Jerry Lewis

The Jerry Lewis Talking, Singing, Movie-Playing Printer

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As soon as word got out that Jerry Lewis had passed away on August 20th, social media exploded with the news and dominating the story were condolences by the who’s who in Hollywood as well as the entertainment industry as a whole. I was moved to see so many famous actors, producers, directors, writers, dignitaries etc. expressing their condolences and acknowledging the talent & innovations Jerry Lewis brought to the entertainment industry. While I’m not a celebrity, I do have a unique story and connection with Jerry Lewis.

I am definitely a fan of Jerry Lewis, for 46 years and counting. I have watched every movie he has released (I own most of them), I’ve never missed a Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon since watching my first at 5 years old (it became a tradition in our house growing up and one I continued until the end of the telethon) and I have nothing but respect for his contributions to the entertainment industry and his philanthropic endeavors.

One evening after a long day of work in 2006 (I was working for Hewlett-Packard at that time), I flipped on the TV, picked up the Wall Street Journal and sat down to relax. Jerry Lewis’s original 1963 film The Nutty Professor happened to be on TV at the time. As I went back and forth from the TV to the newspaper, an article in the Wall Street Journal caught my attention. The article talked about the developing decline of consumer printing and the financial impact that could have on the industry. My attention went to back to the TV and The Nutty Professor. I started laughing out load in the scene where Professor Kelp (played by Jerry Lewis) walks into class completely hung over as a result of his alter-ego character Buddy Love having gone out for a night of drinks at the Purple Pit the night before. All of a sudden I had an epiphany – make the printers funny, give people a reason to interact with them and people will print more. I immediately set out to define and create this new experience in consumer printing.

The code-name for the project was  “Charisma – Printers with Personality”. The idea behind it was to transform the printer from a “means to an end” (that device that sat on a shelf and was used just to print something) to an emotional experience. In other words, if people were emotionally driven to print (they get something more than just a piece of paper out of the printing experience), they will surely print more.

Since the idea came to me while watching Jerry Lewis, I thought it only fitting the prototype should be created featuring the King of Comedy himself. This new series of printers would include co-branded printers & supplies and had to do things no other printers could do. It had to inform, entertain and above all be experiential. The first thing on my list was to replace all traditional “alert” sounds with Jerry Lewis speaking to you. In other words, when the printer was turned on, Jerry Lewis greeted you by name. When you changed settings, Jerry would ask you if you were sure you wanted to save those changes. When you were low on ink or paper, Jerry would tell you and even offer you the chance to order them right from your printer.

The printer also automatically printed the Jerry Lewis monthly newsletter, notifications of any upcoming Jerry Lewis related events/screenings in the users geographic area (part of the registration process included being able to customize the types & frequency of various marketing materials to keep the owners up to date on the latest Jerry Lewis happenings) as well as Jerry Lewis hand-picked photographs.

Through a subscription service, consumers would also be able to purchase voice-packs (new versions of Jerry Lewis speaking alerts to keep the printers fresh), get access to exclusive video clips and even rent Jerry Lewis movies which could be watched on other devices. Yet another feature of this printer is that it could play video trailers of all Jerry Lewis movies and be able to play special exclusive comedy skits Jerry Lewis would record just for owners of these printers.

Once the working prototype was built, I reached out to Jerry Lewis via mail to introduce the idea to him. At 10:50am on January  30th 2007, while driving from San Diego to Las Vegas, my phone rings and the voice on the other end says “Hi John, this is Jerry Lewis”. After a 15 minute call, we had arranged for me to meet him at his Las Vegas office and show him the goods. Needless to say, I was very surprised. At best, I was expecting a letter or phone call from his people and an uphill battle before I would ever get the product in front of Jerry himself.

A few weeks later, I arrived at “Jerry Lewis Pictures, Inc”. As I walked up to the front door, I saw Jerry Lewis, his long-time assistant Penny Rice, Stu Silver (writer, producer, “Soap”, “Throw Mama from the Train”) and comedian Max Alexander all standing outside with the door open. As I approached , Jerry says “The goddamn door mat is too thick, shave it down”. It turns out he had a new door mat made and they discovered it didn’t quite fit. Jerry commences with casual introductions and then says to me “come on in, can I get you an orange Crush”? I said “I’ll have what your having” and he laughed. I followed him down the hall to his office in pure amazement – I couldn’t believe I was actually meeting Jerry Lewis and that I was in his office. But, there I was.

After maybe 15-20 minutes of just causal conversation with Jerry, I asked him if he’d like to see his printer. He said yes with the excitement of a 9 year-old and he cleared some space on his desk for me to set up the “Jerry Lewis” printer. Ironically enough, it was right next to his red IBM typewriter which he told me he had written The Nutty Professor and numerous other films on. Speaking of surreal! The first thing Jerry noticed was the box the printer was in had his pictures on it and his name was big and bold. He loved it! I then took the printer out of the box to set it down on his desk and I’ll never forget the pure excitement he had when he saw how the printer was decked out “Jerry Lewis” style (see pic inset). Jerry said to me “this was designed by a real fan”, to which I replied “Yes, it was”. After the printer was plugged in I asked Jerry if he wanted to do the honors of turning it on. He said “yes” in his 9 year-old, silly voice and proceeded to tap the power button. The printer lit up and Jerry’s voice came from the printer and said “Laaaady”. Jerry, Max and Stu all broke out in applause and Jerry was like a kid a Christmas who just opened the toy he had been dreaming of. I will never forget that moment.

