COOL PEOPLE-PROCOL HARUM

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Artist Biography by Bruce Eder

procol1PROCOLAPROCOLB

Procol Harum is arguably the most successful “accidental” group creation — that is, a band originally assembled to take advantage of the success of a record created in the studio — in the history of progressive rock. With “A Whiter Shade of Pale” a monster hit right out of the box, the band evolved from a studio ensemble into a successful live act, their music built around an eclectic mix of blues-based rock riffs and grand classical themes. With singer/pianist Gary Brooker and lyricist Keith Reidproviding the band’s entire repertory, their music evolved in decidedly linear fashion, the only major surprises coming from the periodic lineup changes that added a new instrumental voice to the proceedings. At their most accessible, as on “A Whiter Shade of Pale” and “Conquistador,” they were one of the most popular of progressive rock bands, their singles outselling all rivals, and their most ambitious album tracks still have a strong following.

Procol Harum‘s roots and origins are as convoluted as its success — especially between 1967 and 1973 — was pronounced. Pianist Gary Brooker (b. May 29, 1945, Southend, Essex, England) had formed a group at school called the Paramounts at age 14, with guitarist Robin Trower (b. Mar. 9, 1945, Southend, Essex) and bassist Chris Copping (b. Aug. 29, 1945 Southend, Essex), with singerBob Scott and drummer Mick Brownlee. After achieving a certain degree of success at local youth clubs and dances, covering established rock & roll hits, Brooker took over the vocalist spot from the departed Scott, and the group continued working after its members graduated — by 1962, they were doing formidable (by British standards) covers of American R&B, and got a residency at the Shades Club in Southend.

Brownlee exited the band in early 1963 and was replaced by Barry J. (B.J.) Wilson (b. Mar. 18, 1947, Southend, Essex), who auditioned after answering an ad in Melody Maker. Nine months later, in September of 1963, bassist Chris Copping opted out of the professional musicians’ corps to attend Leicester University, and he was replaced by Diz Derrick. The following month, the Paramounts demo record, consisting of covers of the Coasters‘ “Poison Ivy” and Bobby Bland‘s “Farther on up the Road,” got them an audition at EMI. This resulted in their being signed to the Parlophone label, with their producer, Ron Richards, the recording manager best-known for his many years of work with the Hollies.

The Paramounts’ first single, “Poison Ivy,” released in January of 1964, reached number 35 on the British charts. The group also got an important endorsement from the Rolling Stones, with whom they’d worked on the television show Thank Your Lucky Stars, who called the Paramounts their favorite British R&B band. Unfortunately, none of the group’s subsequent Parlophone singles over the next 18 months found any chart success, and by mid-’66, the Paramounts had been reduced to serving as a backing band for popsters Sandy Shaw and Chris Andrews. In September of 1966, the Paramountswent their separate ways; Derrick out of the business, Trower and Wilson to gigs with other bands, and, most fortuitously, Gary Brooker decided to develop his career as a songwriter.

This led Brooker into a partnership with lyricist Keith Reid (b. Oct. 19, 1945), whom he met through a mutual acquaintance, R&B impresario Guy Stevens. By the spring of 1967, they had a considerable body of songs prepared and began looking for a band to play them. An advertisement in Melody Maker led to the formation of a band initially called the Pinewoods, with Brooker as pianist/singer, Matthew Fisher (b. Mar. 7, 1946, Croydon, Surrey) on organ, Ray Royer (b. Oct. 8, 1945) on guitar, Dave Knights (b. June 28, 1945, London) on bass, and Bobby Harrison (b. June 28, 1943, London) on drums. Their first recording, produced by Denny Cordell, was of a piece of surreal Reid poetry called “A Whiter Shade Of Pale,” which Brooker set to music loosely derived from Johann Sebastian Bach‘s Air on a G String from the Suite No. 3 in D Major.

By the time this recording was ready for release, the Pinewoods had been rechristened Procol Harum, a name derived, as alternate stories tell it, either from Stevens‘ cat’s birth certificate, Procol Harun, or the Latin “procul” for “far from these things” (hey, it was the mid-’60s, and either is possible). In early May of 1967, the group performed “A Whiter Shade of Pale” at the Speakeasy Club in London, whileCordell arranged for a release of the single on English Decca (London Records in America), on the companies’ Deram label. Ironically, Cordell‘s one-time clients the Moody Blues were about to break out of a long commercial tail-spin on the very same label with a similar, classically-tinged pair of recordings, “Nights in White Satin” and “Days of Future Passed,” and between the two groups and their breakthrough hits, Deram Records would be permanently characterized as a progressive rock imprint.

Cordell had also sent a copy of “A Whiter Shade of Pale” to Radio London, one of England’s legendary off-shore pirate radio stations (they competed with the staid BBC, which had the official broadcast monopoly, and were infinitely more beloved by the teenagers and most bands), which played the record. Not only was Radio London deluged with listener requests for more plays, but Deram suddenly found itself with orders for a record not scheduled for release for another month — before May was half over, it was pushed up on the schedule and rushed into shops.

