Category Archives: politics



By  Alan Chrisman

Bob Dylan made his commercial electric breakthrough with his song,  “Like A Rolling Stone”, which  was released on  July 20, ’65.  Dylan finally had his first  Top Ten  hit with “Like A Rolling Stone”. Despite its 6 minute length , the song became Dylan’s most commercially successful release, remaining in the US charts for 12 weeks, where it reached number 2 behind The Beatles Help ( although he had recorded his previous album, Bring It Back Home, as half acoustic and half electric just  a few months before).  “Subterranean Homesick Blues, also electric, from the Back Home album had just barely made the Top 40 Billboard Chart peaking at number 39.  Dylan had been popular on college campuses with his acoustic folk-protest songs, but he craved the  mainstream acceptance that the Beatles had and they craved the more artistic respect that  he had. “I just kept it to myself that I really dug them,” Dylan told biographer Anthony Scaduto (per Rolling Stone). “Everybody else thought they were just for the teeny boppers . Upon hearing, “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, Dylan said later, “They were doing things nobody was doing,” “Their chords were outrageous. It was obvious to me they had staying power. I knew they were pointing the direction that music had to go. It seemed to me a definite line was being drawn. This was something that never happened before. ” So they both directly influenced each other and reached out to each others’ audiences.   The Beatles started paying more attention to their lyrics after hearing Dylan’s songs.  John Lennon’s writing, especially with songs such as “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” and “I’m a Loser”, started becoming more reflective and personal.  The Beatles also would soon release their folk-rock influenced album, Rubber Soul,

Bob Dylan would be booed for going electric at the Newport Festival on July25, '65

Bob Dylan would be booed for going electric at The Newport Folk Festival on July 25, 1965

by the end of ’65, with songs like “Norwegian Wood” and “Nowhere Man”.  Meanwhile, Dylan had been affected by them, “In my head, the Beatles were it.” His next album, Highway 61 Revisited also released in’65, would be all electric.
Five days, after releasing the single, “Like a Rolling Stone”, Dylan would play the Newport Festival on July 25, and half the audience, the folk purists, would boo him for going electric and leaving behind his political folk-protest past. Dylan and the electric The Band was still booed by some folk-purists in '66 at the Royal Albert Hall, London

Dylan would continue to be booed by some folk- purists in ’66 when he played with the electric mainly Canadian, The Band, at the Royal Albert Hall, London

And even almost a year later, when Dylan toured England in ’66 with the electric, The Band, he was still being booed for playing rock-influenced music. A heckler at Manchester Free Trade Hall shouted “Judas” at Bob Dylan for having the audacity to play an electric set . Dylan replied, “I don’t believe you . . . You’re a liar,” then told his band to “Play it f***in’ loud” as they launched into Like a Rolling Stone.  And like the Beatles, it had changed the direction of music.

In 1974, I saw Dylan and The Band (who are mainly Canadian) perform “ Rolling Stone” In Montreal, as everyone got up and sang along.  Rolling Stone Magazine ranks, “ Like a Rolling Stone” as the greatest song of all time.

From Martin Scorsese’s documentary No Direction Home, Like A Rolling Stone”:

Canadian Security Bill, C-51, many say will over-extend government's powers

Woman Bares Breasts to Expose Canadian Security Bill


By Alan Chrisman (All Articles ARE written BY ALAN CHRISMAN), copyright 2012-2015.( a Praveen Patel has tried to hack them and claim them.)

A Canadian woman exposes her breasts in The Canadian Parliament to protest the Conservative government’s new security bill, C-51.  During a public session of the Canadian Parliament, a woman in the visitor’s gallery appeared topless and yelled out against the government’s proposed new anti-terrorism bill.  There are currently hearings in Parliament on the new proposed legislation.

This is just one of many growing protests against the bill. On Mar. 14, several rallies were held across Canada to demonstrate against it.  The Federal government has said it is needed to protect Canadians from foreign and home-grown terrorism in reaction to the attack on the Parliament buildings and the killing of an unarmed soldier at the War Memorial last October by a single gun man.

But several groups including the opposition parties, the New Democratic Party and The Green Party leaders, as well as the Canadian Bar Association,  have come out against  the new legislation , they say, would put over-reaching powers into the hands of the Canadian security apparatus, including CSIS, the Canadian equivalent of the NSA in the U.S.  It has also just recently been revealed that like the NSA, CSIS has been collecting data on not only suspected foreign nationals, but also been compiling meta-data on Canadian citizens and their communications both outside and inside the country.  A professor at the well-respected Munk Centre for International Relations at the University of Toronto has been quoted as saying, Canadians have been used as “lab rats”, without their knowledge and that the legislation would extend these powers substantially more.

I wrote in my previous blog: “Edward Snowden:  The Unlikely James Bond”, that Snowden revealed that the NSA wanted to have (and almost got) secret capabilities on all devices sold to the public so they could listen in on all communications.  And as I said in my blog, “Canada Loses Its Innocence” written right after the attack on the Canadian Parliament last October, Canadians should not over-react out of fear.  Several activists and aboriginal groups have also expressed that new criminal legislation could also be used to stifle them as well. The woman who exposed herself at the Canadian Parliament was, evidently, a member of the Quebec Femem group, and they have used this tactic before to draw attention to other issues.  I also wrote a previous blog about the anti-Putin demonstrators and musical group who has used similar public displays in Russia, “Pussy Riot, Putin & The Ukraine.”

Russian musical, political group, “Pussy Riot” protesting Putin:

Russian political, musical group, ” Pussy Riot”, protesting Putin government’s powers

Yoko Ono is now 82, and respected as her own artist



By Alan Chrisman, copyright.

Yoko Ono’s birthday is Feb. 18.   John Lennon said once that Yoko was one the most famous artists in the world, but few people have actually seen her work.  But that has changed over these past several years and she has emerged as her own respected artist. Her art had been shown and received critical acclaim in many major art exhibits all over the world*.  And several musicians from succeeding generations from The B-52’s to The Flaming Lips to Lady Ga Ga credit her with inspiring them. Many people may also not know that she has had 12 #1 Billboard Dance Chart hits of her own songs since 2003.

