Friday Groove: Forty Years Gone – John Bonham

It was late September of 1980, forty years ago, when Led Zeppelin was preparing to kick off their North American tour in the coming October. 

Dad had tickets to see them, and years later, I would discover that many others also had tickets to a Led Zeppelin show scheduled for that year.

The group was rehearsing at guitarist Jimmy Page’s house in Windsor on the morning of September 25 when John Paul Jones, bassist, and tour manager Benji LeFevre went to check on Bonham, at the tail end of a half day drinking binge from the day prior. They couldn’t wake him.

Between noon and midnight on September 24, Bonham had consumed roughly 40 units (a little over 32 oz.) of vodka. When he passed out, an assistant put him on his side with some pillows for support. Suffice it to say it didn’t help.

Jones and LeFevre were now faced with informing the other members of the group, and eventually the rest of the world that John Bonham, unequivocally the greatest drummer to ever live, was dead at 32.

I say he was the greatest drummer to ever live not as opinion, but as bonafide fact. The man could perform a drum solo that would put anyone else (save for maybe Ginger Baker or Keith Moon) to shame. 

On How the West Was Won, a live album recorded in 1977, Bonham’s drum solo lasted for just over 19 minutes. A drum solo that long could get boring, but Bonzo never falters. His drum solos “Moby Dick” and “Bonzo’s Montreux” were even recorded in the studio, which was and still is incredibly rare. 

Despite the hard pounding grooves on tracks like “Rock and Roll” or “The Rover”, Bonham’s dynamic range behind the kit was apparent too. His drum parts on reflective songs like “Ten Years Gone” or “The Rain Song” show his ability to hold back when needed, even though he was a human-dynamo who could punch out some of the loudest and most ferocious playing you’d ever hear.

But it wasn’t just his playing that earned him notoriety.

In a time where recording equipment in the UK lagged behind the US, drums tended to sound a little tinny, and didn’t sound as good as other instruments in the band. Bonham was the first drummer to make drums sound good on a recording. He knew he had to tune the drum a specific way in order to get the best possible sound to come out. He played with a technique tailored to make a recording sound good. 

Led Zeppelin producer Eddie Kramer even said he “could’ve recorded Bonham with the most primitive equipment” and it still would’ve sounded good.

Unfortunately, alcoholism got the better of Bonham in the end.

In the late 1970’s Led Zeppelin dealt with tragedy left and right. The band was unable to tour for their album Presence in 1976 after singer Robert Plant was involved in a serious car crash. Presence was met with mixed reviews, but the band found themselves falling further and further out of public acclaim. In 1977, Plant’s son died at the age of five from a stomach virus.

Faced with tax exile status from the UK, the band was forced to record what would be their final studio album in Sweden. Both Page and Bonham were dealing with drug and alcohol addiction, forcing Page and Jones to write most of the record.

The result was 1979’s In Through the Out Door, probably my favorite Zeppelin album, not because of the sound, but because of how much emotion rings through. That album is the story of four people who were profoundly broken trying to come back. They were trying to do something difficult. They were trying to go in through an out door.

There’s no way of knowing what Zeppelin would’ve done next. It’s speculated that their next album would’ve gone back to their roots: hard driving guitar and drums. 1980 could’ve been the year that Led Zeppelin returned, once again becoming the greatest band in the world. 

Fate had other plans. 

By the end of September 25, 1980, Dad and all the other fans’ hopes of seeing Led Zeppelin in concert that year evaporated.

A toxicology report was released a few days after Bonham’s death. “Consumption of alcohol” was all it read. The death was ruled an accident. The future of the band had been a topic of conversation for some time, but Bonham’s death was the nail in the coffin.

On December 4, 1980, the band released a statement that was so simple, yet so powerful.

“We wish it to be known that the loss of our dear friend and the deep sense of undivided harmony felt by ourselves and our manager, have led us to decide that we could not continue as we were.”

Led Zeppelin

Tony Sheaffer is managing editor for The Sting and writes Friday Groove, a weekly music column.

Summer to Fall: Transition Cheat Codes

by Kopper Boyd

Summer has passed, and now that September is here, we’re starting to get a feel for the nippier season on the way. 

You’ve bought a bunch of cute summer pieces because that was pretty much all there was to do with the onset of COVID, and now there’s a need to dress appropriately for the temperature adjustment. 

If you’re not quite sure what to do, have no fear. In this article, we’ll show you a few stylish ways to layer your pieces for some cute looks that’ll take you into the fall and keep you nice and cozy, even if you’ll just be sitting in front of your laptop.

  • Throw on a chic blazer.