Meanwhile, the prototypal Procol Harum made its concert debut in London opening for Jimi Hendrixat the Saville Theater on June 4, 1967. Four days later, “A Whiter Shade of Pale” reached the top of the British charts for the first of a six-week run in the top spot, making Procol Harum only the sixth recording act in the history of British popular music to reach the number one spot on its first release (not even the Beatles did that). The following month, the record reached number five on the American charts, with sales in the United States rising to over a million copies (and six million copies worldwide).

All of this seemed to bode well for the band, except for the fact that it had only a single song in its repertory and no real stage act — literal one-hit wonders. The same month that the record peaked in the United States, Royer and Harrison were sacked and replaced by Brooker‘s former Paramountsbandmates Robin Trower and B.J. Wilson on guitar and drums, respectively.

Procol Harum

The “real” Procol Harum band was now in place and a second single, “Homburg,” was duly recorded. Reminiscent of “Whiter Shade of Pale” in its tone of dark grandeur, this single, released in October of 1967 on EMI’s Regal Zonophone label, got to number six on the British charts. The group’s debut album, entitled Procol Harum, managed to reach number 47 in America during October of 1967, based on “A Whiter Shade of Pale” being among its tracks (which included the first version of “Conquistador”) — but a British version of the LP, issued over there without the hit, failed to attract any significant sales. The single “Homburg,” however, got no higher than number 34 in America a month later.

Shine on Brightly

On March 26, 1968, “A Whiter Shade of Pale” won the International Song of the Year award at the 13th Annual Ivor Novello Awards (sort of the British equivalent of the Grammys). The group’s newest single, “Quite Rightly So,” however, only reached the number 50 spot in England in April of that year. A new contract for the group was secured with A&M Records in America (they remained on Regal Zonophone in England), and by November, a second album,Shine on Brightly, highlighted by an 18-minute epic entitled “In Held ‘Twas I,” was finished and in the stores, and rose to number 24 in America but failed to chart in England. The next month, they were playing the Miami Pop Festival in front of 100,000 people, on a bill that includedChuck Berry, Canned Heat, the blues version of Fleetwood Mac, and the Turtles, among others.

A Salty Dog

In March of 1969, David Knights and Matthew Fisher exited the lineup shortly after finishing work on the group’s new album, A Salty Dog, preferring management and production to the performing side of the music business. Knights‘ departure opened the way for bassist Chris Copping to joinProcol Harum (thus re-creating the lineup of the Paramounts), playing bass and organ. Another American tour followed the next month, and in June of 1969 A Salty Dog was issued. This record, considered by many to be the original group’s best work, combined high-energy blues and classical influences on a grand scale, and returned the band to the U.S. charts at number 32, while the title song ascended the British charts to number 44. The album subsequently reached number 27 in England, the group’s first long-player to chart in their own country.Despite the group’s moderate sales in England and America, they remained among the more popular progressive rock bands, capable of reaching more middle-brow listeners who didn’t have the patience for Emerson, Lake & Palmer or King Crimson. Robin Trower‘s flashy guitar quickly made him the star of the group, as much as singer/pianist Brooker, and he was considered in the same league with Alvin Lee and any number of late-’60s/early-’70s British blues axemen. Matthew Fisher‘s stately, cathedral-like organ had been a seminal part of the band’s sound, juxtaposed with Trower‘s blues-based riffing and Reid‘s unusual, darkly witty lyrics as voiced by Brooker. Following Fisher‘s departure, the group took on a more straightforward rock sound, but Trower‘s playing remained a major attraction to the majority of fans.

“Whaling Stories” was an example of quintessential Procol Harum, a mix of 19th century oratorio that sounds like it came out of a Victorian-era cathedral, with fiery blues riffs blazing at its center. And being soaked in Reid‘s dark, eerie, regret-filled lyrics didn’t stop “A Salty Dog” from becoming one of the group’s most popular songs.

Broken Barricades

It was a year before their next album, Home, was released, in June of 1970, ascending to the American number 34 and the British 49 spot. This marked the end of the group’s contract with Regal Zonophone/EMI, and on the release of their next LP in July of 1971, they were now on Chrysalis in England.Broken Barricades reached number 32 in America and 41 in England, but it also marked the departure of Robin Trower. The founding guitarist left that month and subsequently organized his own group, with a sound modeled along lines similar to Jimi Hendrix, which had great success in America throughout the 1970s.Trower‘s replacement, Dave Ball (b. Mar. 30, 1950), joined the same month, and the lineup expanded by one with the addition of Alan Cartwright on bass, which freed Chris Copping to concentrate full-time on the organ. The group returned to something of the sound it had before Fisher‘s departure, although Trower was a tough act to follow. It was this version of the band that performed on November 18, 1971 in a concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and the DaCamera Singers in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada — the concert was a bold and expansive, richly orchestrated re-consideration of earlier material (though not “A Whiter Shade of Pale”) from the group’s repertory, and, released as an official live album in 1972, proved to be the group’s most successful LP release, peaking at number five and drawing in thousands of new fans.

Procol Harum Live: In Concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra

In England, Procol Harum Live: In Concert With the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra only rose to number 48 in May of 1972, but it was competing with a reissue of the group’s debut album (retitled A Whiter Shade of Pale, with the single added) paired with A Salty Dog, which outperformed it considerably, reaching number 26. A single lifted from the live record, “Conquistador,” redone in a rich and dramatic version, shot to number 16 in America and 22 in England that summer. Soon after, the U.S. distributor of the debut album, London Records, got further play from that record by re-releasing it with a sticker announcing the presence of “the original version of “Conquistador.”

