Guitarist Jimmy Page looks back at 50 years of Led Zeppelin
By ANDREW DALTON
AP Entertainment Writer
Tuesday, October 30
CORONA, Calif. (AP) — Jimmy Page once painted a dragon, and used it to slay.
The guitar guru was so bursting with creative inspiration 50 years ago that he felt compelled to pick up a brush and use his skills from art school to take poster paints to his favorite instrument, a 1959 Fender Telecaster, and decorate it with a psychedelic beast.
He calls the axe “the Excalibur” that he wielded through the wildly eventful year of 1968, when his old band, the Yardbirds, crashed, and his new band, Led Zeppelin, was born just two months later.
“My whole life is moving so fast at that point,” Page, now 74, said as he reflected on Led Zeppelin’s 50th anniversary in an interview with The Associated Press at the Fender guitar factory in California. “Absolutely just a roller-coaster ride.”
Page said he had Led Zeppelin’s sound, and first songs, fully formed in his mind before the Yardbirds were even done.
“I just knew what way to go,” Page said. “It was in my instinct.”
He found his first ally in singer Robert Plant, whom he invited to his house to thumb through records and talk music.
Page said he used an unlikely bit of folkie inspiration — Joan Baez — to show Plant the sound he wanted, playing her recording of the song “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” and telling him to emulate the way she sang the top line of the song. Zeppelin would put the tune on its first album.
Page still marvels at how fast the whole thing took off after Plant brought on drummer John Bonham and Page pulled in his friend John Paul Jones to play bass.
“The whole journey of Led Zeppelin and the rise of Led Zeppelin, each tour was just extraordinary, and the growth and the respect and love of the band, and the people that were flooding to see us,” Page said.
The first record also included “Dazed and Confused,” with Page famously using a violin bow on the dragon guitar, which he played on every electric song on the record.
The guitar had been a cherished gift that guitarist Jeff Beck had given Page to thank him for recommending Beck for a job in the Yardbirds, which had brought a handsome payday.
“He’d bought a Corvette Stingray, and came roaring up my driveway with it,” Page remembered. “He said, ‘This is yours.’ I was absolutely thrilled to bits. It was given to me with so much affection.”
Page said he made immediate and intense use of the instrument, and wanted to “consecrate” it, so he went at it with paints that were used at the time for psychedelic posters, and summoned the dragon.
Page later left the guitar behind at his home in England on an early U.S. tour with Led Zeppelin in 1969. He’d come to regret it.
When he returned, exhausted and abuzz, he found that a ceramicist friend who had been serving as his house-sitter had painted over the dragon in his own mosaic style as a “gift” for Page.
“It was a disaster,” he said.
Page angrily stripped off all the paint and he placed it in storage, where it sat for decades.
Flash forward 50 years. Page was assembling a book for the band’s anniversary, and the dragon guitar kept popping up in pictures.
Page felt that maybe it was time to bring the old beast back to life. He worked with a graphic artist who helped illustrate the book, using photos to repaint the guitar, and recreate its old look.
He loved the result so much that he approached Fender, and the guitar maker happily signed on to make an anniversary rendition for the public. The design will be unveiled in January.
“It’s absolutely identical,” Page said. “You wouldn’t see any difference. If anything, the colors were just slightly richer.”
Four different versions of the guitar will be released next year.
Along with the book, the instruments are a tribute to the band’s 50-year legacy.
Asked what kind of gift one might get for his bandmates for such a milestone, Page said, “I might give them a paintbrush, and the body of a guitar, and see if they can do something with it.”
Follow Andrew Dalton on Twitter: https://twitter.com/andyjamesdalton.
iPads, Macs get new screens as Apple pushes creativity
By ANICK JESDANUN and MAE ANDERSON
AP Technology Writers
NEW YORK (AP) — Apple’s new iPads will more closely resemble its latest iPhones as they ditch a home button and fingerprint sensor to make more room for the screen.
As with the latest iPhone models — the XR and XS —the new iPad Pro will use facial-recognition technology to unlock the device and to authorize app and Apple Pay purchases.
Apple also unveiled new Mac computers, including an overdue refresh of the MacBook Air laptop, now with a high-resolution screen.
Better screens come with price increases for both iPads and Macs.
Tuesday’s announcements took place at an opera house in New York, where the company emphasized its products’ ability to create music, video and sketches. Neither the Mac nor the iPad generates as much revenue for Apple as iPhones.
Tablet sales have been declining overall, though Apple saw a 3 percent increase in iPad sales last year to nearly 44 million, commanding a 27 percent market share, according to research firm IDC. Apple has been promoting its high-end iPad Pro as ideal for artists, photographers and other creators.
D.A. Davidson Co. analyst Tom Forte said Apple did “a nice job of rolling out next-generation devices with features customers want to sustain momentum” in iPad sales growth.
The smaller of the two new Pros will have a wider display than before when held horizontally. Its screen is 11 inches rather than 10.5 inches, measured diagonally. It starts at about $800, or $150 more than the 10.5-inch version.
For the larger, 12.9-inch model, Apple is fitting the same-size display into a smaller device — about the size of a standard sheet of paper. That starts at about $1,000, a price hike of $200.
The new iPads will have an LCD screen similar to the iPhone XR rather than the more vibrant one found in the top-of-the-line iPhone XS models. The displays on the new iPads don’t run to the edges as much as they do on iPhones.
An updated pencil, still at $99, will attach magnetically to the iPad for storage and charging.
Apple is bringing a high-resolution display to its low-end MacBook Air, something until now limited to pricier models such as the MacBook Pro products. But the starting price goes up $200 to about $1,200.
The Air also joins higher-end Pros in sporting a fingerprint sensor, something the iPad just lost.
Apple also announced an updated desktop computer, the Mac Mini, starting at about $800.
The company said both Macs will use aluminum left over from producing iPads and other products.
The new MacBook Air and iPad Pros will now use a standard, oval-shaped connector called USB-C. That means accessories using the iPad’s old Lightning port will need adapters, sold separately. The change will allow people to charge their iPhones through the iPad.
The Air also loses the slot for camera memory cards. An adapter costs $39.
Patrick Moorhead, founder of Moor Insights & Strategy, said the refreshed products are likely to please Apple fans and users.
“The company hadn’t updated the Mac Mini for years, and the MacBook Air for a while, so these are very welcome changes,” he said. But he said the new Mac features aren’t significant enough to draw many people away from Windows computers.
“Overall some nice improvements, but I don’t think these are game changers,” he said.
All the new products come out Nov. 7.
Apple also is releasing a free software update for iPhones and iPads on Tuesday with previously announced features such as group video chats on FaceTime.
This story corrects release date for software update to Tuesday.
Kepler telescope dead after finding thousands of worlds
By MARCIA DUNN
AP Aerospace Writer
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — NASA’s elite planet-hunting spacecraft has been declared dead, just a few months shy of its 10th anniversary.
Officials announced the Kepler Space Telescope’s demise Tuesday.
Already well past its expected lifetime, the 9 1/2-year-old Kepler had been running low on fuel for months. Its ability to point at distant stars and identify possible alien worlds worsened dramatically at the beginning of October, but flight controllers still managed to retrieve its latest observations. The telescope has now gone silent, its fuel tank empty.
“Kepler opened the gate for mankind’s exploration of the cosmos,” said retired NASA scientist William Borucki, who led the original Kepler science team.
Kepler discovered 2,681 planets outside our solar system and even more potential candidates. It showed us rocky worlds the size of Earth that, like Earth, might harbor life. It also unveiled incredible super Earths: planets bigger than Earth but smaller than Neptune.
NASA’s astrophysics director Paul Hertz estimated that anywhere from two to a dozen of the planets discovered by Kepler are rocky and Earth-sized in the so-called Goldilocks zone. But Kepler’s overall planet census showed that 20 to 50 percent of the stars visible in the night sky could have planets like ours in the habitable zone for life, he said.
The $700 million mission even helped to uncover last year a solar system with eight planets, just like ours.
“It has revolutionized our understanding of our place in the cosmos,” Hertz said. “Now we know because of the Kepler Space Telescope and its science mission that planets are more common than stars in our galaxy.”
Almost lost in 2013 because of equipment failure, Kepler was salvaged by engineers and kept peering into the cosmos, thick with stars and galaxies, ever on the lookout for dips in in the brightness of stars that could indicate an orbiting planet.
“It was like trying to detect a flea crawling across a car headlight when the car was 100 miles away,” said Borucki said.