Most of us live for a cute summer dress or that fun, printed button down when that time of year rolls around, but then struggle to find ways to transition it into the colder months. 

One of the easiest ways to do it is to throw a blazer on top. Blazers are a great way to add sophistication to any outfit, while also adding a layer to stay warm. They can come in a variety of lengths, cuts, styles, and materials, so you can find one that’ll work for whatever look you’re going for or whatever weather you’re dealing with. 

For the summer and early fall, a linen blazer will work perfectly, and there are wool, velvet, and heavy cotton blazers for when the weather turns much colder. They can also be paired with your summer shorts and skirts for a colorful, yet polished look.

Photo: H&M
  • Have a cardi party.

Cardigans are the office counterpart to the blazer and can function in much the same fashion depending on the cut, length, and material that you choose. For those who want to look sleek while still layering up, a great option is a sleeveless cardigan. These cardigans also come in a variety of lengths, materials, cuts, and styles. 

You can style one on top of a cute A-Line dress with a belt or with a long sleeve blouse or light sweater and slacks for the early fall, and for winter, you can throw it on top of a blazer or waffle knit sweater for extra warmth. To look dapper and dashing, layer it on top of a long-sleeved button down with your favorite print slacks and some chucks or Sperries for the fall, or throw a chunky sweater on top and switch out the other shoes for boots for the winter. 

When it’s colder, sleeved cardigans are a great option as well if you prefer a more relaxed look, or if you’d prefer something with sleeves to top off your sleeveless pieces. Either way, cardigans are a great go-to piece to use for layering up.

Kopper Boyd is a staff writer for The Sting who writes a bi-weekly fashion column.

Friday Groove: The Case Against Record Store Day

A plaque outside of the Soundgarden record store in Fell’s Point reads:

“On September 22 of 2007 record store owners from all over the USA gathered here in Fell’s Point to create Record Store Day. It is now the world’s largest music event.”

I’m here to say that meeting was a mistake.

The original idea was innocent enough: create a day where struggling, independent record stores can raise their profile. It was supposed to be similar to Free Comic Book Day, which had helped independent comic book stores raise their profile in the years prior. 

On Free Comic Book Day, comic book publishers and stores flood the market with special issues of comic books made specifically for that day. Essentially the books are worthless, simply because there’s so many produced. It’s easy for damn near everyone that goes to a comic book store on Free Comic Book Day to get one of the special issues. The idea is the stores can get people to come out for free stuff, and they will purchase something while they’re there. Stores don’t need to pay to get the free releases in stock.

Record Store Day takes a different approach. Instead of flooding the market with cheap, one-off releases, labels release limited-edition singles and LP’s in small quantities. Sometimes, for an extra fee, some record stores will have artist appearances. 

This approach hurts both the fans and the stores. 

In normal times, record-store goers on Record Store Day are forced to wait in line for a chance to get one of the small numbers (sometimes as few as five) of a record that on any other day wouldn’t garner much attention. More often than not, the music isn’t new. I seem to recall a few years ago Led Zeppelin released a 7” with alternate mixes of “Rock and Roll” and “Friends,” songs that at that point were more than 40 years old. That 7” cost more than $15 (and yes, I bought it, not because I wanted to participate in RSD, but because I love Led Zeppelin that much).

The day alienates myriad faithful record store goers because, other than the bogus releases, there’s nothing special about the day. The folks that collect vinyl religiously usually don’t care about those releases, they care about stuff they’ve never heard before and discovering new music. Those people dig through bins and bins of records in their local stores, plus antique stores and thrift stores. They spend hours trying to find new music. The people who are interested in Record Store Day releases generally aren’t as invested in the music as much as real collectors and music fans. It’s not the case 100% of the time, but in my experience, that’s what I’ve found. 

Perhaps I could put up with that if it actually helped the stores out, but sadly it doesn’t.

In my research,I can’t find a specific figure for how much it costs for a record store to participate in Record Store Day, though I’ve heard figures from local owners between $3,000 and $5,000 to participate and get the best releases shipped to the store while others gave the vague answer of  “a lot of money.” Certain releases sell out quickly, but any unsold stock cannot be returned to the labels, which means the stores are stuck with it. When Record Store Day is over, it’s difficult to sell those releases without discounting them heavily. For all the money spent to get the releases in, much of it ends up wasted. 

It can also be difficult for small record stores to get their foot in the door. In the years since its inception, Record Store Day has been hijacked by large labels, and small businesses that do not have much disposable income will find it particularly difficult to get involved.

