David Bowie’s “Happy Land” of Reinvention

English singer, songwriter, actor and record producer David Bowie’s influence on pop music spanned over five decades. His legacy of work during the ’70s, the decade I was fortunate to be with London Records, is considered by critics and musicians as showcasing the seeds of his genius which would sprout record sales of 140 million worldwide. David Bowie received five platinum and seven gold certifications here in the States and he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.

David BowieDavid Bowie’s self-named debut album on the Deram label of London Records was released on June 1st 1967, the month and year of my graduation from high school. Three years later I would be overseeing the mastering and production of re-releases of that first album. Ironically, David Bowie and I met one day at the studio when he was working on Space Oddity shortly after Deram Records had dropped him due to poor sales in 1968. Somewhere between conversations about his first album and what fans deem his first masterpiece, Space Oddity, we talked about his lyrics; a conversation I will never forget.

David Bowie ImagesIn 1973, London Records repackaged the album “David Bowie” and combined it with various singles and B-sides to create the compilation album “Images 1966–1967” (London Records BP 628/9). By then I had become an avid listener of his music so when I had to listen to test pressings from pressing plants across the country there was no reluctance on my part; only joy.    David Bowie’s career was marked by reinvention and visual presentation, his music and stagecraft significantly influencing popular music.

Although London’s compilation album gained Bowie a significant 1973 hit, “The Laughing Gnome,” “There Is A Happy Land” lyrics play to my passion for reinvention and the need for each of us to push back the voices of what others would have us do versus what we need to do to find and live our own true passion. We need to be open to reinventing ourselves to be who we are meant to be by listening to the music of our own inner voice.

“There is a happy land where only children live

They don’t have the time to learn the ways Of you sir, Mr. Grownup”





You CAN Always Get What You Want

If what you want means following your true passion…

If what you want brings value to you and others…

If you’re willing to totally commit to achieving what you want and overcoming all obstacles…

Yes, you CAN absolutely and always get what you want.

early StonesAmong my many musical influences was The Rolling Stones when I was performing solo and in bands during the ’60s. The albums The Rolling Stones, 12 x 5, The Rolling Stones, Now!, December’s Children (And Everybody’s), Aftermath, Between the Buttons, Their Satanic Majesties Request, Beggars Banquet and Let It Bleed were my treasure chest of musical inspiration. So, walking through the doors of industry giant London Records at 539 West 25th Street in New York City for the decade of the ’70s and past the Rolling Stones gold records hanging on the walls of the hallway to my office was living the dream.

Rolling Stones Hot RocksWorking on the mastering and production of Hot Rocks 1964–1971 moved the dream from real to surreal. Released December 20, 1971, the double album compilation was The Rolling Stones’ biggest-selling release of their career spending 262 weeks on the US Billboard 200 chart and peaking at #4. The album sold in excess of six million copies and was certified twelve times platinum.

Among the gems on Hot Rocks 1964–1971 was “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” from Let It Bleed. Like most music from that era, when I listen to the songs today they take on new significance, especially the lyrics.

Rolling Stones Let It BleedYou can’t always get what you want

You can’t always get what you want

You can’t always get what you want

But if you try sometimes you

You might find

You get what you need

You Can’t Always Get What You Want lyrics © Abkco Music, Inc.

Author and speaker Jim Rohn: “If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always got.” Negative self talk like telling yourself that “I can’t have what I want” is a guarantee that either you don’t want the right things or that you’ll never realize your true passion. And, the more you tell yourself these messages over and over and over again, echoing what your parents, teachers, coaches and significant others told you, the more likely you will live your life unfulfilled and longing. You might “get what you need” but surviving is not living in the truest existential sense of the word. The price will be living a life of repeatedly lamenting, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” So, better to send messages to your inner negative voices and tell them, “Hey! You! Get Off of My Cloud!”

Banking on Coffee Beans


Symbol of the strength and values of the Vassilaros family is Stefanie Kasselakis Kyles who traded her high heels as a very successful investment banker to run the family business. Driven by incomparable talent and 5 cups of black coffee a day, Stefanie is the intersection of old world core values and new world entrepreneurism.

Listen to Garrison’s interview with Stefanie:

Vassilaros family

The story of Vassilaros & Sons is about an institution that’s served all five boroughs with high-quality, hand-blended coffees, for nearly a century. 5 million cups a day of Vassilaros’ coffee fuels New Yorkers with the spirit that they need to build today and tomorrow, each and every day. But, the little coffee company that could is more than just a business that has weathered the economic storms of almost a hundred years. It’s about a business that’s been built on immigrants helping immigrants and values that stand the test of time like serving customers, gratitude and community.

Vassilaros logo

Photo of Stefanie by Buck Ennis from the article Where Have All The Diners Gone by Aaron Elstein in Crain’s

“I Hear You Knockin'”

Fats DOminoOne of my rock & roll influences growing up was listening to Fats Domino’s 1961 hit cover of the Dave Bartholomew and Earl King penned, “I Hear You Knockin.'” Although Fats drove this song on his keyboard, my parents didn’t have the money for a piano so I learned the chord progression on my guitar and played along with Fats endlessly.

Dave EdmundsYou can imagine my thrill in 1970 when I worked with Welsh singer, guitarist and record producer David WIlliam “Dave” Edmunds at Media Sound Studios in New York City to master his version of “I Hear You Knockin'” which reached #1 on the UK singles charts and #4 here in the States. The unique guitar sound meshed incredibly with his voice effects and that augmented piano chord strike on the turnaround never fails to grab me.

Today, when I listen to the lyrics of “I Hear You Knockin,'” entirely new thoughts come to mind. How many people have had dreams growing up and into young adulthood of what they wanted to do in life; not jobs but real passions that got squelched because of what their parents, teachers and mentors told them they “should” do. And, even when that original passion creeps into their consciousness later in life, that super strong superego pushes it back down and doesn’t let it come to fulfillment. These lyrics strike a chord, don’t they:

You went away and left me long time ago
And now you’re knocking on my door
I hear you knocking
But you can’t come in
I hear you knocking
Go back where you’ve been
(Dave Bartholomew and Earl King)

Just like “resolution,” the move of a note or chord from dissonance (an unstable sound) to a consonance (a more final or stable sounding one), needs expression in music so, too, we need to give our dissonant, repressed passions full expression if we are to live fulfilling lives and give value to ourselves and others. Make sure you follow your passion when you “Hear it Knockin.'”



Ticket to Write

John Lennon handwritten lyrics to Lucy in the Sky with DiamondsOne of the greatest obstacles we have to being creative is that critical voice inside us that controls what we say, how we say it and even how we write. I’ve actually seen people in graduate school handwriting sections of their thesis (yes, I am dating myself for all you Surface owners) then throwing away perfectly good idea snippets because what they wrote wasn’t neat enough or had too many cross-outs. Conversely, I’ve produced or engineered bands who’ve walked into the studio with chord progressions and lyrics on the backs of napkins and recorded some of the most incredible songs imaginable. Next time you listen to Sir George Martin’s productions of those amazing Beatles songs, remember how the words looked on paper before there was anything to listen to!

Give yourself every day a few minutes to free write your thoughts without regard to what’s coming out or what it means. Just let  your mind do a data dump through your arm to your hand and onto paper. It’s the best way I know of to tame the control beast and to give your creative energies the paths they need for expression. When you build on that habit, amazing things will happen. Try it! Give yourself a ticket to write…

Ticket to Ride handwritten song lyrics

“Rock Around The Clock” Anniversary: Is It Yours?

Rock Around the ClockOn April 12th, 1954, Bill Haley and the Comets had their first recording session at Pythian Temple studios in New York City after signing with American Decca Records. The landmark recording session almost didn’t take place when the band was traveling on a ferry that got stuck on a sandbar en route to the Big Apple from Philly. The 12-bar blues song, written by Max Freedman and James Myers, became a number one single on both the US and UK charts and opened the door to rock & roll as a commercial tsunami.

Find your own passion in life and career and live it every moment of every day: “Rock Around the Clock” with it. Will you look back a year from now and celebrate the anniversary of the realization of your own passion? Don’t let any psychological sandbars stop you!





Supermodel Elisabetta Canalis Loves Diners and Motorcycles

Elisabetta-Canalis-motorcycleElisabetta Canalis is a well-known Italian actress, television personality and model. She started her career in the glamor industry by landing a role in the popular Italian television sitcom “Striscia Ia Notizia”. Elisabetta was one of the participants in the 13th season of the hit reality series “Dancing with the Stars.” She has also graced the Max calendar and played cameo roles in films like “Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo’” and “Virgin Territory.” Iconic fashion magazines including Maxim and Vanity Fair consider her to be one of the most beautiful women in the world and she has appeared on the cover of fashion magazines like Vogue and Maxim. Elisabetta has starred in advertising campaigns for glamorous cosmetics brands like L’Oreal, Hollywood Milano and Pantene. She is a passionate animal rights campaigner and has appeared nude in an advertisement for PETA to raise awareness about the need to avoid products made from animal fur. Cancer charities like the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center have benefited from her fundraising efforts.

Elisabeta Canalis with PETA poster

Check out Elisabetta’s website and follow her on Twitter

Listen to Garrison’s interview with supermodel Elisabetta Canalis: