Monday, July 28, 2014

New book update

Work on my new newspaper e-book/novel THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE is going good -- I've been writing from 2,000 to 4,000 words worth of new stuff each day for the past week or so. This is all brand-new material that wasn't in my newspaper memoir. I've still got a lot of stuff left that didn't get into the newspaper memoir, some of it includes some pretty funny stories. If anything, the new book will be even MORE personal than the newspaper memoir was. Though "fictionalized."
The way it's going, I might have something new done by the fall. I've already written the ending, which is MUCH more upbeat than the end of the newspaper memoir was. I'm using the small-town part of the memoir as a sort of framework to build the new novel on -- though altered a bit so it's more of a straightforward narrative.
So far, it looks like my biggest problem is going to be not repeating myself....
I'll keep you posted. I'm still not getting rich doing this e-book-writing stuff, but as long as the writing's going well, I don't care much. And this stuff obviously wants to come out.
So, onward. I don't want my headstone to read "He kept a clean store."

Am still listening to local radio station KPLU's "All Blues" on the weekends and bouncing around the radio dial and tossing CD's in the rest of the time.
Still listening to Madness's ULTIMATE COLLECTION -- "Shut Up" is pretty great, so is "Madness is All in the Mind," "House of Fun" (still can't quite catch all the lyrics), and "Yesterday's Men" is a nice nostalgic ballad.
Have some Aretha and Al Green best-of's on the way -- thank Ghod for's cheapo CD's.
Rosanne Cash was on SOUND OPINIONS Sunday night. She has a beautiful voice. Her new album sounds pretty haunting.

I hear we're in for another blast of HOT summer weather here.
That's all for me, here. How are y'all?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Made in heaven 2

About the time last week when I was bitching here about my roommate(s), they had a fight. Sort of.
Turns out my roommate went to pick up his girlfriend(?) from her mother's house nearby. The GF had gotten in a fight with her mom and was SCREAMING over the phone. When my roommate showed up, the screaming was still going on, the GF climbed in the car raving about what a psychotic bitch her mother was. My roommate told his GF she was wrong, her mom WASN'T a psycho bitch -- and the GF SCRATCHED DOWN THE SIDE OF HIS FACE AS HE'S DRIVING HER BACK TO HIS HOUSE.
They didn't plunge into a ditch and die because of his injuries, everything's fine. But now my roommate has a big bloody scar down his forehead and the side of his nose -- and his GF is STILL in the house, though she hasn't said a WORD for DAYS.
It took four days before my roommate even filled me in on what the hell happened.
So: All my original questions remain. What the hell is he getting out of this "relationship"? And does she live in the house or not? Beats me.
Ah well, Love Is Strange, right?

I have failed to get into two consecutive music-related novels. Stanley Elkin's THE DICK GIBSON SHOW (1971) was supposedly a brilliant novel about a radio talk-show host, but it was way too strange. Lots of odd verbal riffs, nothing much in the story or character-building department. I gave up after 50 pages.
I had some hopes for Garrison Keillor's RADIO ROMANCE (1993). I read his LAKE WOEBEGONE DAYS back in the '90s and remembered it as cute and folksy and funny, though I don't remember a single thing about what HAPPENS in the book.
RADIO ROMANCE is cute and folksy and funny -- but somehow that isn't enough. I got 100 pages in and skimmed some cute later bits, but it's a 400-page novel.
RADIO ROMANCE did inspire me to try to re-write my newspaper memoir as a small-town-comedy novel. I've even got a title for it: THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. I'll keep you posted.
If you want to know what great radio was like, go read Marc Fisher's beautifully-written SOMETHING IN THE AIR.

Haven't made it to Tacoma with that load of music and books to sell yet -- maybe next week.
Am wishing I had more soul/R&B on CD. Am missing Aretha, Al Green, etc.
Spent most of the past two nights at work playing Madness -- their ULTIMATE COLLECTION is pretty great. I love the sax and the vocals and the bounciness. "Embarrassment," "Our House," "Baggy Trousers," "My Girl" and "One Step Beyond" are all classics, and the rest is growing on me. And I'm trying to figure out where the HELL I heard "Wings of a Dove" before.... Some movie...?

 If you're REALLY desperate for more reviews, I've posted a bunch of new ones at since the winter -- I've got more than 100 reviews posted there now. All the recent ones have been in Real English. Look up something like Marc Fisher's SOMETHING IN THE AIR, Ramsey Campbell's PROBABLY, or Peter Straub's SIDES, scroll down to the review section, click on the link that's my real name, and your computer should bring up all my other reviews, if you're really desperate. And if you ARE, Ghod bless you.
Cheers! More soon....

