"Online Memoir," by Paul Iorio.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A WORK IN PROGRESS!


Paul Iorio's Online Memoir.


Paul Iorio with Paul McCartney at Radio City Music Hall, 1986.


OK, before I get to the good stories involving first-hand

remembrances of such pop culture icons as Woody Allen,

Paul McCartney, Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Carter, Fela Kuti,

Richard Pryor and others, not to mention my face-to-face

confrontation of O.J. Simpson, my discovery of several

major pop cultural figures (including Phish) who I wrote

about before anyone else did -- before I get to all that

and to the stories behind my own work in journalism

and in music, here's how my story begins:



First Memories


I was born at the same latitude in North America

that spawned the world's greatest singer-songwriters.

Waterville, Maine, home of Colby College, where

my dad taught.



Vast expanses of snow. An austere landscape that's

perfect for creating introverts and loneliness. As an

adult, I can now see how that latitude helped to

shape people like Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell

and Neil Young.



The record player was what got everybody excited there

in those days. When I was four, I honestly

thought that it contained miniature people

who were performing inside the Grundig box.



Anyway, Waterville also gave us Edmund Muskie, a big noise

around town in '57, when I was born.


Here's the '57 newspaper item about my birth.


I started school in Waterville, but soon moved

to Tampa, Florida, right around the time President

Kennedy was assassinated. (And then to Florence, Italy,

for a time, but that's for later in the story.) I was

in the first grade on that November day and remember

the adults telling me and other kids to be more

quiet than usual when we went out to play that day.



And I remember seeing the Beatles on "The Ed Sullivan

Show" as a six-year-old, though my most vivid memory

of it was the excitement it caused among my first grade

classmates at Temple Terrace Elementary School, in a suburb

of Tampa. It was the only thing kids were talking about

the next day (and each female classmate already had her

favorite Beatle).



Within a couple years, I became involved in politics to

an extraordinary degree at a very young age. My very

first political memory was pf an LBJ for president

rally in '64 at which Hubert Humphrey appeared.

I was seven years old and stood on my dad's shoulders.

Here's a photo of what I saw that day:





At age ten, in 1968, my heroes were the Chicago Seven,

particularly Abbie Hoffman, Tom Hayden and Rennie Davis.



After seeing the televised coverage of the "police riot" outside

the Democratic National Convention in 1968, I became so enamored

of the national activists of the era that I emulated them; I even

organized a very successful school-wide cafeteria strike in '68 to

protest school administration policies at Riverhills Elementary School

(in the Tampa 'bubs). [By the way, local newspaper The St. Petersburg Times

(now The Tampa Bay Times) even referred in print to the strike decades

afterwards, but it's a factually inaccurate account. For the record,

I organized that strike from soup to nuts as 6th grade class president

and enlisted others to help -- and I was disciplined for it, too! But

in the Tampa Bay Times article, I'm written out of a historical story in which I was,

without dispute, the central character!]




One of my favorite books in the sixth grade was a slim

volume on the first amendment by Abe Fortas, and I understood

it perfectly. On a local level, I really admired Robert King High,

the Democratic opponent of Republican Claude Kirk in the

'66 Florida gubernatorial election; LeRoy Collins, who took

brave stands on integration when many others wouldn't; and

Sam Gibbons, a centrist-progressive who owned Tampa's

congressional seat for decades.



PATTICIPATING IN THE FIRST EARTH DAY



THE DAILY DIGRESSION

for April 23, 2010


Remembering the First Earth Day, 40 Years Ago
What April 1970 was Really Like



When Earth Day was born in 1970, I was attending one of

those quasi-experimental private schools that cropped up in

the 1960s, the Independent Day School (still around, by the

way), so the day was celebrated school-wide, or at least by

the kids in my 7th grade class.



I think I even wore a button with a picture of the Earth

on it (in between wearing my Student Mobilization Committee,

New Party, Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh and Impeach Nixon buttons).



It was April 1970. The Beatles had just broken up but nobody my age

really believed it. (After all, there had been rumors that the

band had broken up in '66, '67, '68 and '69, so the new one in

'70 had little credibility or impact. But I digress.) The band was

more important to me and my friends at the time than any

environmental cause (though I was involved in politics

to an extraordinary degree back then).



Unfortunately, the eco movement didn't have

a galvanizing charismatic leader behind it like Abbie

Hoffman or Tom Hayden or Bobby Seale, who were like

rock stars to me in '70. I remember that the students

who were most into the first Earth Day were generally

the kids who aced science classes.



And I don't think there was a single eco-anthem

of note from that period. "Abbey Road," last fall's album,

was still on my turntable. Led Zepppelin's "Whole Lotta Love"

was on the radio 24/7 (though the much-maligned "Livin' Lovin' Maid"

was actually the bigger airplay hit). Freeform radio was just

beginning and was still on the AM dial (where I could hear

Thunderclap Newman, "Kreen-Akrore," CCR, Steppenwolf's underrated

"Monster," Cream, Hendrix, obscure Beatles b-sides, Sly and the

Family Stone and "Time Machine," the first single by Grand Funk

Railroad, who I had tickets to see in concert in May). And

pornography in those days was a picture of Michelle Phillips

in Hit Parader. The word "green" still meant money or naivete.



Remember, this was April 1970. May was a whole different

smoke. All environmental issues were completely eclipsed by the

Kent State massacre -- America's mini-Tiananmen -- which

happened on May 4th and caused young people to shift radically

to a more harder edged approach on all fronts. They really

were shooting us down. More extreme action was required.



The post-Kent State mood was reflected on vinyl, definitively,

within a year by CSNY's "Ohio" and by The Who's "Won't Get Fooled

Again" (which was on an album that also included the first

anti-environmentalist lyric: "I don't care about pollution/I'm

an air-conditioned gypsy/That's my solution").



But back to April 1970. I and my pal Richard (who I still

see every now and then; he recently played a jazz concert

in Berkeley, Calif.) didn't talk about the first Earth Day

nearly as much as we'd discuss the clues in "Revolution 9" and

on the cover of "Abbey Road" about whether Paul was dead.

("Wow, tonight WFSO is gonna play "Revolution 9" backwards!"

Big event.) This, of course, was in between listening,

ceaselessly, to this new band Led Zeppelin that had even

longer hair than the Beatles and was sort of hated by the

older generation (so it was ours, all ours!). And, of

course, there were the ubiquitous singles of '70: "Everyday People,"

"Ma Belle Amie," "Maybe I'm Amazed," "Love Grows

Where my Rosemary Goes,' "Spirit in the Sky," etc. Not one

eco-themed, as I recall.



