Cover photo: That’s me!!!
Vernon Reid from the band Living Colour said, “Something like this (John Lennon Tour Bus) should be parked outside of every school in America.” “Un-Block The Music,” wholeheartedly agrees. I asked its founder, Brian Rothschild and Jeff Sobel, creative technology director, where they go from here/ Both said, bus goals for the future would be to have more buses maybe in Australia or South America. How can they make that happen?
The answer is…one step at a time. There already is another bus, rather truck, in Europe that was built in Germany. Like the American bus, it has three rooms with glass doors separating the rooms. However, Brain explained, it has a Mercedes Actros Chassis. As I understand this, that means all of the components – frame, suspension, axles, and brakes are designed to withstand the extreme environments. (Un-Block The Music can not get more technical than that…getting in the car and putting my foot on the gas pedal is about as car savvy as I get.)
Anyway, the European truck also has a custom trailer that expands on both sides. It’s very large. A bus has a rounded roof. However, the top of a truck is flat, so it actually has another deck. Brian explained. When you get to the back, you come up a ladder and you go on the “Peace” deck which is wired for audio, video and broadcast. It says “Imagine Peace” around the perimeter. That bus launched in 2013 in Liverpool, England, with artist, Yoko Ono, John’s widow.
Jeff, who has been with the Tour Bus since 2002, not only directed a complete redesign of the original American bus, but he designed the Lennon Bus Europe. “When I started in 2002, there were huge racks and the original bus was smaller. Things are much easier now. So many things are now software and miniaturized and we think about what we can do with space instead of trying to cram it all in as we had to do at first.” All of the equipment on the bus is top notch. “Making a music video, editing it and ultimately having a finished product in 1 day is a feat. There is no time for downtime. All of these sponsors give us equipment that we can depend on.
Jeff says “we are fortunate to work with companies like Neutrik who have been a sponsor since Day 1. They are easy to overlook because the equipment is not flashy, but they are an important connection for everything. Apple is another sponsor. Out studio is very state of the art with high end computer, audio, video, and photographic equipment. Then there is Yamaha that offers the studio keyboards, drums and guitars. They, too, have been sponsor for most of the bus’ life.
With having so many amazing sponsors in place, Jeff says, the hardest part of the job is finding the right people to live on the bus. The perfect person has to wear a lot of hats. They need to be technical; they have to be a janitor and they need to be able to work with kids. “We also have to find people that can live with each other. At the end of the day, there is no going home. You are already home.”
Those living on the bus usually commit to 3 years (but are obviously free to go if they want to, Jeff jokes). The first year is usually devoted to figuring everything out. “They are thrown into this environment working with a diverse group to produce a completed project from beginning to end every single day. And, they are encouraged to make each project unique. By the second year they really feel good, they usually want to do a third year. After that, they think, ‘maybe I should have a life!’”
As life on the bus carries forward, Brian and Jeff have fantasies. Not surprisingly, their fantasies align. If Aladdin’s Genie showed up at Brian and Jeff’s bus stop tomorrow, what would they wish for? They’d wish for Elon Musk to provide the next vehicle. They’d wish for a Tesla truck to showcase new technologies and sustainabilities. “Un-Block The Music” IMAGINES that might happen.
For a list of bus sponsors, go to: http://www.lennonbus.org/about_the_bus/sponsors
Also. for Part 1 of the story, go to : https://unblockthemusic.blog/2019/11/15/john-lennon-educational-tour-bus-is-a-studio-on-wheels-that-honors-johns-work-to-give-peace-a-chance-part-1/