Grand Hotel

Amid all of this success, the group’s lineup again was thrown into turmoil in September when Dave Ball left Procol Harumto join Long John Baldry‘s band. He was replaced by Mick Grabham, formerly of the bands Plastic Penny and Cochise. The band’s next album, Grand Hotel, was a delightfully melodic and decadent collection (anticipating Bryan Ferryand Roxy Music in some respects) that featured guest backing vocals by Christianne Legrand of the a cappella singing group the Swingle Singers. That record, their first released on Chrysalis in America as well as England, peaked at number 21. Six months later, A&M released the first compilation of the band’s material, Best of Procol Harum, which only made it to number 131 on the charts.

Exotic Birds and Fruit

The group’s next two albums, Exotic Birds and Fruit (May 1974) and Procol’s Ninth (September 1975), the latter produced by rock & roll songsmiths Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, performed moderately well, and “Pandora’s Box” fromProcol’s Ninth became one of their bigger hits in England, rising to number 16. July of 1976 saw a departure and a lateral shift in the group’s lineup, as Alan Cartwright left the band and Chris Copping took over on bass, while Pete Solley joined as keyboard player.

Something Magic

By this time, the band’s string had run out, as everyone seemed to know. A new album,Something Magic, barely scraped the U.S. charts in April of 1977, and the band split up following a final tour and a farewell concert at New York’s Academy of Music on May 15, 1977. Only five months later, the band was back together for a one-off performance of “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” which had taken on a life of its own separate from the group — the song was named joint winner (along with “Bohemian Rhapsody”) of the Best British Pop Single 1952-1977, at the Britannia Awards to mark Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee, and the band performed it live at the awards ceremony.

No More Fear of Flying

Apart from Trower, Gary Brooker was the most successful and visible of all ex-Procol Harum members, releasing three solo albums between 1979 and 1985. No More Fear of Flying (1979) on Chrysalis, produced by George Martin, attracted the most attention, but Lead Me to the Water (1982) on Mercury had some notable guest artists, including Eric Clapton and Phil Collins, while Echoes in the Night (1985) was co-produced by Brooker‘s former bandmate Matthew Fisher. During the late ’80s, however, Brooker had turned to writing orchestral music, principally ballet material, but this didn’t stop him from turning up as a guest at one of the annualFairport Convention reunions (Procol Harum and Fairport had played some important early gigs together) at Cropredy, Oxfordshire, in August of 1990 to sing “A Whiter Shade of Pale.”Still, Procol Harum had faded from the consciousness of the music world by the end of the 1980s. The death of B.J. Wilson in 1990 went largely unreported, to the chagrin of many fans, and it seemed as though the group was a closed book.

Then, in August of 1991, Brooker re-formed Procol Harum with Trower, Fisher, Reid, and drummerMark Brzezicki. An album, Prodigal Stranger, was recorded and released, and an 11-city tour of North America took place in September of 1991. Although this lineup didn’t last — Trower and company, after all, were pushing 50 at the time — Brooker has kept a new version of Procol Harum together, in the guise of himself, guitarist Geoffrey Whitehorn, keyboardman Don Snow, and Brzezicki on drums, which toured the United States in 1992.

#procol_harum#musicians#whiter_shade_of_pale#progressive_rock_band#beatnikhiway.com#ana_christy

AMERICANA -Top 10 Foods Only America Could Have Invented

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Top 10 Foods Only America Could Have Invented

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The American could have excelled in many other ways and fields. They may very well be the best nations in the world but frankly speaking when it is about the foodies and the food that is being served, American stands no place to certain other nations. The Americans cannot actually boast of a single cuisine or some kind of food that is completely theirs. Most of the recipes are from some other land. Nevertheless, America is also known for some of the greatest experiments with foods. There are certain cheesy and wheezy food items that can only be created by the people of America. So, We are going to enlist up the top 10 food only America could have invented.

1. Corn Dog

Corn Dog

There is no doubt of the fact that Americans are very good innovators. Thai is very well proved when a man named Neil Fletcher, came up with his brand new idea of smearing up the hot dog with some cornflower and then frying them deep. This gave the hot dog the look of rich Gold, enough to attract the eyes of the people and at the same time feeding them the same hot dog with a layer of corn on it. According to the Americans, it is something that is quite good but hey after all it is a Hot Dog and the main credit is of somebody else.

2. Philly Cheese steak

Philly Cheese steak

This is yet another food that we would surely want the Americans to take the credit for it. The Philly Cheese steak is a combination of all the things that are surely going to change you over to some bulky fellow provided you take this thing every day without fail. It is prepared with the meat with the highest possible content of fats in it. To add to it, there is a hell lot of Cheese to counter. Whatever it may be, the Philly Cheese steak does taste great and the people of Philadelphia are proud of it!

3. Chinese Food

Chinese Food

The most interesting thing is that the Americans also have the quality to design a food that is literally not of somebody but named after that country. In any case, all the Chinese food that we know of is the modified version of some simple noodles that the Chinese have. However, the Americans have had the time and pleasure to give it a complete makeover and have made it their own. Anyways, As far As I have known, the people from the east are more in favor of Rice cakes that Hakka noodles.

4. S’mores

S’mores: Top 10 Foods only America could Have Invented

If you g take a look at it, you will surely wonder that what is actually the fuss about s’mores. This is nothing but a food that is extremely deep-fried near about burnt and then some kind of a cream are applied over it to decorate. I do not understand what is there that makes it so very much famous but s’mores are some hit amidst the American people. Most of the foreign people find it extremely difficult to understand the reason behind the eating and liking fors’mores but it is as it is!

5. Reuben Sandwich

Reuben Sandwich

This is by far one of the most beautiful looking dishes that the Americans are given the credit for the invention. This thing surely looks like some sort of a dish prepared by some international chef but hey this solely belongs to America. What is not there in this dish? It has Chocolate, Strawberry flavor to the best possible extent, some sort of Orange flavor and some cheese as well. This unique blend of colors and taste is rarely found in any other American dish!

 6. Cobb Salad

Cobb Salad

This Salad will completely make you realize that why the majority of the fat people belong to the land of America only. The Americans seem to have a tendency to put in everything in the middle of Cheese and all sorts of Fatty stuffs. In general, what do we refer to as Salad? Something that is healthy and delicious at the same time but here in this case, the Cobb Salad is that stuffed salad that will fill in the entire space that you have. To add to that, it will surely lend you the most undesired body weight that you can even imagine to have in your lifetime! In spite of all this, the Cob salad is one of the most favored dishes to the Americans.

7. Baked Alaska

Baked Alaska

I seriously do not have any Idea what is so great on this thing. This thing looks utterly fat and disgusting to me but make sure that you do not say this to any American. The Baked Alaska is something that no great chef has ever dreamt of it. It is actually a dessert. A Pie has been baked. I am personally a huge fan of Pie and I do not wish to have a pie that is baked but the people of America love it. Obviously, they have created it.

8. Buffalo Wings

Buffalo Wings

I am a huge fan of the Chicken wings that they serve as KFC counters but it is good till chicken. Firstly, it is illegal to kill a Buffalo in here and secondly, I am not in favor of eating such a huge animal But is seems that the Americans love it. The Buffalo wings are kind of Chicken wings with the meat that belongs to a chicken. They love it being served hot and steamy with some cheese. Meat and cheese is yet another combination that is 100 percent pure Americans.

9. Turducken

Turducken

The Name is in itself the acronym for the things that are in the recipe for the food. The Turducken is one of the healthiest foods ever credited to the Americans and yet it surely has some great features. There is no doubt of the fact that the Turdumcken is a quite interesting but let me tell you, the blend of Turkey with a duck stuffing plus mashed chicken with deep fried is absolutely fantastic to eat. All you need is a simple layer of cheese. It is ready to be devoured.

10. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream

This is an Ice cream of sorts and yet at the same time it has many things that will help the cause of your hunger in the mean time. This is buttery and has a great taste to it considering the fact that there are stuffing’s like cookies and all in it. Originally, this is somebody else’s idea but the Americans have actually devised a great way to ensure that it is better that the original one!

#americana#food#american_food#invented#beatnikhiway.com

BEATNIK HIWAY -SIDWELL HOUSE, AVONDALE, OHIO

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Avondale is a little town located just west of Zanesville on Route 22, at the intersection with 93. There are no other roads in this town, which contains only a handful of residents. The largest and nicest home in Avondale stands on 22 just a few feet from the intersection and has been abandoned for roughly thirty years. This is the Sidwell House–one of Muskingum County’s best-known and scariest haunted houses.


What happened at the Sidwell House, and why is it unoccupied? As is always the case with local legends, there are conflicting reports. Every version seems to deal with a family murder here, although the specifics vary. The Sidwells are apparently the current owners and may have nothing to do with the last family who lived here. According to reports I’ve gotten, the house hasn’t been occupied since at least the early 1970s and possibly as far back as the 50s. One story says the last family was a newlywed couple who were murdered in their beds by an unknown assailant. Another story is more elaborate. This is how it was told to me via e-mail:

Back in the late 40s/early 50s a family of about 6 lived in the home–four children, a mother, and a drunken father. The father, who was also very abusive, came in late one night very drunk. He climbed the stairs to the bedroom and began fighting with his young wife, and stormed away. The next morning she arose from bed to find him gone. She searched the upstairs, but he was nowhere to be found. Descending the stairs she looked everywhere and finally found him stitting in a chair in the living room with his bottle. She began to cook breakfast. Arising from his chair he grabbed the shotgun from the closet, went to the kitchen, and found his wife standing in front of the stove. He raised the shotgun and repeatedly shot her from the back of her head to the back of her knees. He then quietly walked up the stairs to his childrens bedrooms and shot all four of his young children in their beds, then proceeded to shoot himself hours later. This is the story I had heard from my grandma for as long as I can remember. She said you could find it on every radio station and newspaper cover for a hundred miles.

