The End

and in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make

42 years ago on this date, music history was made on a London rooftop. It was January 30th, 1969 when the most popular, influential, and arguably greatest band in the history of music on this planet set up their instruments and cameras to record their swan song.

It is highly unlikely that anyone on that roof on that cold day realized what they were experiencing exactly, which would be the final ‘live’ performance by The Beatles.

For the legendary quartet that would be forever linked by their musical genius together, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, this was the culmination of a grueling month of work. Throughout January of 1969 the band had worked zealously on the studio recordings for “Let It Be“, the album that would ultimately become their final release as a working band.

The concept for “Let It Be” was that it would be all new material which would be performed in front of a ‘live’ audience at the same time as it was being recorded, a process that had never been attempted previously in contemporary music. But turning this vision of Paul’s into a reality proved far more difficult in practice than in theory.

The Beatles were trying to work their way through the stresses and strains that their celebrity, their personal lives and relationships, and simply a decade of working, living, and travelling together had created. These pressures would soon split the band forever, and trying to find a location to shoot this particular project highlighted their problems.

No one could agree on a suitable, unique location for the recording sessions. The Coliseum in Rome had actually been considered, as had the Tunisian desert. One consideration was to film the project entirely on a ship at sea. In the end, much of “Let It Be” was recorded in the studio. The tensions between McCartney and Lennon actually drove Harrison away for a week, and when he returned it was only after keyboardist and friend Billy Preston was allowed to join the sessions.

Finally, on the final Thursday of January in the first month of the penultimate year of the turbulent and tumultuous 1960’s, the band and Preston all took to the rooftop of the Apple studios building at 3 Savile Row to record the final pieces to the album, which was being documented for a film project as well. When the decade had begun, the band was a group of clean-cut, clean-shaven, wide-eyed pop stars. On the rooftop this day at decade’s end was a rock band complete with long and facial hair.

“Get Back” was the first song that they performed on that day, both a warmup version and then a full version which was eventually captured for the film and became a popular version of the song. As the band plays, people begin to gather on the streets below, and also begin to hang out the windows of adjoining buildings. “Is that really the Beatles?” as the crowd’s whispered murmur slowly grows to a mild uproar.

The band moves on to McCartney’s beautiful, haunting ballad that will become the album and film’s namesake “Let It Be“, and from there proceeds to Lennon’s dramatic, emotional “Don’t Let Me Down“, and then on into a fine Lennon-McCartney duet with “I’ve Got A Feeling“. One wonders if they had a feeling that this performance, their first public performance in 2 1/2 years, would be their last together?

One After 909” and “Dig A Pony” are recorded for posterity before the police begin to bang on the roof’s door, trying to bring the performance to an end. The large crowds now drawn into the streets below were causing complete chaos for the workday rush, and the powers-that-be wanted the plug pulled on the impromptu jam session that was creating the ruckus.

As the police are trying to end the session, the Beatles play on with final versions of “I’ve Got a Feeling“, “Let It Be” and “Get Back”, which would unknowingly go down in history as the final song ever performed ‘live’ by the entire band together in public. Lennon steps to the microphone, and in his final public moment at the front of his legendary band makes a humorous statement forever immortalized in the film: “I’d like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves, and I hope we passed the audition.”

With that, the end. The beginning of the end of a decade that many would say had ushered in the end of American innocence, if there ever was such a thing to begin with. The end of the band that had been, either directly or indirectly through their own musical evolution, at the front and center of most of the popular cultural revolution of that decade.

The experience of working on the album and film was so bad that McCartney quickly moved to get them back into a studio together, realizing that things were not going to hold together for them much longer as a group. During the first half of 1969 the band worked through sessions which resulted in the “Abbey Road” album. Released that summer, it became a #1 album, though critics were split on the music. But one thing that was clear to all was that while the musical magic might not be gone, the relationships had soured to the breaking point.

