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Author Frank Mastropolo

February marks the 50th anniversary of the arrival in America of the Beatles, the group that changed the landscape of the music industry. The Beatles produced the first music video (Paperback Writer/Rain), invented the concept album (Sgt. Pepper) and created Apple, their own record label. But the Beatles’ most important contribution may be the inspiration given to a generation of artists to create their own music. Here’s a look at some key musicians influenced by the Beatles over the years. Here are 11 of the best (in no particular order, mind you). 11. Dave Grohl, Nirvana & the Foo Fighters…

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When rockers want to convey rage, frustration, pain or ecstasy, nothing works like an ear-splitting scream. Some rockers’ shrieks are so outrageous that they’ve been banned from the radio, parodied on Saturday Night Live, even earned their own Facebook page. Often the howls are the most memorable part of the song. So keep your earplugs handy; here are Rock Cellar Magazine’s Top 11 Rock Screams. With a Little Help From My Friends by Joe Cocker Joe Cocker has made iconic songs his own with inventive arrangements, wild stage performances and his Ray Charles-style gravelly voice. Cocker’s 1968 interpretation of the…

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In the 1960s, New York City was the center of the recording industry and home to a wealth of small clubs and theaters that hosted the cream of rock music. Fans could catch bands on their way up at smaller venues with moderate ticket prices. But 1969’s Woodstock festival changed the industry and superstars began to demand huge fees to appear. Small venues could no longer compete with huge arenas and stadiums for name acts. In a 1971 letter, promoter Bill Graham explained that he would close both Fillmore East and West because of  “the unreasonable and totally destructive inflation…

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Once in awhile, a replacement singer of an already-successful band can help take the entire unit to the next level of success.  Such is the case of David Clayton-Thomas. The Canadian belter was also a replacement singer – following Al Kooper as the frontman of Blood Sweat & Tears. After the Blues Project broke up in 1967, keyboardist Al Kooper and guitarist Steve Katz formed BS &T — fulfilling their pioneering vision of a jazz-rock band with a horn section. The democratic nature of the Blues Project had frustrated Kooper, who insisted on guiding the musical direction of BS&T as…

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As the Vietnam War escalated in the mid-1960s and more young men were drafted into the military, protest songs became more mainstream.  Once a staple of folk music, like Phil Ochs’ I Ain’t Marching Anymore, anti-war songs like Barry McGuire’s Eve of Destruction now hit number one on the Billboard charts. The 1970 film Woodstock introduced perhaps the era’s greatest protest song: Country Joe and the Fish’s I-Feel-Like-I’m Fixin’-To-Die Rag.   The song is written in the voice of a military recruiter/carnival barker (with an outrageous hurdy-gurdy organ accompaniment) who encourages young men to join the fight, then invites parents…

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Thanksgiving is immediately followed by a brutal month of Christmas music overload. They’re inescapable; every radio station, department store, and building lobby pummels us with treacly tunes of the season.  So when a great song rises above the holiday hype, it deserves recognition. Such is the Drifters version of the yuletide classic White Christmas. Bing Crosby’s 1942 version of the Irving Berlin classic is perhaps still the most memorable –  recorded for the movie Holiday Inn.  As American soldiers shipped out to fight overseas, the song’s story of wishing to be home for Christmas touched millions, and White Christmas would…

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ARTICLE AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY FRANK MASTROPOLO Though it ran for only one season, 1955-56, The Honeymooners remains one of the pivotal sitcoms in television history.   Jackie Gleason played his most famous character — bus driver Ralph Kramden — who torments his long-suffering wife Alice (Audrey Meadows) with get-rich-quick schemes that never succeed.  The Kramdens live in a dingy apartment in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn; upstairs reside their best friends, wacky sewer worker Ed Norton (Art Carney) and his wife Trixie (Joyce Randolph). Gleason and the show’s writers liberally salted the scripts with both fictional and real-life spots in…

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One Toke Over the Line by folk rock duo Brewer & Shipley was released in 1970 in an atmosphere of anti-war demonstrations and crackdowns on drug users. The song would become Michael Brewer and Tom Shipley’s biggest hit; so big that it caught the attention of Vice President Spiro Agnew, who termed the song – along with the Byrds’ Eight Miles High and Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit — “blatant drug-culture propaganda” that “threatens to sap our national strength.” Despite its marijuana references, the song somehow was performed on that bastion of wholesome American music, The Lawrence Welk Show. Produced by…

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In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, here are 10 tips to help you survive a natural disaster that you won’t hear from local officials. 1. At the first sign of trouble, get to the liquor store before it closes. Stock up. You’ll prefer sitting in the dark drunk. 2. Next, clean out the local bodega of vital supplies like bottled water. Make multiple trips. If the shopkeeper raises the issue of, oh, hoarding, become outraged and tell him you work at an orphanage. 3. Forget flashlights, they burn through batteries too fast. Get candles. In fact, make them votive candles…

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New York City’s small neighborhood groceries of the 1950s, while run by friendly shopkeepers named “Pop,” were cramped affairs with wilted vegetables, bruised fruit and dusty, dented canned foods. Though he had a good run, Pop couldn’t compete with the arrival of supermarkets from the suburbs – their brightly lit, expansive aisles brimming with choices. At its grand opening in my neighborhood, A&P gave kids free banks that looked like bags of their freshly ground coffees: Eight O’Clock, Red Circle and the scary Bokar; with each purchase, moms earned sheets of Plaid Stamps, an alien form of currency that, when…

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