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As Jerry pushed other buttons, his voice would play saying different things. I had him press the “print” button and the first Jerry newsletter printed out (illustrating the marketing communication features) . I had him lift the lid to see the ink cartridges and when he did, he got even more excited when he saw each ink cartridge has his picture on it. I had Jerry push the menu button and helped him navigate to a selection of some of his movie tailors which he could watch on the printer. Keep in mind, every function/action of the printer would yield a Jerry Lewis sound byte. Each and every time, Jerry would laugh and point to the printer. He then turned to me said “print something else”. I turned to him and said “That is exactly the point”. Jerry looked me right in the eye and said “You’re goddamn right”. I was very impressed because Jerry understood the value proposition from a business perspective, not just from an ego perspective.

I then showed him the Jerry Lewis branded supplies as they would be packaged for retail (see pic inset). He loved it all, the Jerry Lewis photo paper, the Jerry Lewis ink cartridges etc. But he especially loved the printer itself. I asked him if you would like to sign the prototype to which he replied “I’d be honored”. After he signed it, he looked at the graphic of his signature already on the printer and said “Hey, that looks pretty good!”.

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After we talked business, Jerry had Penny bring me a handful of Jerry Lewis collection DVD’s, an audio CD “Jerry Lewis Phony Phone Calls” and a nice big red Jerry Lewis shopping bag to put it all in. He then sat me down and presented me with a binder from “Jerry Lewis Pictures” entitled “Closed Circuit Television Applied to Motion Pictures (video assist for film)”. As he opened it up, he explained to me his invention that changed the motion picture industry forever. The binder was full of pictures, technical write-ups etc all related to the video assist. Having spent time working in the TV industry years back and having read so many articles about Jerry Lewis over the years, I was not only already aware of this invention but I was nothing short of honored that Jerry Lewis himself was giving me this particular binder right from his desk. I truly believe he gave this to me knowing just how much I would appreciate it and respect it.

As we wrapped up our first meeting, Jerry and I got our picture taken together. As I approached him behind his desk on his left side, he started to scoot me to his right side saying “Dean always stood to my right, stand to my right”. I couldn’t have felt more honored than I did at that moment.  What a way to end the first meeting with the Hollywood legend.

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In the end, Charisma never materialized. The recession was starting to hit at that time and HP rightly decided not to move the project forward. To this day, the only Jerry Lewis Printer in existence sits on my desk alongside the Jerry Lewis Supplies and a host of Jerry Lewis memorabilia.

Even though Jerry Lewis has passed away, I’ll continue to watch his movies as I have done over and over for 46 years. And every time I see behind the scenes pictures of movie/tv shows, I’ll always think of how it was his “video assist” that made it all possible. I will always be entertained by Jerry Lewis.

Most of all, I’m grateful I was able make him smile.

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Analysis, Music

Music Critic gets his balls busted for KISS review.

Music Critic Tony Bennett gets his balls busted for KISS review, and it’s not pretty.

KISS 40th Anniversary World Tour

PERTH, AUSTRALIA – OCTOBER 03: Gene Simmons, Eric Singer, Tommy Thayer and Paul Stanley of KISS, perform during their opening show for the Australian leg of their 40th anniversary world tour at Perth Arena on October 3, 2015 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

I have total respect for the profession known as “Music Critic” and though I may not always agree with their reviews, I always appreciate their perspective…assuming, of course, they have done their job professionally, accurately and objectively.  It’s perfectly acceptable for a critic to not like a band, an individual artist, a song or even an outfit. However, that does not give that critic a license to kill. Each and every critic has a fiduciary duty to as accurately and objectionably as possible inform the public. Their opinions are absolutely acceptable and wanted, as long as they are defined as such and not written as facts and with malice.

A review of the Wednesday night KISS concert in Duluth, MN by Tony Bennett for the Duluth News Tribune unequivocally reflects one of the most unprofessional, inappropriate, antagonistic and blatantly biased reviews I have ever read. Mr. Bennett clearly demonstrated in his “review” that he is not fit to be called a professional. His review read more like the rantings of a pissed off high school student than that of an educated, respectable journalism professional.

His review opens with the line “It’s extremely uncool to like KISS…and if we’re being honest, the hate is pretty justified”.  As a matter of reference, KISS is in the middle of doing 36 shows this summer across the United States in the span of 8 weeks – that’s basically a concert every other night for two months straight (yes, the band is off for Gene’s birthday August 25th). This tour marks their 43rd year selling out concert halls. Query: Mr. Bennett, did you get on the PA at the concert that night and tell the thousands that paid good money to see KISS that they are “uncool”? Did you then tell them you hated KISS and that they should too? Of course not, you waited until after the concert to litter your trash across the internet from the relative safety of your computer. That makes you a coward, plain and simple.