She is recognized as one of the founders of concept and performance art going back to her involvement in the early New York movement, Fluxus, who were influenced by recognized pioneers John Cage and Marcel Duchamp.  She published her book, “Grapefruit”, in 1964 (which contained a poem “Imagine the clouds dripping”) that helped inspire Lennon’s signature post-Beatles’ song and made her own avant-garde films.  This was all before she even met Lennon in 1966.  There’s no doubt that she helped expose him to concept art and how it could be used to make social statements and reach the public, such as in their Bed Peace events and the War Is Over (if you want it) campaign, etc.

Yoko introduced John to concept & performance art which they used to promote peace

Yoko introduced John to “concept & performance art, which they used to promote peace

Bed Peace

But besides seeing her husband, John Lennon, being murdered right in front of her by a crazed Beatles’ fan in 1980, she has had to endure years of some fans vilifying her. There are some that still accuse her of breaking up the Beatles, now 45 years ago. Even though, Paul McCartney said in 2012 that he did not blame Ono for the breakup of the Beatles and credited Ono with inspiring much of Lennon’s post-Beatles work.

When she married Lennon in ’69, she was called the racist name  “dragon lady” and was seen as cold and manipulative and later for her treatment of John’s son, Julian, from John’s first wife Cynthia.  But Paul McCartney, with whom she at one time had some copyright and other differences, has said since then“I thought she was a cold woman. I think that’s wrong….. she’s just the opposite….. I think she’s just more determined than most people to be herself.” Julian and Cynthia posed with her at Julian’s photo exhibit in New York in 2010.  And Sean and Julian remain close half-brothers. Some may also not know that Yoko in return thanked Paul for actually helping John get back together with her (while visiting with Ono in March 1974, McCartney, on leaving, asked “[W]hat will make you come back to John?” McCartney subsequently passed her response to Lennon while visiting him in Los Angeles. “John often said he didn’t understand why Paul did this for us, but he did.”

Most of these disparaging myths that have built up around her have become mainly water-under-the-bridge for the parties involved. And it’s the public who sometimes carry on these misunderstandings. It’s like any family that doesn’t always agree on everything, only it’s been magnified because they’re immensely famous.  But most Beatles fans, I think, have come to respect Yoko for carrying on John’s legacy and their commitment to peace and change.

A far as her music, she has been accused of not having talent and that her singing is just “screaming”. But a lot of people who have said that, again, have probably never even heard many of her albums. It’s really only on her first album, which was made at the same time as John’s own first real solo album, Plastic Ono Band, in 1970, right after they had both gone through primal “scream” theory with Arthur Janov. They continued to release solo albumsfor both of them for the next few years and these contained very few such songs. In fact, there are some very well-constructed songs by Yoko on her next album, Fly in 1971 (“Midsummer New York”, a rocker, and the haunting “Mrs. Lennon”).  Yoko’s next record is a double album, Approximately Infinite Universe with backing by the Elephant’s Memory band. It is my favorite of hers, and like my favorite Beatles’ album, The White Album, it’s full of great songs by her and in a wide variety of styles. With songs like “Death of Samantha”, “Looking Out from My Hotel Window”; the rocker, “ Move On Fast”, and the political plea, “Now or Never.” For anyone who would actually listen to the words and performance on this album, I believe, for example, it would soon dispel the myth that she can’t sing and write good music. In 1973, she released the jazzy, Feeling the Space.

Yoko's Approximately Infinite Universe album, 1972, contains a wide variety of songs and styles

Yoko’s Approximately Infinite Universe album, 1972 was like her “White Album”, containing a wide variety of songs and styles

When John and Yoko released his last album, Double Fantasy, both of them shared the duties and compositions, often counterpointing the other’s songs (such as his “I’m Losing You” with her’s “I’m Moving On”).  The night John was shot they were working on her song, “Walking on Thin Ice”, which later became a dance hit.  Yoko, like with her art, has continued to put out several albums over the years and as I said, has had many dance hits. Several others have recorded her songs from Elvis Costello and Rosanne Cash, to more recent urban and alternative artists.

Yoko is in her 80’s now, but doesn’t seem to be slowing down one bit in her art, music or pursuit of peace and social change. And more and more the world and fans are finally catching up with her.

I was privileged to see Yoko and Sean perform in a small Toronto club in 1996 for her album, Rising.  And it was interesting to see how she won over even the few Yoko detractors by the end of the show. I had actually seen one of her early films in a small movie theatre in my university town before I knew she had met John Lennon and got to hear a performance by legendary art concrete pioneer, John Cage, around the same time.

BOSTON HEARLD: Feb. 16, 2015:  Monday’s great women: Yoko Ono, Helen Mirren, Uma Thurman

I LIKE criticism. It makes you strong,” says LeBron James.

THIS IS perhaps true. And in that mind-set, Yoko Ono must be one of the strongest of humans. What Yoko endured during her marriage to John Lennon — and even for years after she was widowed — was enough to bring down another person. But Yoko stayed true to every single ideal of her life and her art. In doing so, she has survived triumphantly. In her 80s she has seen the cultural world turn around and embrace her — not just her own generation or people in their 50s or 60s who still carry a lot of nostalgia for the Beatles and John. Nope, Yoko became a big deal on the dance charts with her unusual and uncompromising music. Kids know Yoko!

Now she is being celebrated in a soon-to-be published limited edition book, “See Hear Yoko” by Bob Gruen and Jody Denberg. Gruen, who was Yoko and John’s personal photographer, and Denberg, who interviewed Yoko many times over a 25-year span, have packed their tome with more than 200 photos and observations about this impressive, talented and courageous woman. (And might I add, for all her strength, a much more vulnerable person than the insulting and racist “dragon lady” publicity of her early, fraught years with John.)

“See Hear Yoko” is out next week, from Harper Collins

Yoko is respected as being in on the beginnings of performance art in New York in the early 60's.

Yoko is respected as being in on the beginnings of performance art in New York in the early 1960’s

* From May 17 to September 7, 2015, The Museum of Modern Art presents its first exhibition dedicated exclusively to the work of Yoko Ono, taking as its point of departure the artist’s unofficial MoMA debut in late 1971.

Yoko singing her haunting,” Mrs. Lennon”, 1971:

Top Five, new film by Chris Rock, some have called the black Annie Hall



By Alan Chrisman, copyright.

