guitar", Clapton replied. "You've got to play." The rest is history.
Although "Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs" didn't do well in sales after its initial release in November of 1970, the title track "Layla" would go on to become one of the most memorable songs in rock music, and it would help launch Duane Allman's reputation as a guitarist even more as time passed.

After ten years of working as a session guitarist and constant touring with his own band, Duane Allman was beginning to reach the pinnacle of recognition for his contributions to the rock music industry. The 1971 live album "At Fillmore East" (the Allman Brothers' third album) was receiving high praise from the music press and would ultimately give the Allman Brothers Band their first gold record by October of that year.
Sadly, Duane Allman wouldn't live to see his band continue having success.

Duane Allman performing live in 1971

During a vacation from touring, Duane drove his Harley-Davidson Sportster motorcycle over to "The Big House" from his new home at 1160 Burton Avenue in Macon's West end to help celebrate the birthday of Berry Oakley's wife Elizabeth. After staying for a little while, Duane left and began heading out of Macon, traveling West on Hillcrest Avenue during the early evening hours of October 29, 1971. 

At approximately 5:45 p.m., Duane was driving fast towards the intersection of Hillcrest Avenue and Bartlett Street when a flat-bed truck with a lumber crane attached to it made a sudden right turn onto Bartlett in the opposite lane on Hillcrest and stopped in front of him. According to eyewitnesses who were at the scene, Duane was driving his motorcycle at least 20 miles over the speed limit when the truck turned onto Bartlett from Hillcrest. Duane tried to swerve into the left-hand lane in order to avoid the vehicle, but ended up clipping the back of it and was literally sent flying through the air before hitting the pavement with his motorcycle landing on top of him. Both he and his motorcycle skidded 90 feet before finally coming to a full stop, with Duane pinned underneath it.
Duane was rushed to a nearby hospital with severe internal injuries. Despite the efforts made in trying to save his life, Duane Allman was pronounced dead several hours after arriving at the hospital from the scene of his accident. He was 24 years old.

Whatever his reasons were for traveling on Hillcrest Avenue that particular evening, Duane would never reach his destination.*    

Duane's Harley-Davidson motorcycle after his wreck on
October 29, 1971

Just a little over a year later (November 11, 1972, to be exact), Allman Brothers' bassist Berry Oakley would end up dying of cerebral brain swelling from a skull fracture three hours after crashing his Triumph motorcycle into the side of a city bus as he was entering Macon, Georgia on Napier Avenue. What makes his crash so disturbing is that it took place only two blocks over and 100 yards away from where Duane had his motorcycle accident the previous year. Berry was also 24 years old at the time of his death.

Despite both tragedies, Gregg Allman and the Allman Brothers Band would continue recording albums and touring well into the 1970s, '80s, '90s and into the 21st century, adding new members along the way before finally calling it quits after performing their last concert at New York's Beacon Theater on October 28, 2014---one night before the 43rd anniversary of Duane Allman's death.

Duane Allman and Berry Oakley's grave site at Rose Hill
Cemetery in Macon, Georgia

Just above the banks of the Ocmulgee River in Macon, and past a pair of well-used railroad tracks that wind their way through the city, there are a pair of graves on a hill near the back section of Rose Hill Cemetery enclosed within a wrought-iron, gated fence that face Northward. Within that pair of almost-identical graves are the last human remnants of a legacy which helped put the city of Macon, Georgia on the map of rock music history. It is here that the bodies of Duane Allman and Berry Oakley remain in their final resting place. 
Apart from the Allman Brothers Museum at 2321 Vineville Avenue (a.k.a. "The Big House"), there are no other monuments, markers or statues commemorating the existence of Duane Allman or Berry Oakley in Macon except for a bridge and a highway named after them, along with a small historical marker just to the right-hand side of those two adjoining graves in Rose Hill Cemetery. I guess the fact that the Allman Brothers Band spent time hanging out and writing songs in that cemetery during their early days in Macon is a monument to them in itself. 

It is my hope that at some point in the not-too-distant future, I will be able to visit that grave site. And when I do, I know that I will end up walking away having wiped tears from my eyes and shaken off a cold, bitter chill that will have crept down my spine as I remember Gregg Allman's sad, haunting lyrics that close the song "Melissa" from the Allman Brothers' 1972 album "Eat a Peach", which happened to be Duane's favorite song that Gregg wrote in 1967, and was recorded by the Allman Brothers Band five years later in Duane's memory...

"Crossroads, will you ever let him go?
Will you hide the dead man's ghost? 
Will he lie beneath the clay, 
or will his spirit float away?
But I know that he won't stay
without Melissa."