I find it mind-boggling how Bennett translates “uncool” to “hate”. This behavior is obviously demonstrative of someone with a severely skewed perception of reality and a very altered understanding of the most rudimentary of human psychology.

 

Let’s look at some of the other things Mr. Bennett had to say….

“…since the late 70’s, they’ve mostly trafficked in lecherous, brain-dead glam metal”. Query: Mr. Bennett, are you calling your readers that attended the concert “brain-dead”? If not, perhaps you could attend a few grammar courses and learn to more accurately, professionally and in a non-offending way, convey to your readers a clearer, complete thought.

“…the “good stuff” – is often subpar (have you listened to, say, “Great Expectations” recently?” Comment: Mr. Bennett, you start your review off by telling your viewers you hate KISS. With that in mind, your “subpar” comment is completely void of validity because you clearly can’t be objective. As for “Great Expectations”, you clearly had none and you were going to be sure KISS wasn’t going to deliver (at least in your own, biased & unprofessional mind).

“When you’re watching KISS, you don’t think about the times Simmons has made a fool out of himself.” Query: Mr. Bennett, you do realize that the idea of a concert is the to enjoy the concert experience and not the extracurricular activities of the individual artists correct? Do you want people to think about the times you have masturbated while they read your reviews? If not, then what purpose could your statement serve? There is absolutely no relevance to the job at hand (no pun intended).

“…with simple rock songs holding it all together.” Comment: Mr. Bennett, I will accept this comment when you put on 40-50 pounds of gear, run around a stage for 2 hours constantly surrounded by intense heat from pyrotechnics, interact with 6,000 fans and all the while singing and playing guitar. You are once again showing complete disregard for your profession and an undeniable lack of respect for musicians. Yet, you are a “music critic”. Ironic.

“After an opening set by painfully boring American Idol person Caleb Johnson…” Comment: Mr. Bennett, what exactly is “painfully boring”? You obviously have a bone to pick, a chip on your shoulder, a lack of respect for others, a gross misinterpretation of your job and above all absolutely no understanding of what it means to be a journalist. I would venture to guess you actually hate your job, at least based on what I have read.

“Stanley…screeching out goofy intros to many songs in a bizarre Edith Bunker voice (How’s it sound out d’ere?)” Query: Mr. Bennett, does your employer offer any sensitivity training? You do realize Paul has a geo-accent like everyone else correct? You probably have one, as does your mother. Is making fun of his accent something your employer approves? Do you make fun of your readers accents? How do your readers feel about that? I think you are grasping at straws – your personal hatred for KISS is clearly inhibiting your ability to do your job.

“…and thanking Duluth for putting the band in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (which, uh, could be disputed).” Comment: Mr. Bennett, I’ll chip in and help you here. There is this thing called a KISS Army – it’s made up of fans all over the world who take to social media, snail-mail, etc. and show support KISS. Without a doubt, some of the fine people of Duluth directly reached out in support of KISS being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (not to mention supporting KISS over the years buying records, merchandise etc).

“After the fake Criss sang Criss’ hit song “Beth”” Comment: Mr. Bennett, you talk about Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer as “fake” because they wear the iconic makeup and costumes of the two previous original members (Peter Criss and Ace Frehley, respectively). Would you tell your children on a trip to Disney World that Mickey is “fake”? What about Mini Mouse…is she “fake”? KISS has never claimed Eric was Peter nor that Tommy was Ace. Bandmates may have changed but at no time was there any attempt to deceive the fans. You are once again using your media to spout out things that are simply not true. Again – VERY unprofessional.

“…but he didn’t play with the same feel as his predecessor”. Comment: Mr. Bennett, you do realize that two different people will do the same activity differently correct? After all, these musicians are humans, not robots. Query: Do you actually expect two different musicians to play the exact same way? How did you ever get a job as a music critic? You CLEARLY are not qualified for the job.

” The band, seemingly, now exists solely as a capitalistic money-farming machine” Query: Mr. Bennett, if millions of people all over the world want to continue to pay hard-earned money to experience a KISS concert, buy KISS merchandise and in general want to be KISS’ed, doesn’t business 101 & supply & demand clearly dictate the appropriate path? Should Disney World close down in your mind? Maybe even the Duluth News Tribune should close up shop – but wait – wouldn’t that mean you would loose your job? You, Mr. Bennett, are ignorant.

“Stanley often altered melody lines to accommodate his 64-year old voice”. Comment: Mr. Bennett, does your mother walk as fast today as she did when she was younger? Do you run as fast today as you did when you were 15? How in the world can you justify such a comment when millions of people all over the world are still happy to fork over their hard-earned money to hear Paul sing? You, once again, are illustrating your ignorance by grasping at straws in your feeble attempt of a review.