Over New Years, I saw Chris Rock’s new film, Top Five. Some critics have called it a black Woody Allen film and have compared it to Allen’s classic film, Annie Hall, from 1977.   If Woody Allen had been black instead of white and Jewish, and was making a statement about our current world, he might have made a similar film such as this one.  Like Allen’s, it also uses the streets of New York City as it’s backdrop.  But it’s both a romantic-comedy and a satire of our current media and celebrity–obsessed world.

It’s the story of a former stand-up comedian and comic actor, Andre Allen, played by Chris Rock, who wants to make more serious social statements in his work (he has become famous and successful dressed as “Hammy the Bear” in a series of mindless popular movies).   Andre has just made a political film about the Haitian Revolution, but his fans and the media are more interested in his light comedies. On top of this, he’s also about to marry a reality-TV star, Erica (Gabrielle Union), which his managers say will be good for his career.

But in order to publicize his serious film, he meets beautiful New York Times reporter, Chelsea Brown, (Rosario Dawson) and gradually all his and his handler’s plans begin to fall apart, at this turning point in his career and life. Reminiscent of Woody Allen’s films again (Chris Rock not only acts in but also wrote and directed Top Five), there are long shots of the two walking around New York having interesting conversations, as they are gradually attracted to each other. But like Allen, he doesn’t make relationships seem easy.   It’s to Rock’s credit that he has also made both main characters flawed as well; they both have some hidden baggage that has to be confronted if their romance is to continue.

Chris Rock & Rosario Dawson in Top Five could be the black Woody Allen and Diane Keaton

Chris Rock & Rosario Dawson in Rock’s film, Top Five, could be the new black Woody Allen and Diane Keaton

Top Five though could only have been made by a cutting-edge and black comic like Chris Rock.  For that’s where the similarities with white comedians and films ends.  Whereas, Woody Allen’s and Jerry Seinfeld’s cerebral and upper and middle–class character comedies and Adam Sandler’s frat –boy humor (both Seinfeld and Sandler make cameo appearances) examine sex and white guilt and hang-ups, Rock’s probes his own black working-class roots.  He takes on directly black culture and stereotypes, even to question their own hang-ups and icons.  He has roles played by several black entertainers from former fellow Saturday Night Live alumnus Tracy Morgan , Cedric the Entertainer,  Kevin Hart, to Whoopi Goldberg.   In fact, Rock pulls no punches even when satirizing his own community- which took a lot of bravery.  He even dares to comment on Oprah’s “noble” black stereotype (Cosby has criticized Rock before for using the word  “nigger” extensively, but we now know Cosby’s own reality)) and Tyler Perry’s  films (in one scene, people are lining up to see Perry’s populist films, but ignoring Rock’s serious Haitian Revolution one).

Also there are several uncompromising sex scenes and language which, frankly, some white audiences won’t probably appreciate or understand. This is not a film with politically-correct language and politically-correct attitudes, which is rare for liberal Hollywood. This film might be an indication that Rock could well be the inheritor of Richard Pryor’s take-no-prisoners mantle. But it only makes Top Five more authentic.  Instead of making it just a romantic-comedy (which it is partly), he has made it real and better in the process.

There’s no doubt, that like Woody Allen’s films, it’s also largely autobiographical. For Rock, like his character, is at a turning point in his own career and life (just recently Rock announced that he’s divorcing his wife of almost 19 years) and is moving ahead to be a creative writer and a director. Rock says that as a child his parents had him bused out of his poor black neighborhood to attend a mainly white school, but he said it only made him a target for white abuse.  The film could perhaps be somewhat of an homage to Woody Allen (the main character is named Allen). Critics have been giving it good reviews and it’s been nominated for awards and is doing well at the U.S. box office. Rotten Tomatoes gives it an 8.5 rating.

Actually, it also reminds me of two of my other favorite films as well.  Sullivan’s Travels is a classic 1942 film by Preston Sturges staring all-American, Joel McCrea, like Chris Rock’s character, a successful Hollywood director who wants to make socially-relevant films rather than light comedies, until he meets sexy, street-smart Veronica Lake and of another Woody Allen movie besides Annie Hall, 1980’s Stardust Memories.  In that one, Woody plays an again successful film maker who wants to also make more “meaningful” films.  At the end of it, he meets some aliens who, when Allen typically comments about the ‘uselessness of existence’, The aliens , much as Sullivan learned in the ’42 film, advise him to “just make funnier movies” and that that is the best thing he can do for the world.

Stardust Memories, Woody Allen's 1980 film, examines some of same themes , romance and att and society, as Chris Rock's new film, top Five

Stardust Memories, 1980 Woody Allen movie, examines some of same themes (romance, art, and society) as Chris Rock’s new film, Top Five

Sullivan's Travels, 1941 classic film, tcoved some of same thenmes as chris Rock's new film, Top Five

Sullivan’s Travels, 1941 film classic by Preston Sturges, has similar basic plot as Chris Rock’s Top Five film

It’s clear, that Chris Rock was very influenced by these above classic films in subject, plot and characterization.  Like all good artists, which this movie shows he has the potential of becoming, as well as an entertainer, Rock has learned from those who’ve gone before him, but has made it into something new again while commenting on our current society and current relationships.  While some of the scenes and humor will make sense especially to his community, like Woody Allen, he’s also tapped into some very universal human experiences with which we can all relate and that’s why Top Five is so strongly recommended.

Trailer for Chris Rock’s Top Five Film:

EL TOPO by Alejandro Jodorowsky was a unique film experiece



By Alan Chrisman (All Articles ARE written BY ALAN CHRISMAN), copyright 2012-2015 (A Praveen Patel has tried to hack them and claim them).

My hero, John Lennon, said El Topo was the best film he’d seen, so of course, I had to check it out.  It contains everything I usually don’t like in films: bloody violence, gratuitous sex, heavy symbolism, etc. The first time I saw it, half the audience walked out; the rest gave it a standing ovation-my kind of movie!  By the end of the film, I found myself weeping. I didn’t know just what I had just seen, but I knew it was great.

El Topo is an American-Mexican film written, directed, and acted by  Alejandro Jodorowsky, a Chilean avant-garde theatre director who studied mime and it was originally released in 1970.  It’s hard to describe really-perhaps Fellini meets The Good, Bad, and The Ugly.  Some have called it an Eastern-Western. It’s basically the story of a violent, leather-clad gunman who has to meet and defeat several “masters” while on a journey to enlightenment. El Topo is loosely based on a South American allegory: El Topo (The Mole, in Spanish) spends its life underground and when it finally reaches the surface, it is blinded by the sun.