The resurrected mission became known as K2 and yielded 350 confirmed exoplanets, or planets orbiting other stars, on top of what the telescope had already uncovered since its March 7, 2009, launch from Cape Canaveral.
In all, close to 4,000 exoplanets have been confirmed over the past two decades, two-thirds of them thanks to Kepler.
Kepler focused on stars thousands of light-years away and, according to NASA, showed that statistically there’s at least one planet around every star in our Milky Way Galaxy.
Borucki, who dreamed up the mission decades ago, said one of his favorite discoveries was Kepler 22b, a water planet bigger than Earth but where it is not too warm and not too cold — the type “that could lead to life.”
A successor to Kepler launched in April, NASA’s Tess spacecraft, has its sights on stars closer to home. It’s already identified some possible planets.
Tess project scientist Padi Boyd called Kepler’s mission “stunningly successful.”
Kepler showed us that “we live in a galaxy that’s teeming with planets, and we’re ready to take the next step to explore those planets,” she said.
Another longtime spacecraft chasing strange worlds in our own solar system, meanwhile, is also close to death.
NASA’s 11-year-old Dawn spacecraft is pretty much out of fuel after orbiting the asteroid Vesta as well as the dwarf planet Ceres. It remains in orbit around Ceres, which, like Vesta, is in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
Two of NASA’s older telescopes have been hit with equipment trouble recently, but have recovered. The 28-year-old Hubble Space Telescope resumed science observations last weekend, following a three-week shutdown. The 19-year-old Chandra X-ray Telescope’s pointing system also ran into trouble briefly in October. Both cases involved critical gyroscopes, needed to point the telescopes.
Hertz said all the spacecraft problems were “completely independent” and coincidental in timing.
Now 94 million miles from Earth, Kepler should remain in a safe, stable orbit around the sun. Flight controllers will disable the spacecraft’s transmitters, before bidding a final “good night.”
Science Writer Seth Borenstein contributed to this report from Washington.
The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
Whitey Bulger, Boston gangster, found slain in prison at 89
By DENISE LAVOIE and ALANNA DURKIN RICHER
BOSTON (AP) — James “Whitey” Bulger, the murderous Boston gangster who benefited from a corrupt relationship with the FBI before spending 16 years as one of America’s most wanted men, was slain in federal prison. He was 89.
Bulger was found unresponsive Tuesday morning at the U.S. penitentiary in West Virginia where he’d just been transferred, and a medical examiner declared him dead shortly afterward, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Authorities did not immediately release a cause of death, but Justin Tarovisky, a prison union official, told The Associated Press it was being investigated as a homicide.
Bulger, the model for Jack Nicholson’s ruthless crime boss in the 2006 Martin Scorsese movie, “The Departed,” led a largely Irish mob that ran loan-sharking, gambling and drug rackets. He also was an FBI informant who ratted on the New England mob, his gang’s main rival, in an era when bringing down the Mafia was a top national priority for the FBI.
Bulger’s rap sheet started as a juvenile, and he spent three years in Alcatraz, the infamous island prison off San Francisco.
Bulger fled Boston in late 1994 after his FBI handler, John Connolly Jr., warned him he was about to be indicted. With a $2 million reward on his head, Bulger became one of the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted” criminals, with a place just below Osama bin Laden.
There was no love lost for Bulger on the Boston streets he once ruled.
Patricia Donahue’s husband, Michael, was killed in 1982 when he offered a ride home to a man allegedly targeted for death by Bulger because he was talking to the FBI. “I’d like to open up a champagne bottle and celebrate,” she told WBZ-TV on Tuesday.
Tom Duffy, a retired state police detective who searched for Bulger and was a consultant on “The Departed,” called word of Bulger’s death “celebratory news.”
When the extent of his crimes and the FBI’s role in overlooking them became public in the late 1990s, Bulger became a source of embarrassment for the FBI. During the years he was a fugitive, the FBI battled a public perception that it had not tried very hard to find him.
After more than 16 years on the run, Bulger was captured at age 81 in Santa Monica, California, where he had been living in a rent-controlled apartment near the beach with his longtime girlfriend, Catherine Greig.
In 2013, he was convicted in the slayings, as well as extortion, and money-laundering after a sensational racketeering trial that included graphic testimony from three former Bulger cohorts: a hit man, a protege and a partner. He was sentenced nearly five years ago to two consecutive life sentences plus five years.