One more thing: While I'm in Macon, I will also remember to eat a peach for peace.

*According to one account, Duane was driving back to his home on 1160 Burton Avenue to gather presents and a cake to take back to "The Big House" for Elizabeth Oakley's birthday party.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Obama's Legacy: A Damning Indictment on White Conservatism in America (or, "Would the last conservative leaving the Democratic Party remember to take the Confederate flag with you?")

The art of leadership...consists in consolidating the attention of the people against a single adversary and taking care that nothing will split up that attention.

--Adolf Hitler, Germany's president and Nazi Party leader (1933-1945)

If Dwight Eisenhower had come back from the war and decided to run as a Democrat---which he almost did---there would be no Republican party today. They would be like the Ku Klux Klan, small knots of hate-crazed rich people scattered in walled ghettos around the country, instead of the dominant ruling autocracy that they have been for most of the last four decades.

--Hunter S. Thompson, excerpt from "Better Than Sex" (1994)

Barack Obama is not a person who would defend the rights and heritage of the European-American people.

--David Duke, former Ku Klux Klan leader and current T.E.A. Party spokesperson 
(quoted in 2008)

Obama, I think he's a piece of shit. I don't care that his mother is white...I don't think America wants a black president. Most of them are too afraid to say that they believe the way I believe.

--Ron Edwards; Imperial Wizard, Imperial Klans of America (quoted in 2008)

The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.

--Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), National Journal interview (10/23/10)

The demographics race we're losing badly. We're not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.

--Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) on the future of the Republican Party (Washington Post interview, 8/30/12)

It takes a certain level of hypocrisy for anyone who is conservative and Caucasian in the United States to argue that the main reason for his or her resentment towards Barack Obama isn't because he happens to be half-African-American, especially given the fact that so many Caucasian conservatives have done everything possible to make sure that Caucasian Democrats and independents end up feeling a sense of guilt for having elected Obama as president since the beginning of his term in 2009. This certain level of hypocrisy is nothing new in American politics of course, but it really has come to the forefront in such a way that it is now laughable to hear white conservatives blame Obama for everything that is wrong with the U.S. while attempting to justify Richard Nixon's counterculture-fueled paranoia and George W. Bush's calloused ineptitude during their terms in the White House.

The Obama "Sock Monkey": The first warning 
sign of a racist backlash from white conserv-
atives towards Barack Obama's candidacy
 during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Regardless of whether or not it is because "white, right and uptight" conservatives feel a desperate sense of entitlement to attack Democrats by whatever means necessary for political gain, their inability to feel any sense of shame regarding how they are seen by the rest of the world when it comes to attacking the first African-American president in U.S. history only bolsters the impression of how ass-backwards white conservatives in America really are. It's no wonder as to why the United States continues to be treated more like a bad joke internationally instead of as a respectable superpower when a certain percentage of the U.S. population refuses to accept an African-American as their president solely on the basis of his skin color. 
What makes the punchline to this joke so tragically ironic is that this deep-seated resentment towards an African-American president being in office is coming from current representatives of a political faction whose purpose was founded on the basis of emancipating slavery within the United States---the Republican Party.  

See if you can spot any African-Americans in this crowd
of T.E.A. Party "patriots".

Of course I blame the T.E.A. Party movement and the conservative social media for the perpetual amount of "silly season", "kiss-up/kick-down" politics which has fueled the GOP's determination to bring out the most delinquent aspects of American culture since Obama's presidency began. What makes it all the more worse for both the GOP and the T.E.A. Party is the fact that what started as a somewhat-legitimate movement to stop unnecessary Federal spending became nothing more than a corporate-sponsored/lobbyist-funded excuse to legitimize the existence of bigotry in the U.S., even to the point of making democracy itself a target for practicing discrimination by attempting to pass legislation which prohibits voters from being able to cast their ballots with anything other than a voter I.D. card, including a birth certificate. 
But there is something more to this than mere political tactics based on resentment towards a sitting U.S. president from an opposing faction; something more insidious and nefarious within the extreme partisanship of the conservative movement itself.

"Every picture tells a story": Photo of a racist in attendance at a
Mitt Romney presidential campaign rally in 2012.

Let's get down to brass tacks and be honest with ourselves once and for all: To say that racism has played a large part in the amount of vitriol being expressed by white conservatives in the U.S. towards President Obama really would be an obvious understatement at this point in time. All this talk among conservatives about constitutionality, less government and more freedom will mean nothing once Republicans are able to gain a majority in Federal, State and local government. Unfortunately, the only time that conservative voters choose to bitch about big government and less freedom is when Democrats have any amount of influence in Federal, State or local government. But whenever Republicans gain a bureaucratic majority, it's amazing how conservatives suddenly become silent about having to pay more in taxes for unnecessary spending and for legislation which limits their freedoms. 
Ask yourself: When was the last time you heard a conservative complain about having paid taxes for the outsourcing of U.S. jobs or the Patriot Act?... Think about it.