El Topo's main character, played by Alejandro Jodorowsky, himself, is a violent gunfighter who must defeat several

EL TOPO’s main character, played by Alejandro Jodorowsky, himself, is a violent gunfighter who must defeat several “masters”

Along the way, Jodorowsky skewers every Western icon and adds in eastern spiritual influences. He juxtaposes the most brutal images of our civilization with, somehow at the same time, the most touching human images (the visuals are stunning), and with biting, satirical humor.  The first time I saw it I didn’t really understand its many layers, but gradually after more viewings over the years, I began to realize it all did fit together like a clockwork.  El Topo became a cult film and instigated the concept of special regular Midnight Screenings in New York and in cities around the world. I first saw it in Montreal and it was shown  Saturday midnights for several years after.

EL Topo's main character goes through many changes and appearances on his journey to

El Topo’s main character goes through many changes and appearances on his journey to “enlightenment”

John and Yoko attended that first New York screening in New York and championed it, arranging for the Beatles’ manager at the time, Allen Klein, to take over its distribution and release its soundtrack (Jodorowsky also wrote the music). An experience, I suppose, is the best way to describe the film.  Some, as I say, will like it and others will be revolted.  But it was loved by Lennon (an equivalent, perhaps, to his surrealist songs, I am The Walrus and Strawberry Fields Forever) and by George Harrison and Bob Dylan, and had an influence on many other artists, musicians, and directors from David Lynch, Dennis Hopper, to Marilyn Manson. Peter Gabriel says it inspired the Genesis album, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.

El topo's violent gunfighter by the end of El Topo is transfomed into a peaceful monk, also played by Alejandro Jodorowsky

By the end of the El Topo film, the violent gunfighter is transformed into a peace-loving monk, also played by Alejandro Jodorowsky

Jodorowsky would make a sequel of sorts, The Holy Mountain in 1973 (in which he even includes a character satirizing Allen Klein, his producer) and Klein would later sue Jodorowsky, preventing him from making more films for years.  But recently, there was a documentary about a proposed project where Jodorowsky was to make a film of the Frank Herbert classic Sci-Fi book, Dune, which never got off the ground. El Topo then is a unique cinematic experience; some will love; some will hate, like all great art.  But for those without weak stomachs, but yet for those with strong minds, it’s highly recommended, checking out at least.  By the end of the film, as happened with me, you might even find yourself crying at humanities’ both ugliness and beauty.

El Topo along with The Holy Mountain and some of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s other work was finally released in 2007 on DVD.

 Alejandro Jodorowsky’s, El Topo trailer:

"12 DAYS OF XMAS", take-off comedy by bob and Doug mcKenzie



By Alan Chrisman, copyright.

Bob and Doug McKenzie( played by  Canadian comedians Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas) became a North American hit in the early 80’s.

Actually, it all started as a joke on the government requirement for Canadian content.  Moranis and Thomas had been part of the satirical group spoofing the running of a low budget TV station, SCTV. When they moved to the bigger CBC network, they were told they had to fill the remaining 2 minutes with Canadian content, which they thought was ridiculous. So they just improvised with all the Canadian stereotypes they could come up with; dressing in lumberjack shirts, wearing toques, talking about hockey, beer, and Tin Horton’s coffee. They called each other “hosers” and say, “Eh”, a lot.

But to their and everyone’s surprise, suddenly, it became the most popular part of the show.  Soon Moranis and Thomas parlayed the two dim-witted characters into a bestselling album, The Great White North, and even a movie, Strange Brew in ’83.  On their album they did a take-off on the traditional “12 Days of Xmas”, adding in their own juvenile list of items, and the fractured song also became a Christmas hit.  Another song, “Take-off”, on the album also featured Canadian band, Rush, member Geddy Lee.

Thomas along with later, Saturday Night Live’s Martin Short, Gilda Radner, and David Letterman’s band leader, Paul Shaffer, had all been a part earlier of the Toronto production of Godspell.  And Thomas (who did a great impression of Bob Hope) was, along with Moranis, in the SCTV show with John Candy, Andrea Martin, and Eugene Levy (American Pie films).  SCTV was probably the closest to a Canadian version of Monty Python. Both Thomas and Moranis had also been members of the improvisational group, Second City.  Moranis did an accurate impression of Woody Allen and would appear in several Hollywood movies, Ghostbusters, Flintstones and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.  Both would also play their characters on The Simpsons.

So for something which had originally started out as complaining about a government requirement and was full of somewhat-demeaning Canadian stereotyping, it became, ironically, popular with Canadians and in the U.S. too.  They even got a satire of a traditional Xmas classic out of it, with their “12 Days of Xmas” take-off.

Bob and Doug McKenzie doing their Canadian version of “12 Days of Xmas”:

Original "War Is Over" Peace poster campaign, 1969




By Alan Chrisman, copyright.

A letter from British director, Peter Watkins, first known for his controversial anti-nuclear war 1965 docudrama, War Games, was the catalyst for John Lennon and Yoko Ono to start their Bed Peace and War is Over (If you want it)campaigns in 1969.  John said a letter from the film’s director had first challenged them. The letter said: ‘People in your position have a responsibility to use the media for world peace’.  And we sat on the letter for about three weeks thinking, ‘Well, we’re doing our best, all you need is love, man’.  That letter just sort of sparked it all off.  It was like getting your induction papers for peace.”

John and Yoko staged their Bed-ins for peace, originally in Amsterdam, and famously later in Montreal, Canada, for a week starting  May 26,’69 and on June 1st recorded in their hotel room with several attendees, their peace anthem, “Give Peace a Chance”.

On Dec. 1, 1971 they released their single, “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” ,and posted billboards in major cities of around the world. The song has now become a timeless holiday favorite.  Yoko has announced that she has re-launched the “War is Over” Campaign and poster and is asking fans to re-send the poster as holiday cards.  Also she’d like people to join together in singing ,Imagine”, for this coming New Years.

But it was that letter by Watkins and his film, War Games, which had been banned by the BBC for its realistic depictions of nuclear war, during the Vietnam War, which had been the impetus for John and Yoko to come up with their concepts to draw the world’s attentions about war and violence.