Anyway, it was against this backdrop that the first

Earth Day occurred. At the time, it had a sort of

anti-pollution angle. If you're not part of the solution,

you're part of the pollution -- the slogan of the hour.

I think the TV ad showing an American Indian with a

tear in his eye was being aired.



It was really Anti-pollution Day. The big issue back then

was that car emissions were making the air in big cities

unbreathable. (Even the Kinks were singing, with

provocatively ambiguous pronunciation, "the air

pollution is a-foggin' up my eyes," in "Apeman").



I think there were pollution discussions ("rap sessions" as

they were called back then) that day in classrooms that

had wall posters like "War is not healthy for children

and other living things."



And I remember being driven home from school through

the 'burbs and seeing a classmate riding his bike

while wearing a gas mask on his face. Very cool, I thought.



The irony, however, was that many eco-activists lectured

about air pollution while smoking cigarettes (or pot)

and creating a second-hand smoke hazard for everyone

in the room! Ah, 1970!

..........................................



Me, as a 12 year old, next to an anti-ABM
bumper sticker I made (being a bad influence
on my younger sister, I guess!).




And at the family dinner table, between 1968 (when I was 10) and

1974 (when I was 17 and about to leave for college), my

father and I use to have very lively political debates. Mind

you, he was politically progressive (and so was I) but he and I both

loved to debate, and we did so frequently. During those dinner table

discussions, my younger sister would listen intently and silently,

my older brother would add something occasionally. But mostly

it was dad and me.


When I was a kid, my dad and I use to have some
very lively political discussions at the dinner table.
Here's how it looked back then.




In early '68, I remember seeing the first Nixon billboard

on a highway near Tampa: "Mile After Mile, Nixon's the One"

was the first billboard I saw -- and it looked like an ad for

low-grade gasoline. (In retrospect, one can see how

paranoia permeated even Nixon's main slogan -- "Nixon's

the one" -- which was worded as if Nixon were being

singled out. His slogan sounded almost like an accusation.

But I digress.)



In 1970, at age 12, I went from living in the

Florida suburbs to living in a villa in Florence,

Italy, that was a couple blocks from where Lord

Acton was said to have lived in Tuscany.



Check out the contrast in these two pictures;

the first is of my childhood home in Temple Terrace,

Florida; the other of the villa on Via Bolognese

in which I lived afterwrds for a time.


The suburban house in which I grew up
in the 1960s. (This is a 2010 photo. The place
looked much better 45 years ago! And the next
place I lived in was a villa in the hills of Florence,
Italy, a couple blocks from Lord Acton's Florentine
home. What a contrast!) In the living room, I first
heard "Strange Days" when I was 9 or 10 -- also where
I first heard the Beatles's white album on the
day of its release (a neighborhood DJ brought
it by and we gathered around as if it were
the monolith in "2001"). Other reflections:
I was climbing the tree to the left when I
first heard the song "Let It Be." Rolling Stones
fans were mostly the older boys in the
neighborhood who had already sprouted facial hair.
I would listen ceaselessly to the progressive AM
radio station WFSO in the bedroom to the left.
I watched the Doors on "Ed Sullivan" in the den
on the right. In the backyard, when I was
9 and 10, I'd write political speeches and deliver them
atop the garbage can in the backyard, usually with
only my sister in the "audience."

* * *


OK, now heere's what the view from my bedroom in

Florence looked like:


View from the Villa Gori-Montanelli on Via Bolognese,
Firenze, 1970.



I will soon add my memories of Italy at that time,

but for now let me say that I returned to the U.S.

in 1971 and continued to be politically active.




I worked for George McGovern's campaign in August 1972,

when I was 15. At his headquarters, I met friends who

I still know, and they'd give me a ride there and back.

I even heard him speak at a university; I loved his anti-Vietnam

war stance, but thought him a bit boring (I remember he kept

using the phrase "lock, stock and barrel").



In 1974, I helped to organize an impeach Nixon rally that

was actually covered contemporaneously in a news story in The

Tampa Tribune (and I was quoted by name in the piece). That same

year, I wrote for Cesar Chavez's newsletter, organized

boycotts of local grocery stores that sold non-union

products and was involved in student politics.



The week that I graduated from King High School in Tampa -- I was

president of the school -- I went out with some friends to the

bay front.



It was June 1975, and I was a teenager standing

with two friends at the end of a long,

deserted pier on Tampa Bay. In the

distance, a smiling middle-aged man started walking

the long, hot walk toward the three of us, and,

as he came closer, it became obvious he

was walking the span just to see me and my

pals, even though none of us knew him. When he

finally came to the far end of the pier, he

reached out his hand to me and said, "Hi,

my name is Jimmy Carter, and I'm

running for president of the United States."

And then he hung out with us and made

small talk about the boats in the bay.


True story.


It shows how Carter won in '76, even

though he was a long-shot at

the time: he probably shook every

hand in America to win the presidency,

and no voter -- not even a nobody teenager

like me (I wasn't even old enough to vote yet)

-- was unimportant to him.



Let me interrupt the narrative here to show some

photos of where I grew up.



My drawing of Robert King High, Claude Kirk's
opponent, 1966 (when I was eight years old).



* * * *


The halls of the elementary school (Riverhills)
that I attended in the 1960s (where I organized a
very successful cafeteria strike in '68 and led
other student protest actions). [By the way, one local
newspaper even referred to the strike decades afterwards,
but that's a factually inaccurate account. For the record,
I organized that strike from soup to nuts as 6th grade class
president and enlisted others to help -- and I was punished for
it, too!] 2010 photo.

* * * *

My elementary school of the Sixties. As I walked through
this walkway when I was 8, 9 and 10 years old (and those
support beams looked so gigantic at the time), I would be
thinking about: The Doors's "Love Me Two Times,"
"Hey Jude," everything the Beatles released, Tom Lehrer,
the super-Supremes, Ramparts magazine, the writings
of Abe Fortas, the latest episodes of "Get Smart," "The Monkees,"
"Laugh-in" and the twice-a-week "Batman" series (Zap! Pow! Why
is that one not on DVD yet?), plus Abbie Hoffman, Tom Hayden,
Eugene McCarthy, "Czech-cago," the latest issue of "Hit Parader"
(I loved that magazine; it even printed the lyrics of all
the new songs), "2001: A Space Odyssey," "Snoopy Versus the
Red Baron," "There's a Kind of Hush," "Dizzy" (clever dizzying
arrangement, that one), the Rascals, the 1910 Fruitgum Company,
every hit by The Turtles, Sen. Everett Dirksen singing "Wild Thing,"
the depressing hits of the Bee Gees ("New York Mining
Disaster" and "Gotta Get a Message to You" made me so
sad as a kid), the Mamas and the Papas, Julian Bond for
President, Abe Fortas and how weird Nixon was.
[Bob Dylan's music was massively influential to me, but I
didn't start loving it until I was 15, when "Tangled Up in Blue"
flew into by bedroom like a great bird. (I first heeard
"Rainy Day Women" when i was around ten, and I thought
it was a recording of a really fun street parade.)
Also, Hit Parader was supplanted on my reading list
by Rolling Stone magazine when I became a teen.]
2010 photo.

* * * *

SEEING LED ZEPPELIN IN 1973



* * * *




At that concert, at Tampa Stadium in Tampa, Florida

(my hometown through most of the 1970s), Zep attracted more paying fans

than had ever attended a show by a single act in the U.S., surpassing the

previous record set by the Beatles at Shea Stadium in 1965. (Zeppelin

drew 56,800 fans, the Beatles 55,000. For the record, there were other

bands on the bill at Shea, though it was effectively a solo show.)


In rock culture lore, Tampa Stadium is where Led Zeppelin

officially dethroned the Beatles on May 5, 1973.


Was the 1973 Tampa Stadium gig a great Zeppelin performance?

Some of it was. Guitarist Jimmy Page was in rare form and the rest of

the band sounded jazzed about having broken the Beatles's

record. But Plant was hoarse, a fairly substantial drawback.


I attended the show as a 15-year-old high school student,

arriving at the Stadium with friends well before the Saturday night

concert began. After showing our five-dollar advance tickets (six

on the day of the show), we took a place on the field, around a

third of the way to the stage.


Zeppelin took the stage after 8pm, with the introduction:

"Ladies and gentlemen, what more can I say? Led Zeppelin!" Fans screamed

as if they were on fire.


Robert Plant stepped to the mike. "Looks like we've

done something nobody's done before," he said, referring to the box office

record. "And that's fantastic."


Jimmy Page struck a practice chord. John

Bonham played a drum roll. Feedback filled the air. Then Bonham pounded

out the intro to "Rock and Roll."


As Plant started singing, it became obvious he was

straining to hit the high notes (due to some sort of cold), which was

disappointing.


But Page more than made up for it, fluidly riffing

through a stunning twenty-minute opener that included "Celebration

Day," "Black Dog," "Over the Hills and Far Away" and "Misty Mountain Hop"

in quick succession.


Just before "Misty Mountain," Plant chatted to the crowd

again. "Anyone make the Orlando gig we did last time?," he asked.

Fans cheered.


"This is the second gig we've done since we've been back

to the States and uh..." Plant seemed speechless for a moment.

"And I can't believe it!"


But the lovey-dovey mood evaporated a bit after "Since

I've Been Loving You," when front row fans began getting out of

control, pushing against barriers and forcing Plant to play

security guard.


"Listen, listen," Plant said to the unruly crowd. "May

I ask you, as we've achieved something between us that's never been

done before, if we could just cool it on these barriers here because

otherwise there're gonna be a lot of people who might get [hurt],"

Plant told the crowd. "So if you have respect for the person who's

standing next to you, which is really what it's all about, then

possibly we can act more gently."


"We don't want problems, do we?," Plant asked. The crowd

cheered.


Several songs later, after "The Rain Song," it became

clear the crowd was now getting seriously out of control. Plant got

testy.


"We want this to be a really joyous occasion," he says.

"And I'm going to tell you this, because three people have been taken to the

hospital, and if you keep pushing on that barrier, there're going to be

stacks and stacks of people going. So for goodness sakes...can we

move back just a little bit because it's the only way. If you can't do

that, then you can't really live with your brother. Just for this evening

anyway."


"Can you cooperate?!," asked Plant, a bit exasperated.

There was tepid applause. "It's a shame to talk about things like

cooperation when there're so many of us. Anyway you people sitting

up the sides are doing a great job. [fans cheer] But these poor

people are being pushed by somebody. So cool it. That's not very

nice."


Plant also took the opportunity to publicly diss Miami.

For some unknown reason, the band was apparently still sore about a 1970

gig in Miami Beach that stands as the last time Zep played in

that area.


"We played the Convention Center in Miami, which was

really bad," said Plant to the crowd, just before introducing

"Dazed and Confused." "The gig was good, but there

were some men walking around all the time making such a silly

scene." He didn't elaborate.


The crowd problems seemed to dissipate after a few more

songs. By the time the group roared into "Whole Lotta Love," near the

end of the almost three-hour set, Plant shouted, "We've got 57,000

people here and we're gonna boogie!,” segueing into “Let That

Boy Boogie Woogie.” The crowd went nuts.


Unfortunately, I had to be home by around 11pm,

which meant missing encores "The Ocean" and "Communication

Breakdown."


The highlight of the night, judging from a tape of the

show and from memory, was "Over the Hills and Far Away," if only because

of Page's incendiary solo, which was quite unlike his solos in

other live versions of the song. That alone is worth searching the

Internet for a bootleg CD of the show.


* * *


Six years later, I went away to college at the

Univesity of Florida at Gainesville, also studying

for six months in Florence, Italy.



While in Florence, I hatched a plan to travel deep

behind the Iron Curtain and then into Istanbul. And

I actually pulled it off without a hitch! Here's the

story of that adventure:





I Traveled Alone Behind the Iron Curtain
During the Cold War.

By Paul Iorio
This is the transit visa that enabled me to get through the Iron Curtain,
August 20, 1976. The border crossing, as shown on the visa stamp, was
Edirne, which is at the intersection of Turkey, Bulgaria and Greece.
I was entering Bulgaria from Turkey.



With each passing year, there are fewer and fewer people who

have actual first-hand memories of the fabled Iron Curtain -- and

fewer still who traveled deep behind the Curtain on a U.S. passport

in that era.



I did.


As an adventurous 19-year-old American college student, I traveled

alone (via a train that made mostly local stops ) through the Iron Curtain

in 1976, journeying non-stop from Italy, to Istanbul, Turkey,

crossing the entire length of both the former Yugoslavia and Bulgaria

and venturing through Thrace and European Turkey.



And then I took the whole trip again in reverse!



My starting point was Florence (where I was studying for six months).

It was impossible to convince any of my friends, who were traveling

in less adventurous directions, to join me.



So, when I caught the train to go east, I was alone. When I

traveled 52 hours through the toughest part of the Iron Curtain,

I was alone. And when I returned to Florence later that month,

I was alone. I met no one I knew along the way. And nobody followed

my trail or came afterwards. A month earlier, I was 18 years old.




My non-stop trek spanned fifty-two hours, two time zones and over

two thousand miles in August '76, following the route of the

original Orient Express -- though this was no Pullman sleeper.

The train was a ramshackle thing, barely better than refugee

boxcars for much of the voyage; through most of Yugoslavia, I

couldn't even find a seat and had to sleep on my suitcase in

the crowded corridor.




I also soon found that the tough reputation of the cops of

communist Eastern Europe was well-deserved -- though I was

skeptical about that fact before the trip. As I naively joked

in my journal when I passed into Slovenia: "I must be in

Yugoslavia by now. It's dark, so I can't see the oppression

and lack of liberty." (It was also, incidentally, too dark

to see that I was missing what some call the best scenery

of the region: the Julian Alps of Slovenia.)



My attitude was less jokey several hours later in Zagreb when

the Yugoslav police took me off the train for no apparent reason

(probably because I was one of only two Americans on board the

train that day), forcing me to leave my luggage onboard. Through

the language barrier, I think the cops were claiming I didn't

have a transit visa -- even after I showed them my transit visa.



As I wrote in my journal at the time: "And so off the train

I went" -- to the harsh glare of people who had stony

"Tito/Khrushchev" expressions on their faces.



The only other person booted from the train was a bearded hippie

who claimed to be a Stanford University student; he started

getting loud about what he called the fascist behavior of

the cops, and I asked him to shut up before he got us

in deeper trouble.



We were detained outside a small side building, a sort of

mini-police station, where an officer confiscated my passport. After

waiting for around ten minutes, the train made noises as if

it were about to leave Zagreb, so, impulsively, I bolted toward

the tracks, even though I didn't have my passport and hadn't been

given an ok from the police to re-board.



But no one stopped me. I wasn't hit by a hail of bullets! And

just before I reboarded, some stranger handed me my

passport. "Mysteriously received my...passport again

as...I was running back to the train and was handed

it by a man," I wrote in my journal at the time. "Mysterious

totalitarian forces at work."



I didn't see the Stanford student get back on the train and

assumed he was now in the clutches of some nasty Croatian cops.



As the train left Zagreb, I sat down and started writing about

what had just happened. But a Yugoslav police officer came into my

train car and stood a short distance from me, staring at me in a

menacing way. When I put away my pen and paper, he walked away.



Through the train window, parts of northern Croatia looked

sort of like a Communist Norman Rockwell painting, with peasants,

in classic red style, harvesting a field by hand with sickles.



As the train approached Belgrade, the landscape became increasingly

urban in a very gray way.



"The entrance [to Belgrade] is utterly filled with trash, and

as you approach it, one sees drab but...modern buildings

and a superhighway," I wrote in my diary.



I snapped this photo of Belgrade, then the capital of
Yugoslavia, from the train in '76.



After Belgrade, the scenery became unexpectedly spectacular,

thanks to the thrilling peaks of the Balkan Mountains (one of

the most underrated ranges in all of Europe). But just before

Bulgaria, the landscape became downbeat again, full of "empty

roads, solemn faces, dreary check points," as I wrote in my

journal at the time.



This part of southern Serbia, between Bulgaria and

Kosovo, remains the most desolate, lonely and abandoned

area of the world I've ever seen.



Despite the oppressive presence of police and soldiers, the

civilians on the train were lively and uninhibited throughout

the Balkans.



At one point, in southeastern Serbia, five very friendly (too friendly!)

rural Serbians (with a couple black puppies) insisted -- absolutely

insisted -- that I take a picture of them and their dogs, so I did.

In return, they gave me a couple Yugoslav cigarettes, three swigs

of vodka -- and their addresses so I could send them the pictures.



Here was the scene on the train in southern Serbia just
before the Bulgarian border when five Serbian guys insisted
I snap their pictures!


Just before the Bulgarian border, I found a seat in a

compartment that was like a mini-United Nations. I sat

across from a confident and exuberant Libyan man (with

extremely white teeth) who said he was on his way to

study electrical engineering in Bulgaria. Also

in the compartment were a soft-spoken guy from Copenhagen

and two French men. One of them looked like rocker Ron Wood,

the other said he was a Sorbonne professor of Islamic

civilization and French. They were talking to each other

in English, French and other languages.



As the train crossed into Bulgaria at Dimitrovgrad, I

experienced the toughness of the Bulgarian border soldiers,

widely regarded as the most ruthless in all of eastern Europe

at the time.



With rifles at the ready, the Bulgarian guards were

harsh and humorless. "At the Bulgarian border, the

guards had Hitler mustaches, as all traces of Western

Europe (as well as humor or smiling) disappeared

completely," I wrote in my journal after entering

the country.



Passing from Yugoslavia to Bulgaria, I could feel the

difference between a police state (the former) and a military

state (the latter). The first was harsh, the latter potentially

lethal.




I soon passed through Sofia, which seemed like an extremely

insulated and subdued city; the locals at the train station,

in old-fashioned clothing and uncomfortable-looking shoes,

approached the train and gawked curiously at the train as if

they were looking at visitors from another planet.



This is the farthest behind the Iron Curtain that anyone could
get back in '76: Sofia, Bulgaria. I shot this from the train.




Several hours later, at the exit border -- the tense checkpoint

near the three-way intersection of Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece --

the armed Bulgarian cops became even more unfunny than they

had been at the entry border.



"Long wait at the Bulgaria/Turkey border," I wrote in my journal

that night. "Soldiers all around checking bags, shining

lights....It is pitch black and probably midnight."



In the distance, I saw the silhouette of a tank. A rumor,

later proved false, circulated that the train was being

delayed because war had broken out between Greece and

Turkey over Cyprus.



After an anxious period, we were finally allowed to proceed

into western Turkey, back into NATO territory. "The train

starts into the Turkish black night, soldiers waving goodbye,

and I go back to my compartment and sleep," I wrote in my diary.



To my surprise, a few yards away at a train window, there was

that Stanford student who I had mistakenly thought was left

behind in Zagreb the day before; he was looking out the window

and singing the Rolling Stones's "Satisfaction."



It was a few hours before sunrise on my third day of travel, but

Istanbul was still over 12 hours away.



After Bulgaria, entering western Turkey felt like someone had

opened a window and let in light, air and birds. I was now in

westernmost Turkey, aka Thrace. After the monochromatic Balkans,

Thrace seemed to come alive in vivid Technicolor like something

out of "The Wizard of Oz." .



"At sunrise, I wake and see...Turkey," I wrote in my journal.

"The train is moving at a snail's pace, stopping every twenty yards

or so. The scenery is unlike anything I've seen before. The

mountains are sometimes rocky or green or barren like a desert...

There are great stretches of huge yellow sunflower fields stretching

for [what looks like] miles. The people all wave as the train goes

by, and the animals get more exotic and plentiful: goats,

gazelles, unnamables, roosters, huge flocks of sheep."



Western Turkey and Thrace came alive in color after traveling
through the gray Balkans. Here's a photo I shot of the area
west of Istanbul.




Fifty-two hours after boarding the train in Florence, I arrived

in Istanbul at three on a hot afternoon in August, burping

Lambrusco, profoundly tired and somewhat dehydrated. I checked into

a cheap hostel ($5 a night) in the Sultanahmet neighborhood

where American hippies -- who had almost certainly taken a

plane, not a train, to Istanbul -- were outside singing

Paul Simon's "Homeward Bound" as someone played guitar.



After five days in Istanbul, it was time to return to Florence. I

considered taking a quick flight back, but (being a broke student

back then) went to the train station and took the whole trip

behind the Iron Curtain all over again.



This time, I fell sick just before the Bulgarian border

and remained sick all the way home (and for a week after

returning to Florence), sleeping through most of the

ride back.



No food or beverages were sold onboard and Americans

weren't allowed to exit before their destination, so I

was left with nothing to eat or drink except

whatever I had with me (which was some bad carbonated

Lambrusco wine and stale cheese-bread (don't ask)).



In retrospect, I now see that the larger risks of the trip

came not behind the Iron Curtain but in running afoul

of Muslim traditions in Istanbul. (For example, some guy

chased me down the street with a stick in Istanbul for

shooting a picture of veiled women gathered in a doorway;

another man almost became violent when I didn’t show more

respect than I was already showing at Istanbul’s Pavilion of

the Holy Mantle, where the Muslim Prophet Muhammad’s hair and

teeth are on display (according to the Pavilion).



All told, my advice to anyone considering a travel

adventure like this (which, by the way, couldn't be

done today because there is no Iron Curtain): take

the plane!


After a 52-hour train ride, I finally arrived
in Istanbul.

..................................



Above, a photo I shot from Istanbul's Galata Bridge, August 1976.

* * * *



After crossing through Bulgaria, I arrived at the first stop over the
border in Yugoslavia (present-day Serbia), Dimitrovgrad, via this visa
stamp (left).


.................................



I got behind the Iron Curtain using this American passport.
But I applied for my transit visas (to Bulgaria and Yugoslavia)
through a third-party country -- Italy. Otherwise the visas
wouldn't have likely been approved.

................................


Above are various items from my trip behind the Iron Curtain; at
center is my visa for entry to Bulgaria; clockwise from the top left
are a card for the hostel I stayed at, a pack of Turkish cigarettes,
an August 1976 calendar, my own notes about entering Bulgaria, a
ticket to the Topkapi, and a couple logos for regional publications.


* * * * *



MEETING PAUL MCCARTNEY



I feel lucky to have actually met Paul McCartney, back

in August 1986, when I was in my twenties and was a

staff writer for the music trade magazine Cash Box

and had already lived in Manhattan for nearly a decade.

I was in my office on West 58th in Manhattan when

Capitol called to invite me and my Cash Box colleague

to come to Radio City Music Hall to meet McCartney --

in an hour or two! Needless to say, we dropped

everything and walked the fifties to Radio City

asap.


At first, McCartney was at a distance in the Radio City lobby,

and I figured I wouldn't get to meet him. But then he made a

beeline directly through the lobby to where I was standing

(not necessarily because I was standing there, of course),

and I momentarily felt a bit like Ralph Kramden (hummana-hummana),

but managed to say happy to meet you and to ask him a

couple questions before the crowd swarmed and congratulated

him on everything from "Press to Play" to his narration of

a Buddy Holly documentary.


What are my contemporaneous memories of hearing

The Beatles "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band"

album?



OK, first off, I was only 9, going on ten, when The Beatles's

"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" was released, so I

and my friends were really more concerned at the time with

whether The Monkees were about to overtake The Beatles and what

the new Herman's Hermits single was going to be, though I do

remember that on or around the time of the June 1 release

there was a big to-do about the album on NBC's "Today" show,

which meant the grown-ups were now paying attention, and it

sort of felt as if a major symphony had just been released, or as

if the adults were saying to the teacher

come-look-at-what-junior-created-because-this-time-it-may-

actually-be-worth-something, though I also vividly recall that

the marvelous AM radio stations that had been playing "Yellow

Submarine" and "Penny Lane" and "I Hear a Symphony" and all

those brilliant singles of 1966 were now sort of cool to this

new Beatles album, and I remember one radio AM DJ playing a "Pepper's"

track and remarking afterwards that he wished the Beatles would

go back to making the more straightforward singles of the old days,

because the "Pepper's" material just wasn't any fun to him, a

sentiment echoed all over the place, though as a kid I liked it

more and more as I listened to it, especially as I grew older

and turned from 10 to 11 and 12, at which point "Abbey Road"

had supplanted "Pepper's" on my turntable, though

before that happened, my contemporaneous memory of

June 1967 is that "She's Leaving Home" was too depressing and

"Within You Without You" was a bore, and I much preferred "There's

a Kind of Hush" as a 10 year old (the Stones were for older kids

who had already sprouted hair on their faces), though I grew to love

the whole album and now think that "A Day In the Life" may

be the Beatles greatest collaboration, even if I can't help but

think it should be credited to Lennon/McCartney/Martin,

after George Martin, who supplied the dazzling connective

tissue between Lennon and McCartney's two songs, or their two song

fragments, because you see, John and Paul hadn't really

written a complete song until Martin joined the two fragments, but,

wow, is that a fun song to play on the acoustic guitar, by the way,

give it a try, but I must admit the one "Pepper's" song I go back

to all the time in my adulthood is "Fixing a Hole," mostly because

of its fabulous middle eight ("But it really doesn't matter..."), a

supremely inspired bit from McCartney, much better than "Getting

Better," which is sorta mean, and I love how the energy level

builds beautifully on what used to be called Side Two, a hint of

the medley to come at the end of "Abbey Road," and Lennon

was right about "Sgt. Pepper's" when he said it really

didn't have a unified theme the way, say, "Tommy"

does, that it was really just another batch of breathtaking

Beatles songs without an overarching structure, though the

reprise at the end makes the album feel unified when it's

actually not, but that's no knock on the album at all,

because I'm always suspicious of conscious themes and deliberate unity,

I've always preferred "Who's Next" to "Quadrophenia," and I'd

rather have the unity of a work arise organically and present

itself intuitively rather than be imposed on the album by

design, after all, there's no "theme" to "Blonde on Blonde" or

"Blood on the Tracks" or "Exile on Main Street" or "Rubber Soul,"

yet those albums are unified in a way that cannot be explained or

that you cannot put your finger on, which is the most effective

and satisfying form of musical unity, and which is why the less

calculated design of "Abbey Road" makes it, not "Sgt. Peppers,"

the Beatles's greatest album.



Many years later, in the fall of 2000, on a hilltop in San

Francisco, I talked with the actor Woody Harrelson about

meeting McCartney. And we both wondered together for a time

about whether McCartney knew -- really knew -- how much

people truly love some of his songs. I still wonder.

* * *


C O N F R O N T I N G O. J. S I M P S O N

The Untold Story About Coverage of O.J. Simpson O.J. Simpson signs autographs for fans in August 1997 outside the Santa Monica Courthouse (photo by Paul Iorio).


Someone was recently wondering, "Is it true that

you once asked O.J. Simpson whether he had

made any progress finding his wife's killer

yet?"



The answer is, yes. And I took my lumps from members

of the press who were being very protective of

Simpson.



I wrote about my encounter with O.J. years ago

online, but it has since disappeared. So I

thought I'd republish the piece here and now

in order to give everyone a more complete sense

of how a lot of the press was anything but

aggressive in their approach to Simpson.



My encounter with O.J. happened in August 1997 at

the Santa Monica courthouse, where Simpson was

ordered to give up his Heisman trophy as part of the civil

settlement in his double murder case. I covered it for

Reuters.



The interesting thing about the story was that much of

the press played extreme softball with Simpson. I was shocked,

frankly, that there was almost no aggressive questioning of

the guy, even though everyone had access to him in the

courthouse.



In fact, some reporters and cops were actually playing air

football with Simpson in a courthouse hallway!



And after I asked him a tough question -- "Hey, OJ, have you had

any luck finding the real killers?" -- Simpson, who didn't

like my question much, became openly mocking: "Nobody

likes me, everybody hates me," Simpson said in a sing-song

voice in the corridor, after I was persistent with my questions.



Within minutes, a cop said that reporters couldn't

talk to Simpson. But the judge overruled the officer around an hour

later and said we could talk to him. So I asked him again,

"Hey OJ, have you had any luck finding the killers of your wife?"



And I must say that except for a couple first-class reporters from

Court TV and a couple others, I was the only one asking

hard questions of Simpson. And that seemed to irritate

both cops and a few reporters at the scene (some of whom

were asking "tough" questions like: "OJ, do you feel you're

being harassed?").



I came up with my own question spontaneously, sort of

as a reaction to the timidity of particular reporters

toward Simpson. And it's a fair question, if you

think about it.



Then, out of the blue, as I sat quietly in the courtroom, one

cop (who had been playing air football with Simpson) started

giving me a rough time. And then -- equally out of the blue -- a

so-called reporter (she identified herself as Michelle Caruso

of the New York Daily News) started to play tag team

with the cop, yelling and screaming in the courtroom at me

(about my shirt, oddly, a really nice $75 conservatively

styled shirt) a pro pos of nothing. I just ignored

Caruso, who was acting like someone off her meds.



I had had absolutely no prior contact with this so-called

reporter Caruso, and didn't even know her name until she

told me it (and I didn't even answer her, despite her efforts to

turn the event into an episode of "Jerry Springer").



To me, it looked this way: a cop friendly to

O.J. was pissed that I was questioning OJ harshly.

The reporter Caruso, who seemed to know that cop,

appeared to be playing tag team in trying to provoke

a fight with me in the courtroom. Unfortunately for

her, I didn't take the bait.



Because I didn't take the bait, Caruso ended up making a

spectacle of herself, screaming for no reason whatsoever

as I sat quietly. (To this day, I know of at least one

reporter who still chuckles about how Caruso managed to

make a compete fool of herself that day.)



I should note that Caruso showed no such aggressiveness

in trying to interview OJ Simpson, mind you. She was

very meek when it came to him, who she was paid to cover.

But she had the rude over-familiarity of a hick when it

came to dealing with others in the courthouse,

as if she was straight out of Mayberry, RFD.



Caruso, who came to work that day with big-hair that looked like

it had been butchered by Simpson himself, shut up only when I

showed her that my cassette tape recorder was running -- which

shows that she knew her rant couldn't stand up to scrutiny.



Note to Caruso's editor at the Daily News: you should fire

Michelle Caruso right now, even after all these years, because

behavior like that is likely to be repeated by her (if it

hasn't been already).



I can't help but wonder whether Simpson would have been

serving time earlier if certain reporters and cops had

been a bit more aggressive toward the right people.


* * * *
BUYING THE BANNED MUSIC OF CEM KARACA IN ISTANBUL, 1976

While visiting Istanbul alone as a teenager in the 1970s, I

asked some Turkish hippie selling cassette audiotapes in an

underground bazaar what Turkish rocker he liked most. He

didn't hesitate.


"Cem Karaca," he said furtively but proudly, looking

cautiously around him, as if the very mention of his name could land him

in prison. He then sold me Karaca's latest, "Nem Kaldi," his

third album, which I grew to enjoy and proceeded to listen to

for decades.


For Turkey, Karaca's music was audacious, a combination of

hard rock and folk rock and Anatolian music, along with subversive

lyrics, all of which earned Karaca condemnation by right wing

Turks who accused him of treason. Hence, it was no surprise when,

in 1980, the government issued an arrest warrant for Karaca that sent

him into exile for most of that decade (he was charged, essentially,

with writing lyrics that incited revolution).


Aside from the much better known Plastic People of the

Universe (of the former Czechoslavakia), Karaca -- along with

Francesco Guccini, the Bob Dylan of Italy -- represented the most

radical mainstream (non-English language) rock to have come out

of greater Europe in the 1970s.


But where the Plastic People were resisting a now-defunct

communism, Karaka was struggling against reactionaries who are

still very much in power today: conservative Islamists.


On my visit to Istanbul, I saw first-hand how Islamic

totalitarians were as oppressive as communists ever were. On that

1976 trip, I traveled alone by local train behind the Iron

Curtain -- into Bulgaria, the most totalitarian of the Eastern

Bloc nations -- and then into Islam. By far, there was less freedom

on an everyday basis in Islam (even secular Islam) than there was

behind the Iron Curtain.


SEEING MY FIRST RAP CONCERT, 1980

I didn't see my first rap concert until 1980, when I stopped by

the Peppermint Lounge in New York to watch the Treacherous Three,

one of the pioneers of hip hop, play to a lot of empty chairs.