I know that Republicans have a reputation for putting their party's platform above everything else when all is said and done, but to include within that platform the idea of getting citizens to pay taxes for the purpose of outsourcing jobs and for passing legislation which limits civil liberties only proves how far Republican politicians and voters are willing to go in compromising their own country's founding principles just to preserve their party's financial interests. When you actually stop and take this into consideration, you must admit that it doesn't get much more un-conservative, un-patriotic and un-American than that. 

PRIORITIES QUIZ: What kind of demo-
cratic republic allows only the wealthiest
one percent of its population to make the
rules for the other ninety-nine percent to
live by?

Regardless of how sincere or disingenuous conservatives are about believing that Barack Obama is everything that they have accused him of being, I am quite certain that they would have made similar arguments in response to Hillary Clinton had she won the Democratic nomination for president in 2008. The difference is that their arguments against Hillary probably wouldn't have included tasteless images of her as an African witch doctor if she had ended up winning the 2008 presidential election over John McCain.

Attacking the credibility of the Democratic Party is to be expected from Republicans and conservatives when it comes to furthering their political and social agendas, but for these same Republicans and conservatives to argue that Barack Obama will be remembered as the worst president in U.S. history without taking responsibility for their own actions in trying to guarantee such an assessment is an insult to the intelligence of anyone who has been paying even a modicum amount of attention to both Obama's presidency and how the post-Reagan-era Republican Party chose to react to it.

A harsh revelation for uninformed conservatives who
vote Republican in 21st-century America.

The sad truth that the Republican National Committee will have to face in the years ahead is the fact that their decision to accept "white, right and uptight" conservatives into their party has done nothing more than help to create a political, economic and social agenda within the Republican establishment which mandates that only "Christian" Caucasians should be classified as legitimate citizens, and that all others are (in their personal opinion) savage outsiders and/or foreigners who should have very little or no say in how the U.S. is governed, even if those "savage outsiders" or "foreigners" were born within the United States, like themselves.
If such an agenda appears similar to what white separatist/racist hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan have been preaching for decades within the U.S., well that's because both agendas are similar, quite frankly. I mean let's face it: If it looks like a duck, waddles like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it sure as hell isn't a pony, right?

This image of an Obama lynching is 
brought to you by your local "white,
 right and uptight" T.E.A. Party 

Tput this in a more theoretical perspective, what better way for pro-Confederate domestic terrorist groups like the Ku Klux Klan to perpetuate the idea that the Civil War didn't end with General Lee's surrender to General Grant in 1865 than to use their financial resources for the purpose of infiltrating the very political party that Abraham Lincoln used to promote federalism and the abolition of slavery, and then manipulate that party financially in order to promote "traditional Southern-Christian values" like anti-federalism, racism, secession, slavery and social castes? 
"Seems too crazy to be true", you say? It isn't so crazy when you consider that the Ku Klux Klan has relentlessly attempted to play an active role in undermining America's political process and national sovereignty since the group's inception following the Civil War.

Your local T.E.A. Party leader could also be a member of the
Ku Klux Klan, and you wouldn't even know it unless you 

were already aware of the KKK's history in 
American politics.

"But the Klan was formed by white Democrats in the South after the Civil War", you argue. Continue reading, because what you're about to discover has been the Republican Party's dirtiest and ugliest little secret for the last fifty years...   

Anti-Obama memes like this one reflect 
the blatant level of racism among white 
conservatives in the U.S. today.

For those of you who didn't know this already, it helps to keep in mind that a large percentage of white conservatives in the South and in other parts of the country abandoned the Democratic Party and became registered Republicans after feeling betrayed and disillusioned by President Lyndon Johnson because of his decision to sign the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law. This explains why so many white conservatives have such a genuine resentment towards liberalism in America. Whenever white conservatives claim that liberalism drove them out of the Democratic Party, what they're actually implying is that they left the Democratic Party because liberal Democrats refused to tolerate their inherently-prejudicial beliefs regarding race, gender, class and religion. 
This was how the derogatory expression "Northern Yankee Liberalism" originated among white conservatives above and below the Mason-Dixon Line.

Alabama Governor George Wallace. Many U.S. political
historians believe that Wallace (a segregationist) was one

 of the more influential conservative legislators in the South 
who promoted the idea among fellow white conservatives 
to abandon the Democratic Party after President Lyndon 
Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting 
Rights Act of 1965 into law. Wallace himself ran for presi-
dent as an independent candidate in 1968 after leaving
 the Democratic Party.

Civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. expressed his views regarding the ideology of preserving racial inequality among white conservatives within both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party when he made the following statement during a 1958 interview...

"Actually, the negro has been betrayed by both the Republican and the Democratic Party. The Democrats have betrayed him by capitulating to the whims and caprices of the Southern Dixiecrats. The Republicans have betrayed him by capitulating to the blatant hypocrisy of reactionary right-wing Northern Republicans. And this coalition of Southern Dixiecrats and right-wing Northern Republicans defeats every bill and every move towards liberal legislation in the area of civil rights."

 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (center-left) watches as
 President Lyndon Johnson signs the Civil
Rights Act into law on July 2, 1964.

Lyndon Johnson himself (a Democrat from Texas) was worried about how Southern conservative Democrats would respond after he signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law. According to his former White House aide Bill Moyers, Johnson told Moyers the following day, "I think we've just delivered the South to the Republican Party for the rest of my life, and yours". Sadly, President Johnson was proven correct in his assessment as Southern white conservatives were increasingly abandoning the Democratic Party instead of renouncing the South's history of racism and inequality by the time of his death in January of 1973.

John Ehrlichman was just one of many members in Richard
 Nixon's White House who made an effort to criminalize those 

in the African-American community who were opposed to 
the Vietnam war by equating those members with drugs 
and criminal activity within the anti-war movement 
during the late 1960s and early '70s.  

As you have probably figured out by now, this abandonment of the Democratic Party by white conservatives in the South and in other regions of the U.S. following the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act being signed into law proved to be a golden opportunity for the Republican National Committee to capitalize on politically. Since then, the RNC has been shamelessly continuing to capitalize on President Johnson's decision to make civil rights and voting rights for African-Americans and other U.S. citizens of different ethnic and economic persuasions a reality.

Regardless of what colors they choose to fly, the Ku Klux
Klan's message of hatred for democracy, ethnicity, 
and justice still remains prevalent.

Leave it to Caucasian conservatives within the GOP to take their racist views into the voting booth and use their ballots in order to piss on the graves of Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Lyndon Baines Johnson, and all for the cause of preserving white supremacy in 21st-century America. Not only is the level of animosity towards President Obama authentic from white conservatives within the Republican Party, but it is also a level of animosity that has been five decades in the making. 

President Lyndon Johnson (center), signing the Voting Rights
Act into law on August 6, 1965

This also explains why so many white conservatives in the U.S. want to undermine (and ultimately repeal) the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 today. The reason why conservative Caucasians didn't want the acts passed into law in 1964 and '65 is because they wanted to preserve racism, segregation and other institutionalized forms of bigotry and inequality in America, plain and simple. Well, that mentality still exists among the majority of white conservatives in America fifty years later. Surprised? Don't be. As I have already stated, if it looks like a duck, waddles like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it sure as hell isn't a pony.

The more things change for the better in America,
the more white conservatives want things to remain
the same---for the worse.

It should also be noted that the Southern Poverty Law Center has reported that there was a 280 percent increase in the number of memberships to known racist hate groups within the United States like the Ku Klux Klan since the beginning of Barack Obama's presidency. Given the amount of vitriol that has been expressed by Republicans and conservatives towards Obama within the social media, this report from the Southern Poverty Law Center should come as no surprise either.

"We want our country back": Whether conservatives
 like it or not, their ideology can be traced directly back
 to white supremacist/race-hate groups like
 the Ku Klux Klan.
Any political faction making the argument that civil rights and voting rights need to be reevaluated while using immature and blatantly racist tactics to discredit their rivals clearly doesn't have a constituency with the collective intellectual capacity to realize or understand how much their argument could come back to haunt them someday. For the Republican Party and its Caucasian conservative base, the demand for "reevaluating" (i.e. repealing) civil rights and voting rights legislation while using racism as an excuse to attack an African-American president and his constituents ultimately works to no one's advantage in the U.S.---especially theirs.
If for no other reason, Barack Obama's presidency will be remembered for the level of racism that was exhibited not by any Democrat in public office, and not by any liberal journalist, analyst or pundit in the social media, but by the majority of white conservatives within the Republican Party who were more than willing to express their racist views in protest to his election in 2008 and 2012...

...A certain level of hypocrisy indeed.   

"The South Will Rise Again"?: Apparently someone forgot 
to tell this T.E.A. Party "genius"about the number of 
victories that the U.S. Marine Corps had in defeating 
Confederate forces during the Civil War.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Germanium Fuzz Tone: The Ultimate Distortion

If you're familiar with rock music from the 1960s, then you know that the one distinct characteristic which made rock music an iconic staple during that particular decade was the sound of an electric guitar plugged into a fuzz distortion pedal that was made with germanium or silicon transistors. From the Rolling Stones to average studio musicians, many bands from the '60s and early 1970s featured guitarists who owe their success and popularity to companies that manufactured germanium or silicon fuzz distortion pedals for them to use on recordings and onstage.
In recent years, the use of germanium fuzz distortion has made somewhat of a comeback as more contemporary guitarists have been adding the use of germanium fuzz tone to their recordings. The unique sound of germanium fuzz tone remains a personal favorite for aspiring guitarists who want to showcase their talents.

I have decided to list six guitar pedals which are considered to be the best on the market in regards to germanium fuzz tone... 

1. The Maestro Fuzz-Tone
The Maestro Fuzz-Tone is the original and most sought-
after germanium fuzz distortion pedal on the

2. The Dallas-Arbiter Fuzz Face
What makes the Dallas-Arbiter Fuzz Face unique is 
that it was the first guitar pedal to be manufactured in
a round casing.

Chrome humbucker pickups
like the kind featured on this
Gibson SG Standard guitar
can help improve the sound
quality while using fuzz 


3. The Z.Vex Effects Fat Fuzz Factory
The Z.Vex Effects Fat Fuzz Factory is a great pedal for 
those who want to add that '60s germanium fuzz sound
 to their arsenal of guitar effects.  

4. The Wampler Leviathan Fuzz
The Leviathan Fuzz by Wampler is a compact pedal
with a monster-sized germanium sound. 

5. The EarthQuaker Devices Hoof Reaper
The Hoof Reaper pedal features germanium and silicon
transistors, along with an octave effect which makes it
virtually three pedals in one.
6. The Way Huge Electronics Swollen
Pickle MKII Jumbo Fuzz
The Swollen Pickle MKII Jumbo Fuzz from Way Huge
 Electronics provides several options in order to create
and adjust whatever style of germanium fuzz tone the
user wants, which makes this pedal both convenient
and practical.

The Gibson Les Paul Custom SG is an
excellent guitar for using germanium
fuzz tone.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

To Nuke Or Not To Nuke: That Is The Question

There's a question that needs to be addressed in regards to how the United States should deal with international terrorism, especially given the fact that America has become the number one target for terrorist groups when it comes to committing acts of brutal violence and savagery.
That question is this: Should the U.S. consider the use of long-range nuclear weapons against nations that harbor and/or finance extremist groups as a way to curb the threat of international terrorism?

For some people, the thought of America or any other nation using any kind of nuclear weapon in order to combat terrorism may seem as drastic and as brutal as any Jihadist in the Middle East. On the other hand, imagine what kind of a message it would send to Islamic extremists in the U.S. or Europe if they were to find out that the government which had been sponsoring their plans to commit a terrorist act was blown off the map with a long-range nuclear missile. 
Can you think of a better way to tell brainwashed extremists around the world that America can be just as crazy as they are when push comes to shove? Can you also think of a better way to send a message to oil company executives that they need to come up with alternative sources for fuel than to wipe oil-rich countries like Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iraq right off the map with nukes? Hey, war is hell, like it or not.

Let's be honest with ourselves for a moment: The only reason that fundamentalist Islamic extremist groups are even in existence right now is because of Western civilization's dependency on foreign oil... That's it, in a nutshell. 
Don't believe me? Okay. Then explain why one of the first objectives that the Jihadist group known as "The Islamic State" (or I.S.I.L.) was to seize control of oil fields in Iraq. It certainly wasn't because they wanted to build more mosques in those locations. Hell no! It's because I.S.I.L. has figured out the dirty little secret regarding the West's dependency on their country's largest commodity, and now they're hoping to manipulate the West into accepting their vision of Allah in order for countries like the U.S. and Great Britain to continue remaining dependent on foreign oil rather than coming up with alternative sources for energy. 
It really has become one of those situations in which one has to wonder who's crazier: the radical Jihadist who knows that he can get away with murder and mass destruction as long as his country uses oil as a bargaining chip, or the Western politician who's willing to tolerate the radical Jihadist's demands in order to continue receiving campaign contributions from oil companies who do business with countries which also provide funding to the radical Jihadist so that he can terrorize the West by whatever means necessary.