Watkins also made another thought proving film, PRIVILEGE in 1967.  It’s the story of a rock star who becomes so popular that he becomes controlled by the government and the Church to do their bidding.   It stars a real pop star of the time, Paul Jones of British band, Manfred Mann, as the main character, Steven Shorter. The female lead was played by,”Face of the 60’s”, supermodel, Jean ShrimptonThe film raises some very intriguing questions about pop music and culture and mass media’s effect on society. It was very prophetic in its awareness.  At that time, mass pop music was in its beginnings and didn’t have the power that we have now come to take for granted, but the film foretold what was about to happen in 60’s and which continues to this day.  As I said, the powers that be, in the film, soon see the commercial (and political) potential and how they can manipulate the population and situation. It’s a satire and cautionary statement at the same time, a mixture of Orwell’s 1984, and documentary of pop culture’s and media’s growing domination.  It’s actually, partly influenced by a documentary on 50’s pop idol and his screaming fans, Canadian-born, Paul Anka (“Diana”, “Puppy Love” and who wrote “My Way” for Frank Sinatra), called Lonely Boy.

It’s also interesting because, while touring America in 1965, John Lennon himself, had stirred up controversy, when he was quoted as saying, “We’re more popular than Jesus Christ”.  DJ’s and some fans, mainly in the conservative U.S. South, had reacted by condemning him and holding “Burn Beatles’ records” rallies. Lennon, under pressure, had to somewhat apologize for his remarks, even though he was just expressing his own experience as part of a massively popular cultural phenomenon.  Of course, what he said was a very perceptive comment on his own experience and observation. There’s a scene in the film, Privilege, where, the singer, Steve Shorter, has to perform in stadiums and almost like a fundamentalist faith-healer touch and “cure” audience members with disabilities and afflictions. Lennon said, at Beatles’ concerts, they would place the disabled in wheelchairs at the front and sometimes, on stage in those big stadiums, most all the Beatles themselves could see from the stage, were these unfortunate people and after the concert, they would be brought backstage to meet the band. On those gruelling tours, they were the few fans they often got to see up close. There’s a scene in Privilege, where Paul Jones as rock star, sings the song,” SET ME FREE”, from behind jail bars erected on stage, as the audience screams hysterically.  Patti Smith would later record the song for her album, Easter, in 1978, and that scene from the movie, Privilege, still says a lot about the way we, perhaps, today with our pervasive mass media, even more, worship pop celebrity.  Privilege, the 1967 film, was ahead of its time, long before current films like the Hunger Games and covered of these same themes, and it’s recommended you check it out.

Lennon became quite aware of the strange circumstances pop idols often found themselves in, with all the adoration and mass hysteria.  As he sang later “Christ, the way things are going they’re going to crucify me”.  And sadly, ironically, as we all know, he was killed by a deranged fan on Dec. 8, 1980.  George Harrison had also been stabbed over 40 times by an intruder in his home just a couple years, before, which didn’t help his health certainly, and he would pass away of cancer on Nov. 29, 2001.  Some of the issues raised in Watkins’ films, Privilege, and War Games, were to have influence on future events and John and Yoko’s efforts for peace, which Yoko is still asking us to carry on, in John’s name and ideals.  Privilege, the 1967 film, was ahead of its time, long before current films like The Hunger Games covered some of these same themes, and it’s recommended you check it out.

PRIVILEGE, a Hunger Games-Like film, ahead of it's time, 1967

PRIVILEGE film poster, 1967, about rock star, being controlled by government and religious leaders

See below trailer for 1967 film, Privilege:

See below John Lennon talking common sense about peace and


Link to YOKO ONO’S WEBSITE, where you can download and send updated  “WAR IS OVER” POSTERS:  


Original “War Is Over”, Happy Xmas poster, 1969


YOKO’S updated “War Is Over” Poster

Dear Friends
Go to
Download, print & display these multilingual ‘WAR IS OVER!’ posters in your window, school, workplace, car and elsewhere.
Post them on your Social Media feeds and use the hashtag #WARISOVER.
Send them as postcards to your friends.
We say it in so many ways, but we are one.
I love you!


THE GRADUATE, directed by Mike Nichols spoke for the 60's generation



By Alan Chrisman, copyright.

Mike Nichols & Elaine May, classic comedy team before Nichols became a director

Classic 1950’s & 60’s comedy duo: Elaine May & Mike Nichols (later director” The Graduate”).

Iconic photo from The Graduate, with Benjamin shot through Mrs. Robinson's legs.

The Graduate’s iconic scene, Benjamin seen through Mrs. Robinson’s legs


Mike Nichols just passed away.  He was an accomplished director in both film and theatre.  He’s directed such films as Who’s  Afraid of Virgina Woolf, Catch-22, Carnal Knowledge, Working Girl, etc. as well as several plays on Broadway.  But he’s probably most known for his film, The Graduate, in 1967.

Like in music, there are certain generation-defining films and The Graduate was that, and like Easy Rider later in’69, The Graduate expressed the feelings of the 60’s generation.  For the main character, Benjamin (played by Dustin Hoffman in his breakthrough role) represented the questioning of society which many young people at the time were going through. It was the height of the Vietnam War and there were demonstrations on campuses and many college students were challenging the values of their parents’ generation.

The most well-known scene is, of course, the seduction scene, where Benjamin is seduced by Mrs. Robinson (sexily played by Anne Bancroft). It was director Mike Nichol’s idea to film Benjamin framed through Mrs. Robinson’s legs.  It became an iconic photo which perfectly represented the film and also the temptation to go along with the “Establishment”.  Traditional values still offered those carrots to middle-class students-get a university degree, serve in the army, get married, and have a secure career.  Another famous scene expressed this too, the scene where Benjamin’s uncle tells him he should get a career in “plastics”. There was a conflict which was going on in American society, between the past and the future, and the film perfectly captured that.

Benjamin likes Elaine, Mrs. Robinson’s beautiful, but innocent daughter (played by Katharine Ross), but when she finds out about his affair with her mother, she rejects him.  Benjamin after he becomes “tainted” by Mrs. Robinson’s temptations, for a while even becomes callous towards Elaine, whom he embarrasses by taking her to a strip club.  Benjamin, eventually repents and tries to win Elaine back again.  The Graduate then becomes a great love story and, against all odds and society, fights his way back to her heart.  There are some of the most harrowing scenes as he drives by Elaine’s house, hoping to reach her, while on the soundtrack is playing Simon and Garfunkel’s sad song, “April Comes She Will”.  Simon and Garfunkel’s songs, of course, make up the famous soundtrack, especially “Mrs. Robinson” (it wasn’t made specifically for the film, but was called, “Mrs. Roosevelt” originally) and exposed their music considerably.  Nichols picked the perfect music to go along with the film.