The “Let It Be” album would not be released for more than another year, with the final new Beatles track, George Harrison’s “I, Me, Mine” recorded on January 3rd, 1970, without John Lennon participating. The full band was last together in the studio on August 20th, 1969, and Lennon announced that he had left the band a month later, an announcement that would not be made public for some time still. On December 31st, 1970, McCartney filed a lawsuit to formally dissolve the band, which would actually take place in 1975 thanks to lengthy legal battles.

It is said that all good things must come to an end. Like many relationships that were at one time phenomenal, positive experiences for all involved, this greatest of all musical collaborations had finally reached it’s own end. Any hope for any type of real reunion would fully come to an end on December 8th, 1980, when Lennon would be cut down by an assassin’s bullet.

Thankfully for all of us, that final day together in public, 42 years ago today, was captured on film. For fans wanting to experience the Beatles together as a band, it was simply the end.

Heed the call

Jesus Christ was approximately 30 years old, and he was ready to step from the shadows of a life which to that stage had been lived in relative anonymity.

He had learned of the fate of his cousin, John ‘the Baptist’, and decided that it was time for he himself to begin a public ministry. It was what he had waited his whole life to do. It was the entire reason for his being alive.

Jesus knew as he began that he would need to start somewhere. And so he set out along the edge of the waters of the sea of Galilee, beginning to spread there a message” that the people should “repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

As he made those first tentative public speeches and teachings, he was mostly alone, and he quickly came to realize that he needed help. He needed people to help him travel, to organize, to simply be his companions on the journey.

Walking along the edge of the Galilean sea he observed two brothers named Simon and Andrew, and he began to talk with them. He talked and taught, telling the brothers “Follow me, and I will make you fisher’s of men!” His divine inspiration was so great that the brothers left behind their nets and began to follow Jesus.

The trio moved along the sea a bit and came upon the fishing ship of a man named Zebedee. Tending the nets with their father were his two sons, James and John, and Jesus again began to speak to the men and called on them to join him, which they did.

From this humble beginning has arisen the greatest church in the history of the world. The very church of the one true God Himself, founded by His only son.

The very first man he had called to follow, the brother once named Simon, had his name changed to “Peter” by Christ.

Jesus turned over the church to this man saying “You are Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven, and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.”

These men were just the first to be called by Christ to his ministry. The first to be asked to hear him, to listen to the message from God, to have faith, and to lay aside all they thought that they had previously known in order to follow Jesus.

More would follow. First by the few, then by the dozens, ultimately by the hundreds and by the thousands. Over the course of human history, the same exact call would go out to billions.

A Pharisee named Saul was one that was called in those early years. It was after the crucifixtion of Jesus that his disciples were first trying to spread his word as a group which had become known as “The Way”. Saul zealously persecuted Jesus’ followers, and in the continuation of this effort was on his way from Jerusalem to Damascus.

On the road to Damascus, Jesus suddenly appeared to Saul and called to him: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Saul asked who was speaking, and Jesus replied: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what to do.” Saul ultimately heeded the call, changed his name to ‘Paul’, and along with Peter became one of the Founding Father’s of the church.

But just as human death did not stop Jesus from calling people like Paul, neither has the passage of time stopped people from being called. You are called.

That’s right, you reading this right now.  The simple fact is that we are all called by the Lord to hear his word and to yield our lives to him. Every single person reading this has heard of Jesus Christ. Every single person reading this knows exactly what Jesus claimed to be: the Truth. The one true way.

In Jesus own words we find the single most important call that any of us have ever received in our lives, and make no mistake, we have all received this call. Jesus himself said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”

You have been called. Have you heeded his call? If you have, congratulations brother or sister. Continue in your own personal journey during this life in trying to live as he would wish you to live.

You will never reach perfection. You will stumble and fall and sin many times, for you are human. But you have heeded the call, accepted the truth, and will be rewarded.