Believe it or not, the money that consumers of foreign oil
put into their cars helps fund radical Islamic extremists in
the Middle East.

If you really want to get an idea as to just how much oil companies have the United States by the balls right now, look no further than the parents of U.S. hostages who send videotaped messages to radical Islamic leaders begging for the lives of their sons and daughters who are held in captivity. These parents are all but willing to sell their souls to Satan in order to guarantee that their kids will be returned home safely, for crying out loud! Meanwhile, companies like Exxon, Shell and Haliburton still make deals with the very people who are funding the bastards responsible for holding Americans as hostages in the Middle East(!!!)
If there was ever a legitimate reason for discovering alternative energy, it would have to be for the purpose of starving radical Islamic extremists out of existence. Until then, you can expect more Jihadist groups to keep cropping up in the Middle East and threatening to annihilate Western civilization.

One of two things will have to take place in order for the United States and other Western nations to successfully reduce the threat of Islamic extremism: Either scientists will have to receive more government and private funding for the purpose of developing alternative fuels that can replace oil, or countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and Syria are going to have to be blown off of the map with long-range nuclear missiles. There are no other alternatives or exceptions. The vicious circle that oil has created must be broken one way or the other. 


Thursday, August 7, 2014

40 Years Later, It's Still the Party of Nixon

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual, and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation on the ruins of public liberty.
--- George Washington (excerpt from his farewell address, September 19, 1796)

Saturday, August 9, 2014 will mark the 40th anniversary of one of the darkest days in U.S. history, and certainly one of the darkest days in the history of the Republican Party---the resignation of Richard Milhous Nixon as the 37th President of the United States. Although Lyndon B. Johnson came close to doing so by 1968, no other sitting U.S. president since Abraham Lincoln has created the level of genuine animosity and division between Republicans and Democrats the way that Nixon did during his tenure in the White House. And in the 40 years since his resignation following the aftermath of Watergate, Richard Nixon's legacy of animosity and division remains the driving force behind the Republican Party's desire for a permanent majority in Federal, State and local government at the expense of bipartisan democracy.

Rather than focus strictly on Watergate, I have decided to focus on Nixon's early years in politics (including his early years as president) in order to point out the parallels between the Republican Party then and now.

Nixon's Early Years in Politics...

Richard Nixon's career in politics began during the early days of "The Red Scare" immediately following Franklin D. Roosevelt's presidency and the end of World War Two when in 1945 Republicans in California's 12th congressional district began searching for a consensus candidate who would run a strong campaign against Democratic incumbent Congressman Jerry Voorhis. After the committee failed to attract higher-profile candidates, a branch manager at the Bank of America in Whittier, California named Herman Perry suggested Nixon, a friend of the family whom he had served with on the Whittier College board of trustees before the war. After Nixon was selected by the committee and left the Navy in 1946, he and his wife Pat returned to Whittier where he campaigned extensively against Voorhis throughout the year. Nixon contended that Voorhis had been ineffective as a member of Congress and suggested that Voorhis' endorsement by a group linked to communists meant that he must have radical views. Nixon won the election, receiving 65,586 votes to Voorhis' 49,994.

As a member of Congress, Richard Nixon supported the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, a Federal law that monitors the activities and power of labor unions. Nixon also became a member of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). It was during this time that Nixon was able to reveal that a former State Department official named Alger Hiss had lied to HUAC about ever having been a communist after weeks of dramatic hearings.

In late 1949, Nixon announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate along with Democrat Helen Gahagan Douglas in order to replace Democratic incumbent Sheridan Downey. After a vicious primary battle with Douglas in March of 1950, Downey withdrew and announced his retirement. L.A. Daily News publisher Manchester Boddy joined the race and attacked Douglas by accusing her of being a leftist and was the first to compare Douglas with New York Congressman Vito Marcantonio, who was accused of being a communist at the time.
Nixon would later use the same arguments against Douglas after she won her primary by defeating Boddy and would go on to win the election by a vote count of 2,183,454 to Douglas' 1,502,507. 

Nixon never regretted using such tactics in order to win the election. Instead, he defended his use of such tactics by stating that Douglas was "far too left" to represent California in the U.S. Senate. As a senator, Nixon took a prominent stance in opposing global communism, travelling frequently and speaking out against the threat. He also maintained friendly-but-distant relations with fellow anti-communist Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy and criticized President Harry S. Truman for the handling of the Korean war.

