Call me a hopeless romantic but I could not get “Penny Lane” out of my head as I sat in the back of a black cab whizzing across a remarkably deserted London early one morning a couple weeks ago. “On the corner is a banker with a motorcar…” I was on a pilgrimage. More like THE pilgrimage. The one every serious fan of twentieth century music needs to make at least once. Out to St. John’s Wood and Abbey Road Studios.
In New York City or more specially Corona, Queens, July is the month when thoughts turn to the legacy of one Louis Armstrong. Last weekend, I made the pilgrimage with my patient wife to the Pops home in Corona, to view what is now the Louis Armstrong House Museum.
As I sit down to write a year's-end musical retrospective, I feel that the old column-writing joke between Stereophile editor John Atkinson and myself about first needing a subject and, second, needing it to make sense, will not be a problem this time out. For me, the music and almost everything else about 2001 have been dwarfed in importance by the mayhem wreaked on New York on September 11.
Does having commercial leanings make you a traitor to the purity of your art? Can you make money in music and still have integrity? These eternal questions came to mind upon the death of singer Al Jarreau. Often savaged by critics and fans for his success, Jarreau cut his own path and by the time he died, at the age of 76, of respiratory failure on Sunday, February 12, he'd had more than a few last laughs on his detractors.