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The Official John Lennon Educational Tour Bus Guide To Music And Video
By Susan Frances
(more articles from this author)
2007-10-13
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Title: The Official John Lennon Educational Tour Bus Guide To Music And Video
Release: 2007
Label: Thomson Course Technology PTR
Website: www.lennonbus.org

The CD ROM/DVD which accompanies the book Come Together: The Official John Lennon Educational Tour Bus Guide To Music And Video written by Mark Garvey, forwarded by Yoko Ono, and published by Thomson Course Technology PTR, is a visual overview of the multiple functions which the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus (www.lennonbus.org) serves to local communities in the US and Canada. The CD ROM/DVD is really informative on so many levels about music technology and how the Lennon Bus uses it to teach people about writing and recording music and shooting professional music videos.

The “Lennon Bus Sizzle Reel” shows how the Lennon Bus came to exist with the permission of Yoko Ono to use Lennon’s name, image and self-portrait which is seen on the bus on the website (www.lennonbus.org). The clip includes footage from the “Good Morning America” episode where Yoko Ono introduces the Lennon bus to the public with Joan Osborne and Wyclef Jean making an appearance. Launched in 1998, the Lennon Bus is the project of composer/songwriter Brian Rothschild who serves as the Executive Producer of the bus and the John Lennon Songwriting Contests (jlsc.com).

Owned by DAS Ventures Ltd., the Lennon Bus acts as a mobile recording studio as it travels across the US and Canada from January thru October each year. The powder blue bus, model1998 Prevost XL, with puffy white clouds is showcased throughout the disc, particularly on the sections for “Lennon Bus Sizzle Reel” and “Press Reel.” The images of the bus recall of another bus which was shown in the 1970’s TV series “The Partridge Family.” You know immediately when you see the Lennon bus that it has something to do with music.

The guardian/caretaker/driver of the Lennon Bus, Tony Spencer is not seen in the video clips but his work is visible every time the camera spotlights the casing of the bus. The book’s author does a good job of describing who Spencer is and what the bus has come to mean to him. The head engineer, Jeff Sorbel who does not ride on the bus any longer but did from 2002 to 2004, serves as the 24/7 on-call guy who is responsible for troubleshooting all the equipment on board the bus. He has a section on the CD ROM/DVD entitled “Learn About The Lennon Bus” where he discusses in detail the ins and outs of the bus, especially its renovation period in 2003 when it was remodeled with all new gear and a new interior done at Taytrix Studios in North Carolina by head designer Tay Hoyle. This section documents how the impetus for the renovation was due to Apple becoming a major sponsor for the bus.

The remodeling made the recording studio a much more professional facility and the video workstation greatly updated with high quality equipment. The bus was supplied with the best products that music merchants have to offer from companies like Apple, Roland US, Yamaha, Maxell, Digidesign Pro Tools, JVC, Disc Makers, Sibelius, Edirol, Brian Moore’s iGuitar, Auto-Technica, Aphex, Glyph, Ableton, Elixir Strings, Neutrix, Furman, and one Taylor acoustic guitar that sits invitingly in the corner.

Sobel tells that Glyph hard drives “have a reputation for being bulletproof, really well-made.” Sobel explains that they wanted the best stuff when the remodeling commenced. Working and managing the equipment on the bus while it’s on the road are the three engineers on board who are assigned by Brian Rothschild. The crux of the bus is the engineers who conduct songwriting workshops and recording sessions with aspiring musicians.

The disc’s section on “Artists and Students” showcases this aspect of the bus and its role in bringing famous artists into the recording studio with music students for a special one-time recording. These gatherings are made possible at music tradeshows and conventions like MacWorld, Music Player Live, Digital Life, Ableton Live, Society of Broadcast Engineers, and many others. All of the “Artists And Students” videos are really excellent from the quality of the music to the video footage. It’s all five-star work.

The use of triple frames for the video shoot with singer Kaci Brown and music students chosen by the George Lucas Educational Foundation for the recording of the song “Paz” is entertaining and fun. The song has a spicy Latin jazz/hip hop palette and video effects to match. The students bring two polarized styles together harmoniously on this track.

Other cool “Artists And Students” music videos featured on the disc are John Legend’s performance with students from Rancho Palos Verdes High School that included one amazing piano player, The Beacon Brothers (Michael - guitar and Kevin - drums) with music students at AES ‘05 (Audio Engineering Society), Macy Gray with students from her M: Gray Music Academy, Mos Def with students from Regent Park in Toronto, Canada, Don Felder from The Eagles recording with students who formed the funk-rap ensemble the North Hollywood Stars, Bob Weir from The Grateful Dead who played a tune with the folk-pop group the MacDaddy’s, Pat Metheny and Jonny Cragg with college students who formed the jazzy pop band Wheels, and Al Jarreau who did a soul-jazz melody with members of the San Francisco Jazz Organization.

John Lennon imagined people coming together to write songs and his wish was granted. He is very lucky that people were listening. It was Al Jarreau who said in the “Artist Interviews“ segment of the disc, “I love the bus. What an extension of John Lennon’s dream…Imagine!!”

In the “Artist Interviews” segment, video clips taped by the Lennon Bus engineers are featured with interviews they conducted of the artists who visited and recorded on the bus alongside the students. The artists shown in this section are Will.I.am from The Black Eyed Peas, Pat Metheny, Macy Gray, The Bacon Brothers, Al Jarreau, Don Felder, The Veronicas (Lisa and Jess Origliasso), Bob Weir, and Martin Luther King, Jr.‘s daughter Yolanda King. In these clips, the engineers discuss with the artists how they form their songs and record them and what are their thoughts about the Lennon Bus. Kevin Bacon summed it up concisely when he said, “I wish this bus would’ve rolled into my neighborhood.”