The Graduate became symbolically, the battle between the system and rebellion against society, which many young people were actually facing at that time and, thus became massively popular with youth.  At the end of the film, like all heroic characters, Benjamin rushes in, just in time to save his damsel, Elaine (who realizes herself finally, Benjamin’s essential goodness and love for her).  The audience cheers the heroic couple as they escape the corrupt Robinsons and the Establishment life they had been offered.  The classic morality tale is up-dated for the times.

But what is most intriguing is the very last scene on the bus they’ve boarded to get away:  Benjamin and Elaine look curiously perplexed for a couple who have just fought society and won.  They each stare straight ahead and not at each other, a look of panic, even on their faces. Why?  What was director, Nichols saying?  I noticed this when I first saw The Graduate in 1967.  But I wondered then and now, if most young people even noticed at the time. That last scene to me has always been the most fascinating one in the movie.  For perhaps Nichols is hinting that for maybe Benjamin and Elaine (and perhaps symbolically, the 60’s generation), it may not be so black and white and simple a choice as youth thought their “freedom” might be.  I still wonder all these years later what Nichols meant to say.  But that is also why Nichols’ films like The Graduate still stand up- he always had a subtlety and psychological layers in his work.  Something he perhaps  learned as an actor himself, at one time, in improvisational theatre in Chicago and later as part of the influential comedy team Elaine May & Mike Nichols.  Nichols was later married to TV journalist, Diane Sawyer. The Graduate is still ranked #17 of top American films by the American Film Institute and #21 on the highest grossing films in North America.

I have my own personal story, related to The Graduate.   In 1967, I was attending a Midwestern U.S. university and questioning my own place in society.  I had transferred the year before from another U.S. university where I was taking pharmacy, but had decided to change my major to political science and history, partly because I also began to question the Vietnam War and the direction society was heading in the 60’s.  That same year, 1967, was the “Summer of Love” and The Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers’ had been released and it too would become a generation-defining icon and symbol of youth and the changes taking place. I was a big Beatles’ fan and these two cultural events, Sgt. Peppers and The Graduate were to have a large effect on many of my generation and on me personally.

When I had transferred to this new university, I had been required to take a foreign language and I took French.  But I was not very good at languages and the only thing that kept me going to the class was a pretty girl in my French course.  So I asked her out.  But it turned out to be a disastrous first date. For I was now an older 3rd year student because of my two years at the previous university, and this girl, a first year student, I arrogantly found to be too young and innocent (much like the character, Elaine, in The Graduate).    A year later though, still required to take another course in French, which I was still terrible at it, we had to take our French final in a large auditorium.  It was a stressful time because if I failed that oral final (which counted 50% of my grade), I would likely fail the course. I knew with the blaring speakers of the auditorium where it was given and with my worst aspect, being the oral part, that I was likely doomed.

I exited the auditorium, dejected. But whom do I run into there, but the same girl from that first French class and disastrous date the year before.  And surprisingly, she’s quite friendly.  For some reason, out of the blue,(I figured what had I to lose after the day I’d been having!), I asked her out that night to a movie.  And to my astonishment, she said, “Yes”.

We decided to go to a new movie in town that weekend, of which we knew little about.  Well, it was The Graduate.  We had no idea then that it would, as I say, become a generation-defining film.  But we both loved it and we got along well after the film.  This girl was now, to my now less-arrogant eyes, even more beautiful (she even looked like Katharine Ross, who played Elaine in the film), than I had remembered.  We became close for the rest of my university days.

But unfortunately, those days were soon to become to an end.  For with the  failure of that French course and some others (school courses seemed pretty irrelevant any more, with all the changes going on in society and my growing  opposition to the Vietnam War), I dropped out of university and now faced the American draft.  Finally, when there were few choices left (Vietnam or jail), I decided to flee to Canada.  And when I did finally have to leave, I asked this girl if there was anything I could give her for all her support, she said there was a special antique chair in my room that she had long admired, and I carried it in the snow to her place and said goodbye to her for the last time.  So I will always associate The Graduate with this girl and the experiences we had and the bittersweet moment of having to leave her behind and face my own choices about society.  And they were to help determine my own future, much like the characters, Benjamin and Elaine in the film, and ironically, reminded me of that haunting bittersweet look on their faces in that last scene of  Mike Nichol’s The Graduate.

THe curious last scene in tThe Graduate, wher Benjamin and Elaine, seem strangely not very happy despite their rebellion against their parents' world

The curious last scene in The Graduate, with our heroes looking strangely non-content

See Below Trailer For “The Graduate”:

Nov. 9, Berlin Wall Comes down & Beatles' music helped!



By Alan Chrisman, copyright.

This Nov. 9 is the 25th anniversary of the coming down of the Berlin Wall. But not many people and Beatles’ fans may know just how important The Beatles and their music were in helping to bring that about and the downfall of the Soviet Union.

I didn’t either until I met Yury Pelyushonok, Russian/Canadian Beatles fan at the first Ottawa, Canada Beatles Convention which I organized in 1995.  And this was to be quite a Magical Mystery Tour for Yury and us, his friends and close supporters.

He told me some amazing stories about what it was like trying to play banned Beatles’ music, growing up in the Soviet Union. And I suggested at that time that he write it down.  He did, by two years later, and gave me one of the original copies of his book, STRINGS FOR A BEATLE BASS, of anecdotes and personal experiences, such as having to make his own guitar and using old X-rays to record, etc.  Upon reading it, I thought it would make a great movie.

