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Tag Archive: John Lennon


Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s not every day you come across the ultimate book for your barber shop, but this is in the running.  Along with a wall listing current local pro and college team scores and a stack of wrinkled sports magazines, a new book about Stan Smith should be on the table if your local haircut joint is like mine.  Who would have thought a style of shoe could reach across so many segments of pop culture?  Excepting basketball player Chuck Taylor’s association with the Converse All Stars shoe and Doc Martens’ famous boots, the Adidas tennis shoe (not sneaker, not trainer) that Smith put his name on is easily one of the most identifiable athletic shoes of the past five decades.  Smith and his shoes, known simply as “Stan Smiths” to most, have had a mutually beneficial relationship, and everything you’d want to know about the professional tennis player and his shoe can be found in the new book Stan Smith: Some People Think I’m a Shoe, a collection of stories about the athlete who was the world’s #1 tennis player in 1971 and 1972 and a two-time Grand Slam singles champion–and his famous shoe.

It’s said to be the shoe Harrison Ford wore as Rick Deckard in Blade Runner–a pair of Stan Smiths spray-painted black.  From The Beatles to hip hop, the unassuming white shoe with green trim and perforated lines instead of stripes has been a preferred accessory across popular music icons.  David Bowie and John Lennon made their own statements wearing Smith’s tennis shoe with their otherwise more stylish clothes.  They were a regular sight among The Beastie Boys years later, Jay-Z included them in lyrics to one of his songs, and custom Kylie Minogue, Pharrel Williams, and Elton John versions of the shoe sold for big bucks at auction.  The shoe went through technology upgrades over time, but it has always remained instantly recognizable.  An A to Z section of Stan Smith: Some People Think I’m a Shoe includes anecdotes from Smith from his trips around the world, history of the shoe from the decision by Smith to endorse the Adidas Haillet–the first leather tennis shoe invented in 1963–with his own name ten years after its creation, to Smith’s current status as mentor, coach, and philanthropist.  The hardcover volume with 336 pages of full color photographs feature Smith’s life, newspaper coverage of his key games, pop culture personalities and how they were affected by either Smith or the shoe, and dozens of versions, schematics, and designs that Adidas has introduced to the Stan Smith shoe since 1973.

   

The book is also a look at a long-lasting advertising idea, an endorsement that created an artifact of sub-culture tapped as a symbol of identity by Baby Boomers to Millennials, eclipsing a wide range of fields of celebrity.  The book reflects the art of self-promotion, including commentary from executives from Adidas past and present plus execs at places like PepsiCo, as well as artists and designers influenced by the shoe–the book itself is a promotion for the continuing sales of the shoe.  One commenter believes you’ll find more Stan Smiths on the streets of Paris than berets.  And it was added to the Guinness Book of World Records as the top-selling “named” shoe when it surpassed 22 million pairs sold.  The book interviews one fan who boasts 230 pairs in his home.  Former tennis pro Martina Navratilova wears Stan Smiths everywhere today.  According to a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, “The magic of the Stan Smith shoe is that it can pass as a normal sneaker but also be used as a dressed-up shoe to a black tie event.”  Some people even seek out beaten-up pairs of the shoe because they think they look better.

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No, The Beatles aren’t merely the band Paul McCartney played in before he joined Wings.  The #1 band of all time released its animated musical fantasy comedy movie Yellow Submarine 50 years ago, and less than a year later, in January 1969, the band followed up with an album of the same name.  Thanks to a never ceasing fan-base and a creator who is as big a fan as anyone, we all can embark on a new voyage of the song-filled submarine from a port near you beginning next week.

We first previewed this 50th anniversary project here at borg.com more than a year ago.  It’s the first official illustrated adaptation of The Beatles’ famous animated film.  Directed by animation producer George Dunning, the film received widespread acclaim from critics and Beatles’ fans, generating its own cult following, years of British cosplay, and inspiring generations of animators.  The adaptation will be written and illustrated by Bill Morrison, writer and artist from The Simpsons comics.

You will hear the voices of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr as you read the The Beatles Yellow Submarine graphic novel.

So get ready to revisit Pepperland and the Sea of Time, Sea of Science, Sea of Monsters, Sea of Holes, Sea of Nothing, and the Foothills of the Headlands.  And beware the Blue Meanies.

Here is a big preview courtesy of Titan Comics, followed by an interview with Morrison:

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As Rock and Roll is concerned, there was no one bigger than Chuck Berry–no one that more great musicians credited with their own successes, and no one more synonymous with the music multiple generations think of when they hear a singer holding a guitar leading a band with a lively, loud, and fast rhythm, bending guitar strings and blending styles, as well as the very image of the brash, cocky headliner across the world today we know simply as the “rock star”.  Berry passed away this weekend at the age of 90.  Unforgettable hits Johnny B. Goode, Maybelline, No Particular Place To Go, Roll Over Beethoven, My Ding-a-Ling, My Tambourine, and Sweet Little Sixteen only highlight his long career.

Even modern generations know his name thanks to a joke in Back to the Future, where Michael J. Fox plays his trademark song Johnny B. Goode with a band that happens to include a fictional cousin of Chuck Berry named Marvin.  The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Beach Boys all incorporated elements from Berry’s music, including covering his songs.  John Lennon said of Berry, “If you tried to give rock ‘n’ roll another name, you might have called it Chuck Berry.”  Berry never stopped performing.  Only five years ago Berry performed Johnny B. Goode at a concert in his honor with modern legends including fellow Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Darryl McDaniels from Run DMC.  And a new album was in the works.

Chuck Berry with Carl Sagan at a concert commemorating the Voyager accomplishments.

NASA and outer space enthusiasts will remember that Chuck Berry performing Johnny B. Goode is one of only two modern American songs included on the Voyager space probe golden records, which we’ve discussed before here at borg.com.  The Voyager missions are celebrating their 40th year in space in 2017.  The selection of music was made by Carl Sagan and the small team that collected music and images for the records (the complete playlist is listed here).  By our count this leaves only one remaining living performer whose music was featured on the albums: Valya Balkanska, a Bulgarian folk singer whose song “Izlel je Delyo Hagdutin,” was included on the golden records.  Balkanska is 75 years old, and performed the song for the album at age 30.

Where are the Voyager space probes, and Chuck Berry’s historic albums, now?

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