• At the First Rock Festival, Pianos Fell From the Sky Now that the orgy of insufferable hipsterism known as Coachella is finally behind us, it’s officially music-festival season, when hundreds of concerts will take over entire cities, towns, parks, and fields across the United States. As everyone knows, events like Lollapalooza, Lockn', and Bonnaroo follow in the grand tradition of the Woodstock Music & Art Fair held in August of 1969. That’s whe…
  • The Dead Files: Rock Art, Artifacts, and Psychedelic Office Supplies Up for Grabs When people ask me where I went to high school, I often tell them Winterland, the former Ice Follies arena in San Francisco where, from 1966 to 1978, legendary rock impresario Bill Graham produced concerts headlined by everyone from Jimi Hendrix to the Sex Pistols. My friends and I spent many an evening (and early morning) in that gloriously decrepit firetrap, but, in fact, I am a proud graduate o…
  • When Rock 'n' Roll Loomed Large Over the Sunset Strip The enormous, unblinking chrome eyeballs stared down from their perch above L.A.'s famous Sunset Strip as record producers, nightclub owners, and movie stars sped by in their convertibles. The sign included no words, but in 1972, everyone was familiar with "Tommy," the rock opera about a "deaf, dumb, and blind kid" who plays a mean game of pinball. It didn't really matter if passing motorists didn…
  • Like Iggy Pop? Thank Your Grandparents If you had to choose an image to define “rock ’n’ roll,” what would it be? Elvis’ pompadour? A psychedelic rock poster? A Flying V guitar? The last thing you might picture is a young woman in the Great Depression, wearing her Sunday best, smiling modestly as she poses with her saxophone. But when Jim Linderman, a collector of vernacular photography and folk art, finds a photograph like that, he se…
  • Being The Beatles: Untold Stories from the Fab Four's Legendary North American Tours Like a lot of people of a certain age, I’ll never forget the night I watched The Beatles on "The Ed Sullivan Show." It was February 9, 1964, I was 7 years old, and John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr had just invaded America. Coming scant months after the assassination of President Kennedy, the whole country (or at least 73 million television viewers) was ready for an eve…
  • Meet the Man Who Made Cowboys Love Rhinestones Though it might seem like country-western stars sprang from the womb wearing golden boots and rhinestone suits, it wasn't always so. In fact, we owe such flashy styles to a Ukrainian-born Jew named Nudie Cohn, who was the first to mix Nashville and Hollywood, making it hip to be ostentatious. While Cohn's name might not be familiar, you’ve certainly seen his famous Nudie suits, ranging from Gram …
  • Rockin' at the Rollarena, Pre-Summer of Love If you were in a rock band in late-1960s San Francisco, the world beat a path to your garage door. Record executives walked the length of Haight Street and saw dollar signs instead of peace symbols, signing bands to fat contracts as fast as they could. But if you wanted to rock ’n’ roll in the East Bay, particularly in that no-man’s land between Oakland and San Jose, you were a beggar at the ba…
  • Found Photos: When Rock Lost Its Innocence On February 26, 1955, a Cleveland deejay named Tommy Edwards became the first music promoter to book a Southern singing sensation named Elvis Presley north of the Mason-Dixon line. The event was the Hillbilly Jamboree at Cleveland's Circle Theater. That fall, Edwards brought Presley back to the Cleveland area for several more shows, including one on October 20, 1955, at Brooklyn High School. On th…
  • Lady Gaga, Innovator or Copycat? We Dissect “Born This Way” Lady Gaga has a reputation as a wildly original trendsetter. But based on the evidence we found in "Born This Way," she's also a mega recycler of pop-culture history. Being connoisseurs of cool old stuff, we noticed that even her most outlandish imagery in the head-spinning video for "Born This Way" owes a great debt not only to Madonna's "Express Yourself," but also to works of science fiction…
  • Stephen M. H. Braitman on the British Invasion, from the Beatles to the Sex Pistols I was a Hollywood kid. My father was a TV and radio editor in the San Fernando Valley, and he allowed me to do my first writing to review concerts and shows for the newspaper. But as a younger kid, I really hated rock ’n’ roll music and pop music, and I disliked the Beatles and all that. I have a younger sister who was a total Beatlemaniac. She started getting into the ’60s scene, but I was more…