Eisenhower and Nixon in the Oval Office 

After General Dwight D. Eisenhower was nominated for the presidency by Republicans in 1952, he had no preference for a vice presidential candidate. Officeholders and party officials recommended Nixon to Eisenhower, who agreed to the selection. Among the other candidates considered along with Nixon were Ohio Senator Robert Taft, New Jersey Governor Alfred Driscoll and Illinois Senator Everett Dirksen. On the campaign trail, Eisenhower spoke of his plans for the country while leaving the negative campaigning to Nixon.
In mid-September, the Republican ticket faced a serious crisis when it was reported by the media that Nixon had a private political fund that was maintained by his backers which reimbursed him for political expenses. Although the fund was not illegal, it exposed Nixon to allegations of a possible conflict of interest.

As pressure was building for Eisenhower to demand for Nixon's resignation from the ticket, Nixon went to address an audience of nearly 60 million TV viewers on September 23, 1952 in what would become known as "The Checkers Speech". The speech prompted an overwhelming outpouring of support for Nixon, which was best remembered for the gift that he received, but wouldn't return: "a little cocker spaniel dog... sent all the way from Texas. And our little girl---Tricia, the six year-old---named it 'Checkers'".
Following the success and popularity of "The Checkers Speech", Eisenhower decided to keep Nixon on the ticket, which in turn proved to be a victorious decision in the November election.

Richard Nixon would serve two terms as the 36th Vice President of the United States. In 1959, he announced his candidacy for president and won the Republican nomination the following year, only to end up losing to Democratic Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts in a close election. In 1962, local and national Republican leaders encouraged Nixon to challenge incumbent Pat Brown for the California Governor's race. Despite initial reluctance, Nixon entered the race.
The campaign was clouded by public suspicion that Nixon viewed the office of governor as a stepping-stone for another presidential run. There was also opposition from the far-right within the GOP, along with Nixon's own lack of interest in being California's governor. 
Despite Nixon's hope that a successful campaign would confirm his status as the nation's leading Republican at the time and would ensure that he remained a prominent figure in national politics, he lost to Brown by more than five percentage points, and the defeat was believed to be the end of Nixon's political career. Nixon blamed the media for favoring his opponent during an impromptu concession speech the following morning after the election, saying, "you won't have Nixon to kick around anymore, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference."

After a brief stint travelling through Europe, Nixon returned to the United States and would support Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater's candidacy for president in 1964, although Nixon personally believed that it would be very difficult for a Republican to defeat Democratic incumbent Lyndon B. Johnson following John F. Kennedy's assassination. Nixon was proven right in his assessment as Johnson would win by a landslide, and it would prove to be one of the worst defeats in the GOP's history.

Nixon's First Term as President (1969-1972)...
Nixon (right) with Vice Presidential nominee Spiro Agnew
 in 1968

At the end of 1967, Richard Nixon told his family that he was planning to run for president a second time. Nixon believed that with Democrats divided over the issue of the war in Vietnam, a Republican had a good chance of winning the presidency, although he expected the election to be as close as it was in 1960.
Following the Tet Offensive in 1968, President Lyndon Johnson announced that he would neither seek nor accept the nomination for a second term after doing unexpectedly poor in the New Hampshire primary. Johnson's decision to withdraw from the race led to a tumultuous election year for Democrats, which resulted in the assassination of candidate Robert Kennedy immediately following his victory in the California primary, along with Vice President Hubert Humphrey's controversial nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois, which was under siege by protesters of the Vietnam war.

On the Republican side, Nixon's main opposition was Michigan Governor George Romney, though New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller and California Governor Ronald Reagan were both hoping to be nominated in a brokered convention in Miami Beach, Florida. Nixon secured the nomination and selected Maryland Governor Spiro Agnew as his running mate.
Nixon believed that his selection of Agnew would unite the party by appealing to both Northern moderates and Southern conservatives who had become disaffected with Democrats. Throughout the campaign, Nixon portrayed himself as a figure of stability during a period of national unrest and upheaval. His appeal was aimed at what he would later describe as "the silent majority", which was made up of socially conservative Americans who disliked the "hippie" counterculture and anti-war demonstrators. Agnew became an increasingly vocal critic of these groups, solidifying Nixon's position with the right-wing voting base.

Nixon and Agnew's main targets of opportunism were those 
within the anti-war movement who were opposed to the 
Vietnam conflict during the late 1960s.

It was during 1967 that Nixon first became aware of an executive producer for a then-locally televised talk-variety program in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania called "The Mike Douglas Show". Nixon appeared as a guest on the show that year and got into a spirited discussion about the role of television in politics with the show's executive producer. Although Nixon took the view that television was merely a gimmick during the show, he would later hire the program's executive producer in 1968 as a media advisor for his presidential campaign after "The Mike Douglas Show" received national syndication and won two Emmys.
The executive producer whom Nixon became aware of and would hire as a media advisor for his presidential run in 1968 was Roger Ailes. As a result of Ailes' efforts, Nixon would spend a large portion of his time using television as part of his campaign strategy. Nixon waged a prominent television advertising campaign, meeting with supporters in front of cameras. He stressed that the crime rate was too high, and attacked what he perceived as a surrender of U.S. nuclear superiority by the Democrats.

