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.
Earlier this week I was invited to Per Se, a sleek restaurant in the Time Warner Center here in NYC for a lavish lunch sponsored by Concord Records. Co-owner Norman Lear was there. So was former SNL and now Letterman band leader Paul Shaffer who served as MC. The occasion was the release of another Ray Charles project which I will be writing about in more detail in an upcoming issue of the magazine. Titled Ray Swings—Basie Swings, it's an elaborate studio creation. Again though, Look for more in December's Stereophile.