Jerry Lee marries for 7th time

Wedding kiss, Jerry Lee and Judith, the 7th Mrs Lewis

He’s still very unlikely to match his sister Linda Gail who has married 8 times (but only to 7 husbands as she married one twice.) He’s now married the ex-sister-in-law of Myra, the second cousin who was only 13 when he married her back in 1957. That wasn’t unusual in Louisiana or in Jerry’s family – younger sister Linda Gail first married at 14 and older sister Frankie Jean married at the tender age of 12. Loretta Lynn, the Country singer, was also married at 13, and Elvis was dating Priscilla when she was only 14.

Now some people are confused because Judith Coghlan Brown who he married earlier this month is his and Myra’s daughter Phoebe’s aunt. Someone on one of the Lewis forums remarked: ‘What? He’s now married his sister?’ No, he’s married his cousin’s ex-wife. The cousin, Rusty Brown, is Myra’s brother, so he’s Phoebe’s uncle and Judith is her aunt by marriage, or was, now she’s also her step-mother I guess. Gets complicated doesn’t it?

Added to which cousin Jimmy Swaggart, the evangelist, is a double first cousin of Jerry’s. Keeping it in the family seems to be a trend in the extended Lewis family. The other famous first cousin is Country singer Mickey Gilley who launched the whole New Country thing with the John Travolta film ‘Urban Cowboy’ filmed at Gilley’s former niteclub in Pasadena, Houston, Texas, complete with the famous Gilley’s mechanical bull. Mickey appeared in the movie singing and playing, and has actually had more #1 Country hits than Jerry Lee himself, though The Killer, as he is known, has had quite a few himself.

Jerry Lee’s personal life has tended to overshadow The Killer’s successful and very long musical career which started in the 1950s and continues today. Many people think he only had one or two hits in the 1950s, but in actual fact he’s had, by my reckoning based on research, no less than 70 Top Twenty singles and albums in one or more of the main charts, which include the British Pop charts, and American Billboard/Cashbox Pop, Rock, Country and Indie charts. This includes 14 which reached the #1 spot in at least one of these charts, and 10 Gold disks. The latest #1 and Gold disk was for the album ‘Last Man Standing’ recorded with guest artists and released in 2006 to become the biggest selling album of his career. Since then ‘Mean Old Man’, another album with guest artists, was released and shot straight to #10 in the Billboard Rock charts.

His touring has declined a lot in recent years, and the shows reverted to a standard length of about 45-50 minutes (in the 1950s/1960s he did mainly 30 minute shows). The only time he regularly did shows of over an hour, apart from specials like the Memphis birthday parties in the 1990s/early 00’s, was when he was having loads of Country hits in America and included a lot of slow Country songs in his live performances. Unfortunately many of the rockers in Europe didn’t appreciate the slower material, and heckled for more rock’n’roll.

Lewis, being the cantankerous person he his, tended to do Country to ‘wind-up’ his rock’n’roll audiences of Teddy boys and rockers, saying things like: ‘If you don’t like it you can learn to like it’, or alternatively, ‘If you don’t like it that door swings both ways’ pointing to the entrance/exit. He’d then appear at the Wembley Country Music Festivals and rile the Country fans by singing mainly uptempo rock’n’roll while they walked out in droves.

Always people have had to accept The Killer as he is. He was always uncontrollable, which is why he wrecked his career in 1958 by bringing his 13-year old bride to England and then making things even worse by saying he hadn’t married her bigamously because his bigamous marriage to his second wife, Jane, was never legal and he had long ago divorced his first wife, Dorothy. To the British press this meant Jerry Lee was a double bigamist who incestuously married his cousin who, being only 13, made him a pedophile as well. In actual fact marrying even first cousins is perfectly legal even in England (though discouraged), and whatever you think of the laws/customs of the Southern States at the time, marrying at 13 was not uncommon and was encouraged by the local fundamentalist churches to prevent fornication, i.e. any sexual relations outside of wedlock. An unmarried girl of 15 or 16 without a ‘beau’ in tow was regarded as a social outcast in these rural communities, definitely looked upon as a weirdo and probably a lesbian. Even having a boyfriend would be suspicious in case they were having sex outside of wedlock, so they were encouraged to get married. In short, every girl reaching puberty was expected to find a man and get married at the earliest opportunity, or risk going straight to Hell for either having straight sex out of wedlock or for being a lesbian. So in Jerry’s eyes he was making an honest woman of Myra and saving her from eternal fire and brimstone.

In Jerry’s eyes, using his strange logic, he was free as a bird to marry Myra since his second marriage was invalid. It was a ‘shotgun marriage’ forced on him by Jane Mitcham’s brothers, and he didn’t dare tell them he was still legally married to his first wife Dorothy. As his sister Frankie Jean once put it: ‘Jerry gets confused. He marries people but sometimes forgets to divorce them.’ In fact he did divorce them, but apparently got confused by the requirement to wait for the ‘decree absolute’ before getting hitched again.

Jerry has reportedly recorded quite a lot of material in recent years which has yet to be released. His stage shows have not only become more infrequent, and subject to last-minute cancelation due to health issues, but they’ve also become much less animated and also more predictable. At one time not so long ago Jerry’s stage-act was very wild, jumping up on pianos even in the late 1980s when he was in his 50s and perhaps should have known better than to stomp over beautful Steinways in his cowboy boots. He never worked to a set-list and every show was different. Now he tends to stick to the same repertoire with just a few variations.