Bulger had just been moved to USP Hazelton, a high-security prison with an adjacent minimum security satellite camp in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia. He had been in a prison in Florida before a stopover at a transfer facility in Oklahoma City. Federal Bureau of Prisons officials and his attorney had declined to comment on why he was being moved.
A lawyer who represented Bulger blamed the gangster’s death on decisions made by the Bureau of Prisons.
“He was sentenced to life in prison, but as a result of decisions by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, that sentence has been changed to the death penalty,” attorney J.W. Carney Jr. said in a statement.
Bulger, nicknamed “Whitey” for his bright platinum hair, grew up in a gritty South Boston housing project and became known as one of the most ruthless gangsters in Boston. His younger brother, William Bulger, became one of the most powerful politicians in Massachusetts, leading the state Senate for 17 years.
In working-class “Southie,” Bulger was known for helping old ladies across the street and giving turkey dinners to his neighbors at Thanksgiving. He had a kind of Robin Hood-like image among some locals, but authorities said he would put a bullet in the brain of anyone who he even suspected of double-crossing him.
“You could go back in the annals of criminal history and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone as diabolical as Bulger,” said Duffy.
“Killing people was his first option. They don’t get any colder than him,” Duffy said after Bulger was finally captured in June 2011.
Bulger was accused of strangling Debra Davis, the 26-year-old girlfriend of his partner, Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, and Deborah Hussey, also 26, the daughter of Flemmi’s common-law wife. In both cases, Bulger insisted on pulling out the women’s teeth so they would be difficult to identify, Flemmi testified.
During a search of his Santa Monica apartment, agents found over $800,000 in cash and more than 30 guns, many hidden in holes in the walls. A property manager at the building said Bulger and Greig, who used the names Charles and Carol Gasko, had lived there for 15 years and always paid the rent-controlled rate of $1,145 a month in cash.
They were caught days after the FBI began a new publicity campaign focusing on Greig. The daytime TV announcements showed photos of Greig and noted that she was known to frequent beauty salons and have her teeth cleaned once a month.
A woman from Iceland who knew Bulger and Greig in Santa Monica saw a report on CNN about the latest publicity campaign and called in the tip that led agents to them. The Boston Globe identified the tipster as a former Miss Iceland, a former actress who starred in Noxzema shaving cream commercials in the 1970s.
Greig is still serving her sentence at a federal prison in Minnesota.
Bulger, a physical fitness buff, had been taken to a Boston hospital from his jail cell at least three times, complaining of chest pains, since being brought back to Boston to stand trial.
Associated Press writers Eric Tucker in Washington, John Raby in Charleston, West Virginia, and William J. Kole in Boston contributed to this report.
Lucas Hedges comes of age, 1 film at a time
By JAKE COYLE
AP Film Writer
Tuesday, October 30
NEW YORK (AP) — In parts large and small, 21-year-old actor Lucas Hedges has over the past two years assembled a portrait gallery of young men in strained, anxious periods of transition.
He has been a newly parentless son, a gay teen in denial, an abusive older brother, and a drug addict in recovery. In the new film “Boy Erased,” he plays a teen sent to gay conversion therapy by his Baptist parents. Their struggles have all in some way mirrored Hedges’ own; their coming of age has been his.
In an interview, Hedges says the parts have reflected “the transformation occurring within me.”
Hedges last week also made his Broadway debut in Kenneth Lonergan’s “The Waverly Gallery,” alongside Elaine May. He was nominated for Oscar for his performance in 2016’s “Manchester by the Sea.”
Winfrey, Witherspoon among guests on Michelle Obama tour
Tuesday, October 30
NEW YORK (AP) — Oprah Winfrey and Reese Witherspoon will be among the special guests when Michelle Obama goes on tour for her memoir “Becoming.”
Others appearing with the former first lady will include Sarah Jessica Parker, Michele Norris and former White House aide Valerie Jarrett. The announcement was made by Live Nation and Crown Publishing on Tuesday.
Obama’s book comes out Nov. 13 and her tour begins that night at Chicago’s United Center, with Winfrey serving as moderator. Witherspoon will join Obama in Denver and Jarrett in Washington, D.C. Obama will make 12 stops in all, ending in New York City’s Barclay Center on Dec. 19, with Parker as moderator.