I remember thinking how futuristic and fresh rap sounded, and only

then reached back to buy a copy of the Sugarhill Gang's 1979

breakthrough, "Rapper's Delight."


By 1980, hip hop was already around five years old, though

still years away from mainstream acceptance. I and my friends didn't

really fall in love with rap until 1982's "The Message" by Grandmaster

Flash and the Furious Five, which -- at least in NYC -- was massive,

even bigger than "Thriller" in some circles.


And I don't mean just the single "The Message" but the album

"The Message," particularly the deeply fun funk of "She's Fresh"

and "It's Nasty." It goes without saying that the title track is

one of rap's great achievements, sort of like hip hop's "A Hard

Rain's A-Gonna Fall" -- and the main reason for the group's

induction into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame several weeks ago.


It wasn't until later in the 1980s, at the Cat Club in NY, that

I finally got to see Melle Mel perform "The Message" -- backed by

the same rhythm section, Doug Wimbish and Keith Leblance, who played

on the album -- at a show that turned everybody into a dancer. Rap

was no longer playing to empty chairs.

* * *


SEEING BARACK OBAMA, March 2007

I have attended lots of presidential campaign speeches,

dating all the way back to 1964 (when my dad put me, a 7-year-old,

on his shoulders so I could glimpse Hubert Humphrey stumping for LBJ),

but I have never ever seen the level of electricity and excitement

generated by Sen. Barack Obama's speech in Oakland, California,

yesterday afternoon.


To say he was greeted like a rock star would be to

understate the case; I have to search back in memory many years to

think of a rock show that created this sort of adult intensity

(perhaps Springsteen in '78).


Almost everyone waiting to attend the rally was smiling

-- even though they had to wait for more than an hour in a line that

seemed to stretch all the way to Sacramento. The only time

I'd ever seen such mass smiling was at a Grateful Dead

concert in 1987. It was almost as if political springtime

was blooming in fast motion on this sunny

St. Patrick's Day, like that great moment in the

documentary "The War Room" when the Grateful Dead's

"Scarlet Begonias" rang out as Bill Clinton's

campaign shifted permanently into high gear.


This is, after all, the last spring before voters

go to the polls in most of the presidential

primaries (the Iowa caucus is only slightly

more than nine months away).


At the Oakland rally, a woman attached to

her oxygen tank was in the crowd. Pamphlets and

buttons and bumper stickers and ideas

were exchanged everywhere like pollen. Strangers talked

to strangers as if they were old pals. The guy in line in

front of me, Michael, on a crutch, was convinced Obama was

the new JFK. His friend, Carter, handed me an Obama

campaign button that showed the candidate looking a bit

like, well, JFK.



The crowd was around 12,000 strong but sounded like

triple that. Once I had filed into the outdoor rally, getting a

glimpse of him reminded me of trying to get a look at

Led Zeppelin in 1973 at a stadium concert: almost impossible.

It wasn't until around 20 minutes into his speech that

I saw him for the first time. He looked dapper, trim,

youthful -- even Kennedyesque.


And when he condemned the Iraq war and mentioned the

Walter Reed scanadal, the response was almost

Beatlesque.


Seeing Obama-mania first-hand tells me he could be

unstoppable. I may be wrong, but I can't imagine that

Hillary's supporters are nearly as enthusiastic about

their own candidate.


As for John Edwards, I was at his speech in Berkeley

two weeks ago, and the crowd was exponentially

smaller and less intense; most attendees seemed

to be there to see a figure from the past, not a

current contender, and diversity was sorely missing (you

could literally count the number of African-Americans at

the Edwards rally on one hand). And the Edwards crowd

seemed more hostile, too.


The only point of comparison that comes close to the

Obamamania at this speech was a Jesse Jackson for president rally

I attended in Manhattan in 1988 that packed the Upper West Side.

But that was not really like this. In '88, people wanted to

glimpse an historical (and an historic) icon, it seemed; yesterday,

people acted as if Obama was the future.


No other rally I've seen has been as intense: not

Bill Clinton in Jersey City in '95 (or in San Fran in '06), not

McGovern in '72 (which felt like a college lecture), not Jerry Brown

in Union Square in NY in '92, certainly not Mondale in '84. And I

betcha Hillary's seemingly ghostwritten and somehow off-key speeches

don't generate Obama's kind of steam.


A few days ago, I wrote that Obama was the Paul Tsongas

of '08. But after this rally I've changed my mind. He's more

like the Tiger Woods of the '08 campaign. And he seems to

be an unstoppable force, like Bill Clinton after he became

"the comeback kid" in the snows of New Hampsire in '92. For the

first time, I'm thinking Obama might well become the Democratic

nominee for president of the United States in 2008.

[written in March 2007, right ater attending his speech]

* * * *



Childhood Memories of Europe


These fall into two categories: a six month residence in Florence, Italy, in 1970, and six months in the same city in 1976.

The '76 trip included my solo journey to Istanbul through the Iron Curtain (see above). The timeline for the 1970 period went like this:

I and the family left Tampa International Airport for Philadelphia (via Atlanta) on June 17, 1970. The next day, we took a 9pm flight from JFK to Heathrow.

At around 7am on June 19, 1970, with almost everyone else on the plane asleep (except me and my dad), I watched in wonder as we flew over central Ireland, green hills rolling, a magnificent sight. And then we circled over London, along the Thames, with all the major landmarks in clear view from the plane, at 9 o'clock hour. From Heathrow Airport, we took off for Pisa, arriving late afternoonish/eveningish. Night ground travel to Florence from Pisa, arriving at the university center Villa Fabricotti late at night.

Later that year, we'd visit dad's birthplace, Cassandrino, Italy, which he left when he was only a few years old.

Once there, we re-connected with distant family members who had stayed behind in the old country. And we had a huge feast, which you can see here.

I'm seated second from the right, next to my dad, who is first from the right [photo to come]. The patriarch at the head of the table poured me some wine, but my parents stopped him: "He's only 13," my dad said.

My Italian relatives were genuinely astonished, almost offended. "He isn't allowed to drink wine at age 13 in America?!," said the relative at the head of the table. "Who on Earth would make such a law?!"




Wednesday, June 17, 1970: 10:30 a.m., plane from Tampa to Atlanta. Then, Atlanta to Philadelphia. Car from Philly to Trenton. Outdoor bar b q at relatives



Thursday, June 18, 1970: JFK Airport, 9 p.m. flight to Heathrow. With time change, 13 hours total.



Friday, June 19, 1970: Landing in Heathrow at around 10 a.m. [see photo], after the plane flew over central Ireland (at approx. sunrise, 7 am) and then circled over London, along the Thames, with all the major landmarks in clear view from the plane, at 9 o'clock hour. From Heathrow Airport, we took off for Pisa, arriving late afternoonish/eveningish. Night ground travel to Florence from Pisa, arriving at Villa Fabricotti late at night, maybe 9 p.m. or later.



Saturday, June 20, 1970: Slept 18 hours, according to journal.



Sunday, June 21, 1970: Woke in the morning, had breakfast at Piazza Liberta, walked with family to Duomo, then to Ponte Vecchio, etc.



Monday, June 22, 1970: Picked up the Fiat, the McKays visited.



Tuesday, June 23, 1970: Mom got sick.



Wednesday, June 24, 1970: Fiesole.



........................................


HOW MY MUSIC CAREER BEGAN:


As of mid-2014, around 100 songs I've written have had radio airplay on leading alternative radio stations like KALX, KCRW ad WFMU.

Though I'd been writing songs since I was 10 years old, in 1968, I didn't start releasing them until my late thirties. And I didn't release them on CD until 2005.

Why the delay? I didn't always have the money to book time at
a recording studio in my youth. Plus, I had no idea how to
work the tech equipment in a studio. And I was working full-time
as a journalist back then, so I didn't always have the time to
cut albums. When I had the money, I didn't have the time.
When I had the time, I didn't have the money.


What changed? Digital technology was invented that enabled everybody
(even me) to record music without having to know much tech stuff.
And an old friend from my high school years emerged
in '05; he had more money than I had and was willing
to invest in my music, giving me the hardware and
financing for studio time. He showed me how to work
volume knobs on the mixing board and all that.


A video of me talking about my music and performing some of my songs is on YouTube (link to come).


...............................

Memories of Squeeze:

I'll never forget the first time I heard Squeeze. June 1979. I had just moved to Manhattan. A boombox, at 72nd and Broadway, blasted "Up the Junction." And I thought, ohmygod, the Beatles have reunited and this is their first single!

I saw them live many times but the show that stands out is their July 1981 gig at the Ritz in NYC. I'll never forget when Tilbrook came to that bitter moment about the "moth-eaten armchairs" in "Labeled with Love," singing with such a sense of desolation.

When they came to "Piccadilly," all the band members were like one band member; each standing player in the group was unconsciously tapping his foot to the beat in unison. I'll never forget that.

...............................


On being elected president of my high school, 1974:



I was 16, girls were throwing themselves at me and it used to take 45 minutes for me to walk across the street to class in the morning because all my friends would stop and want to chat. In my little 16-year old world, for a span, after years of adolescence, I felt like a star.


.................................


On Jethro Tull:


I was in downtown Florence, Italy, in a Fiat in '70 when I first heard of Jethro Tull, who'd recently played Isle of Wight and released an album that a schoolmate was holding in the back seat. It was called "Benefit" and its cover photo featured a guy wearing the coolest looking headband ever. His name was Glenn Cornick, the bass player on "Benefit," the band's best album.

..................


More on McCartney:


You know, I look at all the artists who've OD'd or gone to rehab or have been found slumped over a toilet with no pulse. And I listen to the undergrad-ish talk about genius and madness.

But, truth be told, the greatest artistic genius of the past half century is Paul McCartney, a thoroughly well-adjusted family man, a model of mental health who never let the adulation go to his head. If I had kids, I'd tell them, That way.

................


Moving to NYC


On June 6, 1979, I moved to New York City and lived in Manhattan (and, later, around Manhattan) for nearly two decades. With no family connections there, I wanted to see if there was such a thing as a meritocracy. Within six years, I was a full-time writer/reporter (being quoted in such places as USA Today) and covering, first-hand and in person, such greats as Paul McCartney and Ray Davies!

But for the first six years, I was, mostly, vastly underemployed. (All the good jobs went to the Chelsea Clintons and Jenna Bushes of the day. Yet, just look at my skill level as a journalist, as shown in my newly-posted Fela interview of '86! Or simply ask the bands who got their recording contracts because I wrote them up.) So, a mixed verdict on the meritocracy.

Anyway, here's what my bank account looked like on August 19, 1979, after I'd been living in Manhattan for a couple months. My bank was that great building on 74th and Broadway, next door to my apartment.

PIC TK


Some of the people I met in my first few months in Manhattan are still my friends today. A magical time. (And then it got crowded. A year after I moved to NYC, my brother moved to NY, too. Which was fine by me, except my couch soon became a landing pad for others who tried to move to the area.)


Re-listening to the tape of my interview with Kate Bush this morning over coffee. I'm thinking that one of the threads through my journalism career has been that I've been able to land interviews with artists who rarely grant interviews (e.g., Andy Partridge, Kate Bush, Roman Polanski, Fela Kuti, Woody Allen, etc.).

Another thing I'm thinking is...I conducted the Bush interview in December '85 and had been hired as a staff writer/reporter at Cash Box in late August 1985. So I'd been on the job for all of four months. Yet look at the high quality of the interview.

In those first four months at the magazine, I'd already written the article that got unsigned band The Smithereens their recording contract with Enigma Records; I had already written the article that led directly to They Might Be Giants' recording contract. And I was doing interviews, like the Bush interview, that broke new ground about major artists.

But because I didn't have an uncle or any other relative in the music or journalism business, I had to wait until I was 27 to be hired to do this sort of work on a full-time basis.

Oh, I had been working full-time in New York City since I was 21 years old (and for many years before that outside NYC), but mostly in vastly underemployed positions. And I had to watch the nephew or daughter of some Fox executive (or some rich dude) get the plum job right out of college. (For the record, I did grow up in an upper middle class household, but dad was in the education profession (and I have never worked in that profession). And as for "legacy" admissions -- honestly, I didn't learn about that possibility until I was already halfway to my B.A. Was never told.)

Those years, my twenties in NYC, taught me so much about capitalism. I saw that people with world class talent (but without family connections) didn't get the jobs that the undeserving Jenna Bushes got. (Or whoever her equivalent was in the 1970s and 1980s.) And I saw capitalism at its most unfair -- so, today, I have very little respect for it.

True, I also saw entrepreneurs in my age group coming from nothing and making it. Still, too few cases of that -- and too many cases of nepotistic advantage.




............................


Seeing Bob Dylan for the first time

The first time I saw him in concert was on April 25, 1976, at the Rolling Thunder Revue's gig a couple blocks from my college dorm room in Gainesville, Florida. I was 18, he was 34. I shot this picture of him singing "Blowin' in the Wind" with Joan Baez.



.....................