At our 2nd Beatles Convention the next year, he was interviewed  by the Ottawa Citizen about how in the  8o’s,  Soviet sailors (he was a medical doctor in the  Russian Navy) had smuggled a Paul McCartney LP out of Russia and traded them for even cars in the West.  He had written this first story down in a tiny booklet called the “Golden Disc”.   And a couple years later, he had gotten a Canada Council grant to publish a fuller book about his theories and experiences growing up as a Beatles fan and musician (he had made his own guitar) in Russia.   He presented me with one of the original, only 147 copies of, ”STRINGS FOR A BEATLE BASS”, which had been translated into English by his wife.  Upon reading it, I thought it would make a great movie.  He was going to London, in April, 2000, and I suggested he leave a copy with the Beatles’ manager, Neil Aspinall (the BBC lady had given me his contact at the Connecticut convention in’94). Yury did leave a book there and upon returning, he called me one morning and said he’d had a dream, that Neil Aspinall had called me.  I’d always wanted to meet Aspinall because he had been there since the beginning and was their closest confidant.  And the very next day Yury calls me back and says, “Guess who just called?” I said “Who?”  He says, “Paul McCartney’s personal assistant, Geoff Baker!”

The Beatles’ record company, Apple, would also call back for more copies for George and Ringo.  Yury approached me about finding some musicians for some songs he had written to go along with the book for a CD he wanted to make.  I suggested John Jastremski (from “The Mustards”) and Al Findlay, (from ““The Ground”) who had also played my ‘96 convention; they were both Beatles fans and songwriters.  Yury had already written the first song,”Yeah Yeah Virus” and three others in 2000 and together they wrote and recorded four more songs in 2003.  Yury went back to the Beatles’ Apple headquarters in London a couple more times to discuss the possibility they would publish his book.  Neil Aspinall told him in advance that Paul McCartney was to play in Red Square in May, 2003; it was to be a world event.  Yury had taken a lot of flak for suggesting that the Beatles could have helped bring down Communism.   But Yury was interviewed in N.Y. on ABC- TV “BEATLES REVOLUTION” in 2000 with several celebrities  who agreed,  including Czech  director Milos Forman and Keith Richards (“What brought it down, in the end,  was blue jeans and Rock N’ Roll”).  And there was soon to be growing evidence that what Yury had first said, was indeed true.

Yury was contacted by Leslie Woodhead, a BBC director who had read Yury’s book and was planning a film on the Beatles’ influence there.   Mr. Woodhead had actually shot the only footage of the Beatles at the Cavern, which was known to exist, in 1962.  On a hot August day in 2007, a handful of us gathered in Yury’s backyard in Ottawa to have him interviewed and then to film his song,”Yeah Yeah Virus”.  Later, Mr. Woodhead would take Yury back to Russia with him to recreate his experiences and reunite with his teenage band.   Mc Cartney was once again to perform in Russia at that same time.  Yury had grown up in Minsk, and his friends there had been shown how to make amplifiers by the guy whom had worked with and knew Lee Harvey Oswald, when he had defected there in the early 60’s.

Yury’s book and experiences were to partly inspire BBC film director, Leslie Woodhead’s film, HOW THE BEATLES ROCKED THE KREMLIN.    As I said, Yury had told us these interesting stories and his, and what seemed at the time hard to believe, theory that The Beatles and their music had somehow helped to bring down the Soviet Union. In 2013, Mr. Woodhead released a book of the same title, chronicling the making of his film, including a whole chapter on Yury and the visit to Ottawa to film the interview with him and the video shooting of his song, “Yeah Yeah Virus” in 2007.

And Mr. Woodhead’s film and book substantiates what Yury had first told us and written down. For Mr. Woodhead has spent the last 25 years tracking down and documenting this story.  And what a journey it’s been!   Mr. Woodhead had shot the only known footage of The Beatles at the Cavern in 1962 and met the Fab Four before they were the Fab Four.  Before that, Mr. Woodhead had been a cold war snoop (he has a previous book “My LIFE AS A SPY”), stationed in Berlin listening in to the Russians, which first developed his special interest in the Soviet Union.  He has made many trips there over the past several years and has developed many contacts there.  With these Russian connections and his involvement in also meeting and filming many British and American rock stars (he also did The Brian Jones memorial film concert by The Rolling Stones , for example), he is the perfect person to capture these two seemingly different worlds, rock ’n’ roll and politics, and show their strange intersection in the Soviet Union.

He shows that the various Soviet leader were afraid , even as far back as the 30’s, of outside Western music such as jazz.  Yury had quoted in his book that Khrushchev had said,”it’s only a small step from saxophones to switchblades.”  So in that sense this theory that later Beatles’ music could have had such a role does make sense.  Mr. Woodhead interviews many of the Beatles Generation in the Soviet Union from musicians to record producers to journalists to historians to even politicians (including the Russian Defense Minister and Putin’s deputy, who said he learned English from Beatles’ songs).  A curious fact is that most of the Russian rock stars and Beatles’ fans, were the sons of the Communist Party elite.  Of course, they were one of the few who would have had access to the West.  Yury, although not of the elite class, had opportunity because he was a doctor in the Russian Navy and was to sail around the world.  But all of these consistently backed up Yury’s belief that somehow Beatles’ music had this profound effect on the Soviet Union.  I think perhaps there was an especially Russian character aspect to all this.  They spoke of this “Beatles Effect” as almost having a quasi-religious part to it, something that’s hard for us to imagine in the West.  Of course, Beatles’ music changed our lives in the 60’s and a whole counterculture developed in the West along with it.  But in the repressive and isolated Soviet Union, it took on a whole other meaning, and The Beatles perfectly represented both the forbidden fruit and an artistic and spiritual freedom.  And because of that Soviet youth found very resourceful ways indeed to get around the state’s disapproval and banning of it.

In fact, in the chapter on Yury, Mr. Woodhead describes how it is even today in Belarus (where he took Yury back to reunite with his teenage band in 2008).  It sounds like something out of a Marx Bros. film, but with a leader like North Korea’s absurd but dangerous current dictator (which gives some idea of how it must have been growing up in that earlier time all across the Soviet Union).  Yury actually moved back to Minsk in 2010, because his Russian Navy doctor’s accreditation was not recognized in Canada, where he had immigrated in the early 90’s.  Yury had left me in charge of the masters of his book and accompanying CD when he returned there, but in May, 2013, he visited Ottawa again and we reconnected and he talks of perhaps returning to the West and trying again to get recognition of his doctor’s skills.