All of which makes you wonder why the guy did it, when he could have had breakfast if he’d just waited another hour. At any rate, the house is now supposed to be the site of mysterious lights in the windows, gunshot sounds, even the smell of bacon cooking in the early mornings. The murdered family is said to haunt its rooms and halls. This is why the house isn’t occupied; no one stays long. According to the person who wrote the e-mail, her attempts to question the old-timers at Whitey’s, which is the diner around the corner and just about the only business in Avondale, were met with the cold shoulder. Somebody even called the house “evil.” But is there really anything to the ghost legends associated with this house?

Members of the family which last occupied it say the answer is probably not. I heard from the grown children of the White family in January of 2003, and they were able to fill in many of the factual blanks in the house’s true backstory.

According to them, it was built in the 1840s by the Rankin family. The Rankins farmed the surrounding land and built was was apparently an immense barn on the property–three stories tall with livestock stalls on the second floor. They also operated the place as an inn (The Rankin Inn) and held horse races on a track out back. As is usually the case with large Civil War-era houses, it’s rumored that it was a stop on the Underground Railroad. Marks on the cellar walls are supposed to have been left by slaves who counted the days before the next leg of their journey. (This is remarkably similar to Brown County’s Rankin House, a very historic confirmed station on the Railroad with its own ghost stories.) The last surviving member of this Rankin family was Winifred Vogt, who died there in 1963. She was a schoolteacher whose fiancee left her on her wedding night.

In 1968 the White family purchased the house from the Sidwell Brothers Limestone Company and moved in–two parents, five kids, and an uncle who sometimes lived there as well. This is the family about whom the legends arose, long after the kids had grown up and moved out. The truth is that they were a fairly normal family. The father of the family owned a trucking company, worked on his vehicles in the barn, and definitely never killed his wife or any of his kids. They sold the house back to the Sidwells in 1982 or 83, after which it apparently lingered in escrow during the divorce of one of the brothers. That’s probably why it’s still abandoned.

A clue as to why such horrible stories are told about a family which could only have been the Whites is the fact that Mr. and Mrs. White had what their children term a “rocky” marriage. Mr. White did drink a lot. And he owned a lot of guns, which he would sometimes show his children how to fire in the back yard. Things like this aren’t too far outside the norm, and they probably would have been forgotten by neighbors if the house they lived in hadn’t eventually been left abandoned. There’s just something about a scary-looking place that demands ghost stories.


However, that might not be all there is to the story. Several of the Whites had experiences in their very old home which might be classified as supernatural. Here are a few examples:

  1. One night my uncle and I were the only ones there and we were getting ready to go to bed. I could hear the sound of glass tinkling, as if drinking glasses were being carried on a tray. It was coming from the upstairs hallway. I could hear it clearly, but my uncle, who was nearby, didn’t notice it. One night, later on, my mother was sleeping in one of the downstairs living rooms and heard the exact same sound.

2. There was a barn on the property and it was one of the largest barns around. My dad had a trucking company and was working late one night on one of his trucks. The barn had 3 levels and the 2nd level was where livestock were kept. At the time there was no animals in the whole barn. My dad heard noises as if there was a stampede in the second level. There were all kinds of animal noises coming from the lower level, like it was full of livestock. It scared my dad so bad he later told my grandfather that the hair was standing up on the back of his neck. Years later, after we moved away, a man in his eighties was talking to my brother. He said that back when he was a little boy he was playing hide and seek with other kids there. He went into the barn and climbed up in a loft on the top floor. He said when he was hiding there he heard the exact same noises my dad heard. It scared him because there was no livestock in the barn at that time either.

3. An experience that I myself had was when I was alone in the kitchen. I heard the slam of the back door that went out on to the enclosed porch. I knew I should not have heard anything because I was looking at the door at the time and it was shut. Immediately following, there was a loud rap on the window nearest the stairwell going up behind the bathroom. Scared the shit out of me, I don’t mind saying. I went to the window thinking it was one of brothers and looked out. There was no one there.

That was the White family’s experience with ghosts at the historic house at 22 and 93–but they were not the first. A Ms. Katherine Martin of Cincinnati wrote with an excerpt from an old family letter, describing where her forebears lived, even though she’s not positive just who was there at the time and when. She has a general idea that it was around 1858, and that Marianna Jackson was one of the residents at that time. Here is the paragraph, transcribed verbatim:

“Hugh was so ill from malaria that Father took a pleasant house in Avondale that the child might have milk from their own cow. That is the house where everybody but Father suffered so from evil spirits (ghosts). I have never read any true account of spiritual manifestations to equal it. I was born there in October 1858. At last, Dearest said she’d not stay there another day, and so, belatedly, Father took a house in Cincinnati.”

An absolutely incredible find. There is little doubt in Ms. Martin’s mind that the “pleasant house in Avondale” described in the letter is the Sidwell House. We are left to wonder just what the “evil spirits” did that made eveyone but Father so miserable.

This background material adds greatly to our understanding of this mysterious house; my thanks to the White family and Katherine Martin for their help with the story.


Whether or not the stories are true, the Sidwell House in Avondale does stand vacant in a hollow off Route 22. It’s quite visible from the highway, which has probably helped its reputation. People who’ve never heard of the ghosts have seen the house and wondered why nobody has bought it by now. It really is amazing, considering how attractive it is after all these years empty, and the nice way it sits on a hill in the middle of its own little hollow. The location isn’t bad at all. Divorce or not, why hasn’t somebody snapped this place up? It’s similar to the case of Mudhouse Mansion.

After first noticing the Sidwell House and then receiving a few different e-mails about it, I decided to check it out for myself. After two or three attempts which were foiled by parking difficulties (there is nowhere to park in Avondale) we just pulled over on 93 one night in September 2002 and walked up to the gated driveway. To see what we found inside, click below.


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UPDATE

Alas, the Sidwell House is no more. Nothing this interesting, cool, and historically valuable can be left standing in the world of Wal-Mart and Starbucks, a mall at every freeway interchange and a condominium block at every crossroad. Slowly but surely, Zanesville and its environs are being suburbanized for (mainly Columbus-bound) commuters, and this grand old haunted farmhouse, as beautiful and picture-perfect as it was, breathed its last on the Monday before Christmas, December 18, 2006.

One source tells me that they made an attempt to load the house onto a flatbed truck and move it, similar to what happened when Circleville’s Octagon House was threatened by development, but it didn’t work, so they simply knocked it flat instead. Whether they tried or not, the Sidwell House (or the Rankin House, as it should more appropriately be remembered) is nothing but a memory now. Also claimed in this massacre of local history was the (very meager) remains of an abandoned amusement park I’d been trying to get some photos of for a while, the Moxahala; and they shut down and demolished the old restaurant around the corner called Whitey’s. They chopped down the old trees that gave the hollow surrounding the house and the hill above the town much of its character. They even bulldozed the hilltop and filled in a lot of the “hollow” with the foundation and cellar of the Sidwell House. All of which means that about one-third of Avondale has been wiped away, apparently to be replaced by something–at least judging by the amount of construction equipment to be seen near the corner of Routes 22 and 93. What will it be–a Home Depot? A new neighborhood of prefab M/I homes in the owner’s choice of three exciting layouts? Maybe a shiny new stripmall? Only time will tell.


As you can probably see, these photos were taken on Christmas Eve of 2006, just days after they did away with the house. (Thanks to Tim Holdcroft for the images.) The featureless plowed dirt field doesn’t even resemble the intersection as it appeared pre-demolition. It’s pretty clear that they’re bringing the roadside up to be level with the highway beside it, but beyond that, I’m not sure what’s going on. Anyone with further information about the fate of the Sidwell House, maybe a newspaper article about the demolition, or even a rumor about what’s next for the location–please drop me a line. In the meantime, we should mourn the Sidwell House, which lent its character to this little corner of Ohio for more than a century and a half.

Watch 92-year-old man serenades 90-year-old wife, brings everyone to tears — WTVR.com

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NEWKIRIK, OK – In case you need reassurance that everlasting love really does exist, this video of a couple at their 50th anniversary party will certainly help. Back in the 1960’s, Harvey and Mildred Wosika met while she was working at his brother’s café. The couple hit it off and they were married on August…

via Watch 92-year-old man serenades 90-year-old wife, brings everyone to tears — WTVR.com

WHAT DOES IT MEAN WHEN A GOAT GAZES INTO YOUR EYES

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Goats and Soda#goats

 

Headshop History: Why Do We Call Them Headshops?

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Headshop History: Why Do We Call Them Headshops?

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In the late-‘80s, my parents familiarized me with the relatively passé term “headshop.” They were ex-hippies who liked to reminisce during casual listens of Dark Side of the Moon. Had it not been for these moments of family bonding, I’d have remained ignorant of the term until well into my late teens. A lot of my friends were into the rave scene, possibly the late-‘90s substitute for the hippie scene, but no one ever mentioned a headshop. After a generational gap that witnessed the term “headshop” fade largely from popular vocabulary, it has in recent years returned to our lexicon. But while the word has been reintegrated, the meaning behind it remains foggy. Today we explore the history of America’s iconic headshop as a cog in a cultural cycle that rolls into our time nearly 50 years later.

Why Call it a Headshop?

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The Psychedelic Shop on Haight in San Francisco – possibly the world’s first headshop.

While the word “headshop” may have found its way back into popular vocabulary, the origin of the term may still seem elusive and confusing. Some claim “head” is actually an acronym for “He Eats Acid Daily.” Others may relate the term to a popular nickname for fans of the Grateful Dead; dead heads. But more than likely, the term actually found its seeds in slang that originated in 1913. This year marked the first documentation of someone pairing the name of a drug with the word “head” to denote a subject as an addict. In the ‘60s, when acid heads and pot heads became a pronounced aspect of American counterculture, headshops appeared to cater to those who wanted to improve their experiences. The song “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane repeats the line “feed your head” at the song’s closing; a challenge to the listener to expand his/her mind. In essence, a headshop’s mission was to help its clients “feed their heads.”

The Role Served by the Local Headshop

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What to expect from your average headshop.

Headshops began as shops specializing in selling drug paraphernalia. You could pretty much count on your local headshop to carry all sorts of goodies to keep your intoxication at its optimum from water pipes and rolling papers to psychedelic visual aids and incense. Of course, the drugs themselves were not part of a headshop’s inventory. In fact, federal and state laws often found headshops skirting violations through sheer creativity. To create the impression that the glass pipes and water pipes decorating the headshop shelves were definitely not intended for drug use, certain incriminating words were banned from use within the store. Uttering one of these suggestive words would often buy you an immediate ejection from the headshop or, in severe cases, a permanent ban. In states that have yet to legalize marijuana, this vocabulary-based ban remains in full effect.

Headshops in the late ‘60s also became important points of countercultural support, offering a safe haven for distributing underground publications that questioned authority or promoted esoteric spiritual practices. This political poignancy was gradually watered down. By the early ‘90s, the headshop aesthetic had been co-opted. You could walk into a shopping mall to buy your tie-dyed Bob Marley t-shirt, smiley face black light poster and Che Guevara shot glass. The revolution had long been sold and the need for headshops was no longer so immediate.

The Rise and Fall and Rise Again of Headshops

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Head Shop, NYC’s first headshop.

When headshops first began sprouting up, it was most common to find them in the hippest districts of the major U.S. cities. California experienced a pronounced headshop boom in the iconic birthplace of psychedelia, Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco. Further down the coast, LA’s west side was offering up a fair amount of headshops, particularly closer to the beach. On the East Coast, New York City used St. Mark’s Place as its headshop haven while the Midwest even had its fair share in Chicago’s Old Town.

The birth of the headshop arguably began with the legendary Psychedelic Shop on Haight Street which opened its door on January 3, 1966. New York City saw what was likely its first headshop a few months later when the candidly named Head Shop took residence on E. 9th Street. Headshops never completely went away but as stoner culture was co-opted by corporations for novelty T-shirts, the average headshop found itself forcibly streamlined into a standard smoke shop; a store that traded strictly in drug paraphernalia such as water pipes. However, with marijuana now existing in an almost-but-not-quite-legal gray zone, headshops are returning to popularity. Many have even evolved beyond their brick-and-mortar predecessors with the advent of the online headshop.

Today’s headshops may bear little resemblance to those that supported the late ‘60s counterculture, but at their heart, they’re offering similar services. The glass pipes never went away and in several cases the Bob Marley t-shirts and incense are back in the inventory. Do the modern headshops still offer the mind-expanding aids and countercultural poignancy intrinsically offered by the term “headshop” itself? That depends on the head.

HIWAY AMERICA -NEVERLAND RANCH, LOS OLIVOS CA

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Inside Neverland Ranch

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By Jonathan H

Editor’s Note: The post below was originally published in March of 2008. Since the tragic events last week, I felt compelled to write a follow-up. View the farewell post and the entire set of Neverland photos here.

Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch is up for auction next week. Bearings has gained access to the ranch, and has posted the images below.

As an aside, I personally believe Jackson is innocent of all charges. I speak as someone who has been on Jackson’s Neverland Ranch. It’s a bit disconcerting to think that I stand in solidarity with Geraldo Rivera, but what can ya do?

Many images I am not posting, out of respect for Jackson’s privacy. What I do post are places that were largely seen by the public (or at least by hordes of kids who count it a privilege to have been on “the Ranch.”) Whether or not you believe he’s innocent, one can still appreciate the beauty of Jackson’s vision in creating such a place. None of us should ever lose our sense of wonder and amazement at the world, and I think Jackson truly wanted children to have this, largely because he never had it as a child himself.

Without further ado, here are the photos.

The Train Station on Neverland Ranch
The train station at Neverland Ranch, taken on Kodak T-Max 100 speed film. Taken using a Tachihara large format field camera.


Neverland Ferris Wheel
The ferris wheel – What I would give to have a ride on this puppy.

Neverland Carousel
The classic, 50-foot carousel. Each horse and character seemed to be unique.
Neverland Bumper Cars
The bumper car tent.
Neverland Statues - Bronze
Statues near the front gate with aspen behind.
Neverland Station Clock
The Neverland clock at the main train station. I believe the time was accurate.
Bumper Car Controls
Ride designed exclusively for Michael Jackson. These were the controls for the bumper cars.
Neverland Front Gate
The front gate of Neverland Ranch.
Lithograph of the Michael Jackson
A lithograph of Michael Jackson with children at the front gate.

More pictures at: http://www.terrastories.com/bearings/albums/album/72157603558879859/Neverland.html

Saying Goodbye to Neverland and Michael Jackson

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By Jonathan H

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I wanted to make this post, not simply to jump on the bandwagon of the media outpouring for Michael Jackson. I’m not here to judge his life or talk about his finances, or his troubled past, or the allegations, or even Bubbles. I’m writing this simply to tell a story. It’s a story that I didn’t really have the inclination to say before. Now that Michael’s “Ranch” no longer exists, and — rides dismantled — it simply stands as a bank-owned shadow of its former self, I wanted say a few things about my experience at Neverland, and the truth behind how I was able to get in.

In many ways, I feel this is sort of a confession. I never saw Neverland as an interesting place. At first, I didn’t understood its potential to tell a photographic story. As someone who finds significance in historic architecture, I neither saw Neverland as significant, nor historic. All of that changed.

In December of 2007, I was on my way down to Ventura for the Holidays. I had taken multiple trips down the 101 before. Each trip, I made it a point tostop at a roadside abandonment to photograph at night. As it invariably is every December, just prior to Christmas, the radios are filled with the repetitious yuletide jingles of yore. Usually, the six-hour drive is bearable if I switch from one station to the next – between commercials. This particular drive down, I grew weary of the music. I’m not exactly sure why Michael came to mind. Part of it probably had to do with the silence and the habit of mine to imagine music in my head in such moments. It’s also possible that I passed the off-ramp for Los Olivos and thought of the place, only to think of it more and more. Whatever it was, the idea of then-abandoned Neverland began to roll around in my mind. The radio was off, and I began mentally turning over rocks in the process. What did Neverland mean about Michael? Then the big one loomed: Why couldn’t Neverland be “historic” in my mind?

I must admit, I suffer from the myopic view, like most historians — amateur or otherwise — that history must always be equated with old. That’s why Graceland was “history” to me, but Neverland never would be — at least not until it was gone. Hours passed, and the desire to see the inside of Neverland grew stronger. I had essentially exhausted all other photographic possibilities down the 101, and I knew this opportunity wouldn’t last long. Then, a day before I began the drive back up to San Francisco, I exited a theater to find what seemed like snow falling on me. I immediately realized they were large flakes of ash from a fire nearby. The sky was dark and orange. It was an eerie, foreboding signal, or at least that’s what I made it out to be. I needed to photograph Neverland, or else — and I had a strong feeling — it would all go to ashes without proper documentation.

Neverland EntranceOnce it was decided, there was no convincing me otherwise. Still, I thought more than once of giving it up altogether and to continue driving North. I tried to convince myself that I had trespassed many times before at other locations — but the implications had never really bothered me until I considered walking into Michael’s private park. As I write this, I still try to justify my actions by thinking how much Michael truly wanted to share his world. It was a genuine wish of his for everyone to understand things the way he did. And the world largely didn’t understand what he was trying to communicate with Neverland, so he abandoned it.

People have asked me over the past year what it felt like to be in Neverland at night, alone. I didn’t want to say anything except that it was the most surreal and incredible experience of my life. Others asked me how I felt about Michael, after seeing Neverland, but I couldn’t completely answer that. I was withholding judgement. Maybe, like all battle-bruised humans, I had the sneaking suspicion that all of my best feelings about the man would be shattered when another allegation would arise. But it never happened, just as I suspected, because everything I saw at the Ranch indicated to me that he was an innocent man.

The night I drove up to the front gates, the security guard was there, sitting in a well-lit pillbox on the side of the road. Neverland itself is up the road about 400 yards from the front gate. It happened to be a dark night. In fact, there was a new moon, and the sky was clear of any clouds. Out in Los Olivos, the stars shone brightly, and there was little light pollution in the atmosphere. I was sure to maintain my speed as I passed the guard, and I drove up the road to small parking area east of the park. The walk to Neverland was about a half-mile through rolling hills in pitch black conditions. I carried a GPS, set to its dimmest level, and continued on a straight click, towards the North end of the park.

neverland-fairgrounds

I came upon a back road that seemed to have been a utility road for the animal caretakers. By then, all of the animals were gone, save a few dogs in the old aviary. Bursting out from the branches of valley oak, I found myself in a miniature city. I had emerged right at the petting zoo. From there, my adventure began.

neverland-at-nightStrangely enough, the moment I entered, a howling wind spread across the valley. Trees cracked their massive arms and fell; I could hear the Ferris Wheel creaking; the rope drawbridge waved wild and unpredictable. When I walked up to the deserted bumper car tent, the wind had become so strong, that it was tearing the red, canvas roof. It’s fortunate that the wind also allowed me to roam freely around the park without a single bark from the nearby dogs.

In the midst of all of this wind, the only static elements of Neverland were the frozen, bronze faces of the myriad statues that dotted the grounds. The children’s smiles almost seemed sad, in the context; and other than the occasional jolt of fear that hit me when I encountered a new frozen figure (thinking it was a real person), these statues were the subjects that I found my camera most drawn to. The rides themselves could have been found on any county fair in any state in the country. But it was the psyche of Michael Jackson that drew my curiosity. The statues were a conduit; they were my artifacts to catalog before the time of their eventual liquidation arrived.

I took two more trips to Neverland, each time with close friends. In all, I captured hundreds of photographs of the park. Many of these photographs, I will never publish. Each trip became progressively more bittersweet. I don’t really have any regrets about doing what I did, but if there is one thing I wish I had done at Neverland, it would have been to ride down the Super Slide; I think MJ would have liked that, and I’m sure the friends with me on my final trip would have turned it into a photo shoot.

family-portrait

Despite how kitschy it all seemed; despite the controversy; and the fact that I could only see Neverland from one perspective (that of night),  the times I spent at Neverland are among the most memorable moments of my life. Neverland allowed me to escape the cynical, xenophobic world of a country mired in war, terrorism, and daily reports of suicide bombers.  They may have been only a few nights of escapism, at best, but they allowed me to put myself in the shoes of Michael — moon walking my own way among the soon-to-end dreamscape of a truly magnanimous soul. May you rest in peace, Michael; your dream will live on.

Additional Neverland Sets

Very Cool -BEST Products Company, Inc. – 1975

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