Even though I am a KISS fan, every point I have made is 100% valid. I show no bias, take no liberties, make no false assumptions and clearly illustrate my thoughts. Music is subjective. However, within subjectivity lies accountability.

It is my personal opinion that Tom Bennett should turn in his resignation, rethink if this profession is well suited for him, and if he thinks it is, go back to school and learn how to do it right (professionally).

Additionally, the editor in Chief either didn’t read this review prior to publication or he/she is equally incompetent, inept and undoubtedly not worthy of his/her position within the Duluth News Tribune. This total and complete lack of professionalism is surely not what the subscribers and readers of the Duluth News Tribune signed up for, or deserve.

Lastly, at the end of the day, I can’t help but wonder who has more money in the bank – KISS or Music Critic Tony Bennett. Actually, I don’t really wonder, it’s blatantly obvious. KISS wins, again!

–John J. Simpson
twitter: @johnjsimpson
email: john AT johnjsimpson.com

Link to Tony Bennett review: http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/features/ae/4087760-concert-review-kiss-show-electrifies-senses

I found an email address for Mr. Bennett on the Duluth News Tribune website. Feel free to email him and let him know how you think he is doing. Tonybennettreviews@Gmail.Com

Twitter for Duluth News Tribune: @duluthnews

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Music

“KISS ROCKS VEGAS” Rocked the World!

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I was just one of millions of fans all over the world who not only couldn’t wait to see the “KISS ROCKS VEGAS” movie, I couldn’t wait to EXPERIENC it. Because, as we all know, everything KISS does they do larger than life, in your face, loud & proud, and bigger & better than anyone else ever has, or ever will. KISS, for 43 years and counting, is bar none “The Hottest Band in World”.

“KISS ROCKS VEGAS” was filmed in Las Vegas during the bands 9-show residency at The Joint inside the Hard Rock Casino in November of 2014. As someone who was there when the band landed in the parking lot of the casino in a helicopter on opening night through the last fans chanting “WE WANT KISS, WE WANT KISS!” when the band left the stage after the last show, I can tell you “KISS ROCKS VEGAS” was as close to being there as you can get. It was the ultimate way to re-live the best concert I had ever seen.

The amount of work and the number of people it took to pull of such a concert event is mindboggling. As each band-member points out during the interview segment of the movie, trying to bring in a stadium-sized stage and show into an intimate venue would be a huge undertaking, if at all even possible. Yet, in true KISS fashion, they not only did it, they blew away their own expectations. They hired the best set designers & builders, recruited the best light designers, sought out the best audio engineers, utilized the latest cutting-edge technology, planned, rehearsed and with great fanfare met their goal to do the impossible, yet again.

While it’s common to have fans getting out of their seats screaming, playing air-guitar/drums, singing, clapping, chanting & applauding at a concert venue, it’s doesn’t happen in a movie theater…unless KISS is involved.  On May 25th, 2016 all that and more was happening in theaters all over the world. It is truly a KISS world!

“KISS ROCKS VEGAS” starts with a series of KISS factoids flashed on the screen, followed by an interview segment with each of the band members, then goes into the actual concert. During the interview segment, Gene, Paul, Tommy & Eric each discuss the challenges involved in this huge undertaking as well as tell some personal stories. The audience feels very connected to each member and this section really sets the tone for what was about to come.

The concert was nothing shy of magnificent. It was everything you’d expect from a KISS performance and so much more. I can’t understand how for 43 years and counting a band can continue to out-do themselves at every turn but this is obviously standard operating procedure for KISS. Each member relentlessly gives 110% to be sure the fans are happy. Unlike so many other bands, KISS empathizes with the fans and realizes they spend their hard-earned money to see the best rock and roll show on the planet and they each feel a sense of responsibility to deliver that – and they do. It’s not just personal experience for the fans, it’s a personal journey for the band.

“KISS ROCKS VEGAS” is another chapter in KISStory. And like every chapter so far, it exceeds all expectations, peaks all of the senses, and reminds you that the next chapter will be even better.

KISS – The Hottest Band in the World.

#KISSROCKSVEGAS

Special thanks to: Shannon T Simmons & Sara Tweed-Stafford

 

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Music

Review: “Octobersong” album by Aaron Hendra

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“Octobersong” is the debut solo album of Aaron Hendra, an Australian-born songwriter, singer and guitarist currently based in Dallas. I came across this artist purely by

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Tiffany & Aaron Hendra

happenstance. While tweeting with co-stars of Bravo TV’s up-coming “Real Housewives of Dallas” (premiering Monday April 11th, 2016), I discovered that cast member Tiffany Hendra was married to Aaron
and when I heard he had a solo album out I wanted to give it a listen. Without hesitation, I went to iTunes and purchased “Octobersong”.

Initial Impression:
In my traditional fashion, I sat down in my “man-cave”, put my iPhone in DND-mode and dimmed the lights so I could listen to the album start-to-finish with my undivided attention. Before I knew it, I had been taken on a delightful journey that ended way to soon. In other words, Aaron Hendra & his “Octobersong” did what relatively few can do, impress me enough that I immediately add them to my very short list of artists on my iPhone (a sacred place in which very few reside).