Mr. Woodhead’s book documents quite a life journey (including meeting with Yoko in Liverpool) and the mindbogling but now proven theory that my friend Yury had first proposed to us-that The Beatles could have had such an effect on another, even more oppressive system.  Mr. Woodhead ends his book with the occurrence where the Russian Punk band “PUSSY RIOT” is arrested by the Putin government in 2012.  On July 7, 2013, Paul McCartney played in Ottawa (the first time a Beatle had performed here) and during “Back in the U.S.S.R., Paul told the story how high ranking officials had told him they had learned English from banned Beatles’ music, when he played Red Square in 2003.  During that song, flashed on screen was “FREE PUSSY RIOT”.  My Russian Beatle friend, Yury, had written for his book, how “A Yellow Submarine had landed in Red Square” and I had outlined in my own book a similar feeling of almost like an alien spaceship (Yellow Submarine) landing in my small Midwestern town in the U.S. growing up in the 60’s, with these talented, witty, fun beings offering us joy and hope.  Ironically, it had taken these four working-class Liverpool lads from a far away mythical land of Robin Hood and knights to reintroduce us to American rock’n’roll which had in turn inspired them.  And how that would encourage us to maybe go on and create our own magical music and stories.

Mr. Woodhead’s fascinating book and film and Yury’s book show it was to have an even deeper effect half way around the world.  I was interviewed before the McCartney concert by CBC radio as to why he and the Beatles were still so popular a half a century later, and I mentioned how they had influenced me to not to go fight in the Vietnam war and come to Canada, but also, as Yury would often say, they were, “ Beatles: the cultural event of the 20th Century”.  It was one of those few times in history when it helped create an almost social revolution which was universal in scope.  Also as my friend Tony said, they also wrote some of its best popular songs.  And for all these reasons, they will be remembered.  The Beatles and music changed the world and they still do.  “ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE”.

Leslie Woodhead’s book, HOW THE BEATLES ROCKED THE KREMLIN (2013), is highly recommended.  Mr. Woodhead is as good a writer as he is a filmmaker; he makes you feel as if you are right there.


“While in the West the Beatles stepped on all the rules

The 60’s beat was echoing through all the Soviet schools.

Every Russian schoolboy wants to be a star

Playing Beatles’ music , making a guitar

See below Yury’s Yeah Yeah Virus” video


The John Lennon Wall, Prague, Czechosvakia & Beatles' music had profound effect  on U.S.S.R.

The John Lennon Wall in Prague, CzechoslovakiaPhoto by Karen McCollum

Yury Pelyushonok's book, Strings for a Beatle Bass

Yury Pelyushonok’s book. “Strings for a Beatle Bass”(’98 and 2004 editions), about how Beatles’ music helped bring down communism!

Teachers looked upon this as if it were a sin,

We were building Communism but the Beatles butted in.

‘Nyet’ to Beatles music. ‘Da’ the students said.

Even Comrade Brezhnev sadly shook his head…” (1)

“Yeah Yeah Virus”, Yury Pelyushonok-Olga Sansom, c. PLY Publishing 2000

McCartney in Russia’s Red Square doing “Back in the U.S.S.R.”, 2003:



Alan Chrisman’s book, IT’S A LONG WAY HOME “(& How Beatles’ Music Saved My Life), chronicles his own life and Beatles’ influences .

Sonny Curtis of Buddy Holly's Crickets wrote original version of " I Fought The Law"



By Alan Chrisman, copyright. 

Sonny Curtis replaced Buddy Holly in The Crickets on lead guitar and vocals after Holly’s plane crash on Feb. 3, 1959. The ill-fated incident, which also killed Richie Valens (“La Bamba”) and the Big Bopper (“Chantilly Lace”) is recounted as “the day the music died” in Don McLean’s 1987 song “American Pie”.  The legendary story is that Waylon Jennings had given up his seat on the flight that day.

Sonny Curtis, Buddy Holly’s friend, joined the other original Crickets, Jerry Allison, drums and Joe B. Maldin, stand-up bass, for their 1960 LP, In Style with The Crickets.  Buddy Holly and The Crickets were one of the most influential songwriters and bands in rock ’n’ roll history. The Beatles were partly named after them. And they influenced everyone from The Stones to Dylan. In fact, a teen-age Dylan had seen Holly perform in Duluth two days before the fatal crash.

But on that first Crickets’ album was a song, which wasn’t popular at the time, but would go on to become a symbol song for rebels of all times: “I Fought the Law”.  It was written by Sonny Curtis. It would later be recorded by The Clash, The Ramones, Springsteen, Tom Petty, Waylon Jennings, Nancy Griffith and many, many more.  As I say, it would become a classic.

But the most well-known version is by The Bobby Fuller Four, another Texas band, in 1966 and became a top ten hit. Unfortunately, it was to be the only hit for Bobby Fuller, who was found asphyxiated in his mother’s car, only 6 months later.

But the song has certainly stood the test of time. Sonny Curtis would go to tour in with various Crickets for years to come and he would also write “Love is All around”, the theme for the popular Mary Tyler Moore TV series and also wrote” The Good Life” for Glen Campbell and Bobby Goldsboro.

Another song, also about being chased by the law, was R. Dean Taylor’s 1970 hit, “Indiana Wants Me”, with its siren wailing in the background (some stations wouldn’t play it because listeners thought it was real). I remember it because I originally grew up in Indiana.  But he actually was a Canadian and would go on to become one of the few white songwriters at Motown in Detroit, and would co-write songs with their famous song-writing team, Holland-Dozier-Holland.  Taylor wrote, “I’ll Turn to Stone” for the Four Tops and wrote and was part of “The Clan” song writing and producing team, after Holland-Dozier-Holland left.  He wrote many songs for Diana Ross and The Supremes including the great, “ Love Child” in 1968 and “ I’m Livin’ in Shame” in 1969.

I was privileged to see Sonny Curtis and some of the original Crickets perform along with Waylon Jennings at the Chicago Bluesfest on a visit to my family near there in the 80’s.

See below Bobby Fuller’s hit version of Sonny Curtis’s “ I Fought The Law”, 1965:

See also Sonny Curtis and The Crickets with Nancy Griffith,” I Fought The Law”, 1997:

Bobby Fuller Four's

Bobby Fuller Four and their classic rebel song, ” I Fought the Law”, written by The Cricket’s Sonny Curtis

R.Dean Taylor's album, 1970, with hit,

R. Dean Taylor’s hit. 1970, “Indiana Wants Me”

To hear an original Buddy Holly-like song by Al & The G-Men (c. Socan 2013), ” We Didn’t Know”: