1970s

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Pop Rock Music Icon Tommy James Inducted into NJ Hall of Fame

Published February 20, 2017 by Maryanne

tommy-james-photo-from-carolTommy James (Photo used courtesy of Carol Ross-Durborow)

This article originally appeared in The Verona/Cedar Grove News (New View Media)

Pop Rock Music Icon Tommy James Inducted into NJ Hall of Fame

By Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta

Tommy James, said he is “very honored” to be inducted into the NJ Hall of Fame, which will be held in Asbury Park in May. The Cedar Grove iconic musician has 23 gold records, nine platinum albums, and over 100 million records sold worldwide.

“Crystal Blue Persuasion,” “Crimson and Clover,” “I Think We’re Alone Now,” “Mony Mony,” “Draggin’ the Line,” “Sweet Cherry Wine,” and “Hanky Panky” are just a few of his many hit records. His songs have been covered by other famous artists like Prince, Joan Jett, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Idol, Dolly Parton, REM, Carlos Santana, and The Boston Pops.

James’ music is heard in 31 films to date and numerous television shows including “Breaking Bad,” “Criminal Minds,” “The Goldbergs,” and “Aquarius.” You can also hear James’ songs in commercials. His “Crystal Blue Persuasion” is now the theme song for Crystal Cruise Line.

Born in Ohio and brought up in Michigan, James has been living in New Jersey almost 45 years. He’s lived in Clifton, and now resides in Cedar Grove. “I love it in New Jersey,” he said. “The weather’s moderate. The people are fun. It’s right by New York, where I have to be. I don’t think I can operate anywhere else. You’ve got the ocean, New York, Philadelphia. You’re in the center of the universe. Nothing is like New Jersey.”

While James has spent such a long time in New Jersey, he’s been in the music business even longer – 50 years! Regarding his endurance in the biz, he said, “I look at three generations of people in concert audiences. The music has never not been on the radio. I’ve been very blessed.”

James started playing music when he was 4-years-old and his grandfather brought him a ukulele. “I learned everything I could,” he said. “I started singing right away.”

His mom, who played piano, got James an acoustic guitar after he saw Elvis on TV. “The ukulele went out the window,” he said jokingly.

In addition to Elvis Presley, James was greatly inspired by the first generation of rock ‘n’ roll. “Gene Vincent … Buddy Holly,” he said. “Then The Beatles came along.”

Always encouraged by his folks, James taught himself to play acoustic, then graduated to playing an electric at the age of 10. He started his first band at 12, and got his first gig at 13. James graduated high school in 1965 and by 1966 his first hit, with The Shondells, “Hanky Panky” exploded.

“That’s how the good Lord works,” said James.

As a writer of so many hits, James says that inspiration for a song can come from anywhere. “I’m always looking on billboards for a little phrase,” he said. “I like to start with chord progression and it will tell you where it wants to go. ‘Crimson and Clover’ started with a title.”

He feels lucky to have had so many other notable musicians’ interpretations of his music. “I’m very flattered,” he said. “It’s always interesting to hear how another artist covers your songs.” His favorite is Prince’s version of “Crimson and Clover.”

James’ critically acclaimed autobiography, “Me, the Mob, and the Music,” was listed on Rolling Stone magazine’s “Best Music Memoirs” and is now in the development for a film, with producer Barbara De Fina, whose credits include “Goodfellas,” “Casino,” “Cape Fear,” “Color of Money,” “Hugo,” and the most recent, Martin Scorsese’s new film, “Silence.”

Matthew Stone just finished the screenplay for the film. His credits include “Intolerable Cruelty,” “Man of the House,” and “Big Trouble.”

James may have a cameo appearance in the film. “I may be a corpse,” he said jokingly, referring to his career which is now spanning 50 years and still thriving.

Now working in the studio on a new album, “Alive,” James expects an April release. “This is an album with eight new songs and four remakes,” he said, “A lot of nice little surprises.” One of the surprises includes an acoustic remake of “Crystal Blue Persuasion.”

Being able to thrive in the music business for 50 years and still have fun makes James feel so lucky. He said, “It’s been an amazing journey to be a lifer in this business. The fans, and the good Lord, I thank for the longevity and staying focused. That has meant a lot.”

For more information, visit: https://www.tommyjames.com/

 

 

Sound + Vision: The Music of David Bowie

Published December 17, 2016 by Maryanne

outpost

Saturday, Dec. 16, I won tickets to see the David Bowie tribute “Sound + Vision: The Music of David Bowie” at Outpost in the Burbs, Montclair, New Jersey.