A Deeper Dive:
When I first started to write this review, I found myself describing in great detail the aspects of each and every song. I quickly realized I was being redundant due to so many awesome similarities in the songs. Therefore, I have tried to be a little more concise while still elaborating on the highlights. With that said….

Each song on this album truly holds it’s own. It’s very clear the objective when creating this album was to write/record a set of songs that each told a unique story yet collectively had a bigger message. And while that message may very listener-dependant, it structurally is based on the human condition. This album is very emotional, accurately drawing parallels to the ups & downs in life. What I especially love about this album is that I think everyone can relate to it in their own way. The lyrical phrases may or may not be a direct likeness to what you may be going through but the choice of words are so well suited that we can all see what we need to see.

A great example is in “One Man’s War”. The song starts with a two-acoustic guitar phrasing piece which immediately relaxes the listener. After a few bars the mood is slightly elevated when another guitar and bass very delicately find their way into the song. And just as you relax again, Aaron comes in singing “In this battlefield, God please be my guide”. This can apply to so many different situations and yet so purposefully the sound of his voice makes you feel like it will all be ok. The true magic moment in this song for me is when the Children of Shekinah Children’s Village are featured in the climax of the song singing “Lift your voice sing hallelujah”. The song stood it’s ground long before this part came in. But, when you hear those kids sing that phrase it matters not what your particular “war” is, they clearly send you the message that it will all be ok.

Aaron’s use of David Campbell, a master of the orchestra – conducting and arranging, and the LA Philharmonic are yet another example of how, in my mind, Aaron set out to create an album of great songs without a recipe, without boundaries and without sacrificing his objectives. Aaron obviously looked for, and got, whatever it took to make each song the best it could be.

Every word & every note of each song on this album is very specific. Each serving a purpose and ultimately serving the song and especially the listener. It’s not often an album contains so many attributes from the first note of the first song through the last note of the last song – “Octobersong” clearly does. The album personifies passion, meaning, definition, clarity and quite frankly does this all so well I just realized I’m on the 4th loop of the album. And that’s EXACTLY what I want an album to do.

Technical Impression:
I’m a sucker for dynamics, spatial characteristics, palatable instrumentation that enhances the phrasing and am overall a huge fan of musical exploration when it serves the song. This album is a great example of all of the above.

Aaron’s voice is quite unique, strong and sustainable in dynamic escapades and the engineers use of chosen gear only accentuates these attributes. What comes to mind is an AKG C-12 into an outboard Neve input module utilizing a Urei 1176LN peak limiter direct to the 2″. If you know audio, you’ll know what I mean and likely agree.

I’ve always said no one can harmonize with an artist like the artist him/her self. Other artists certainly enhance the movements but when the lead singer is passionately singing a song he believes in and also wrote, no one else can come close to truly capturing the moment and taking the listener on that special journey. That kind of performance can only come from the one most impacted/driven by the song. In this case, that is Aaron who once again stepped up to the plate for the grand slam.

I would be remiss if I didn’t state one of the best ways to know if a singer can actually sing is to listen for sections with little instrumentation and is dominated by the vocalist – especially when the engineer cuts way back on the reverb/echo type effects. Yep, you guessed it – Aaron passed this test with an A+.

Aaron’s guitar sounds couldn’t be more eloquently serving. There is a true art to getting that perfect guitar sound for each song and even each section within a song. This album delivers that from start to finish.

I also love a great sounding acoustic drum set and hats off to the engineer on this one too. Gigi sounds like he plays hard yet has a natural ability to temper his attacks in a very controlled yet natural manor. The kick drum is especially delightful and the engineers use of light limiting allowed the fancy dynamic footwork of Gigi to shine with great sophistication. And the symbols – impeccable.  I would also liken the sound to the C-12’s for overhead L+R.

Let’s not leave out the the Bass Guitar – I absolutely LOVE the way the bass builds off the drums in transitions and creates its own pulses that collectively are genius! The bass guitar is usually underrated and quite frankly usually exists to provide some bottom end and normalcy. However, the bass can be so much more and on this album it illustrates just how sonically serving it is when done right.

My favorite song?
On this album, I have 11 favorite songs. If you want me to pick just one, I respectfully decline.

— John J. Simpson
twitter: @johnjsimpson

Purchase “Octobersong” here via iTunes

Album info:
All songs written by Aaron Hendra
Bass :: Paul Bushnell :: Marcus Brown :: Dorian Heartsong
Piano and keyboards :: Rami Jaffee :: Jamie Mahoberac :: Marcus Brown
Background vocals on ‘The Reason’ :: Matt Jones
Background vocals on ‘One Mans War’ :: Matt Jones :: Gigi Gonaway :: EG Daily
Pedal Steel :: Jay Leach
Live strings performed by (24 piece orchestra) members LA Philharmonic
Strings Recorded by Allen Sides at Cello Studios, Hollywood
Strings Arranged & conducted by David Campbell*
Percussion on ‘One Mans War’  by Brian Kilgore
Choir on ‘One Mans War’ :: Special thanks to the children of the World Mission Shekinah Fellowship orphanage in Nimule, Sudan and the children of the Buziga Hill Primary school, Kampala, Uganda.

*David Campbell also wrote the arrangements for, & conducted, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra for the KISS SYMPHONY: ALIVE IV live concert and subsequent CD/DVD releases in 2003.

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Music

Rock and Roll All Nite: The Quintessential Anthem by KISS Turns 40

(AP Photo/dpa,Britta Pedersen)

(AP Photo/dpa,Britta Pedersen)

What is an anthem? Merriam-Webster says it’s “a formal song of loyalty, praise, or happiness”. While that definition properly suits most cases, when it comes to the Rock and Roll Anthem, aka “Rock and Roll All Nite” (by the Hottest Band in the World, KISS), that definition falls very short.

40 years ago, 4 guys wearing 8″ platforms and more makeup than your mother (credit to Gene Simmons for that phrase) were in New York City working on their 3rd album (Dressed to Kill) and it was suggested they write an anthem for the very genre they quickly came to redefine and dominate, Rock and Roll. The idea was to create a song that would in and of itself represent all that the music stood for. In other words, if you had to sum up what Rock and Roll was all about, listening to this song would do the trick. Gene Simmons & Paul Stanley got together and did just that. The year was 1975.

40 years later, “Rock and Roll All Nite” has endured as THE Rock and Roll anthem. It was initially released on April 2nd 1975 via Casablanca records and was produced by Neil Bogart and KISS. The song was originally recorded by Gene SimmonsPaul StanleyAce Frehley and Peter Criss.  KISS has recorded several versions of the song (1 studio, many live) which have appeared on 18 KISS albums/DVD’s and the song was most recently featured in the “Scooby-Doo! and Kiss: Rock and Roll Mystery” movie (released July 10, 2015). In 2008 it was named the 16th greatest hard rock song of all time by VH1.

What makes a great song and what makes a great anthem are two different things. However, you can’t have the latter without the former. A great song has a melody you can’t get out of your head, lyrics that resonate with the listener, a beat you find yourself moving to and that magical something that can instantly turn a bad mood into a great one the moment the song starts playing. A great anthem is all of that yet so much more. An anthem is somewhat like a corporate mission statement. It doesn’t represent just an idea, it represents and defines a path for an entire philosophy. “Rock and Roll All Nite” clearly not only meets that objective, it eclipses it.

There are numerous songs that are considered staples in Rock and Roll. However, when you ask virtually anyone on the planet which one song best represents what Rock and Roll is all about they will undoubtedly say “Rock and Roll All Nite by KISS“. Simply stated, there is no other song that properly epitomizes or even closely exemplifies what Rock and Roll is all about. The genius of “Rock and Roll All Nite” is that the message is clearly yet succinctly stated (lyrics) and the vehicle by which that message is delivered (KISS) is truly larger than life. These two distinct properties coalesced resulting in a newly-defined perpetual masterpiece. It would become KISS‘s magnum opus.

For  Gene Simmons   and Paul Stanley, the song’s title was an obvious one “Rock and Roll All Nite”.  It summed up exactly what they were all about – being the band they always wanted to see (credit to Paul Stanley for that phrase).

The second lyrical phrase in the chorus “and party every day” is a brilliant phrase not just because the statement naturally expands the predecessors message and not just because those that “party” in the traditional sense can relate to it, but because anyone can relate to it. “Party every day” means different things to different people – but the very nature of the phrase in this context is about continuing the journey experienced during the concert throughout the next day. In other words, the excitement doesn’t have to stop at the end of the night. You can embrace it as part of your daily life.

While the lyrics can be interpreted many ways, the song is about a movement, a state of mind, a way of life and a celebration of all of the above. As for the music itself, it is beautifully  simplistic in structure (rooted to the 1, 4, 5-7) yet is brilliantly accented and carried with a rolling bass line throughout that completely supports and compliments the melodic structure of the lead vocals (bass guitar and lead vocals by  Gene Simmons).

The chorus of any great anthem represents the very foundation of your soul. It’s the icing on the cake (Gene  loves sweets so I wanted to throw that in there just for him). “I wanna Rock and Roll all nite, and party every day”. So simple, yet so right.

“Rock and Roll all Nite” is the song every  KISS  fan can’t wait to hear live. It’s usually the last song of the show and therefore it’s a bitter-sweet experience. However, the song is so powerful and the energy and heart KISS  puts into playing it live make every audience feel like they are a part of the concert – as if the audience was on stage performing it with KISS. 64,000 people nightly are singing along, playing air-guitars and drums, clapping, screaming, cheering and are one with the hottest band in the world.