Nixon never released specifics on how he would end the war in Vietnam. Instead, he simply promised "peace with honor" and vaguely proclaimed that new leadership would end the war and win the peace in the Pacific.
In a three-way race between Nixon, Hubert Humphrey and independent candidate Alabama Governor George Wallace, Nixon defeated Humphrey by nearly 500,000 votes. Though it was a close election, Nixon's professional relationship with Roger Ailes paid off for both of them.

Roger Ailes (right) with Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch

During the early 1970s, Ailes sent a memo to the Nixon administration which would be discovered years later in the Nixon Library. The memo, entitled "A Plan for Putting the GOP on TV News", not only provides insight into what kind of plans were being contemplated between Roger Ailes and Richard Nixon during that time, but it also provides some idea of how shrewd and cynical both Ailes and Nixon really were as political strategists.
The plan within the memo was to bring pro-Nixon administration stories to television networks around the country in place of honest, objective and unbiased journalism. It reads as follows: "Today television news is watched more often than people read newspapers, than people listen to the radio, than people read or gather any other form of communication. The reason: People are lazy. With television you just sit--watch--listen. The thinking is done for you."

Although Nixon himself  fortunately never had the time to carry out Roger Ailes' strategy of using propaganda as a way to undermine the public's trust in the national news media as it was explained in the memo, Ailes would go on to use his own philosophy years later after leaving his post as president of CNBC in February of 1996 and then being hired by Fox owner Rupert Murdoch to create Fox News Channel in October of that year, along with 89 additional employees of various NBC networks.

Nixon's Visit to China...
Nixon (right) with communist dictator Chairman Mao 
Zedong in Beijing, China on February 21, 1972

The last week of February in 1972 could explain why Richard Nixon never went into details regarding how he was planning to end the war in Vietnam during his election campaign for the presidency four years earlier, and it could also explain why Nixon was so uncertain of being re-elected in November of 1972 that he was willing to cover up the break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C., which ultimately led to his resignation. The event which took place during that last week of February in 1972 was Nixon's visit to the People's Communist Republic of China to have trade talks with dictator Chairman Mao Zedong (or Tse-tung).
The purpose for the meeting was to prevent China from having any further military alliance with the North Vietnamese government by allowing U.S. business owners to send jobs out of the country in exchange for Chinese products being sold within the United States. This decision by the Nixon administration would become a template for further outsourcing of U.S. jobs in the decades to come.

Nixon himself had this to say about his visit to China: "This was the week that changed the world, as what we have said in that communique is not nearly as important as what we will do in the years ahead to build a bridge across 16,000 miles and 22 years of hostilities which have divided us in the past. And what we have said today is that we shall build that bridge."

When one takes into consideration that this statement was made by the same Richard Milhous Nixon who began his political career by accusing Democrats of fraternizing with Marxists and conspiring to undermine the United States by promoting communism within their own country, it isn't too difficult to understand why his visit to the People's Communist Republic of China would cause Nixon to have doubts about his chances at being re-elected as president in 1972; even to the point that he could have given permission for Howard Hunt's team of "plumbers" to burglarize the Democratic National Committee headquarters inside the Watergate Hotel in June of that year.


Final Synopsis...     

In the 40 years since his resignation as the 37th President of the United States, Richard Milhous Nixon not only left behind a legacy of corruption, deception and divisiveness seldom seen or talked about in the history of American politics, but he also helped to create a blueprint for politicians to use as a means to an end while campaigning for public office. Few politicians were able or willing to use and manipulate voters with the level of ambition, insincerity, opportunism and superficiality that Nixon used to his advantage during his time in public life. Sadly, that same level of ambition, insincerity, opportunism and superficiality can be found in American politics---particularly within the Republican Party---now more than ever since Nixon was forced to resign his presidency on August 9, 1974.
Perhaps if his successor Gerald Ford had decided not to grant him a full pardon for his role in the Watergate scandal, Richard Nixon's legacy of fraudulence would have been exposed enough to prevent the Republican Party (and American voters in general) from ever tolerating anymore candidates like him running for public office. This is something to consider as well. 

"Hail to the Thief": Richard Nixon after resigning his
presidency on August 9, 1974