Monday, July 21, 2014


Not absolutely sure about this. It's been sneaking up on me for awhile. But I may be about to become a big soul/R&B/blues fanatic.
I've been bored with music for a long time. All the stuff I used to rely on mostly just sounds dull now.
But lately I've been listening more and more to stuff like Tacoma college radio station KPLU's "All Blues" on Saturday and Sunday nights, and it's been sounding better and better.
And they've been educating me. A week or two ago they played Aretha's "Dr. Feelgood," and that sounded pretty good. I'd never heard it before. I already knew about "Think" and "Chain of Fools," and as a kid I was a sucker for "Day Dreaming" and "'Til You Come Back to Me."
Tonight while I was working, KPLU played "I've Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You." I was distracted when it started, didn't realize who it was. But that first chorus stopped me in my tracks. God, it's freaking GREAT! And I've got it at home on ARETHA'S GOLD, and I can't believe I've never played it, or at least never PAID ATTENTION. Well, the next chance I get I'm gonna put it on and crank it up, and I don't care if the roommate's girlfriend doesn't like it.
Played "All Blues" almost all Sunday night at work, and almost all of it sounded really good. It's a whole area I know practically nothing about. I know some of the artists' names, but I can't tell Muddy Waters from Howlin' Wolf. So we'll see how this plays out. I think maybe what I'm needing musically these days is some strong emotion directly expressed. All that prog and stadium rock I grew up on don't seem to be cutting it anymore, so....
The only other thing I've heard lately that hit me as hard as "I've Never Loved a Man" was when SOUND OPINIONS played The Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop" for Tommy Ramone (who passed away recently at age 65), and man, that still sounds great. It only took about 10 years for me to hear THAT one....
Anyway, I'll keep you posted. Almost 55, and maybe I can still learn a few things....

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A marriage made in heaven

I have this roommate. My roommate has this girlfriend. Sort of.
Even though money is tight and we can barely feed ourselves and stay ahead of the bills, over the last few months my roommate has let his sort-of girlfriend move into the house, bringing all of her stuff with her, and taking over a bedroom my roommate could have rented-out for at least $300 or $400 per month.
My roommate is not being "a nice guy." He Wants Something from this sort-of relationship. And he's not getting it. She won't sleep with him. She always has some kind of lame excuse.
She doesn't pay rent. She doesn't have a job. She's technically homeless. She gets food-stamp money every month, and spends it at the nearest grocery store ... but she also has five little nieces and nephews that live nearby, and most of the food ends up going to them. And my roommate has to go pick them up when she wants to see them.
When she cooks, it's for the kids. She never cleans up after herself, no matter how big the mess. She won't do dishes.
When she's in the house, she always has the TV blaring -- even when she's asleep. A couple days back she noticed some of the old record albums I have stashed in my room -- Aretha, Al Green, THE MOTOWN STORY. "There's some great old stuff here," she said. "You should play some of it."
"I would," I said, "if you'd ever turn the TV off."
She can be drunk by 11 a.m. She can go through a bottle of wine or vodka in a day, easy -- and start looking around for more. And when she gets a good buzz on, she won't shut up.
When she's really hungover, she spends all day in her room and never makes a sound.
She sometimes creeps around the house like a drug addict, sneaking in and out so no one can ever tell when she leaves or returns. Sometimes she leaves the TV turned up to cover the sound of her sneaking out. Sometimes she leaves just before my roommate gets home from work -- maybe so she won't have to deal with him...?
She's stolen money from my roommate three times. Last winter, a $1,000 electrical generator was stolen out of the back yard when she was the only person in the house -- she claims she never heard a thing. For awhile, I was constantly carrying my laptop and checkbook with me, because I don't trust her. I'm still carrying the laptop -- it's too easy to grab and go pawn-off.
My roommate has threatened to leave all of her stuff out on the front porch, has threatened to haul all her belongings to the dump. He wants her to go back to school, get her GED, go to college.
She'd rather stay home, get drunk, and stare at the TV.
My roommate drinks too, and when they're both drunk, it's something to see. She'll call his name every few minutes about something, and he'll snap at her. When he's REALLY hammered he calls her every name in the book. They can sit on the couch for hours sniping at each other.
She's never around on weekends, because she's out partying with someone else, people we don't know about and have never met.
She's young enough to be his daughter.
What I want to know is What does he get from this "relationship."
When he's drunk, my roommate can talk for HOURS about all the people in his life who have screwed him -- from his parents and his family to his co-workers to his roommates. EVERYBODY'S out to screw him over.
And he must have a real martyr complex, because he's setting himself up to be screwed again.
When I ask what he gets from her, all he says is "It's better than being alone."
No. There are lots of things that are worse than being alone. One of them is being stuck with someone who doesn't love you, doesn't care about you, doesn't respect you.
I've told my roommate he's being used, and he just blows it off. He's in denial. Unless he's really drunk, and then it comes out in the ugliest possible ways. He knows what's going on....
When they get after each other, I usually go hide in my room and try to ignore them. Sometimes it's like they want me there to play referee. I won't do it. They argue anyway, and sometimes I don't get much sleep.
But there's been no violence, so far. Lots of yelling and abuse, but no violence.
Everybody has issues, but Jesus. After seeing these two go at it, I'm surprised anyone ever gets close to anybody, anymore. Do they think this crap is "Normal"?
What do women want? What do men want?
It's hard enough trying to figure out what I want.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Writing musical history