It has to be said, however, that Jerry always did and still does stick mainly to singing and playing on stage, without any of the time-wasting antics used by some other performers like Little Richard and Chuck Berry. The latter have appeared on several ‘Legends of Rock’n’Roll’ shows with Jerry Lee in the past 20 years and have won over audiences who are under the false impression they were better than Jerry Lee and performed for much longer, doing an hour or hour and a half to Jerry’s 30 minutes or so. However what they did, in fact, was interact with the audience more and waste time. If you took a stopwatch and timed how long the three original 1950s stars actually sang and played their instruments while on stage I bet you wouldn’t find much difference between the three of them. Chuck Berry, who wastes a lot of time picking an out-of-tune guitar and who gets some of his self-penned lyrics wrong, once stood and recited poetry for 10 minutes so he was on stage for as long as Little Richard, who had spent much of the time encouraging the audience to sing instead of himself, doing a striptease act or telling people that religious tracts would be given to them as a gift from the singer on their way out. Jerry, however, all but ignores the audience and just sings and plays solidly for all the time he’s on stage.

The seventh marriage may have raised eyebrows and, as his sister Linda Gail remarked on stage at a Weekender last week, caused another scandal, but whatever other people may think about it Jerry Lee seems happy. The new wife, Judith, was his carer, and this seems to be her main function now, as well as his companion. This is more than many of us can hope for in our old age – a carer and companion, so good luck to Jerry and Judith, and let’s hope his health holds out so he can continue to perform and record.

 

Jerry Lee Lewis’ new album

Still alive, performing and recording, though his live shows are a very pale imitation of those from years ago. He now performs from a set-list which only varies slightly from show to show, and his stage act has all but disappeared. Sometimes he makes a half-hearted attempt at the end to stand and kick the piano stool back, or play a few notes standing up, but all the other trademarks have long gone.

The length of his live shows tend to be about 45 minutes on average, which is considered very short nowadays. In the 1950s and 1960s when there were lots of support acts and two shows a night, the main act would only do about 30 minutes. Now two hours is more the norm. In the 1970s and 1980s, when Jerry Lee included many of his Country hits and album tracks, also launching into Gospel, Blues, etc. as well as rock’n’roll his shows were often 90 minutes or so.

However he did have his biggest selling album ever in 2006, the ‘Last Man Standing’ CD featuring duets with many other artists. This album flopped in UK due to lack of promotion, distribution, etc. but was a roaring success in the USA where it was promoted on all the big chat shows and has sold over half a million copies, earning Jerry another gold disk.

Now he is releasing a similar CD called ‘Mean Old Man’ after the Kris Kristofferson title track, released as a single last year, then on a so-called EP, and now released yet again by i-tunes as a single – the fifth from the album due to be released in the US on September 7th and in UK about a month later.

Whether he can repeat the success of  ‘Last Man Standing’ remains to be seen, and many fans feel he should have done a solo album this time, not another CD with guest artists. Also many of the tracks he has recorded previously.

A European tour scheduled for July had to be postponed due to Jerry’s ill-health at the time (exact details never specified, but shingles was mentioned among other things). He is now scheduled to do some Continental European dates in October and November. A show planned for London on October 26th has been cut from the schedule. He last appeared in London two years ago when he did two gigs here.

I’ll wait and make a judgment on the new album once I hear it in its entirety (there are ‘bonus’ tracks available as with ‘Last Man Standing’). As someone on the fan club sites remarked, however, the real test of an album is time – fans often think the latest album is good, but if they rarely play it years later that is perhaps the real test.

Jerry Lee turns 75 on September 29th this year, but has not worn his age very well. He can still play piano and sing, but now looks like the old man he is, unsteady on his feet, and his enthusiasm for live shows seems to have long gone – they now appear something of a chore.

I’d go and see him again if he were to do a show in London, or somewhere I was on vacation, but his live shows no longer thrill me as they once did because of their predictability and the fact that he often seems to be on automatic pilot cruising thru a set-list.

I always order his new albums, and this one’s no exception. Just wish there was more new material on it which he hadn’t recorded many times before. For instance, one track is ‘Middle Age Crazy’, a Top Ten Country hit for him in 1977 when he’d just turned 42. Very appropriate at that time as it was about a man who’d just turned 40. Is it appropriate, however, for a man of 75? ‘Mean Old Man’ is of course more appropriate, but it is not one of Kristofferson’s best songs as it is very repetitive, and I would have thought they could have come up with more new songs appropriate for a man in his 70s to sing, rather than once again inviting Beethoven to roll over, and singing about a man of 40 trying to prove he can still attract young women.

Oh well, we’ll see what fans and the CD buying public make of it this time compared with ‘Last Man Standing’. If he can repeat the success of that it will be some achievement, and frankly I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Different Cultures

Oh how I love those rock’n’roll Dixie belles as immortalized in songs like Dizzy Miss Lizzy, Long Tall Sally, Good Golly Miss Molly and not forgetting the provocatively (in Britain) named Short Fat Fanny. Also the chivalry in the States at the time, with boys carrying the girls’ books to school (couldn’t they afford satchels?) Here the lads would say: ‘Carry yer own bleedin’ books!’ and as for dressing up for High School Proms and escorting a girl, well it just didn’t happen. At my college the boys all sat bored stiff round the main hall at end-of-term dances watching the girls cop off with teachers for a dance. No way would we join in.

Just imagine if rock’n’roll had started a few decades later in, say, Essex instead of the Southern States! None of this quaint over-polite Miss Ann, Miss Lucy nonsense. Song titles might have been something like: Shaggin’ Sharon Stomp, Well Fit Bird Boogie, Givin’ Tracy One Bop, Chavs Rule Innit and of course Whole Lotta Shaggin’ Goin’ On would be a certainty.

Nobody would be in the Jailhouse Rockin’, they’d all be nicked by the Old Bill or else plastered down the rub-a-dub.

Unless, of course, rock’n’roll started in the British public schools in which case song titles would be absent of girls completely and more sophisticated, along the lines of: Mason Minor’s Got a Rather Dishy Arse, Harrow School Hop, The Eton Boppin’ Song and I Say Chaps – Let’s Rock!

