Tag Archives: Woodstock

Rock & Roll Heaven: Keith Moon

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Moon at the drums on stage with The Who in London, England during a March, 1977 concert

 

The legendary rock band known as The Who had originally evolved out of a band known as the Detours, which featured three members who would become well-known to music fans over the coming years and decades

Roger Daltrey was the founder and driving force. Pete Townsend became the lead guitarist. John Entwistle provided the pulse as the bass guitarist.

However, the fourth member of The Who classic lineup was not their original drummer. The first man to provide the percussion back-beat for the band was Doug Sandom.

When the band received an audition with Fontana Records in the early-1960’s, an executive there simply didn’t like Sandom’s drumming. The Who began to audition stand-ins, and during that process met Keith Moon.

Moon was born in northwest London on August 23, 1946 and grew up in Wembley, England. At age 12 he took up playing the bugle, but quickly switched to the drums. He particularly loved the music of The Beach Boys.

In 1961 at just age 14, Moon joined his first band known as the Escorts. Then in 1962, Moon moved on to become drummer for the Beachcombers. These were part-time bands, with most of the members also holding down day jobs to make a living.

It was in April of 1964 that Moon auditioned for The Who, and he won the gig replacing Sandom in the emerging band. With Moon now on board as the new drummer, the classic lineup was set, and The Who began to craft both their sound and on-stage persona over the course of the mid-late 1960’s.

Technically, Moon moved from a four to a five-piece drum kit during 1965. Towards the end of that year he began to endorse Premier Drums and remained loyal to the brand for the rest of his career.

Also, Moon’s girlfriend Kim Kerrigan became pregnant during 1965. The two were married in March 1966, with their daughter Amanda born on July 12. “He had no idea how to be a father,” Kim later said in a 1998 biography from Tony Fletcher. “He was too much of a child himself.

In 1966, Moon began to utilize a setup with two bass drums. He and Ginger Baker, founder of the rock group Cream, would become pioneers in the early use of that type of drum kit setup.

Moon had a problem with alcohol and drugs from his early teen years. Developing a worsening amphetamine addiction contributed to Moon frequently clashing with each of the other band members, including physical altercations.

Entwistle and I used to have fights – it wasn’t very serious, it was more of an emotional spur-of-the moment thing,” said Moon according to Dave Marsh, who wrote a bio of the band in 1989.

With those internal pressures repeatedly erupting during the mid-1960’s, Jeff Beck recruited Moon to play with The Yardbirds, essentially trying to get Moon to quit The Who and begin playing regularly with him. However, despite playing with Beck a couple of times, Moon resisted, and the band played on together.

It is believed that Moon had another major contribution to rock music history during this late-1960’s period. During one of his dalliances with leaving The Who, Moon is said to have floated the idea of forming a super group to include emerging guitarist Jimmy Page.

The idea of that group never panned out, with Moon having said it “went down like a led zeppelin” in front of Page. The guitarist remembered the phrase when forming his own now-legendary band in 1968.

During one of the early performances of The Who, Townsend accidentally broke his guitar and smashed it up on stage out of frustration. The crowd loved the display, and Moon decided to join in by kicking over his entire drum kit. This would become a signature for the band, destroying instruments on stage to the delight of their early fans.

A breakthrough came for The Who in 1966 with their first major American appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival. There, the on-stage style of The Who, which included smashing their instruments, clashed with much of the peaceful hippie style of the rest of the festival.

That appearance got The Who a gig as the opening act on a tour of America for popular Brit rockers Herman’s Hermits. Moon bonded with the Hermits, who introduced him to cherry bombs. During the tour, Moon became fond of blowing up hotel room toilets with those cherry bombs.

During the celebration of Moon’s 21st birthday while on tour in Flint, Michigan in 1967, the band caused thousands of dollars in damage to their hotel room at a Holiday Inn. It was a wild time, but Daltrey would later say that this tour helped bring the band closer together.

During that same year of 1967, Moon was among those who contributed backing vocals for his friends, The Beatles, on the “All You Need Is Love” record.

During their next tour of America with Eric Burdon and the Animals, a television appearance was arranged for The Who on ‘The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour’. During that performance, Moon bribed a stagehand to plant some explosives in his drum kit.