If you've ever blogged about music, if you've ever dreamed about writing music criticism AND GETTING PAID FOR IT, you might want to check out Paul Gorman's IN THEIR OWN WRITE: ADVENTURES IN THE MUSIC PRESS (2001). It's an "oral history" about what it was like to be a rock critic back in the "golden age" of rock critics -- say mid-'60s to early '90s. It's a compulsive 300-page read -- I gulped it all down in three days and wished there was twice as much.
But then, I was a sucker for rock criticism early -- since reading THE ROLLING STONE RECORD REVIEW VOLUME TWO in the fall of '76 and getting sucked into the wild, vivid way these men and women could write, and the freedom they seemed to have.
Some of the freedom and good times comes across in IN THEIR OWN WRITE. What could possibly be wrong with being a rock journalist?: You got to get high and write about music all day and night, go see gigs, hang out with the bands -- maybe even go with them on tour!
What mainly comes across is how much WORK it turned out to be, and how many people burned out in a couple of years or so. The book quotes most of the rock-crit greats, from Lester Bangs to Nick Tosches. You hear from the Noise Boys and the Deep Thinkers. And from some of the women who ventured into this seemingly all-male clubhouse.
From about halfway through, the book turns from describing working at the U.S. mags (ROLLING STONE, CREEM, etc.) and moves to the British music weeklies -- NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS, MELODY MAKER, SOUNDS, etc. This makes sense -- there were more British music papers, and the competition was a lot heavier. I'd like to have heard more about working at the American rags, but if you've already read Robert Draper's ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE: THE UNCENSORED HISTORY and Jim DeRogatis's biography of Lester Bangs, LET IT BLURT, you already know more than this book will tell you.
It's still a vivid trip, and there are many laugh-out-loud moments. There are also some stories that are pretty embarrassing. A lot of these writers still hold grudges and continue to grind their axes in these pages.
I was surprised there wasn't MORE back-stabbing. As is, there's a lot of Who wrecked who's story and Who ruined who's career and Who got somebody else fired so they could take over their job.The only punches thrown are when Tony Parsons punches out Mick Farren over the attentions of fellow NME critic Julie Burchill.
The Brit stories are pretty great -- that's where most of the musical action was happening, after all. But it seems like Gorman could still pull together another book going more in-depth with the Americans.
The only downer here is the high number of rock critics and writers who are no longer with us. Fully 10 percent of the folks interviewed in this book are now dead.
This is only the third "oral history" I've read that actually works, that makes you feel a little like you were there. If this old scene appeals to you at all, if you ever gobbled up the British weeklies, or RS, CREEM, TROUSER PRESS, MUSICIAN, CRAWDADDY -- you'll probably love this book.
But you'll also wish there was more....
P.S. -- I would LOVE to write about music 24/7, so if anybody out there's hiring....

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Re-writing musical history?

This may not mean much, but I've been noticing lately how little '60s/'70s Soul and old-school R&B gets played on the Seattle area's two oldies stations, KJR and Q104.5 -- the two places you'd think those old hits would have a home, right?
I almost always hit the radio dial at nights when I'm working -- before giving up in frustration at the Same Old Stuff and slapping on a CD. So what I'm about to outline has probably been coming on for awhile.
Over my weekend, I ended up listening to these two stations a lot -- for more than six consecutive hours in the afternoon and evening a couple days ago, bouncing back and forth when things got boring.
And during those six-plus hours, I never heard a single old hit song by any African-American artist. Not one.
No Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Al Green. No old Motown. No Aretha, Sly, Temptations, Four Tops. No Atlantic soul, no Stax. No Sam and Dave, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett. No Donna Summer. No Supremes, even. No Jimi Hendrix, who was from Seattle. Not even Chuck Berry or Little Richard. Not even Michael Jackson.
I'm sure this was just an oversight. I'm sure it's not some sort of informal, unintentional white-supremacist radio-programming thing.
But still.
There was LOTS of white bands and Album Rock -- lots of Police, Eagles, Zep, Skynyrd, Fleetwood Mac, Beatles, Queen, Bowie, Def Leppard. Almost all of it sounded pretty good, too. KJR will even play awful hair-bands from the '80s.
But there was no Black music. I've read critics who claim rock and roll is a "white" phenomenon, but really....
KJR did at least play K.C. and the Sunshine Band's "Get Down Tonight," which I hadn't heard in YEARS, and which sounded pretty good. KC was at least an integrated band.
I'm not trying to make a specifically racial point here. But I'm wondering when oldies radio (and Album Rock radio) apparently decided to -- forgive me -- whitewash the last 50+ years of pop music.
I checked-in with the radio several times tonight and finally heard the Emotions' "Best of My Love" from '78, and it sounded just fine. But that's the only classic Soul/R&B tune I've heard on the radio in days. Usually I can at least catch "Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay" or "When a Man Loves a Woman." And I was surprised not to hear "Drift Away" or "I Can See Clearly Now" over my weekend.
Not saying my ear's glued to the radio 24/7 -- far from it. Most radio is so boring I want to scream.
But could this be another example of how our memories continue to get whittled-down to the same 200 oldies that get played over and over until we can't take it no more?
KJR is so predictable you can almost set your watch by when they'll play "Stairway to Heaven" (twice over the weekend), "Sweet Home Alabama" (also twice), "Smoke on the Water," "Hotel California," etc. KJR plays Sly's "Hot Fun in the Summertime" in a commercial about having "a summer full of hits." But they won't play THE SONG.
Yeezus, no wonder everybody's gone to iPods or their own playlist on their smartphone or whatever.
The list of artists I mentioned above that I HAVEN'T heard lately are all part of rock and roll, and part of our shared musical heritage, dammit. It's shocking that they aren't better represented by two stations that claim to play "the greatest hits of all time."
I'm sure this wasn't done on purpose. I'm sure it was just a lapse. Maybe I was on the wrong station when Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" got played. I just missed it.
But it looks like if I want to hear "Land of a Thousand Dances" or "Sweet Soul Music" again anytime soon, I'm gonna have to buy the CD's.
It ain't right.
And this observation is coming from a white guy from Idaho, so you know what I'm bitching about must be pretty freaking obvious.

Saturday, July 12, 2014


Hey there. Writing this at work, so can't stay long.
Am as broke now as I've been in months -- the 10 hours per month I've been cut back at work is really starting to bite.
So, over past couple days have been piling up music and books to take to Half-Price Books in Tacoma for some cash. I haven't been there in five years, so I'm overdue -- if they're still in business. I'm thinking maybe they'll give me $50 or maybe $75 for the two HUGE boxes of stuff, and I'll be a little ahead of the bills. Sorry to whine. Right now I can't even afford the $4 to get over the toll bridge....
Most of the stuff that's going is books I've never successfully gotten into or will probably never read -- and lots of music I've repeatedly tried to get into with no luck: Mahavishnu Orchestra, John McLaughlin solo, some Weather Report, some Return to Forever, Gong, early Soft Machine, Hatfield and the North, some Spirit, Brand X, some King Crimson vinyl that I also have on CD, other odds and ends and some beat-up old stuff.
If this slows down my plans for a Strange Music Guide, ah well -- I'm not making very quick progress on it anyway, and I need the bucks.
Course there's always a chance something at Half Price will catch my eye, and if so I'll report on it here. I've never had much self-discipline....

It's HOT here -- supposed to be 90 or over this weekend into next week. That's hot for western Washington. My apologies to you out there who are suffering 100-degree-plus temperatures. As humid as it gets here, we might as well be over 100. Best part of coming to work these days is the air conditioning -- which is miraculously still working....

I owe another steak dinner to 2000 Man, who gave a four-star review to my GAS NAZI! e-book at's Kindle Store. It is so nice to know some people actually GET what I'm trying to do, or at least enjoy reading my fumblings....
Hope to get back to blogging more often here soon. All the best....