The mind is even more boggled when thinking what the titles would have been had rock’n’roll started in, say, China at the height of the Cultural Revolution. But an inkling can be got from popular songs in Mao’s China at the time. Everyone Praises The Commune’s Vegetables was a Top Ten hit according to the magazine China Reconstructs at that time, and another all-time favorite was Ten Thousand Years Of Life For Chairman Mao.

We should, perhaps, be thankful rock’n’roll started in the Deep South of America, preserving names like Skinny Minny and Miss Lucy ( who was too fat and juicy) for posterity.

Jerry Lee Lewis

His latest CD

He’s been called many things, some nice, some not so nice. ‘The Killer’ is the most usual pseudonym, which apparently came about when he was still at school – he called people Killer (and still does), and they called him Killer, so the name stuck. The Press like to hint that he may be responsible for the deaths of two wives, and he did shoot his bass player once (accidentally) but the guy survived, though was fired from his band as he couldn’t play guitar properly!

The two wives, Jaren and Shawn, died in the 1980s. Jaren drowned in a swimming-pool, but was already separated from Jerry who was miles away. Shawn had only been married to Jerry for a few months when she was found dead in bed beside him. She died from a methadone overdose, though Jerry admits they’d had a row the night before.

Jerry’s been married 6 times altogether (his sister Linda Gail 8 times), but it was wife number 3 which caused the scandal in Britain which then crossed the Atlantic on his return from the aborted 1958 British tour. In the Deep South at that time the evangelical churches (Jerry belonged to a Pentecostal sect, the Assemblies of God) encouraged young teenagers to get married to prevent fornication or sex before marriage. So as soon as you reached puberty the church and the community urged you to get married.

Consequently many Southern singers had married at an early age. So had Jerry’s sisters. Jerry first married at the age of 15, his sister Linda Gail at 14, and older sister Frankie Jean at 12. Elvis was dating Priscilla when she was 14, but Col. Tom Parker kept this under covers. Frankie Jean has said if a girl reached her mid teens and wasn’t married or didn’t have a steady boyfriend people would start talking and asking what was wrong with that girl, where was her beau, her husband-to-be. The strong hint was any girl not married or at least engaged by 15 or 16 was definitely an outcast from decent society – a lesbian probably.

Despite his fall from grace, Jerry continued to have hits in Britain, the country which was so shocked by his marriage to his 13-year old distant cousin, Myra. After his first three Top Ten hits Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On, Great Balls Of Fire and Breathless, High School Confidential reached number 12 in the British charts in January 1959 (months after he’d been sent home in disgrace from his first British tour), Lovin’ Up A Storm reached the Top Thirty in May 1959, and in May 1961 he had another Top Ten British hit with What’d I Say.

In the USA he wasn’t so successful chartwise immediately after the scandal. High School Confidential stalled at number 21 in the Billboard charts around the time of the aborted UK tour, and no other records reached the Top Fifty until November 1971 when Chantilly Lace reached number 40.

However Jerry continued to tour Europe and USA, and made two astounding ‘live’ albums in the mid-1960s, ‘Greatest Live Show On Earth’ recorded in Birmingham, Alabama and ‘Live At The Star-Club Hamburg’ which is often considered to be the wildest live album ever recorded by anybody.

Jerry moved from Sun Records in late 1963 (leaving a huge catalog of excellent unreleased material, later released by Shelby Singleton the new owner of the catalog) and moved to Smash, a subsidiary of Mercury Records. They tried everything – an excellent single ‘I’m On Fire’ which should have been a big hit, but the British invasion was just starting, and everyone wanted to hear The Beatles and other British groups, not an old American rocker (well he was still in his twenties, but he seemed old hat to many.)

Smash released re-recorded versions of his old hits, and new rockers under album titles like ‘Return of Rock’ and ‘Memphis Beat’. They all failed to make any impact on the charts. A country album was released, ‘Country Songs For City Folks’ but all that did was supply Tom Jones with two hits – he recorded Green Green Grass Of Home and Detroit City (previously American Country hits for Porter Wagoner and Bobby Bare). Jones’ arrangements were very similar to those on Jerry’s album, and Tom admits that’s where he got the inspiration.

Smash tried Jerry recording soul music with an album called ‘Soul My Way’, many tracks without piano – it too bombed. Then, just as they were about to give up and not renew his contract, they had another try at Country, a genre Jerry had always recorded (Hank Williams’ ‘You Win Again’  had been on the flip of Great Balls Of Fire in the States, reached #2 in the Billboard Country charts, and earned him a Gold Record in its own right).

This time Smash got it right by including Kenny Lovelace on fiddle and a steel guitar, and Jerry had his first big Country hit for years when ‘Another Place Another Time’ hit the Top Ten, followed by ‘What Made Milwaukee Famous’.

The Country hit singles and albums continued non-stop, and Sun got in on the act as well, releasing Country singles to cash in on his new found chart success. Consequently following 4 Top Ten Smash/Mercury singles in 1968, Jerry had 5 singles in the Billboard Country Top Ten the following year, three in 1970 (and a fourth made number 11), and three more in 1971, plus another which made number 11.

Two consecutive singles, in 1971 and 1972, made not only #1 in the Country charts, but their flipsides also made #1 – the double hits Would You Take Another Chance On Me?/Me & Bobby McGhee and Chantilly Lace/Think About It Darlin’. He was now recording rock’n’roll again, and having more success in the Country charts (all his big rock’n’roll hits of the 1950s also made the Country Top Twenty).

The Country hits continued into the 1980s, when like many older Country singers he found it difficult to get a recording contract, so was without a label for years. A one-off album was released in the 1990s, ‘Young Blood’, which failed to make any impact, then in 2006 ‘Last Man Standing’ was released, a CD with many guest artists. It was promoted by Jerry appearing on all the big US chat shows, and hit 4 Billboard charts, going #1 Indie, #4 Country, #8 Rock and #26 pop, it sold over half a million copies and earned Jerry his first Gold Disk in years. (It bombed in UK, despite British guest artists like Ringo Starr, three Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and Rod Stewart because of lack of promotion).

Now he has a follow-up CD coming out in late August or early September, the 18 track ‘Mean Old Man’ also featuring many duets. But sadly Jerry lies very ill with shingles, complicated by staph infection and pneumonia. A European tour scheduled for this month has been postponed till October/November, and all U.S. dates for July, August and early September have also had to be canceled or postponed.

Jerry has had many dices with death and survived them all. He nearly died of a stomach rupture in 1981 and was given less than a 50% chance to live, and on at least one occasion when living with Kerrie his 6th wife and his son Lee in the 1990s he collapsed and was found and resuscitated.

We all hope Jerry, the last man standing of the Million Dollar Quartet (Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis) survives this latest illness. Phoebe, his daughter by Myra, who lives at the Ranch and looks after him, is caring for him and is sayng her daddy will pull thru. Let’s hope she’s right.

Wildest Cats In Town Weekender

As expected this was a great Weekender, with the bonus of some nice sunshine. Only thing was the hot weather made it very uncomfortable wearing Teddy-boy suits, and some had three-piece outfits with waistcoats. Despite fans and air-conditioning, the main ballroom got rather hot. I chickened out and stuck to jeans and t-shirts, not wearing the one drape jacket I’d brought with me (I usually bring three).

Some great acts over the weekend like American rockabilly Sonny Burgess with his 1950s piano player Kern Kennedy and a drummer who also goes way back. British pop singer from the late 1950s/early 1960s Marty Wilde made his first appearance at the Weekender, and was very well received doing a mixture of his pop hits and some rock’n’roll standards. He was visibly bowled over by the reaction, and by the vintage cars he saw at the camp, including one the same model (but different color) to one he had way back in the 1950s/early 1960s. Strangely Marty got the name of the Weekender wrong, calling it ‘Wildest Rockers’. Since he’d just introduced his current band as the ‘Wild Cats’, a name he’s used since the 1950s, you’d have thought it would be easy to remember ‘The Wildest Cats’ as the short version of the Weekender’s name. Perhaps he didn’t like the suggestion we were wilder than his backing group!

Ervin Travis and The Virginians from France did a great set as usual, with Ervin perfectly performing in Gene Vincent style, complete with head-to-toe leather outfit (Ervin, you must have been sweating in the heat!) He does some unusual Vincent numbers I certainly never heard Gene do live.

Perennial favorites Crazy Cavan and The Rhythm Rockers (from Wales), The Lennerockers (from Germany) and young Teddy-boy band Furious (from England) were also well received with their wild, wild performances. I was up on stage with Cavan for two or three numbers as usual, as were a load of other cats including Frank Walker with whom I shared a chalet.

Sunday afternoon Sandy Ford’s ‘Flyin’ Saucers’ played in the Princes’ Bar as usual, and they are always brilliant. Sandy managing to look just the same as he did nearly 30-40 years ago, and his wife Yvonne on bass looking as glamorous as ever.

Charles Dale, Brian Jessup, MaryJean Lewis (Jerry Lee’s niece), her Scots husband Gary, Mick and Peggy from Guildford and Peter from Brentford were among the others I knew, and of course Ritchie Gee who organizes the Weekender and who presented a little Teddy boy (from France I believe) aged about 6 or 7 with a trophy – the little lad could bop and was wearing a full Teddy boy outfit. There were several very young Teds in little outfits, so rock’n’roll is safe for another generation.

The beach party with the Two Hound Dogs DJing went well, and I was able to swim in the sea several times and get some sunbathing in. Also met up with my friends Derek and Peter on Sunday.

I don’t at all regret missing the Gay Pride celebrations, and there were other gays at the Weekender who felt the same as me. When Pride in London caters for other fashions and musical tastes and doesn’t clash with the Wildest Cats In Town (and gets rid of all the exhibitionism and shouting of obscenities) perhaps I’ll consider attending.

Meanwhile I look forward to the Wildest Cats In Town Xmas Party with Jerry Lee’s sister Linda Gail Lewis and my favorite bands in December.

Rockin’ Our Lives Away

A group of 1950s-style rock’n’roll and Roots Music fans meet up in central London once a month for a drink and a meal out, and for the occasional outing and gig. Some of us have been on trips to the USA together, visiting venues and places of interest associated with the music we love, most of which comes from the Southern States aka ‘Dixie’.

We had a meet-up and meal last Friday. Most of us are around the same age, mid-60s, some a bit older, some younger. A remark was made that we probably had another 10 years of active life ahead of us if we were lucky.

As we get older, and see others get older (my mother is 95), we naturally get to thinking about what happens when we slow down, perhaps get more forgetful and/or decrepit, and if we are on our own, who will take care of us.

While rock’n’roll tends to keep us young, we know we cannot bop around like teenagers for ever, but we’ll have a damn good try. Many of us are now single, having either never had partners or they have died. So unless we strike lucky and find a younger person to look after us, if we do get incapable of looking after ourselves properly we’ll probably be relying on carers or care homes of some sort.

Wouldn’t it be a great idea if some of us on our own could live in close proximity to each other, a Rockers’ Retirement Home or something, with our kind of music and DVDs playing in the communal lounge, and carers to look after us?

Impractical I know, but at least we should keep in touch and continue our monthly meet-ups, etc.  Picture the scene: 2045 or thereabouts, a group of centenarians are celebrating another of their number reaching 100 with an email from the President of the United States of Europe and a big party in a pub. Walking sticks and Zimmer frames clatter to the floor as the golden oldies jump to their feet to the sound of good old rock’n’roll. Wheelchairs spin round the dance floor dangerously as the oldest teenagers in the country have a ball.