Others of you have not heeded the call. You have either hesitated, or you have outright turned away from the truth. If you are reading this, you still have time to make the single most important choice that you will make in your life here on earth. You still have the choice to heed Jesus’ call, to accept the truth, and to begin to try to follow the way as best you can.

From that first day along the sea of Galilee when Jesus called a quartet of fishermen to become fishers of men, the call has continued to ring out around the world. It has reached your ears. The next step is yours.

If you are my family member or my friend, if you in any way have impacted my life, I am reaching out to you right now, personally. Heed the call. God bless you.

NOTE: this is the continuation of the Sunday Sermon series of articles that appear regularly at the www.mattveasey.com website, all items in which can be read by clicking on that label link found below here at the website

Rock & Roll Heaven: John Bonham

Embed from Getty Images

The late John Bonham was the drummer for Led Zeppelin

 

Sometime on September 23rd, 1980, John Bonham began to drink. This was not an unusual event in Bonham’s life. He was a big drinker.

But the binge that he was about to undertake was a big one even by his standards. Over the next day and a half, Bonham, would take approximately 40 shots of vodka in a drinking binge that would end his life.

John Bonham was the drummer for the legendary rock band ‘Led Zeppelin’, and he was universally considered one of the greatest drummers in the history of rock music.

As he undertook that final late September alcohol binge, he and his mates in Zeppelin were in preparations for their first world tour in over three years, a tour that would never take place.

The legendary original Led Zeppelin lineup was born as a band in London, England in the latter half of 1968, at the height of the 1960’s ‘flower child’ and ‘hippie generation’ crazes. Jimmy Page, who was and is universally regarded as one of the greatest guitarists on the planet, and his band ‘The Yardbirds’ had just broken up.

Page met up with singer Robert Plant and began to consider putting a new band together. It wasn’t long before the talented Bonham, who both men knew from studio sessions, would be recruited heavily and agree to join the band.

With the addition of bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones the four men originally set out as ‘The New Yardbirds’, but following their first touring effort it was obvious to all that they had little in common with that original band. The band’s name was changed to ‘Led Zeppelin’, and the rest is music history.
Zep’s hard-rocking guitar-fueled style is often credited as being at the forefront of what is now known as ‘heavy metal’ music, but they did much tremendous acoustic work together as well.

During the 1970’s, Zeppelin grew into one of the most popular, successful, and influential rock bands in music history. The band became known for extravagant clothing and wild partying during touring.

The band’s classic hits released during these years included “Rock and Roll“, “Going to California“, “Black Dog“, “Houses of the Holy“, “Immigrant Song“, Chase Utley’s signature theme “Kashmir“, and a song widely acknowledged as one of the greatest in rock history, “Stairway to Heaven“.

Bonham had a couple of brief acting turns, first appearing as a drummer in 1974’s “Son of Dracula“, and then in an action drag-racing scene during the Zeppelin vehicle “The Song Remains the Same” that was set to “Moby Dick“, his signature half hour-long concert solo.

Bonham had been married since before the Zeppelin years. He and his wife, Pat, had a son born back in 1966 named Jason Bonham. Jason would go on to drum himself for bands including ‘Foreigner’. During the height of Led Zepplin’s popularity, the couple added a second child when daughter Zoe was born in the summer of 1975. But as a rock and roll star, his life was far from that of the typical family man.

On July 23rd, 1977, following a Zeppelin concert in San Francisco, Bonham became involved in a controversial backstage incident. The band’s manager, Peter Grant, had his son helping with the breakdown job. The son apparently took down a dressing room sign that was not band property, and got into an argument with a member of the promoter’s staff, who slapped young Grant. Bonham saw this and ran to the kid’s aid, beginning an attack that ended with the staffer badly beaten by members of the band’s entourage.