The show was definitely in the Top 3 of all the performances I saw this year! I think they blew our minds. The Sound + Vision performance, which was directed by Richard Barone, was euphoric and touching. Over 20 songs were interpreted in honor of David Bowie, with almost all getting standing ovations.

My favorites:

  • Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber (BSA) opening up the first set with “Sound + Vision” — from my favorite album “Low.”
  • Followed by Wesley Stace, with Richard Barone on stylophone performing “Space Oddity.”
  • “The Man Who Sold the World” with Richard Barone and Nick Celeste
  • “Ziggy Stardust” by Richard Barone, glammed out in a red sequin jacket for the Ziggy tunes.
  • “Breaking Class” by BSA; another “Low” epic.
  • “Fame” by Jeffrey Gaines.
  • “Fashion” by BSA.
  • “Modern Love” by Wesley Stace.
  • “Lazarus” by Elvis Perkins, with Danielle Aykroyd on autoharp. From David Bowie’s last album, it was truly a tear-jerker.
  • “Heroes” by All (I counted at least 15 musicians onstage)
  • And the grand finale “Let’s Dance”

The Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber is made up of: Jared Michael Nickerson (bass); Leon Gruenbaum (keys); Ben Tyree (guitar); Trevor Holder (drums); Mikel Banks (vocals); Shelley Nichole (vocals).

And a shout out to School of Rock Montclair — warming up with Bowie hits. Standouts were “Golden Years” and “Under Pressure.”

Outpost in the Burbs posted several videos of the Sound + Vision performance on YouTube.

Sound + Vision: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WVE1ziiwLTg

Fame: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FuHruIiTMns

Ziggy Stardust: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WVE1ziiwLTg&t=132s

Thanks to such great talents for an epic evening. David Bowie will live forever in the hearts of both musicians and fans. This show was definitely proof of that! I truly wish they would do this show over and over again.

all

 From left: Danielle Aykroyd, Jeffrey Gaines, Mikel Banks, Shelley Nichole, Richard Barone, Elvis Perkins, Nick Celeste, and Wesley Stace (Photograph by Mair Lewandowski-Reitz)

sam_1796

Mairr (left) and I — before our mascara ran all over our faces, in memory of Bowie

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta is the author of “On the Guest List” available from Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Guest-List-Adventures-Music-Journalist/dp/162903908X

 

“On the Guest List” Book Reading/Signing

Published June 16, 2016 by Maryanne

Cover proof 4

Tuesday, June 21, 2016, 7 p.m. I’ll be doing a book reading/signing for my first book “On the Guest List: Adventures of a Music Journalist” at Fairfield Library, 261 Hollywood Ave., Fairfield, NJ.

“On the Guest List” is available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Guest-List-Adventures-Music-Journalist/dp/162903908X

“On the Guest List: Adventures of a Music Journalist” is a fun, upbeat memoir about a girl who loves music and life in general. Maryanne paints a vivid picture of being a teenager in the 1970s and young woman in the 1980s — and how the punk, new wave and rock scene was from a young fan’s viewpoint. Life truly comes together for Maryanne once she creates a career for herself reporting on the music she loves, writing for publications such as The Aquarian Arts Weekly, music.com and Punk magazine. Unlike other music memoirs, there is no downward spiral into drugs and addiction. Nor is it a groupie “tell all.” “On the Guest List” is simply a compilation of mostly happy memories straight from the pages of Maryanne’s diaries — and of course, her heart.

Thanks Boonton Library!

Published December 2, 2015 by Maryanne

SAM_9276Maryanne Mistretta and Stephanie Gabelmann

Thanks so much to Stephanie Gabelmann and The Boonton Holmes Library (http://www.boontonholmeslibrary.org) for hosting my presentation “Going Going Gone: What the Next Generation Won’t Remember.”

Synopsis for “Going Going Gone”

Since the year 2000, we’ve gained iPhones, GPSs, Twitter, Facebook and many other services and devices.

However, we’ve also lost some things that we’ve grown up with. In “Going Going Gone” Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta will take a walk down memory lane and talk about products that are either on their way out the door, or absolutely obsolete.

Some may actually surprise you!

Items included are: VHS video tapes, phone booths (and making phone calls in general!), travel agents, bookstores, newspapers and classified ads, wristwatches, maps, dial-up internet, encyclopedias, CDs, landline phones, film cameras, yellow pages and address books, and hand written letters.

Which of these items do you miss?

Christiano-Mistretta will also jolt your memory remembering some cool products of yesteryear such as the typewriter, the record player and Polaroid cameras.

Come share your views in this interactive lecture! Audience participation is greatly encouraged.

This presentation is available to libraries, senior groups, non-profit organizations, Jewish Community Centers, and rotary clubs. Please contact Maryanne for pricing and availability at: maryannechristiano@gmail.com

Guest Hosting WRAT’s Electric Ballroom with Keith Roth

Published November 10, 2015 by Maryanne

SAM_8643With Keith Roth, September 2015

THIS Sunday, November 15, 8 p.m. New Jersey friends and family can listen! I’m co-hosting The Electric Ballroom, WRAT 95.9 FM with Keith Roth!

From Keith Roth: Electric Ballroom ,11-15-15, This Sunday, 8:00 PM Eastern,Co-Host,Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta,She returns to the Ballroom, with the Release of Her Book (Love Cats),will discuss The Book,as well as Her upcoming Books,The 80’s and More,Also Giveaway’s of The New Rolling Stones,From The Vaults ,Tokyo 1990, CD/DVD!!! we came up with a Great Playlist that Includes The Clash,The Monkees,Lou Reed,David Bowie, Lou Christie,Joey Ramone,Tom Jones,The Smiths,NY Dolls,T-Rex,The Sweet,Rolling Stones,Alice Cooper, Ramones,Tommy James,New Dictators NYC,Love & Rockets,Pretenders,Bauhaus,The Cure,The Damned, Rocket From The Tombs,Lords Of The New Church and More!!! Come On Now ,What A Show,What A Show!!!!! NJ/NY WRAT 95.9 FM, wrat.com click on listen live!

“Love Cats” is available on Amazon in paperback or kindle versions: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1681020513

My first book “On the Guest List” is also on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/162903908X

The Anderson Ponty Band

Published October 30, 2015 by Maryanne

Last night my husband and I had the honor of seeing the Anderson Ponty Band at the Count Basie Theatre, Red Bank. It was a magical musical journey featuring legendary Jean Luc Ponty (http://www.ponty.com/) on violin and Jon Anderson (http://www.jonanderson.com/news.html) of Yes on vocals.

It was the second date of their short US Tour promoting their album “Better Late Than Never.” And it sure was better late than never, for me, to see this incredible act, which is also composed of, according to Ponty’s website: on keyboards, Wally Minko; bass, Baron Browne; and drums, Rayford Griffin. and Jamie Glaser on guitar. They were all just so incredible, caressing the audience with elegant sound.

I came in, unfamiliar with their work, only knowing Yes tunes. As a very young girl, 13, I was turned on to Yes thanks to an older boyfriend. The song I latched onto was the enchanting “Wondrous Stories.” So, when I heard the first notes live, I nearly screamed. Tears fell down my face as Jon Anderson heavenly sang in his unique elf-like voice. Other Yes songs included “You and I” and “Roundabout.”

Aside from the Yes tunes, not knowing anything else, I loved it. It’s great to go to hear the unknown, it’s one immaculate surprise after another. A beautiful progressive rock show. And truly a religious experience.

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta is the author of “On the Guest List: Adventures of a Music Journalist.”

Turtles Happy Together Tour 2015, State Theater, New Brunswick

Published August 3, 2015 by Maryanne

HappyTogether_Front-2Happy Together Tour 2015

My husband surprised me with tickets to this fabulous show last night at the State Theatre, New Brunswick, New Jersey.

It was a last minute decision, so we had seats in the last row! (If we got closer, we wouldn’t have been able to sit together, though we did see some people trading seats so they could be with the ones they came in with).

We had a blast! Every band was so tight and fun. There was a “house band” for most of the acts (for bass, drums and keys), which moved things along as every band did their hits.

First up was The Buckinghams, whose famous hit was “Kind of a Drag.”

Then our personal favorites — The Cowsills!! We saw them last year at a headline show in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, which was amazing. It was The Cowsills who brought us to this show. They opened with my favorite, “The Rain, The Park & Other Things.” Other hits were “Love American Style,” “Indian Lake,” and the legendary “Hair.”

Next was The Grass Roots with hits “Midnight Confessions” and “I’d Wait a Million Years.” (I had both singles as a little girl!)

Then came The Association. Known for “Along Came Mary,” “Cherish,” and the most beautiful “Never My Love.”

Then Mark Lindsay who sang with Paul Revere and the Raiders and had a huge hit, “Kicks.”

And finally, The Turtles (who I saw 10 years ago at an outdoor show in Hoboken). My favorites by them is “Eleanor.” And they had the whole audience standing for their biggest hit “Happy Together.”

As a finale, all the bands came out again and performed a few lines of their hits.

What a super fun, high energy show! If you get a chance to get tickets, this line-up is phenomenal!

SAM_8160Waiting for the show to start!

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta is author of “On the Guest List: Adventures of a Music Journalist.” http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/162903908X