At the end of the evening, they make their way outside, strap on their anti-gravity belts and zoom off home. (The wheelchairs and Zimmer frames incorporating their own anti-gravity propulsion systems of course.)

Ten years? No, another 30 or 40 years of rockin’ ‘n’ boppin’ if we are lucky!

Getting Older

We are all getting older of course, but I’m now in my mid-60s, and my surviving old friends from way back are now in their 70s. Even newer friends from the last 20 years of my life are mainly in their 60s or 70s.

I find that my interests have changed as I get older, and that many things simply don’t have the attraction they once did. I guess it’s a case of ‘been there, done that, got the t-shirt’. I’ve traveled most places I want to visit, in fact visited many places several times. I’m not very interested in material things – I certainly don’t want all the latest gadgets such as mobile phones which can take photos, act as game consoles, mini-computers, TV sets and Ipods. I can drive, but don’t want a car (I got rid of mine about 30 years ago), and even if I had the money wouldn’t want to own my flat or any other property, just too much hassle and worry.

I go to music gigs occasionally, but my rock’n’roll records at home never really get played. I do listen to Country music and some rock’n’roll Jerry Lee tracks when on a journey or sunbathing, and watch similar music DVDs or MP3s on my computer at home. I’m not a Christian, but lately I’ve discovered some great Jimmy Swaggart music on YouTube which I’ve downloaded on to DVD along with music by his cousins Mickey Gilley, Jerry Lee and Linda Gail (Jerry’s sister). Jimmy Swaggart is homophobic, anti-Communist, rightwing, a millionaire and some would say a hypocrite because of the sex scandal when he was caught with a prostitute. I still like his music – it is deeply relaxing and spiritual, and I love his voice and piano playing. Indeed the three male cousins and Jerry’s sister (plus her two daughters MaryAnn and Annie, and Jerry’s daughter Phoebe) all have amazing talents, which I have downloaded on to various DVDs as ‘The Lewis Family’.

I’ve been interested in the paranormal and Spiritualism/Survivalism for many decades, but even more so now. This is natural as we get older, and more and more of our relatives, friends and perhaps our partners pass over to the Other Side. If I don’t have more people over there than on this side of life, I soon will have. The list grows all the time, my partner who I shared 21 wonderful years with on Earth being the one I miss most, though he still keeps in touch. Only last week he told me, in writing, that I was doing the right thing regarding some old friends of ours when I asked him what his views were.

I keep abreast of afterlife matters as there is now so much research in various fields which is turning up more and more evidence, and I’m very interested in how all this ties in with the latest quantum physics theories.

I listened tonight to a DVD of the Lewis Family I’d compiled, and the last song was Jimmy Swaggart singing a beautiful version of ‘Leaving On My Mind’. It is about not being interested in the things of this world, because of getting ready to leave for the next. I don’t find this depressing at all, it is very natural. That doesn’t mean we’re going to commit suicide, or that we’re expecting to die tomorrow. I still have people who need me here, and may have a lot more years ahead of me, maybe as much as 20, 30, 40 or even more, who knows?

However long I have to live, I just can’t get up the enthusiasm I once had for many things here. The gay scene, the rockin’ scene, even Jerry Lee Lewis (my favorite singer who’s now in his 70s) though I’ll still buy his records. He’s still recording great albums, the last one got a gold record and hit 4 Billboard charts, his biggest selling album ever, and a new one is out soon. I’d go and see him if he was doing a show in or near London. But I wouldn’t follow him round the country as I once did, because he is getting older and doesn’t perform the kind of shows he used to, each one being different. Now they are much more predictable, though there are still a few surprises.

Then there are all my dreams and hopes for a better world, which have been dashed. I’ve worked for peace and Socialism much of my life in the peace movement, the Labour Party and the Communist Party. Yet we still have wars, we still have nuclear weapons, and Socialism is further away than ever. All people seem interested in nowadays is easy money/credit, buying houses, cars and the latest gadgets. It all seems so shallow. Council housing has almost disappeared, and council housing estates like the one I live on are becoming ethnic ghettoes.

Society is becoming more and more divided. In fact where I live, in Battersea, it is almost like apartheid South Africa or the Deep South in the USA in the days of segregation. Today I took my mother for a walk in her wheelchair, and on my way from my street to hers (5 minutes’ walk) I saw only ethnic people, we then walked thru a square where we are nearly always the only white people there, and sat in a little park, again the only white people there. All the State schools round here are over 90% ethnic. We are a minority in our own community, in our own country. Yet about half a mile away, across that little park and a main road, is millionaires’ row – the expensive luxury flats all along the River Thames. We walked along the riverside walk and had drinks in an upmarket bar, and barely saw any ethnic people.

It saddens me to see areas of my home city, and other cities, becoming ghettoes. It is not multiculturalism, it is ghettoes, let’s be honest about it. And with the ghettoes comes crime, which is increasing and making people feel unsafe. Gang warfare is rife on the streets of our cities, and police on foot nowhere to be seen. These ghettoes, and the crime which come with them, create racism. In a truly Socialist society ghettoes wouldn’t exist – you wouldn’t have white millionaires living separately from deprived ethnics and a few whites on council estates.  In a truly Socialist society everyone would be given a council home on reaching adulthood, and there’d be no millionaires. Black and white, all races, would be genuinely mixed in the population, and ghettoes would not be permitted to arise.

In the Civil Rights Movement in the Deep South during the 1960s they bussed schoolchildren to various schools so there was a mixture of black and white. Action needs to be taken now, not just with schools, but with whole areas, and certainly with council housing, so there is a genuine multicultural environment everywhere, not predominantly white and predominantly black areas. That is a recipe for crime, violence and racist strife.

Is it any wonder I’m tired of this world, and disillusioned? Nobody is striving for Socialism – it’s a dirty word. And the police can’t even keep law and order on our streets. Now alien cultures are taking over whole neighborhoods, creating these ghettoes. I am amazed whenever I leave London for towns outside or on the coast. I wonder what’s strange, and then suddenly realize – most of the people are white! I seldom see groups of white teenagers in London, certainly not in my area. Only when you get outside London do you realize white youths now dress as scally boys, and punks, Goths, Teddy boys, and all the other former white teenage tribes have disappeared.

So robbed of any hopes, in the near future, of building a Socialist utopia, and seeing whole areas of the London I knew being turned into little Jamaica or little India/Pakistan/China or whatever, at least I cling on to the hope that Barack Obama will kick-start the road to nuclear disarmament, the dream which I spent so much of my youth pursuing. At the very least I’d like to see nuclear weapons abolished before I die.

But what really excites me now is what I will discover once I have passed over to the Other Side. I know my partner and many other friends and relatives will be waiting for me. I hope I don’t have to come back here again, and that I can move on permanently to better things, better environments. Where people are not materialistic, but have learnt that we are all connected and must progress to higher and higher levels of spiritual development and unity.

What I hope for here is that internationalism wins over what we used to call petty bourgeois nationalism, so I’m all for a federal United States of Europe, which I hope the EU will become one day, and ultimately a world confederation with the UN General Assembly commanding an international police/peacekeeping force. I also hope for a revival of Socialism with pluralism in both the economic and political arenas, which to my mind means a Yugoslav-style Socialist economy and a multi-party democracy under a Socialist constitution. This seems a long way off, but it has to come about because capitalism depends on endless wars to survive.

People can accuse me of settling for ‘pie in the sky’ but that’s not really the case. We can’t have ‘pie’ here or on the Other Side until we’ve earnt it, and we have to build a fairer, peaceful world here, or at least try to, before we can hope to create one on the Other Side. Because all environments, here and in the next world, are created by us and by our actions here and now.

I’ve learnt many lessons during this lifetime, and now realize that the Soviet one-party model was not the way to achieve Socialism. It is now up to others to work out how to create a better, fairer world in the 21st Century. I have given my views extensively on this and my other website, and people are free to discuss and adopt any ideas which may be useful. I just hope I’ve done and learnt enough to be able to move on to more advanced worlds, as this one seems far too shallow and materialistic, and steeped in violence, for me to ever to want to come back here.

As Jimmy sung, I’ve got ‘Leaving On My Mind’, and leaving and not coming back. But not quite yet awhile I guess, though each of us should always live each day as though it is out last, because one day it will be, and nobody can foresee when that will be.

Perhaps I’m getting all misty eyed and sentimental, thinking about these things, because this week, 18 years ago, my partner was lying ill in this flat dying. The actual anniversary of his passing is next Tuesday, the 29th (Jerry Lee’s birthday). Also my aunt died recently, a friend who was only 51 also died earlier this year, and another friend has just gone into care, aged 75. There comes a time when so many friends and loved ones are on the Other Side, there really is nothing at all to keep us here. But as long as my mother is alive, bless her, this is not the case with me yet.

I just hope I will be permitted the time to continue to look after her for the rest of her life. She’s determined to make 100 (she’s 95 now), and a lady in her block is 106 next month and still going strong. If I live that long, that would be an incredible 42 years away, well over 41 years anyway as I’m 64 now. Quite honestly, I dread to think what the world will be like then. That thought is far more scary than passing over to the Other Side.

‘Mean Old Man’ – new Jerry Lee Lewis single!

 

Turning 74 the end of next month, Jerry Lee Lewis has just released a new single ‘Mean Old Man’, written by Kris Kristofferson who’s provided Jerry with #1 hits in the past. The single is available for download from ITunes and Amazon USA. It can also be heard on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e22vFxBcEvI

This is taken from his upcoming CD to be released hopefully later this year. His last CD ‘Last Man Standing’ released three years ago was his biggest selling album of all time, earning a gold disk for over half-a-million copies sold in USA alone, and hitting #1, #4, #8 and #26 spots the week of its release on four Billboard charts (Indie, Country, Rock, Pop).

There are high hopes for the new album, which is described as Country orientated. The new single does not feature Jerry’s piano and is best described as New Country.

On Another Planet

Not a blog about aliens, but about Jerry Lee Lewis, and how other popular music has passed me by as though I were living on Mars. Many people identify the past decades by the pop hits of the day, or the styles of music/fashions. So we have the rock’n’roll era, the Merseybeat era of the middle Sixties, the Flower Children/Hippie era of the late 1960s, the punk era, New Romantics, the Boy Bands, etc. I’m not an expert on most of these, because I completely missed most of them.

For me the decades are identified by Jerry Lee Lewis and HIS music. So we have the rock’n’roll era when his huge million sellers and popularity were about to knock Elvis off his throne, until the hoo-ha erupted over Jerry’s marriage to his young cousin, causing radio stations and TV in America to pull his records and live appearances off the air. He did, however, manage Top Thirty hits in the UK where the scandal over his marriage broke in 1958, ‘High School Confidential’ hitting #12 in the UK pop charts in 1959, ‘Loving Up a Storm’ made #28, then Jerry stormed back into the Top Ten at #10 with the 1961 hit ‘What’d I Say’.

A decade of playing mainly small clubs, with no big American hits, followed the 1958 fall from grace. In 1963 he left Sun Records of Memphis and signed with Smash-Mercury, and should have hit big with ‘I’m On Fire’ a brilliant single, but The Beatles had taken Britain and USA by storm, so denying Jerry another hit. But around this time he recorded some fantastic ‘live’ albums, which captured Jerry Lee at his wildest. ‘The Greatest Live Show On Earth’ recorded in Birmingham, Alabama and ‘Live At The Star-Club, Hamburg’ backed by the Nashville Teens. The latter album is probably the wildest rock’n’roll album ever recorded by anybody, and both have become classics.