This was just one incident in the downward spiral of Bonham’s life. In one episode, Bonham is said to have ridden his motorcycle through a hotel. During a June 27th, 1979 show in Germany, Bonham collapsed while on stage and was rushed to the hospital. It is widely believed that his collapse was caused by his continued misuse and abuse of both alcohol and drugs.

On September 24th, 1980, Bonham was well into his fatal final drinking binge when he attended a rehearsal session for what was planned to be the first Led Zeppelin tour in almost three years. The session ended in the evening and the entire band along with some of their crew and entourage went back to Jimmy Page’s home. At some point after midnight, a drunken, passed out Bonham was put to bed and placed on his side.

The next day, John Paul Jones and the band’s manager went to try to wake Bonham, and they found him dead. A subsequent autopsy found no other drugs in his system, and ruled that he had died an accidental death, the result of his having vomited, inhaled it, and dying as a result from asphyxiation.

Dave Grohl of the band Foo Fighters, who had to deal himself with the personal tragic loss of his own former ‘Nivana’ bandmate Kurt Cobain, is quoted as having said “John Bonham played the drums like someone who didn’t know what was going to happen next – like he was teetering on the edge of a cliff.” It can be said without exaggeration that Bonham lived his life that same way. A great way to drum, perhaps, but perhaps not the best way to live.

John Bonham was just 32 years old when he died from the alcohol abuse. That old adage of sex, drugs, and rock and roll can be extended to include booze as well, a substance that Bonham abused regularly and voluminously. Does he now play the drums in some all-star ‘Rock and Roll Heaven’ band with Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain on guitar and Janis Joplin at the front? We may one day get to find out for sure, but one thing we know now is that his life ended too soon from his own choices involving one of the usual suspects.

NOTE: this is the return of the ‘Rock and Roll Heaven’ series of articles here at the www.mattveasey.com website, all items of which can be read by clicking on that Tag link at the bottom of the article. 

Nobody Bakes A Cake As Tasty

1914 was an important year for beginnings. For the planet at large, the year marked the beginning of World War I, the “Great War” as it was known in those days.

This military conflict would last almost five years, eventually see nearly 70 million combatants take part, nearly 9 million of whom would perish, and would see the end of the centuries-old Ottoman Empire that had once nearly conquered the world.

The year also saw the debut film in the career of a 24-year old English actor named Charlie Chaplin who would go on to become the single most famous of the entire silent-film era.

The year 1914 also saw the Ford Motor Company, founded just a decade earlier, institute a new eight-hour work day for it’s employees that would eventually be embraced in most every industry across the country.

On July 11th, a big, boisterous 19-year old pitcher by the name of Babe Ruth picked up the victory in his major league debut with the Boston Red Sox. Later that summer, the SS Ancon cargo ship became the first vessel to pass through the Panama Canal in it’s long-delayed and highly-valued inaugural opening. In September, Pope Benedict XV was elected to begin his papacy.

George Reeves, who would go on to entertain millions of Americans in the early years of television as “Superman” was born in 1914. Alec Guinness, who would on the far end of the century and in a galaxy far, far away would become famous as ‘Obi-Won Kinobi’ in the “Star Wars” films was born.

Joe Louis, ‘The Brown Bomber’ still considered one of the greatest heavyweight boxing champs of all-time, was born. Wrestling promoter Vince McMahon, poet Dylan Thomas, longtime Miss America host Bert Parks, the voice of ‘Tony the Tiger’ and crooner of the song “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch“, Thurl Ravenscroft, and baseball legend Joe DiMaggio all began life in 1914.

In the city of Philadelphia that year there was a more modest beginning, but one that would ultimately grow to it’s own popularly dizzy heights as a local and regional legend.

It was in that year of 1914 that a baker from Pittsburgh named Philip Bauer and an egg salesman from Boston named Herbert Morris got together on a business venture producing baked cakes. Morris’ wife, trying a sample of their creations, said that they were “tasty”, and a local legend was born.

The ‘Tasty Baking Company’ began to produce it’s ‘Tastykakes’
, selling the original creations for just 10 cents per cake. The cakes were made from “farm fresh eggs, Grade A creamery butter, real milk, cocoa, spices, and natural flavorings from the far ends of the earth.” In that first year of business the company reported gross sales of $300,000. Within four years, the company sales figures broke the $1 million mark. Today, the Tasty Baking Company sales have reached over the $280 million mark.

The company began locally in and around Philadelphia and gradually expanded throughout the mid-Atlantic region, and now hopes to go national to continue it’s amazing growth story as it approaches it’s 100th anniversary in 2014. However, all is not sugar and spice and everything nice these days at Tastykake.

As Tasty grew and expanded both it’s line of products and it’s service area, it also took on more and more debt in purchasing new facilities and equipment. In the last few years it has fallen upon hard times, as has much of the American economy, and now finds itself about $115 million in debt.

 Their dire economic situation and the possibility of the company’s sale became public recently, causing much consternation in locals, for whom Tastykake has become as iconic to Philadelphia as the Liberty Bell and cheesesteaks.

I can tell you this about Tastykakes first-hand: their products are delicious.

The original chocolate cupcakes are some of the best snack cakes on earth. Other signature products such as the chocolate Junior, the butterscotch and jelly Krimpets, the Kandycakes, the fruit pies, and many others match up with any nationally produced baked snack product.

For those who have never enjoyed one, these things are damned good. I have my own personal old saying relating to the many foods that I love, where I say that “In my Heaven, they will have_____” (insert favorite food.) Well, in my Heaven, they will have Tastykakes.

When the challenges facing Tastykake became public, a fan group quickly popped up on Facebook calling itself simply “Save Tastykake!” I signed up early on. But I made sure that I made a comment on the page that, while I love Tastykakes, there is only one way that the company should be saved. That way is not to be had in a bailout by an infusion of cash from public coffers.

Tastykake needs to re-evaluate it’s future and perhaps the pace of it’s growth. It needs to closely evaluate it’s product line and expenses. It needs to get it’s financial house in as good a functioning order as possible by reducing and reorganizing it’s debt, and it needs to listen to and respond to it’s core customer base.

The company has been accused of reducing the size of cakes while increasing their cost. That charge needs to be addressed directly and honestly.

Tastykakes are delicious snack cakes and pies, and the baked treats and the Tasty Baking Company have become Philadelphia icons. They are well worth saving. I am willing to do my part, but not with Philadelphia or Pennsylvania donating cash to be paid for by the raising of my taxes.

For those of us who want to “Save Tastykake!” the best thing that we can do is a simple thing, really. Buy more Tastykakes.

Eight Men Out, One Man In

Today is the 90th anniversary of a landmark day in the history of Major League Baseball. On this date in 1921, the owners elected Kenesaw ‘Mountain’ Landis to the newly created position of Commissioner. His job, to do whatever it took to restore confidence in the American public following the infamous “Black Sox” scandal of 1919.

The reasons for the creation of the position and for Landis’ specific hiring constitute an important and interesting chapter in the history of America’s pastime. The National League was founded in 1876, replacing the old National Association that had been formed in 1871 to begin some type of organization for the blossoming sport on a national level.

The American League was founded in 1900 from origins as the Western League which had been itself formed in 1893. In 1901, the A.L. elevated itself to major league status and became direct competition for the N.L.’s senior circuit. In 1903, the champions of the two leagues met in the first World Series, a competition that became permanent in 1905.

In 1919, the A.L.’s Chicago White Sox were considered the best team in the game at that time, led by one of the true early legends in the sport, ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson. The Sox had won the World Series of 1917, and were prohibitive favorites in this World Series against the N.L.’s Cincinnati Reds, but the Reds ended up winning what was then a best-of-9 games event, 5 games to 3.

During that 1919 series, rumors began to surface that a “fix” was in, that professional gamblers had successfully paid off some of the White Sox key players to “throw” the series in the Reds favor. These allegations and rumors continued into and through the 1920 season, and a grand jury was finally convened to investigate the matter. The grand jury convened as the Sox were again battling for the A.L. pennant. When Jackson and a teammate, the team’s best pitcher Eddie Cicotte, confessed their involvement to the grand jury, Sox owner Charles Comiskey suspended 8 players believed to have been involved, costing them the 1920 pennant.

A highly publicized trial of the 8 players who were allegedly involved took place. One young boy is famously quoted as approaching Jackson with the plea “Say it ain’t so, Joe. Say it ain’t so.”
Key evidence, including the signed confessions of Cicotte and Jackson went missing. Both men recanted these confessions. There were numerous scandalous incidents during the proceedings. In the end, the jury found the players “not guilty”, and it was presumed that they would simply continue on with their careers.

However, Major League Baseball was not happy. The legal jury verdict was obviously a result of a combination of the farcical trial incidents and some hero-worship among the jurors. The owners knew that gamblers had their hands in the outcome of some games almost since the inception of the Major Leagues, and needed to eliminate that influence and win back the integrity of the game in order to keep the respect and interest of the increasingly skeptical fans.

To this end, the owners decided that they needed someone strong, forceful and popular to lead the game’s efforts. Prior to that point, administration of the sport such as arbiting disputes among owners was done by a National Commission created as a part of the 1903 peace agreement between the N.L. and A.L. The NC was made up of the President’s of both leagues, as well as a Commission chairman.

The owners choice for the Commission chairman job was none other than Landis, an Illinois federal judge who had presided over a famous anti-trust case regarding Standard Oil, and who had popularly presided over the trials of numerous Socialists who were trying to influence the United States in a variety of ways, including hindering the draft efforts for the American forces in World War I. Landis agreed to accept the post, but not as then constructed. He insisted on an all-powerful position as sole Commissioner of Baseball.

The owners agreed, giving him full authority to act, as he demanded, “in the best interests of baseball” as relating to any matter. He was appointed to the post of Commissioner on the same day that the White Sox players were convicted, and the following day Landis made his now legendary proclamation:

Regardless of the verdict of juries, no player who throws a ball game, no player who undertakes or promises to throw a ball game, no player who sits in confidence with a bunch of crooked ballplayers and gamblers where the ways and means of throwing a game are discussed and does not promptly tell his club about it, will ever play professional baseball.” 

The 8 players were permanently banned from baseball with this statement. Two other players who were peripherally involved were also eventually banned. The cheating members of that 1919 team became nicknamed the “Black Sox” by the media. The entire incident was famously immortalized in the popular 1988 film “Eight Men Out“, which itself was based on a book Eliot Asinof titled “Eight Men Out: The Black Sox and the 1919 World Series.”

The owners thought that following his role in resolving the scandal, that Judge Landis would ease into light activity in a semi-retirement role. However, Landis had other ideas, and using his popularity with both the public and the press, he ended up presiding over the game for the next quarter century. Among the many improvements to the game during his reign were an end to hooliganism by many player, the negotiation of broadcasting contracts as first radio and then television began to cover the sport, and negotiating ends to some negative labor practices by owners. Landis also infamously perpetuated the segregation of baseball throughout his reign, and severely restricted MLB control over minor league baseball.

Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis (pictured above with Hall of Famer Ty Cobb) was undoubtedly the right man at the right time in dealing with the Black Sox scandal in particular and the issue of overthrowing the gamblers influence and returning the integrity of the game of professional baseball. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame just one month after his death, and the MVP Award in both leagues is officially named after him.

The aftermath of the infamous 1919 World Series saw eight men, the notorious White Sox players, out of the game permanently and one man, the Commissioner of Baseball, first in the person of Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, introduced into the game. Both results would have to be considered as victories in the end for all true fans of America’s national pastime.