Guitarist Pat Metheny advocated, “Exposing kids to the potential of what music can be in fantastic…If you learn about just the basics of music, it helps you organize your world.”

Not included on the CD ROM/DVD but cited in the book is a quote by Living Color’s guitarist Vernon Reid who endorsed, “Something like this (the Lennon Bus) should be parked outside of every school in America.”

The CD ROM/DVD surmises the many roles in which the Lennon Bus plays to encourage music education in local communities and to give aspiring musicians the tools to make their dreams a reality. Every person who comes on board the bus to write and record a song is given a Maxell CD-R of their original song and a Maxell DVD-R of their music video which the Lennon Bus engineers tape of the musicians performing their song. All copyrights for the material belongs to the individuals who wrote and recorded the songs. It is an aural and visual journal of the experience as well as a document that certifies the students as graduates of their music course on the Lennon Bus.

The disc shows that the Lennon Bus is an extension of the John Lennon Songwriting Contests which Brian Rothschild initiated in 1997 and continues to build up momentum each year. On the disc in the “H.S. Battle Of The Bands” section are videos from some of the JLSC winners like Detroit’s Wall Of Denial who won 2005’s all-round High School Battle of the Bands challenge and Atlanta’s Crazy Anglos who won the Best Rock Song of 2005. This section also provides videos of some of the runners up from the Battles like Long Island’s pop punk band The Getaway Drive, Utah’s modern rockers The Monikers, Arizona’s metal heavyweights Japanesian Barbie, and Okalahoma’s power rock duo The Red Alert (siblings Christy and Hank Hanewinkel) who truly lit up the stage during their competition.

The engineers also slip in some shots of the bands that played at these Battles on the “Press Reel” segment which includes Panama City Beach, Florida’s Not Another Word. A testament to the Lennon Bus crew is that all of these bands can be found at myspace, and with the exception of The Monikers who called it quits earlier this year, everyone is still together and making music.

In addition to the Lennon Bus’ involvement with music tradeshows, conventions, and the John Lennon Songwriting Contests, the CD ROM/DVD also shows that the bus participates in contests run by their sponsors like Apple Stores, USA Weekend Magazine, Purevolume.com and Sonicbids.com. One music video for a group of students in Austin, Texas who won an Apple Store competition are seen messing around with the merchandise in the Apple Store that gave them their chance to be recorded on the Lennon Bus . Another music video is of the post new wave/electro-rock trio Bang Sugar Bang who won a contest run by Sonicbids.com and JLSC.

The disc also shows the Lennon Bus’ visits to colleges, elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools to give students a crash course in making a record and a music video. This function of the Lennon Bus is represented by the “Student Videos” section, which features a rap/hip hop number performed by students from Savanna, Georgia who formed the Beach High Allstars. Also in this collection is the wicked black and white silent film style video made at the request of the students of The Royal Conservatory of Music in Canada. The “Student Videos” segment also shows how the Lennon Bus interacts with grassroots organizations like the Oneness Program, The Boys And Girls Clubs Of America, NACAP (the Native American Composers Apprenticeship Program) and a number of others local youth-oriented organizations in North America.

The link for “Oneness Students” in the “Student Videos” area is a music video made on July 25, 2005 by a group of students chosen by the Oneness Program to write and record an original song. The group called themselves BRD, taken from the initials of the three member’s first names - Bianca, Russell, and Dante. The song is a smooth soul melody entitled “That’s What I Wanna Know,” produced by the Lennon Bus engineers Doug Lubowitz (2005) and Steve Miller (2005 - present) who did really nice work on stylizing the instruments to make them silky and flowy with vocal strobes by guest singer Mandy Gonzalez whose voice resonates on the inclines of the drum swells.

The Lennon Bus engineer, Rob Healy (2003 - 2005) made an unforgettable video. His shots showcase the animation and brightness in the souls of these talented young singers and musicians using the natural scenery of Strawberry Fields in New York City’s Central Park as a backdrop. One of the most memorable shots is when the three students gaze down on the Imagine Mosaic embedded in the ground to honor John Lennon.

You would think this is enough for the Lennon Bus, but the bus also gets permission to follow some tours and special events like Rock The Vote, X Games, and the Vans Warped Tour. The Vans Warped Tour has a section all to itself on the CD ROM/DVD entitled “Warped Tour.” This segment shows videos which the Lennon Bus crew makes with some of the bands for their “The Day In The Life” series that can be viewed on purevolume.com at www.purevolume.com/promotions/lennonbus These mini-documentaries give the viewer a taste of the lifestyle that traveling bands must endure while on the tour. Bands featured in this segment are powerpop punksters Rediscover, nu glam-rockers We Are The Fury, and Crazy Anglos whom you may remember won the JLSC Best Rock Song category in 2005.

Some highlights in this series include Fury’s drummer Stephen Lublin’s inventive crabtastic sandwiches, the guys in Rediscover who use their charming personality to make it past the security guard at the concert gate without having the correct colored wristbands, and Crazy Anglos who take the Lennon crew through the crowds that meander around the vendor booths outside the venue. These videos along with all other videos made by the Lennon Bus engineers can be viewed on the bus’ official website (www.lennonbus.org).

This about covers most of what is on the CD ROM/DVD that accompanies the book Coming Together: The Official John Lennon Educational Tour Bus Guide To Music And Video. The Lennon Bus serves local communities in a way that has never been done before by uniting people who may have not known each other before but come together to make music. 2008 will be the Lennon Bus’ 10th anniversary and it is hard to believe that the bus has more to achieve, but I guess John Lennon did not impose limitations on his dream for people to make music so why would a bus made in his likeness do that. There is always more music to make.

For more information and to contact the author, click on the author’s name at the top of the page.


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