Smash-Mercury experimented with various albums and different styles of music for Jerry in the 1960s. So apart from the live albums (more of which followed – Greatest Live Show On Earth Part II recorded in Fort Worth, Texas and an album recorded at The International Hotel, Las Vegas) they released the ‘Country Songs For City Folks’ and ‘Soul My Way’ albums, as well as the great rock’n’roll albums ‘Return of Rock’ and ‘Memphis Beat’. Some tracks on the more experimental albums featured  Jerry without his famous piano.

Although ‘Country Songs for City Folks’ didn’t provide a hit, they pointed to the direction Jerry would take two years later, and that album helped launch the career of Welsh Jerry Lee fan/singer, Tom Jones. After listening to the album, Jones recorded ‘Green Green Grass of Home’ and ‘Detroit City’, with arrangements very similar to Jerry’s versions of those songs on that album.

Then in 1968 Jerry recorded another Country album and the single ‘Another Place, Another Time’ hit the Country Top Ten, reaching #4 on the Billboard chart. His next single, ‘What’s Made Milwaukee Famous’, hit #1 on the Cashbox Country chart and #2 on Billboard, and the Top Ten hits continued thruout the 1970s and into the 1980s. During that time Jerry became one of the biggest Country Music artists. In 1969 Billboard voted him Country Music artist of the year, and Cashbox voted him male Country vocalist of the year.

His success was phenomenal. Four singles reached the Top Ten in 1968, including two which hit number 1 on either Cashbox or Billboard, but 1969 saw him hit the Top Ten with six singles, some recorded years before at Sun records who now released the tracks to cash in on his new found success. With both number 1 and Top Ten hits in each of the years 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971 and 1972, Jerry continued to have Top Ten Country hits right thru the 70s, his last one being ‘Thirtynine and Holding’ in 1981on Elektra, which reached #4 on the Billboard charts. After a short spell with MCA, Jerry had no regular recording label, along with many other older Country artists, so the hits dried up.

In 1971 and 1972 Jerry performed the amazing feat of achieving four #1 hits with two consecutive singles. Both sides of ‘Would You Take Another Chance On Me’/’Me & Bobby McGhee’ and the follow-up ‘Think About It Darling’/’Chantilly Lace’ reaching #1 spot. This also marked Jerry’s return to recording rock’n’roll, and ‘Chantilly Lace’ hit the UK Top 40. ‘Me & Bobby McGhee’ and ‘Chantilly Lace’ also hit Billboard’s Top 50  pop charts in the U.S.., as did ‘Drinkin’ Wine Spo-dee-o-dee’ in 1973.

The 1970s saw Jerry riding high in the Country charts, with no less than twentyfive Top Twenty hits, and more followed in the early 1980s. He made many TV appearances, and recorded ‘The Jerry Lee Lewis Show’ in 1971 with many guests, following the formula of ‘The Many Sounds of Jerry Lee’, a 5-part TV show made in 1969, featuring both rock’n’roll and Country. Unfortunately these TV shows got very limited airing, and were not screened outside North America.

So for me the 1950s was the decade Jerry rose to fame, and notoriety, and achieved many million-sellers. This was also the period of wild live shows, with Jerry dressed in brightly colored velvet or leopard-skin trimmed suits, and with long blond hair, or hair with blond highlights. All very outrageous and ahead of their time.

Jerry was also one of the first male pop stars to sport long hair, which can be seen hanging down round his face in British TV shows from 1964 such as the Granada TV spectacular and Ready, Steady, Go! However with so many British groups wearing their hair long, Jerry decided it was no longer cool and has worn it much shorter ever since.

The 1960s were the decade of wild, wild shows, culminating in Jerry’s return to the charts as a hit-making Country artist. The 1970s saw a return to rock’n’roll, with albums like ‘The Session’ recorded in London with guest musicians, and continued success in the Country charts. Also many tragedies in Jerry’s personal life, and an increased reliance on drugs, which produced some erratic behavior.

The 1980s saw Jerry nearly die when his stomach ruptured in 1981, but he recovered against all the odds and returned to the wild lifestyle. Two wives died in the 1980s, and he married for the sixth time. His appearances on stage in this decade usually saw him wearing shades to protect his eyes from the bright lights, no doubt as a result of the drugs he was taking. 1989 saw the release of the biopic ‘Great Balls of Fire’ based on Myra Gale’s book of the same title, starring Dennis Quaid playing Jerry Lee. Actually ‘biopic’ is a bit of misnomer since, after briefly covering his childhood, it only really concentrates on about two or three years of his life, up until his marriage to Myra. Dennis Quaid replaced the original intended star, Mickey Rourke who probably would have made a much better job of it. Everyone agrees Quaid overacted and turned Jerry into a goofy, two-dimensional, cartoon-like character. But Jerry recorded the soundtrack, re-recording many of his old hits and other titles, and did a brilliant job. The resulting soundtrack album included an extended version of ‘Great Balls of Fire’ with an extra piano solo building up to a great climax. Jerry often plays this exciting ‘movie’ version of his big hit in live performances.

Then in the early 1990s Jerry suddenly put on a lot of weight. A new album was released, in CD format, ‘Young Blood’, and a rock’n’roll single complete with video ‘Goosebumps’. These made no impact on the charts, and were rather badly produced, although with re-mastering they would be fine.

In the first decade of the 21st century his marriage to Kerrie finally broke up, and Jerry had his biggest selling album ever with ‘Last Man Standing’ featuring duets with the likes of Rod Stewart, Ringo Starr, three of the Rolling Stones and many Country and Blues artists including Kris Kristofferson, George Jones, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and Buddy Guy. The album sold over half-a-million copies in the United States and was awarded a gold disk. The album shot straight into 4 Billboard charts the week of its release in September 2006, hitting #1 Indie, #4 Country, #8 Rock and #26 Pop, indicating the wide variety of musical styles on the album.

Jerry has now put down over 30 tracks for a new album to be released possibly later this year.

So I identify the decades by Jerry Lee’s career – 1960s being the decade he left Sun for Smash-Mercury, and the following decade being when he left Mercury Records for Elektra. 1980s when he left Elektra for MCA, then was without a regular record label. 1990s saw the Sire release of ‘Young Blood’, and the 00s saw the Artists First hit album of duets and Jerry appearing on all the big U.S. chat shows.

So the various eras of popular music have completely passed me by. I know little or nothing about New Romantics, GlamRock, punk, rap, hip-hop, disco, grunge rock, boy bands, and the rest. I am more familiar with the old rock’n’roll artists of the 1950s like Little Richard, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry (all still alive and kicking), and traditional Country stars like George Jones, Merle Haggard, Tammy Wynette, Hank Williams, etc.

I briefly got into some early New Country in the 1990s and discovered artists like Randy Travis, Alan Jackson, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Patti Loveless, The Mavericks, Vince Gill, etc., but now New Country has just become too pop orientated. It is summed up by the George Strait/Alan Jackson recording ‘Murder On Music Row’ which describes how traditional Country Music was killed off by the Nashville music industry in order to win worldwide fans and big bucks.

In actual fact, it was Jerry Lee’s cousin, top Country hit-maker Mickey Gilley (with 17 #1 hits to his name) who opened the door to New Country when John Travolta starred in the ‘Urban Cowboy’ movie filmed at Gilley’s club in Pasadena, Houston, Texas. Dressing in cowboy clothes and riding the mechanical bull became a worldwide craze, and the film itself included much music which could in no way be described as traditional Country. New Country then followed close on the heels of the movie, with the only Country and Western thing about much of the music and its stars being that they wore cowboy hats. Older, more traditional Country stars were largely denied record labels let alone hits. To get a recording contract you had to be young, good looking and look cute in a cowboy hat. Now Nashville’s output is just a dirge of middle-of-the-road pop.

But older artists like Jerry Lee are still out there performing and recording, and with the astounding success of ‘Last Man Standing’, which also produced a DVD/TV program called ‘Last Man Standing Live’ including duets with Tom Jones, Nora Jones, Solomon Burke, John Fogerty (Creedance Clearwater Revival vocalist) and some of the artists on the duets album, the first decade of the 21st Century has marked Jerry’s new-found success and third era of chart hits in America, and his first gold record for many decades.

Dave Woodland’s 50th Birthday Party

Tales From The Woods presented Dave Woodland’s 50th birthday bash at the Inn on the Green, Ladbroke Grove last nite (April 4th), and it was a great occasion with a good atmosphere, and some splendid, first-class entertainment. So good was it that people from the public bar were allowed to swarm in during the final numbers, and enjoy the talent of the TFTW House Band, Dave Sampson and Danny Rivers.

The Inn on the Green has acquired a new video screen which replaces the cumbersome wooden contraption housing the DVD player/projector, and the pull-down screen. Only problem was when, due to poor lighting behind the screen, I couldn’t locate the switches or the leads properly, and at one point dropped Brian ‘Bunter’s excellent compilation DVD into the machine itself, instead of into the groove in the drawer due to my tilting the machine upwards to get more light. But I got the DVD out, and the guv’nor got the lead sorted. The DVD had excellent footage of Jerry Lee, Chuck Berry, The Platters, The Coasters, etc. to entertain us before and in between sets.

Dave was of course there with his sister and some workmates, and there was a good turnout of Woodies including Darren and his parents, Nick Cobban (an amazing 63 years old, yet looks about 43 – I asked if he had a picture of an old man in his attic!), Ken Major, Brian Jessup, Bill Haines, Dave Carrol, Alan Lloyd, etc. plus some I didn’t know, or only knew by sight. Nice to meet and chat to Andy, who I’d seen at 100 Club gigs etc., but never really talked to before.

There was a buffet, which sadly disappeared before the birthday boy got a chance to get any, but he had a great time anyway and wasn’t bothered.

The music was excellent. I must have seen Dave Sampson before at the 2I’s reunions, but this was a full set, whereas there are so many artists at the 100 Club reunions that I didn’t remember him. I was amazed at how good he is, and backed by the excellent TFTW House Band he rocked thru Larry Williams numbers like the inappropriately named ‘Slow Down’ and ‘Bony Maronie’, some Chuck Berry – in fact a bit of everything. I was particularly impressed by Dave’s rendition of the Elvis ballad ‘Love Me’, and later on we were treated to Danny Rivers and Dave Sampson on stage singing together.

Danny also did two short sets, including ‘Little Sister’, and an incredible ‘It’s Only Make Believe’ which would have done Conway Twitty proud. Both these singers have very powerful voices.

A great evening, which even had the security guy dancing, and the original Woody (Keith of course), and your’s truly had a bop, then a woman wandered in from the public bar and tried to jive but I have never learnt to do this, and frankly she was in no fit state to teach me, so she wandered off again!

Great party Dave, and great music the other Dave, and Danny, and the guest musicians.

We should have more birthday parties like this. Which Woody will be the first to celebrate their 100th birthday rockin’ at the Inn on the Green I wonder? A splendid venue, by the way, now fitted with a chairlift for the disabled (or elderly Woodies) situated under the Westway. The imaginative way the space under this motorway has been used in this part of London just shows what can be done. You certainly don’t hear the trucks and cars passing a few feet over your heads when the TFTW bands/artists are playing.