When they detonated during performance of the song “My Generation“, the force of the blast blew Moon off his drum riser, singed Townsend’s hair, and damaged studio equipment. A video clip from this performance would later be used as “The Kids Are Alright” documentary opening more than a decade later.

During the late-1960’s the band recorded what would become a signature classic LP, “Tommy“, which would be released in May 1969 as their fourth studio album. That piece of music combined with their improving and evolving stage act to begin gaining not only increased popularity, but also increased respect for the band.

During the summer of 1969, The Who were recruited to play at the now-legendary Woodstock Festival. Due to delays their set did not begin until 5:00 am, and they played the entirety of “Tommy” as part of their contribution.

Just a few weeks later, the band would perform back home at the Isle of Wight Festival, which further cemented their status as one of the biggest and best rock bands of the era.

In August of 1971, The Who released their LP “Who’s Next” on which many felt Moon displayed the best drum playing of his entire career. The album contained hits in “Baba O’Riley“, “Won’t Get Fooled Again“, “Behind Blue Eyes”, and “Bargain“, and is considered one of the greatest rock albums of all-time.

Over the next few years during the early-1970’s, the popularity and influence of The Who only grew as they worked on and released the album “Quadrophenia“, the tour for which would spawn a notorious incident.

On November 20, 1974 at the Cow Palace in California, The Who were more than an hour into their show when, while playing “Won’t Get Fooled Again“, Moon passed out over his drum kit.

Carried off the stage by roadies, the drummer was revived and returned to the stage a short time later. However, during his first song back “Magic Bus“, Moon again passed out. This time he could not be revived.

Townsend would say during a later interview that Moon had consumed large tranquilizers which were actually meant for animals, washing those down with large amounts of brandy.

The band played on as a threesome, and after receiving tremendous applause, Townsend told the audience “I think it should be us applauding you”.  He then surprised the crowd by asking, “Can anybody play the drums? Can anybody play the drums? I mean somebody good!

Sitting just off the stage, 19-year-old Scot Halpin was volunteered by his friend. Legendary concert producer Bill Graham, asked Halpin “Can you do it?” When Halpin said that he could, the young man received the thrill of a lifetime. Having not played in over a year, Halpin took over the drums and played well over the final few songs.

The band took a bit of a break from touring and performing during 1974, doing just a few shows as they turned “Tommy” into a motion picture for which Townsend would receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score.

During 1973, his wife Kim had left, taking their daughter Mandy with her, feeling that no one could help Moon with his addictions. She would sue for divorce in 1975, eventually marry Faces keyboardist Ian McLagan, and died herself in a car crash in 2006 at just age 57.

As the divorce was filed in 1975, Moon released what would be his lone career solo LP. “Two Sides of the Moon” was not well received by critics or the public. It included covers of songs including The Who’s “The Kids Are Alright“, The Beach Boys “Don’t Worry Baby“, and “In My Life” from The Beatles. Ringo Starr even contributed backing drums.

In late 1975, a tour by the band resulted in The Who setting a record for the largest indoor concert when more than 78,000 attended their show at the Pontiac Silverdome outside of Detroit. This tour during the years 1975 and 1976 is considered by some to have been the greatest series of live performances in the history of the band.

At the conclusion of the U.S. leg of that tour in Miami during August of 1976, a reportedly delirious Moon was treated in Hollywood Memorial Hospital for eight days. The band would eventually move into Canada, and on October 21, 1976 at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, The Who gave their final live public performance with the drummer.

Moon held the dream of becoming an actor, and was able to land a number of roles during the 1970’s. He joined Starr by appearing in “200 Motels” in 1971 and “That’ll Be the Day” in 1973, along with “Stardust“, the latter film’s sequel in 1974. In 1978 he appeared with Starr and Alice Cooper in the film “Sextette“, which was also the final film appearance of Mae West.

Three years after their previous studio album, The Who began recording “Who Are You” in January of 1978. Moon’s addictions had caused a tremendous weight gain and his play to deteriorate to the point where the band considered firing him.

However, the drummer briefly rallied. In May while filming a segment for what would become their “The Kids Are Alright” documentary, which wouldn’t be released until 1979, Moon’s performances were strong. They would also prove to be his last with the band.