A record store owner from the UK wrote in 2016, “The whole operation is so far removed from the manner in which record shops operate, survive and thrive that it is damaging our reputation. Queues of collectors standing outside stores at some god awful time in the morning so that they can be stripped of cash for overpriced bilge is not exactly promoting the best of what a record shop has to offer (namely affordable and good stock which punters can get their hands on).”

My old record store, Record and Tape Traders, couldn’t participate in Record Store Day since they had a corporate backing, even though they still maintained autonomy. Record and Tape Traders had been bought in the mid-2000’s to avoid closure. They were the only store in the entire company that sold primarily physical media, and were also the only store that sold used vinyl. Every year, folks would go in and complain that they had none of the Record Store Day releases. But that didn’t mean they couldn’t celebrate the meaning of Record Store Day.

On Record Store Day, RTT would take advantage of the increased foot traffic and set up a sidewalk sale, in addition to discounting used vinyl and CD’s where they could. Oftentimes, they made more money than they did any other given Saturday, and they didn’t put out any additional funds to do so.

The regulars at any store are the ones who keep it going. Special days with overpriced releases won’t save the record industry, and it would be anyone’s deepest folly to think that’s the case.

If you want to save record stores, shop with them regularly instead of the one or two days a year where it’s considered hip.

Tony Sheaffer is managing editor for The Sting and writes Friday Groove, a weekly music column.

The Importance of The Color Theory and Why Your Sneakers Are Your Foundation for Streetwear

Photo Courtesy: Jeff Dominguez (The Sting – University of Baltimore)

You do not have to be a total “sneakerhead” or a “sneaker connoisseur” to know which shoes are the best when it comes to streetwear. It really all depends on which colors you have to complement your shoes based on your knowledge of The Color Theory.

The Color Theory proves that every color (no matter what shade, intensity, and other combinations) have an immediate effect on each other. Marcie Cooperman, professor at Parsons University of Design in New York and color theory expert, explains the importance of the Color Wheel. “The color wheel helps people visualize colors, and understand what to do with all the opportunities,” Cooperman says.

Color Wheel (Photo Courtesy: HGTV)

So how do we know which colors complement each other? Color Harmonies.

They are basically a set of different color combinations calculated to make a specific color theme. There are six main types of color harmonies: analogous, monochromatic, complementary, split complementary, triadic, and tetradic. Click here to experiment with different colors.

Photo Courtesy: Jeff Dominguez (The Sting – University of Baltimore)

What does this have to do with sneakers?

Some sneakers already have their own color theme, in which they might feature up to four or five colors. Your safest bet is to probably wear neutral colors (such as black, white, beige/tan, and gray) for your top and bottoms. Or match the scheme from your shoes and work your way up.

Photo Courtesy: Jeff Dominguez (The Sting – University of Baltimore)

Don’t go overzealous on the brighter spectrum of your color theme, but layer dark and lighter shades of your “fit”. For example, if you have a pair of sneakers that contain a theme of yellow, blue, green, and white; my suggestion is to wear a matching yellow graphic tee, black or gray shorts, white socks, and those dazzling shoes.

Take a look at your sneaker collection and observe all of its colors, whether it be your favorite Nikes or your favorite pair of Converses. Small details like the sneaker’s laces, tongue, soles, and toebox are things to look out for.

Jeff Dominguez is the Communications Director for The Sting and writes The Color Theory, a bi-weekly fashion column.

Friday Groove: Covid-19 has modernized the concert- and we’re better off for it

Wile & Smith and Friends (now known as Copper Bets) play a rooftop show in Hanover, PA. Photo: Tony Sheaffer

Summer, for many, means live music and thriving concert venues.

In the past, outdoor venues boom during spring and summer months. Bands typically tour and pack stadiums or headline big name festivals like Bonnaroo and Coachella

As concerts and festivals began to cancel and bands began to postpone (or even cancel) their tours in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, fans worried for the future of summer nights filled with live music. 

In May, venues slowly began to reopen, and I received a text from a buddy asking about my plans for that Saturday night. I had none. 

“Show up at the bar”, he said. Before March, this bar had become a regular Wednesday night hangout where we jammed to old blues songs and original material. The bar was still closed for dine-in, but that didn’t mean they couldn’t host a Beatles style concert with my friends and their band on the rooftop.

Crowd attending the rooftop show. Photo: Tony Sheaffer

After an hour drive to the bar in Hanover, PA, I pulled into the parking lot across the street. Attendees sat in front of their cars, socially distant, and relishing the opportunity to see live music for the first time in months.  

The band, Wile & Smith and Friends, played mostly country and blues, but made sure to throw in two profoundly appropriate Beatles covers (“Get Back” and “Don’t Let Me Down”). Despite the pandemic, live music was back.