In sporting events, the National Anthem is performed at the beginning of the event which gets the audience and both teams excited and pumped up for what is yet to come. With one team usually winning a game, playing the National Anthem at the end of the event when 1/2 of the audience just had their team lose the game would not be nearly as exciting or effective. It simply wouldn’t work. Conversely, every audience member at a KISS concert is first treated to the ultimate two-hour Rock and Roll show and therefore when KISS plays “Rock and Roll All Nite” as the encore, every single person in attendance is celebrating as they have ALL just won the Super Bowl of Rock. There are no losers at a KISS concert.

And, when KISS  finishes “Rock and Roll All Nite” & thus the concert, each member of the audience is probably as tired and yet equally as energized as the 4 guys on stage who just spent two hours giving them everything they had (not to mention doing this while running around a huge stage blasted with hot lights, fog, explosions, fireworks and all while wearing 30-50 pounds of costumes/gear). This is the essence of why KISS  and their “Rock and Roll All Nite” anthem have endured and why KISS  will live on long after Gene and Paul  stop performing.

Thank you, Gene and Paul, for creating this quintessential anthem and thank you to each and every KISS member past (Ace Frehley, Peter Criss, Eric Carr, Vinnie Vincent, Mark St. John, Bruce Kulick) and present (Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Tommy Thayer, Eric Singer) that has had the privilege of performing this prodigious piece of art.

For 40 years, fans all over the world “keep on shoutin’ I wanna Rock and Roll all Night, and party every day” and they owe it all to you.

— John J. Simpson

 

 

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Restaurant

An Evening at Capo’s

capos logoIf you’ve never been to Capo’s Restaurant/Speakeasy, you are missing out. That is, assuming you enjoy tremendous food, coupled with a unique choice of delightful cocktails, service that is second to none and being treated like you are apart of the family the moment the door opens. If none of this is appealing to you, then by all means crawl back under your rock.

Capo’s is more than just a restaurant, it’s an experience. Your experience starts from the moment you are greeted at the door (which by the way, you have to tell the man who opens a little hidden door revealing only his face the password before he’ll let you in). Once he opens the door, you are greeted with a big smile and he welcomes you as if you were his favorite relative. He then walks you to your table (or the bar if you choose to start your night off with a cocktail and a large poster of Al Capone watching over you). The entrance alone sets the stage for what will surly be an unforgettable evening.

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I start off at the bar. Not just because the bartenders are beautiful, on top of it and serve some amazing drinks the likes of which I have never had anywhere else, but also because I enjoy meeting new people and every time I am at Capo’s it seems the bar is full of people who want to be one big happy family. If you can’t make new friends at Capo’s, you may need to look into counseling. Just saying.

Oh, and that guy who let you into the place (we’ll call him Ziggy) he also comes by periodically to make sure you are ok, to see if you are in need of anything and in general just making sure you know he knows your in the house and you mean something pretty good.  It’s always nice to be treated with respect, and owner Nico Santucci makes sure his entire staff masters this fine art.

Let’s not forget those magicians in the kitchen who create this most amazing food. I like to refer to the them as the Cirque du Sol-Capo’s show. They not only make mouth-watering to-die-for unique creations, they do it in what seems like a well-orchestrated syncopated theatrical show. With multi-level cooking ovens and broilers and refrigerators and I don’t know what all all kind of grouped together, these performers work in and around and through and on top of each other never missing a beat, dropping anything or even touching the others. And what makes it even better to see, is when one of them gets the fire going on the grill and it back lights them all as if they were on stage. On a busy night, you’ll get to see this numerous times. By the way, this is best seen from the bar (great way to start off right!).

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After a “Nicotini” (Martini named after its creator Nico himself – the recipe I knew not to ask for) and the making of some new friends, Ziggy escorts me to my table which is a booth near the piano overlooking the entire room. I felt like a king. A great lounge singer just pouring his heart our in song to a full house, one of the most comfortable booths I have ever sat in, a room full of family and one hell of a meal to be consumed.

The food – where to begin. I started off with the Meatballs and Peppers. It comes with 2 huge meatballs (Nico’s has the biggest balls in the business) sitting atop a base of sauce that can’t accurately be described with words. The recipe is rumored to be from the Capone family. It’s so good, I don’t even want to know how it’s made. All I know is if I had to choose my last meal on earth, it would those meatballs.  Imagine the best meal you have ever had, and how you couldn’t get enough of it and talked about it for weeks. Well, forget that meal because this one drove that one to the desert and buried it 6′ under. THIS is food-porn baby!

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The menu is perfect. Why? Because it isn’t 8 pages long. Sure it’s kind of of hard to read in the dimly lit room but they give you a flashlight, quite your bitching. The best thing about the menu is that I can pick my meal my favorite way – I open it up, and put my finger down and whatever it lands on is what I get. And – it is always freaking awesome! Remember the Cirque du Sol-Capo’s folks? That’s right – they know what they’re doing and I know I am in good hands. I have had probably 7 different dishes so far – each one perfect. I consider the menu a listing of all the dishes that came in first place so they reside together in a nice binder.

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Lets not forget about service. The staff works their butts off and even though they may get quite hectic at times, you would never know it by their demeanor or service output. They give it their all and if you can’t respect that, go somewhere else. Family is about respect, and they are family.

Needless to say, each time I leave Capo’s my belly is full and even though I know I may have over done it, I am already looking forward to doing it again.

My hat is off and my Martini glass raised in appreciation to Nico and his entire staff. The utmost professionals and masters of the culinary experience.

SUMMARY: If you’ve been to Capo’s, go back. If you haven’t been to Capo’s, get your ass over there and report back to me!

– JJS – on twitter @johnjsimpson

P.S. – as for Ziggy – turns out he can play the piano like it was going out of style. A man of many talents so I’m told.

 

Capo’s is owned by Chicago-native Nico Santucci and is located at 5675 W. Sahara Ave, Las vegas NV  702-364-2276

Capo’s website

Follow Capo’s on twitter at @CaposRestaurant

Follow Nico on twitter at @NicoSantucci

 

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Music

Review: Ashley Hamilton & The Lonely Hearts “Act One” EP

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When I buy an album I sit down in a dark room, put on my headphones, close my eyes and listen to it start to finish. I give it one chance and I either love it or I simply delete it. I listened to this EP start to finish 5 times in a row. While that, in and of itself, should tell you how I feel about this EP, I will take it upon myself to take you an a written journey as I share with you an explanation of just why I couldn’t stop listening to this awesome EP.

One caveat before I begin. Since my very first recolection of listening to music, I have always listened to it as a musical composition – this includes the vocals. I’ve always listened to the vocals as an instrument and never paid attention to what the songs were about. To this day, I couldn’t repeat more than a chorus to any song – including ones I’ve been listening to for 40 years.

 

Technical Exploration

I loved the “sound” of this entire EP. The way the kick drum, snare drum and crash symbols were treated, the intimate yet environmental characteristics brought out of the acoustic guitar tracks, the natural sounds of the vocal tracks & the spatial characteristics given to each part of each song all lend themselves to serving the delightful songs as well as to serving the listener. So much so in fact, I found myself enjoying the sound of the EP as much as I did the music itself. The engineers & producers did an awesome job and obviously had great talent both in terms of technical aptitude and great musicians to work with. It must have been a treat for all parties involved to work with such talent.

 

Ah, the Music!

There are two tracks that I can’t get out of my head though I truly enjoy all of them. The one that sticks out the most for me is “S’ All Good”. The song gets me in from the very first note (beautiful-voiced, harmonious backup singers singing a melodic structure) immediately followed up a guitar track ( 2 guitars, one on the left and one on the right balancing the relationship) in a call-and-response type partnership which quickly takes you down a relaxed path with a pleasing creatively placed harmonica leading to the first verse which starts to with a confident, strong and yet pleasingly vulnerable voice of Ashley. In a few short bars, the stage was beautifully set and the listener properly prepared for a wonderful performance. The rest of the song only gets better.

In the 2nd part of the bridge in “S’ All Good”, Ashley has a direct call-and-response component where he and a fabulous female vocalist named Jamie Wyatt (follow her on twitter at @jaimewyattmusic) have a dialog back and forth (awesomely placed opposite each other in the soundstage). Though may be passed over by those not critically listening, this is an awesome part. The sound, positioning, timing and melodic structure just pop.

The other song I simply can’t get out of my mind – “Ovaltine”. Aside from a melodic structure that I sill can’t get out my head (it’s a damn catchy song!), I drew an immediate liking to the bridge when I was transported back to my childhood. It wasn’t just because my grandma always gave us kids Ovaltine when we visited her on Sunday afternoons. She had an 8-track player (did I loose some of you here) and in it she always had a Jerry Reed tape. If you were a Jerry Reed fan, you will understand what I mean. Suffice to say, this song is just full of all sorts a great stuff. Now that I think of it, I may have to go out and buy some Ovaltine.

The fact I specifically call out two songs that stick out in my head the most doesn’t take anything away from the other delights on the EP. “Oh Baby”, “Lifetime” and “Half of It” are all equally wonderful works of art. Each showcasing amazing talent, emotional outpouring by each and every musician and equally by the technical folks that put it all together.

 

A Few Words of Ashley Hamilton’s Voice

Ashley simply has an awesome voice as was so eloquently demonstrated so well in each & every song on this EP. A tremendous amount of emotion, control, range and simple gut-feeling is obviously behind every note he sings. His transitions, timing, dynamic range, tonal qualities and just his natural voice all lend themselves to a truly great outpouring of vocal excellence. It always a treat to hear a the real voice of a truly great vocalist. I could easily listen to any of his songs acapella-style.

 

Summary

I LOVE this EP. The writing, the arrangements, the instrumentation, the mixing and the awesome vocals – all of which take me on an incredible journey each & very time I hear them. And that, in my book, is what music is all about.

My hats off to Ashley Hamilton and the Lonely Hearts – job well done.

JJS – fan for life!

 

PS – I hadn’t heard of Ashley Hamilton until I came across the TV show “Stewarts & Hamiltons” (Sundays, 9/8c on E!). That show is solely responsible for an additional artist residing on my iPhone (and that’s a relatively small community).

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