That year, Moon moved into a room which he rented from Harry Nilsson. It was the exact room in which ‘Momma Cass’ Elliot had died four years earlier at age 32. Nilsson was reportedly concerned with bad luck in renting Moon that room, but the drummer is said to have told him that “lightning wouldn’t strike the same place twice.”

Attempting to dry out and stay off alcohol, Moon began to take prescriptions for the sedative clomethiazole in order to help the withdrawal symptoms.

The prescribing doctor was not aware of Moon’s drug addiction history, giving him a bottle of 100 pills with instructions to take no more than three pills per day and then only when he felt the urge to drink.

Who Are You” was released in August of 1978. Five days later, Moon celebrated his 32nd birthday. Two weeks after that birthday he would be dead.

On September 6, Moon and his 30-year-old girlfriend, Swedish model Annette Walter-Lax, joined Paul and Linda McCartney at a preview showing of “The Buddy Holly Story“, a biographical film of the late rock star played by Gary Busey in what would prove to be an Oscar-nominated role. The two couples then went to dinner.

On returning to their apartment, Moon asked Walter-Lax to cook him steak and eggs. Tired after their long nigh tout, she refused and Moon replied, “If you don’t like it, you can fuck off!” These would be his last known spoken words.

Checking on him the following afternoon, Walter-Lax found Moon dead. It was later determined that he had consumed 32 of the prescription pills.

Fletcher wrote that a particularly rapid deterioration in Moon’s health had begun during The Who’s lengthy hiatus from 1972 through 1973 in preparation for recording “Quadrophenia“, as a hard-partying lifestyle with no touring and no drum playing took a hard toll on his body.

In addition to self-destruction, Moon had developed the habit of destroying not only drum kits on stage, but hotel rooms and even friends’ homes while off-stage. Fletcher quoted him as follows:

When you’ve got money and you do the kind of things I get up to, people laugh and say that you’re eccentric, which is a polite way of saying you’re fucking mad.”

The Who would ultimately replace Moon with a series of drummers, beginning at first with Kenney Jones of The Faces. Simon Phillips, who would later become the longtime drummer for the band Toto, took over for touring during 1989 after Jones left the band.

In 1996, The Who hired 30-year-old Zac Starkey, son of The Beatles drummer Ringo Starr, as their new drummer. He has remained a member of the band ever since.

Clem Burke of Blondie, Dave Grohl of Nirvana and Foo Fighters, and Neil Peart of Rush are among many drummers who have publicly stated that Moon was an influence on their drum stylings. It is believed that Jim Henson based his Muppet character ‘Animal’ at least partially on Moon.

The Who of the 1960’s and 1970’s have left a sound and a rock legacy that live on to this day. Is Moon now playing the backbeat for some heavenly band? Like the others in this “Rock & Roll Heaven” series, talent was never the question.


NOTE: This is the continuation of my”Rock and Roll Heaven” series of pieces on musical artists whose careers where cut short by their personal demons, the first in nearly two years.

The series now includes features on Keith Moon, Chris Cornell, John Bonham, Ty Longley, Karen Carpenter, Jim Morrison, Michael Hutchence, Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin.

It will now continue from time to time into the future. Past articles in the series can be enjoyed by clicking on the below ‘tag’ category, or by visiting the dedicated section under the ‘Entertainment’ category of the website toolbar.

Rock & Roll Heaven: Jimi Hendrix

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The rock world’s loss of Janis Joplin at such a young age was an especially difficult blow for the youth of America in 1970, in large part because it was their second such blow in a short period.

Just two weeks before Janis’ death by drug overdose, on the other side of the world, legendary American rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix had died under somewhat mysterious circumstances.

In London, England, Hendrix attended a late-night party on Thursday night, September 17th. He was picked up from the party in the early morning hours of Friday the 18th by his girlfriend, Monika Dannemann, who drove him back to her apartment at the Samarkand Hotel. Dannemann’s story, which frequently changed, was that Hendrix then took nine of her sleeping pills.

What is definitely known is that at 11:18 am the next morning, someone made a phone call for an ambulance to go to the room. The ambulance crew arrived just nine minutes later, and found the door to the flat was open. They saw a man lying on the bed, and there was no one else in the room.

As they looked closer, they found the man in what they described as a ‘horrific’ condition. There was red and brown vomit covering him, and covering the pillow and bed as well. The man’s airway had been completely blocked, and he was clearly dead. Police arrived quickly as well, and the man was transported to the hospital where he was officially pronounced as dead on arrival.

Dannemann became a further source of controversy when she publicly stated that Hendrix was alive when he was taken from the apartment. More fuel was added to the ‘mystery death’ fire when that night on the BBC News, rock star Eric Burdon announced that Hendrix had died as a result of a suicide. Burdon, an original member of ‘The Animals’ rock band, stated that lyrics to a Hendrix song and the circumstances as he knew them led him to make this statement.

Obviously drawn to the spotlight that Hendrix’ death created, Dannemann’s statements have proven completely irrelevant over the years. Any reasonable evaluation of the evidence shows that Hendrix likely returned from the party, where he had been drinking considerably, popped some sleeping pills, and fell into bed. At some point he vomited, choked on it, and died. Whether Dannemann was there when this happened, was asleep or unconscious herself, or had left the room and later found him, the odds are that it was she who made the ambulance call.

There have been speculations that she suffocated him, or slipped the sleeping pills into a drink, or had some other role in his death, but all that is pure innuendo. The coroner ruled that most of the vomit was red wine. Hendrix drank too much, and mixed it with too many sleeping pills, and likely died of an accidental overdose. No real mystery here.

Jimi Hendrix had been born as Johnny Allen Hendrix in Seattle, Washington during the early months of U.S. involvement in World War II to a 17-year old girl who had gotten pregnant by an American serviceman. She gave him up to some friends to raise in California, but Hendrix’ father took custody of him after being released from his military duties and changed the boy’s name to his own name of ‘James’.

The parents got back together, married, and ended up having four other children, most of whom had physical handicaps, before finally divorcing when Hendrix was just nine years old. His mother would die just a few years later.

In the aftermath of her death, at the age of 16, Hendrix purchased his first acoustic guitar with a $5 allowance that his father had given him. He practiced incessantly, and at age 17 his dad bought him his first electric guitar. Jimi played in a couple of local bands, and was influenced early on by blues and the music of Elvis Presley.

In 1961, Hendrix was arrested for riding in a stolen car, and was given the choice of two years in jail or two in the military. He took the military time, and spent a year in the army before being discharged early under murky circumstances that were likely because of his sub-par performance and attitude. He made an important contact in the army on meeting Billy Cox, a man who would be a key partner and influence in his musical development.

Hendrix moved to New York in early 1964 and won an Apollo Theatre amateur contest. In the spring in Atlanta, legendary performer Little Richard hired him as a part of his recording and backing band. He also spent a stint playing with Ike & Tina Turner during this time, and over the next couple of years his talent, flamboyant performing style, and his reputation all grew.

In 1966 he had his only daughter, named Tamika, with a teenage runaway with whom he briefly lived. Although he acknowledged the girl as his daughter in the shadow of a paternity suit, that paternity was never officially recognized in the courts.

That same year he was passed on to join The Rolling Stones band after being introduced to them by Keith Richard’s girlfriend, Linda Keith, who may have turned him on to some of the drugs that would ultimately kill him. But through those same contacts he did meet Chas Chandler, former bassist for The Animals who was looking to get into management. Chandler helped guide Hendrix in setting up his band, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, and also introduced him to Eric Clapton, who would become a close friend.

The ‘Experience’ set about recording and touring, mostly in Europe, and in 1967 Hendrix had his only son, James Daniel Sundquist, with a woman he had met while touring in Sweden.

He finally began to get American exposure when Paul McCartney recommended the Experience to appear in 1968 at the Monterey International Pop Festival. The band performed in front of numerous fans and, perhaps more importantly, music critics who took a liking to them, and things took off briefly.

1969 would prove to be a year of change, as the Experience fell apart. They played their final European gig together in February, and their final U.S. concert in late June, and by the end of the year Jimi had formed a new band which he called ‘Gypsy Sun and the Rainbows’.

Hendrix also turned into the headline performer at the Woodstock music festival that summer, performing a 2-hour set on Monday morning that was highlighted by his now-legendary guitar version of “The Star-Spangled Banner“.

On September 6th, 1970, Hendrix gave what was to be his final concert performance in Germany. He then returned to London, where he performed in public for the final time by jamming on-stage with Burdon’s new band ‘War’. He died just days later.

Hendrix musical career was marred by, and often fueled by, his constant drinking and drug use. He was a well-known user of LSD, marijuana, and amphetamines. Ultimately, his mixing of too much drinking and drugs would leave him, like Janis Joplin just weeks later, lying dead in a motel room. He was just 27-years old.

Did it have to be this way? Did the rock world, the American youth, have to lose these two legends to their demons of drink and drugs? Could they have risen to the heights that they attained without those substances?

Is Jimi playing guitar while Janis sings the lead on a stage somewhere in a rock-n-roll Heaven? Hard to say. It’s always hard to know exactly what were the extent of someones sins, and what atonement and peace they may have made before their death. One thing is certain, both Jimi and Janis left far too soon, and both did so because of their addictions.

NOTE: this article continues the “Rock and Roll Heaven” series, all entries for which can be enjoyed by clicking on that below ‘Tag’

Rock & Roll Heaven: Janis Joplin

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It is hard to believe that it has been nearly four decades now. On Saturday, October 3rd, 1970 Janis Joplin had stopped at Sunset Sound Studios in L.A. to listen to the instrumental for a song that she would be recording the following day. She failed to show up on Sunday for that recording.

The producers became upset and sent a roadie to the Landmark Motor Hotel where Janis had been residing since the end of August. He found her custom-painted psychedelic Porsche in the parking lot, and proceeded to her room. No doubt he was likely thinking that the hard partying 27-year old was sleeping off a Saturday night hangover or high.

On entering her room, however, he was stunned to find her dead on the floor where she had collapsed after an overdose of heroin during a night in which she had also been drinking alone.

A small, private funeral service was attended by her immediate family, and Janis was cremated with her ashes scattered by plane into the Pacific Ocean and along California’s Stinson Beach.

Just three days earlier, on October 1st, she had made what she never realized would be her final recording, a birthday greeting of the song “Happy Trails” for John Lennon. Lennon’s birthday was October 9th, and the recording did not reach his home until after Joplin’s death. It was like receiving a gift from the grave, the haunting voice of a ghost.

But the tragedy of Janis Joplin’s death is not that she died so young, with so much talent, and with so much still to offer the world.
The tragedy is that Joplin did not have to die. She died thanks to the choice of a lifestyle filled with excessive alcohol and drug abuse.

As a child, Janis’ parents had considered her unhappy unless she received excessive attention. As a teen, she rebelled by joining up with an outcast group of friends, and began to listen heavily to blues music.

She joined a choir, took up painting, put on weight, and broke out heavily with acne. She had a rough school life, often being taunted and called names, and stated herself that she was “a misfit.”

After high school she moved on to college in Texas, but never graduated. Hearing the call of the blues musicians and the ‘beat poets’ that she stylized herself after, Joplin picked up in 1963 and moved out to San Francisco where she eventually settled in the Haight-Ashbury section that became legendary as the home of the ‘flower children’ generation.

Joplin emersed herself in the music, drugs, and drinking culture, and could keep up with anyone in all three categories. She got heavily into heroin and amphetamines, was known as a ‘speed freak’, and took a particular fancy to shots of Southern Comfort whiskey.

Thanks largely to what today would be termed an ‘intervention’ by some friends, Joplin returned to Texas in 1965 and tried to get her life together. She cleaned up physically and in her lifestyle, went back to college, and even got engaged for a short time.

In mid-1966, her life changed for good, and not necessarily for the better. That year, the 23-year-old was ‘discovered’ musically by an early hippie band known as ‘Big Brother and The Holding Company’. She was persuaded to join the band in June, and they began to tour and record.

Money was tight, however, and by the end of the summer the band had driven back to San Francisco and moved in with members of ‘The Grateful Dead’ band. Here, Joplin once again got heavily into booze and drugs.

Over the next couple of years her band toured and recorded, and Joplin became increasingly popular and famous, with Time magazine eventually dubbing her “the most powerful singer in the white rock movement.”

The band got their first hit in late 1968 with the song “Piece of My Heart” which rose to and stayed at #1 on the Billboard charts for two straight months, but by the end of the year the problems with egos and substance abuse led Janis to leave the band and embark on a solo career.

Over the next couple of years Janis sank further and further into heroin abuse, but continued to make music and television appearances. In the summer of ’69 she appeared at the legendary Woodstock music festival, but by the time she hit the stage after a lengthy wait she was wasted on booze and drugs.

In the months leading up to her death, she began a relationship with Kris Kristofferson, and recorded one of his songs titled “Me and Bobby McGee” for an upcoming album. Alas, that album would not be released until after her death, and ‘Bobby McGee’ became a posthumous hit and legendary signature song.

Janis Joplin became a legend because of her talent and her timing. The talent was the obvious part. The timing involved her particular emergence during a counter-culture revolution for a certain segment of America that embraced drugs, booze, free love, personal irresponsibility, and folk-rock music. That her talent didn’t last longer was a direct result of those very same excesses and quirks that enamored her to her fan base during her times.

Joplin imprinted a pair of tattoo on her body, a wristlet and a heart on her breast. They became signatures and led to some mainstream acceptance of the art form. Her scarves, beads, and zany hairstyles became as much a part of her image as the drugs and her powerful, gravely voice.

Had Janis somehow made it through this period of her life intact, and ultimately lived a normal lifetime, she would be 65 years old right now. Can anyone imagine an aging Joplin still belting out “Piece of My Heart” or “Me and Bobby McGee” as an older woman? That may be a hard image to bring to mind. But more importantly, how much more could Janis Joplin have brought to her public, to us all.

The sad lesson of Janis Joplin’s life in the end is not how brightly a star can burn, but how quickly it can be extinguished, especially by it’s own means. Is Janis Joplin a lead singer again in some Rock and Roll Heaven? Who knows. But we know this, she died of her own accord, from too much booze and too many drugs, alone on the floor of a dingy California hotel room.

Welcome to Diversity Lane

A couple of weeks back, I was approached by the developer of a new editorial comic series in regards to possibly incorporating their artistic, comedic, and social commentary efforts here at my website.

Zack Rawsthorne is the creator of ‘Diversity Lane: A Liberal Family Saga‘ presented as editorial cartoons and with further graphics and audio.

As Rawsthorne explains, ‘Diversity Lane’ “chronicles the chaotic lives of an American family fully engulfed in modern liberalism. As such, they are self-destructive, tormented, and a menace to society – a kind of modern-day Addams Family in a never-ending battle with common sense.”

It stars little Diversity, the 8-year old daughter of Allison and Alex Lane, who somehow has thus far managed to remain ‘normal’ despite the liberal chaos all around her. Poor little Diversity has even been called racist for preferring white bread.

Her little 6-year old brother Jayson has never been exposed to the good in America, but is instead also bombarded by mom and dad’s far-left mantras.

These two defenseless children are being indoctrinated by their mommy and daddy, or at least mom and dad are trying their best to get the kids batting lefty.

Dad is Alex Lane, an ACLU lawyer who still thinks that Che Guevara is someone to be admired even now, a quarter century after graduating from college. The mom is Allison, a 4th-grade teacher who is described as ‘a walking lexicon of PC terminology’.

Allison is also a lesbian, and has both current and ex-girlfriends in the series. Mom’s ex-girlfriend, Sierra, is a Woodstock throwback, global warming alarmist, and a Wiccan. Her current girlfriend, Devon, is the quintessential angry intellectual lesbian, and is constantly either in or out of therapy.

Not only does Alex put up with all of this, he encourages it, and poor little Diversity isn’t even sure of which of her “mommy’s” is the real birth mother of her brother Jayson. What a mess, huh? Not when you are dealing with ultra-liberals, because this is their life.

Rawsthorne presents it with intelligent, biting humor and sarcasm, often through the eyes of one bright, young, and still somewhat innocent little girl who unfortunately has a particularly heavy sociological crutch to bear with her family unit.

I am happy to add the editorial comic series ‘Diversity Lane’ as a regular feature of the website, which will appear just below these main blog story entries and will be updated approximately once per week on the weekends. You can always reach the ‘Diversity Lane’ website by clicking directly on the comic as well.