Since then, I have seen a few local acts playing at outdoor venues like breweries with socially distant tables and mask requirements when ordering food and drinks. Mask aside, it feels like any other summer. 

But, I asked myself: If live local music is back, when would I get to see some of the big names who were forced to cancel tours again?

My answer came in late July in the form of a Facebook ad for The Struts upcoming performance in Philadelphia. In an instant, I clicked to purchase tickets and learned I only needed one ticket as the show was a drive-in concert. A single ticket covered up to four people in a single car. A new and affordable concert experience? Sign me up!

Fans getting ready for The Struts’ drive-in concert at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, PA. Photo: Tony Sheaffer

When we arrived, we were directed to a parking spot where we rolled down our windows and enjoyed the evening breeze. We turned our radios to the specific station supplementing the sounds from on-stage.  This was my second time seeing The Struts in concert. Thankfully, they didn’t disappoint on either occasion. 

Want to get a crowd of car sitters going? Luke Spiller, frontman for The Struts, is the man for the job. He held the crowd in the palm of his hand as he split us in half, motioning for specific sides to honk their horns (the new version of clapping) when he gave the cue. Needless to say the experience was magical. 

Perhaps one of the best parts was ordering merchandise and food. We were given a QR code that we scanned before being prompted to enter our parking spot number where we could order right from our phones. No more waiting in lines. Somewhere, off in the distance, someone completed our order and delivered it via golf cart to our car.

Getting out was pretty easy too. Since we were already in the car at the show’s end, we just started driving towards I-95 taking us home. .

Maybe I’m just getting old or something, but the ease that came with this show makes me almost dread any “post-COVID era” show.

If you asked me back in April if I planned on seeing live music, it would have been a resounding no. 

Hell, I was ready to write a breakup song for the relationship between 2020 and live music. 

So what does the future look like?

Socially distant outdoor shows with big names like The Struts performing to seas of parking lots in a slight return to drive-in entertainment on par with the drive-in movie theater. Fans in Europe are able to attend concerts and music festivals while being seperated by temporary fencing limiting fans to specific areas, namely fenced-in cubicles. 

Honestly if concerts look like that after COVID, I’m sold. Gone may be the days where folks trip over you and your friends as they stumble back to their own spot – and we’d all be better off for it. 

Tony Sheaffer is managing editor for The Sting and writes Friday Groove, a weekly music column.

Chadwick Boseman: A King’s Perseverance

Chadwick Boseman. Courtesy: @chadwickboseman Twitter

by Kopper Boyd

2020 has been extremely rough for everyone, from the onset of COVID-19 to the tension-filled climate of what just may be the new Civil Rights movement. Many would say that nothing could make this year, already filled with so many unwanted surprises and tragedies, worse. But on August 28 we were blindsided by even more tragic news, as it was announced that actor Chadwick Boseman had lost an undisclosed, four-year battle with colon cancer.

Chadwick Boseman, known by many for his portrayal of King T’Challa in Marvel’s Black Panther, was a man of many talents and great character, but most importantly, he was the embodiment of perseverance. Diagnosed with stage three colon cancer in 2016, he worked hard to deliver stunning performances in films that are revered by many, despite countless surgeries and rounds of chemotherapy. 

Boseman portrayed myriad influential Black figures, including James Brown in Get On Up,  Jackie Robinson in 42 and Justice Thurgood Marshall in Marshall. 2019’s 21 Bridges, and 2020’s Da 5 Bloods are among his more recent performances. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, an upcoming Netflix film, will feature Boseman in his final role. He also made appearances on a number of TV shows, and delivered the commencement speech at his alma mater, Howard University, in 2018.

For Boseman, the success from his acting career was great, but what really moved him was being able to inspire and encourage others to be successful. He considered his role in Black Panther as the honor of his career because of the impact that the movie had on viewers. He recognized that it was an opportunity to highlight African American creativity, and that his community was immensely proud and appreciative to see a superhero that looked like them on the big screen.

This year has been difficult, and will continue to be difficult moving forward, but we can continue to endure and motivate each other the way Chadwick Boseman did for his fans and contemporaries alike. Although concentrating in classes and dealing with the stressors of a pandemic may make our goals and prospective success seem impossible at times, we can do it.  

We can continue to find purpose in our day to day lives, our relationships, our careers, and in the paths that we choose. We must do the things that we need to to realize our dreams. As Boseman said, “Your very existence is wrapped up in the things you need to fulfill. Whatever you choose for a career path, remember the struggles along the way are only meant to shape you for your purpose.”

Kopper Boyd is staff writer for The Sting.