Thursday, July 28, 2011

Confessions of an addict

Bless me Father for I have sinned. It's been ... longer than I wanna think about since my last Confession.
Well ... this is gonna sound kinda weird, but ... I've bought ... rather a lot of stuff from over the past 3 years or so ... & I'm feeling kinda guilty about it.
Well ... I see in the papers that Borders has gone bankrupt, all their stores are closing ... and those used book & record stores I used to support haven't been seeing me as much....
...Well, cos those clever folks at Amazon just make it so gosh-darned easy to order stuff from them, ya know? I mean, you browse their site, maybe you're not even planning on spending any money, & then you see something you've always wanted & it's even available CHEAP, & then.... Well, you click, you order, & a few days later it's in your mailbox. It's addictive, really.
I know what you mean, Father. I was a little worried about that too, at first. I was a little paranoid my 1st coupla orders, wondering if stuff was gonna get to me, if it was gonna get lost in the mail, if my charge card'd be compromised, if my identity'd be stolen -- but it's all worked out fine.
...Thanks, Father. And you can forget about that donation I was gonna make to the Church Fund. Can we stay on topic here? My point was the folks at Amazon are ENABLING me -- & HAVE been for the past 3+ years!
They're taking advantage of my biggest weakness, my biggest addiction -- books & music! Other people have booze or drugs -- I've got books & music ... and coffee and junk food .... But my life would be meaningless without music & books. & the folks at Amazon KNOW this!
Because of all the great cheap stuff they list! CD's for a coupla bucks! Books for a penny! CD box-sets for $15! It oughta be illegal! With prices like they've got, it's VERY hard to resist impulse-buying until you empty your bank account!
Well ... I don't feel THAT guilty. I mean, we ARE out here in The Sticks. I haven't been in a Borders store in a couple of years -- the nearest one's almost 20 miles down the road in Gig Harbor. There's another one 25 miles away in Tacoma -- just half a mile up the road from that Half-Price Books store I haven't been to in a couple of years, either. And don't get me started about the REALLY GREAT used record stores all along 6th Avenue in Tacoma -- I haven't been to any of those in probably three years....
Well, I'm sure they all must've been paying an employee or two based just on how much business I used to do there -- so I feel kinda responsible for Borders going under.... There was a Barnes and Noble store in Silverdale, 15 miles north of me, up until a year or two ago -- it was like they closed it when I wasn't looking. That was a nice big store, too.... The Borders store in Gig Harbor had only been open a year or two....
Well, yeah. My favorite local used bookstore, BOOK 'EM, is only about two miles up the road from me here in Port Orchard, & I've spent a lotta money there over the past eight years or so. But they can't have EVERYTHING....
No. Actually there's a lot of off-the-wall stuff they DON'T have. For instance, Philip Harbottle's VULTURES OF THE VOID -- a history of bottom-dwelling low-rent science-fiction publishing in Britain in the '50s & '60s -- sounds like Comedy Gold, right?
Not available. And some things are just WAY too high-priced: Algis Budrys' OUTPOSTS collection of book reviews and essays is priced at over $150!
That's what I said, Father. I'm shocked at lots of prices for books & CD's I dumped years ago. If I'd known you could get that kinda money for that junk, I woulda gone into business for myself. ... But here's the thing: Amazon makes up for the shockers with the dirt-cheap prices they've got on so much other stuff!
Like, for instance, creepy forgotten horror novels from the '90s -- a penny each! Old science-fiction novels from the '70s -- a penny! Even counting the shipping costs, the total's less than what BOOK 'EM would charge me if they even HAD the books!
CD's cheaper than dirt! King Crimson's FRAME BY FRAME best-of for $15! It's nuts! Brand new Camel & Caravan best-of boxes for half-price! It's outta control! Van Morrison's ASTRAL WEEKS for $3! It's so ridiculous that even someone who's as broke as I am can pile up the stuff! It's freakin' great!
Well, I know BOOK 'EM's stayed in business partly because of the amount of money I've spent there & the number of books I've donated over the years... but I feel bad that I haven't kept my money circulating in the local economy, if you see what I mean....
...I ... I never thought of it that way before. Thank you, Father.
Yes, Father?
Right. Thanks, Father....

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Music's always bn magic 4 me, but less so as I've gotten older. Now more & more often it's nostalgia:
...Waking up each morning during highschool 2 an alarm-clock set 2 Boise, Idaho's KFXD-AM, by far the best local Top 40 station when I was growing up.
...Hearing the radio when I was 2 young 2 know what music was or what it could B. Hearing albums like DAYS OF FUTURE PASSED and MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR when I was 2 young 2 pay attention.
...Singing "Ticket to Ride" with my cousins Jim & Anna on a camping trip when I must've been all of 6 years old. Wandering down the street in the fog of Boise Winter '65 with the chorus of "Eight Days a Week" playing over & over in my head.
...Finally discovering music & what a radio was in 6th grade -- listening 2 my classmates play great 45's at the back of class during lunchbreak: "Joy to the World" & "One Toke Over the Line" & "Put Your Hand in the Hand" & "Spirit in the Sky" & "Brown Sugar" & "Honky Tonk Women" & (yeesh) "American Woman," "No Sugar Tonight," "Knock Three Times," "American Pie," & so many more.
...Sleeping-out in the backyard in Tacoma with my old buddy Gene Goodell in the Summer of '71, us bundled up in sleeping bags & nothing but the clear starry skies overhead & the radio tuned to KTAC-AM, with the echoed sounds of "Draggin' the Line" & "I Just Want to Celebrate" & "Rocket Man" bouncing off the hillside & up in2 the sky. Camping out again later with Gene & next-door neighbor Jim Yusko -- Gene hadda flashlight with a "strobe" setting, which worked uncomfortably well during the orangutang-howling middle-section of "Whole Lotta Love," a song which STILL creeps me out ... when I'm not laffing at it....
...Me staying over at writer-friend Barry Anderson's house, where we & Paul Fritts & Mike Harvey & the Gault Gazelle would listen 2 the 1st 3 Partridge Family albums & stay up late 2 catch the horrors on "Nightmare Theatre" & moan & groan about all the cute girls we wished we were brave enuf 2 talk 2....
...Playing football in Mike Fisher's yard with Gene & Jim & Buddy Pitts & Fred & Ernie Paul & 1/2adozen others whose names I 4get, with KTAC playing in the background while we crashed in2 each other -- the 1st place I ever heard the Moodies' "Ride My See-Saw" & Iron Butterfly's "In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida" & George Carlin's AM & FM....
...Nagging my parents 4 $$$ 2 buy 45rpm singles. Nagging them MORE 4 more $$$ 4 albums....
...Having radio stations that were willing 2 play off-the-wall stuff that might not catch on: El Chicano, Mal, Casey Kelly, Chris Hodge, later Raiders singles, Johnathon King, Kracker, The Wackers, Billy Lee Riley, anything by the 5-Man Electrical Band, Poco, early 10 C.C., Steely Dan album trax, The English Congregation, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, The Royal Guardsmen....
...Listening 2 KFXD's weekly Boise Valley Music Survey countdown & ALWAYS getting distracted 1/2way thru it... & when I was old enuf & had time enuf 2 listen thru the 3 hours, I was 2 bored with the music 2 care who was #1....
...Meeting & falling 4 my highschool sweetheart Allison & discovering R mutual adoration 4 The Moody Blues & Gentle Giant & Janis Ian & Simon & Garfunkel & Harry Nillsson & Paul Simon. ... Hanging out alone with her on a rainy afternoon, playing the "core 7" Moodies albums all the way thru as we talked & kissed & held each other....
...Cruising thru Boise & Nampa with highschool wildman Jeff Mann as we screamed along with homemade mix-cassettes of The Best Of The Beatles & Elton John & Wings & Queen & others....
...Years of making homemade tapes -- 1st of my fave songs off the radio, then my fave trax from vinyl so I could play them over&over in the car.... Wish I still had the oldest of those tapes, which dated back to 1971 -- there was stuff on them I'll never B able 2 replace....
...3 years working in a record store from 1979 to 1982, watching as 90 percent of the music-buying public went ONLY 4 the stuff they heard on the radio, & would never try anything new or diffrent. But the OTHER 10 percent were pretty freakin brave....
...Meeting fellow writer Don Vincent & hitting all the local record stores 2gether & pulling outta the cut-out bins such forgotten greats as Gryphon, Providence, Hawkwind, Caravan, David Sancious and Tone, & much more....
...Playing Caravan over&over at top volume on the way 2 & from the record store, day after day. Cranking it way up when stuff I never Xpected 2 hear came on the radio: "A Man I'll Never Be," "Feeling That Way/Anytime," Mac's live version of "I'm So Afraid"....
...Playing The Pretenders' 1st album over&over at top volume thruout the long hot summer of 1980, knowing that no matter how angry & frustrated I was, Chrissie Hynde had gone thru far worse, & survived 2 make great music about it....
...Meeting & marrying Cyndi & having endless musical discussions/arguments with her over how much Pat Benatar a person could stand 2 hear ... how much Madonna was good 4 1 ... how much Country could a person listen 2 B4 Bcoming a redneck....
...Seeing The Go-Go's & A Flock of Seagulls with Cyndi & losing my hearing... Seeing King Crimson with Mary & wishing KC had steamrolled all of us in the audience -- they did everything BUT run over us, & we just wanted MORE....
...Making love while the stereo played Pat Metheny or Miles Davis or Nick Drake or mix tapes of off-the-wall '70s bands....
...Using music as a way 2 build me up 4 the day ahead when I was working as a reporter ... & as a way 2 bring me back down gently at the end of the day....
...Seeing my kids grow old enuf 2 sing along with the Oldies we always played on the home stereo & when we were travelling in the car. It was when I heard my kids sing along with all the words 2 The Cowsills' "Hair" & when my daughter asked me 2 put "Behind Blue Eyes" on the home stereo that I finally felt maybe I'd raised the kids right....
...Heading 4 the store with the car full of my Xtended family, singing along with that silly Eminem song that makes fun of Michael Jackson & asks you 2 scream & wave yer hands in the air....
...Singing "American Pie" karaoke-style at a backyard wedding, me & my girlfriend & her X-husband singing the verses when the folks who'd TRIED 2 do the song couldn't keep going 4 the full 8 mins ... & we didn't even have the lyrics in front of us....
...When my son was 2 years old his favorite song in the world was Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work." When he was 4 it was The Dream Academy's "Life in a Northern Town." Now he's more likely 2 point me toward something good I might otherwise miss -- like Coheed and Cambria's "The Road and the Damned" & "Feathers." We still agree on a lotta music -- later Rush, Wigwam's "Bless Your Lucky Stars," Camel, quite a few others....
...There R still songs that hit me hard emotionally, that can make me cry if I think about them 2 much: "This Woman's Work," Peter Gabriel's "Family Snapshot," Fleetwood Mac's "Silver Springs" & "Landslide" (which I 1st thot was about nothing, but which has gained a lot in meaning 4 me over the years), Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time," Blue October's "Calling You" -- most recently it happened with Kelly Clarkson's "I'm Already Gone." I can't even always tell you why. They sum up regrets I have, things I wished I'd said, years I feel like I wasted....
...I bitch about lame radio programming, but these days when I'm listening 2 Oldies I'm much more likely 2 B thinking about where I was & what I was doing when some old hit was popular ... than I am 2 B paying much attention 2 the actual song....

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Alternate Playlist 2

When I 1st got on the Internet 13+ years ago, the 1st thing I looked 4 was record reviews -- Bcos I was sick 2 death of the stuff I'd bn hearing over&over. Yeah I had albums & CD's, but I'd heard them over & over 2. What I wanted was some1 else's opinion about Good Stuff 2 look in2. & the 1st place I went 2 was Mark Prindle's music-review website. Which sorta Xplains how I got here 2day.
What follows is a sorta "alternate playlist" 4 mildly-adventurous radio stations. Suggested OTHER things a Classic Rock, Album Rock or Oldies station could play instead of the SAME OLD STUFF OVER&OVER. Something not 2 outrageous that wouldn't necessarily require a Program Director 2 grow a backbone. I mean, how many times can U hear "Band on the Run" B4 developing bubbles in the brain? I mean, really....
If U've bn reading here 4 awhile U probly think U already know this list. & U might. But this 1's a little diffrent. I'll vouch 4 the fact that what follows is Good Stuff. But it's strictly work by Classic Rock/Album Rock/Oldies artists. I based it on stuff I have in the house or know about, but I've mostly left off those off-the-wall prog bands that I love so much.
Also: You're gonna need a bigger fan of Bruce, Zep, U2, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty & some others than I am in order 2 supply U with Great Overlooked Stuff. I mostly can't do it. Sorry bout that. Always open 2 suggestions, tho....
Also, if I've ever heard some great-but-obscure album track played on the radio (& I can still remember it), it ain't here. Sorry Kinks fans, "Shangri-La" ain't on this list cos my current fave oldies station KMCQ played it awhile back.
Fat lot of good this list is gonna do NE1 NEway, but it makes me feel useful. Hopefully it'll B of use 2 SOMEBODY. & 4 Ghod's sake if U're in radio or programming NEwhere, drop me a line, we need 2 Talk.
Enuf of the prelims, on with the show. In no particular order then, some recommended overlooked listening:

Pink Floyd -- Flaming, Astronome Domine (live), One of These Days, One of My Turns, In the Flesh?, The Trial, High Hopes.
Zep -- Carouselambra.
Journey -- Spaceman, Something to Hide, Daydream, People and Places, Escape, Troubled Child.
Beatles -- There's a Place, Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey, The Night Before, I Need You, Anytime at All, And Your Bird Can Sing, Things We Said Today, For No One, It's Only Love, Everybody's Trying to be My Baby, Dear Prudence, Thank You Girl.
Rickie Lee Jones -- On Saturday Afternoons in 1963, We Belong Together, Living it Up.
Supertramp -- Just Another Nervous Wreck, Babajii, From Now On, Crime of the Century, School, Gone Hollywood.
Jefferson Starship -- Freedom at Point Zero, All Nite Long, Fading Lady Light, Save Your Love, Lightning Rose, Just the Same, Things to Come, Awakening.
Jefferson Airplane -- Mexico, Crown of Creation, Good Shepherd.
ELP -- Karn Evil 9 1st Impression Part 1, Hoedown, Fanfare for the Common Man.
Yes -- Every Little Thing, Looking Around, No Opportunity Necessary No Experience Needed, Time and a Word, Sweet Dreams, Survival, America, Wonderous Stories, Turn of the Century.
REO -- Blazing Your Own Trail Again.
Pat Benatar -- Wuthering Heights, Hard to Believe.
Bob Dylan -- One of Us Must Know.
Moody Blues -- Peak Hour, Evening: Time to Get Away, Twilight Tme, The Actor, Simple Game, Lovely to See You, Gypsy, Eyes of a Child Part 2, It's Up to You, Don't You Feel Small?, Our Guessing Game, One More Time to Live, You Can Never Go Home, For My Lady, You and Me, Land of Make-Believe, In My World, Meanwhile, Nervous, Veteran Cosmic Rocker, Blue World, Meet Me Halfway, Running Water, Sorry.
Queen -- Rock It (Prime Jive), It's Late, '39, The Prophet's Song, Death on Two Legs (Dedicated to....), Save Me, The Show Must Go On.
Kansas -- Journey from MariaBronn, Miracles Out of Nowhere, Questions of My Childhood, Cheyenne Anthem, Reason to Be, Back Door.
Kinks -- Apeman, David Watts, Victoria, Celluloid Heroes, Village Green Preservation Society, Dead End Street.
Rush -- The Camera Eye, Distant Early Warning, Manhattan Project, Force Ten, Time Stand Still, Mystic Rhythms (live), Show Don't Tell, Marathon.
U2 -- Twilight, Out of Control, The Electric Co.
Simon and Garfunkel -- For Emily Whenever I May Find Her, The Only Living Boy in New York, Keep the Customer Satisfied, A Simple Desultory Philippic.
Billy Joel -- All for Leyna.
Buffalo Springfield -- Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing, Broken Arrow, On the Way Home.
Byrds -- John Riley.
Turtles -- We'll Meet Again, Lady-O, Grim Reaper of Love, Sound Asleep.
ELO -- The Way Life's Meant to Be, Ma-Ma-Ma-Belle, Across the Border, 10538 Overture (live).
Alan Parsons Project -- Some Other Time, I'd Rather Be a Man, Winding Me Up, You Don't Believe.
Jethro Tull -- One Brown Mouse, The Whistler, Ring Out Solstice Bells, Fire at Midnight, One White Duck/Nothing at All, Baker Street Muse, The Third Hoorah, Back to the Family, Dun Ringill, Dark Ages.
Procol Harum -- Wreck of the Hesperus, A Salty Dog, In the Autumn of My Madness/Look to Your Soul/Grand Finale (live).
Manfred Mann's Earth Band -- Stranded, Heart on the Street, Don't Kill it Carol, Hollywood Town, Belle of the Earth, Angelz at My Gate, Singing the Dolphin Through.
Spirit ("I've Got a Line on You") -- 1984, Prelude/Nothing to Hide, Morning Will Come, Life Has Just Begun, Soldier, Aren't You Glad?
Genesis -- Inside and Out, Vancouver, Madman Moon, Ripples, Firth of Fifth (live), Supper's Ready (live), The Musical Box (live), In the Cage (live), Like it or Not, You Might Recall....
Golden Earring -- Snot Love in Spain, Need Her, Save Your Skin.
Monkees -- Love is Only Sleeping, Tapioca Tundra, Take a Giant Step, Porpoise Song, As We Go Along, Sunny Girlfriend, No Time, Daily Nightly, Your Auntie Grizelda.
Gordon Lightfoot -- Seven Islands Suite, High and Dry, Canadian Railroad Trilogy, Summer Side of Life, Ten Degrees and Getting Colder, Don Quixote.
Grateful Dead -- Passenger, Terrapin.
Steely Dan -- Any Major Dude Will Tell You, Gaucho, Third World Man.
Heart -- Rockin' Heaven Down, Sweet Darlin (live), Soul of the Sea, Love Alive.
Hall and Oates -- Diddy Doo Wop (I Hear the Voices).
Daryl Hall -- Something in 4/4 Time.
Al Stewart -- Rocks in the Ocean, Flying Sorcery, Running Man, Lord Grenville, One Stage Before, Valentina Way, Almost Lucy, Apple Cider Reconstitution, The Dark and Rolling Sea, Modern Times, Roads to Moscow, Terminal Eyes, Nostradamus.
Todd Rundgren/Utopia -- Couldn't I Just Tell You?, Real Man, Saving Grace, Song of the Viking, Lord Chancellor's Nightmare Song, You Make Me Crazy, The Very Last Time.
Paul McCartney/Wings -- Medicine Jar, Let Me Roll It, Venus and Mars Reprise, Magneto and Titanium Man, Picasso's Last Words, Mrs. Vandebilt.
Who -- Slip Kid, Blue Red and Gray, Daily Records, Dreaming from the Waist, How Can You Do it Alone?, Another Tricky Day, Little Billy, Dogs, Let's See Action, The Relay, Melancholia.
Bread -- Been Too Long on the Road, Too Much Love, Down on My Knees, Look What You've Done, Truckin', He's a Good Lad.
Fleetwood Mac -- The Green Manalishi, Dissatisfied, Why?, World Turning, Silver Springs, I Know I'm Not Wrong, Brown Eyes, Angel, Big Love (live), Wish You Were Here, Straight Back, Eyes of the World, The Farmer's Daughter, One More Night, Fireflies, I'm So Afraid (live), Tango in the Night, Isn't it Midnight?, Murrow Rolling Over in His Grave.
Dire Straits -- Telegraph Road, Love Over Gold, It Never Rains, Industrial Disease, Romeo and Juliet, Hand in Hand, Expresso Love, Tunnel of Love.
Stories (they did "Brother Louie," 1973) -- Love is in Motion, Please Please, Words, Circles, Darling, What Comes After.
Blue Oyster Cult -- ETI, Morning Final, Debbie Denise, Revenge of Vera Gemini.
Blondie -- Angels on the Balcony, Victor, Union City Blue, Sunday Girl, 11:59, Will Anything Happen?, Just Go Away.
Go-Go's -- Can't Stop the World, Fading Fast, This Town, How Much More, It's Everything but Partytime, The Way You Dance, Worlds Away, You Thought, Forget That Day, Capture the Light, I'm With You, Mercenary.
Bangles -- Hero Takes a Fall, All About You, Dover Beach, Restless, Silent Treatment, He's Got a Secret, Let it Go, September Gurls, Angels Don't Fall in Love, Following, Not Like You, Return Post, Glitter Years, I'll Set You Free, Everything I Wanted.
Pretenders -- Kid, Mystery Achievement, Lovers of Today, Up the Neck, Tattooed Love Boys, Space Invaders, Time the Avenger, 2000 Miles, Hymn to Her, Birds of Paradise, I Go to Sleep, Pack it Up.
Janis Ian ("At Seventeen," 1974) -- When the Party's Over, From Me to You, In the Winter, Watercolors, Love is Blind.
Beach Boys -- There's No Other (Like My Baby), Let Him Run Wild, Please Let Me Wonder, Here Today, I Know There's an Answer, I Just Wasn't Made for These Times, Trombone Dixie, I'd Love Just Once to See You, Mama Says, Gettin' Hungry, Vegetables, Our Prayer, Cabinessence, This Whole World, Add Some Music to Your Day, It's About Time, Long Promised Road, Feel Flows, 'Til I Die, Surf's Up, The Trader, Johnny Carson, Good Time.
Three Dog Night -- My Impersonal Life, Jam, Heavy Church.
Roxy Music -- The Thrill of it All.
Madonna -- Oh Father, Dear Jessie, The Look of Love, Bad Girl.
Pete Townshend -- Now and Then, A Little is Enough, North Country Girl, Jools and Jim, And I Moved, Gonna Get Ya, Somebody Saved Me, Uniforms, Zelda.
Police -- On Any Other Day, Does Everyone Stare?, Omegaman, Secret Journey, Darkness.
Nirvana -- You Know You're Right.
Elton John -- Teacher I Need You, Elderberry Wine, Have Mercy on the Criminal, Gray Seal, Ballad of Danny Bailey, All the Girls Love Alice, Roy Rogers, Harmony, Your Sister Can't Twist (But She Can Rock and Roll), Social Disease.
Tears for Fears -- The Working Hour.
Dan Fogelberg -- Tell Me to My Face, As the Raven Flies, Someone's Been Telling You Stories, There's a Place in the World for a Gambler, Phoenix, Along the Road, Wishing on the Moon, Nexus, The Innocent Age, The Reach, Stolen Moments, The Lion's Share.
Poco -- A Good Feeling to Know, Crazy Eyes.
Aerosmith -- Seasons of Wither.
Neil Diamond -- Crunchy Granola Suite, Do It, The Boat That I Row, I Am the Lion.
Ringo -- Early 1970.
Jimmy Buffett -- Chanson Pour Les Petites Enfants.
Joe Walsh -- Rivers of the Hidden Funk.
Iron Butterfly -- Flowers and Beads.
Boston -- Hitch a Ride, Used to Bad News, It's Easy, My Destination.
Outlaws -- I Can't Stop Loving You, Devil's Road.
Hollies -- Slow Down, Romany, Touch, Words Don't Come Easy, Down River, Won't We Feel Good?
Rod Stewart -- Handbags and Gladrags.
Bee Gees -- Spirits (Having Flown).
Cyndi Lauper -- When You Were Mine.
Boz Scaggs -- You've Got Some Imagination.
Linda Ronstadt -- Party Girl, Someone to Lay Down Beside Me.
Steve Winwood -- Night Train, Spanish Dancer, Dust.
Men at Work -- No Sign of Yesterday, Down by the Sea.
Jeff Lynne -- Every Little Thing, Lift Me Up.
The Church -- Reptile.
Stevie Nicks -- Outside the Rain, Think About It.
Badfinger -- Rock of All Ages, The Name of the Game, In the Meantime/Some Other Time, Meanwhile Back at the Ranch/Should I Smoke?
Raspberries -- I Can Remember, Come Around and See Me, Drivin Around, Cruisin' Music, I'm a Rocker.
Rare Earth -- If I Die, The Seed, Someone to Love, Under God's Light.
Dave Edmunds -- Creature from the Black Lagoon.

...That's enuf 4 now, I got blisters on my fingers. More soon....

Friday, July 22, 2011

Wanted: Alternative Playlists....

Couple of my favorite bloggers did a bit recently on radio stations that play the same songs over&over:
My buddy Rastro over at LA HISTORIA speculated that hearing the same songs repeatedly might work as "comfort food" 4 listeners in their 30s, 40s & 50s (and Ghod knows even older) who might already have 2 much on their minds. I think he could B right.
The mindset of my buddy Crabby at CRABBY'S TOP TEN SITE is closer 2 mine & might best B Dscribed as: WHY DO THEY PLAY THE SAME SHIT OVER AND OVER?!
Here's why this discussion has gotten me thinking recently:
I've started playing the radio more & more often at work lately after resisting it 4 YEARS. (I figured I could space-out just fine without any help, so why would I need the radio?) But lately I've found the radio does keep me bouncing around & DEFinitely improves my mood if it's a bad nite or the coffee just ain't workin no more.
& sometimes I turn it up REALLY LOUD.
I bounce around Btween 4 or 5 diffrent FM stations: Seattle's "Star 101.5," current hits + a few oldies dating back in2 the '90s; KZOK 102.5, Seattle's "Classic Rock" station; my fave Oldies station KMCQ; "Cafe" 104.1, which is SORT OF soft-rock; & "The Mountain" 103.5, which is mostly newer stuff + some things I can't identify.
U'd think with those 5 stations pretty close 2gether I wouldn't havta waste much time trying 2 find something good, something motivational, something I hadn't heard lately.
And you'd B wrong.
In the hours I listen, Btween 9 pm & midnight, I spend more time twiddling the knob trying 2 find something ELSE than I do actually LISTENING.
KZOK, tho I love 'em, sounds like they coulda bn programmed in some1's sleep. You can predict their "Classic Rock" playlist. They very seldom play anything suprising.
KMCQ, now that I've gotten used 2 them, seldom get 2 shocking either -- tho they HAVE played Sugar Loaf's "Don't Call Us, We'll Call You" & Gladys Knight & the Pips' version of "I Heard it Through the Grapevine" a coupla times each this week. But they R WAY more likely 2 fall back on "Billy, Don't Be a Hero," "The Night Chicago Died," & "What's New, Pussycat?" I haven't heard them repeat Small Faces' "Lazy Sunday." But they DID play Procol Harum's "Homburg" awhile back....
Cafe 104.1 has a weakness 4 Earth, Wind and Fire's "After the Love Has Gone" (great song, but NOT daily) -- but they also played Kelly Clarkson's "I'm Already Gone," which knocked me over awhile back.
"The Mountain" might play anything from unidentified acoustic folk 2 U2 or Train.
You'd think these stations with their at-least-slightly varied 4mats would give me a fairly wide spectrum of tunes 2 work 2. Maybe. But over the past coupla weeks, here's a few of the songs I've heard MULTIPLE times, without even trying....

Led Zeppelin: Stairway to Heaven, Whole Lotta Love, Fool in the Rain, Rock and Roll, Immigrant Song, Livin' Lovin' Maid (She's Just a Woman).
Derek and the Dominoes: Layla.
Fleetwood Mac: Oh Well (full version). (Wonder if KZOK thinks they're Bing brave & daring by playing this heavy-metal-blues-into-guitar-fantasia piece? It IS a classic, & Peter Green was a real strange guy....)
Queen: Bohemian Rhapsody, Crazy Little Thing Called Love.
David Bowie: Let's Dance, Young Americans. (But "Suffragette City" was nice....)
Deep Purple: Smoke on the Water. (Tho "Hush" & "Kentucky Woman" were both great 2 hear.)
Boston: More Than a Feeling.
Lynyrd Skynyrd: Sweet Home Alabama.
Paul McCartney/Wings: Band on the Run, Maybe I'm Amazed.
Foreigner: Cold as Ice.
Tom Petty: Refugee (what else?).
Pink Floyd: Another Brick in the Wall Part 2, Money.
Bob Dylan: Knocking on Heaven's Door, Positively 4th Street.
Eagles: Take it Easy, Hotel California.
Who: Won't Get Fooed Again, Love Reign O'er Me, The Real Me. (Also heard "The Kids are Alright" & "Call Me Lightning," nice suprises both.)
Rush: Limelight, The Spirit of Radio.
CeeLo: Forget You. (Is this right? It's 2 current 4 me to be sure....)
American Breed: Bend Me Shape Me.

...How'd that last 1 get in there? Anyway, don't get me wrong. It's not that these Rn't great songs ... some of them. It's just: How much is ANYONE going 2 get out of hearing "Smoke on the Water" ONE MORE TIME? Or "Hotel California"? Or "Cold as Ice"? Why's it so hard 2 try something new?
Course radio stations have bills 2 pay 2 -- & these days especially they probly can't afford 2 have 2 many listeners tune-out Bcos they played the "wrong" Elton John song (my pick: "Don't Go Breakin' My Heart" -- uggghhh....)
So maybe what we need isn't new song choices so much as a new format.
The kinda format that would make Crabby & I happier isn't out there right now -- a format that would allow 4 oldies from the '50s 2 the best current stuff. Hits & album trax. Rock & Pop & R&B & Soul & Disco & Jazz & Country & Folk. Could probly throw in some Rap & HipHop 2. Loud & soft, heavy & lite, electric & acoustic.
& would such a format stretch listeners' ears & tastes Byond the breaking point?
& if so, WHY?
Why is it such a problem 2 B suprised, Dlighted with something that comes outta the radio?
How about NO format? Just let some1 who's a music fan pick what goes on the air. I heard they tried this 1nce a few years back at college radio stations -- & we Nded up with a "college rock" 4mat.... & wasn't that "underground" stuff back in the '60s all about on-air DJ's picking their own stuff...?
Look, I love "Stairway to Heaven," really. It still sounds great -- at least everything from Jimmy Page's gtr-fanfare that leads in2 the meltdown solo near the end. The passion still comes across. Same with "Layla." I'll never get tired of that gtr&keyboard closing section.
But NOT BOTH of them 2wice a nite. 3 nites in a row. On 2 diffrent stations.
Zeppelin's got LOTS of other great stuff. & I don't just mean "Kashmir." It would take a bigger Zep fan than me 2 pick out some great overlooked Zep trax (I'll bet Drew over at ODDS AND SODS could come up with a list REAL fast). But I haven't heard "The Rover" in awhile, or "When the Levee Breaks," or "Good Times Bad Times"....
MayB the problem isn't the song choices so much as developing a wider-open 4mat that a radio station wouldn't B scared 2 try. MayB a 4mat that highlights the artists' work-in-depth rather than the same old classic hits.
Imagine some friendly-voiced DJ saying: "Your favorite artists .... Their greatest songs .... Now on KTAD" -- for instance....
...It's either this or I start taking a stack of CDs with me 2 work & scare the shit out of EVERYBODY....

(Sat, 23 July 11, 1:40 am -- Overnite & at work 2nite I thot of a few more songs that've bn overplayed while I've bn listening over the past coupla wks. These were added B4 I read NE comments:
Peter Gabriel: In Your Eyes.
Coldplay: Clocks.
Queen: Somebody to Love.
Madonna: Borderline, Lucky Star, Into the Groove.
Beatles: Here Comes the Sun.
Train: Drops of Jupiter.
Police: Walking on the Moon.
Bruce: Born to Run.
Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds: Don't Pull Your Love (!).
Sade: Smooth Operator.
Simon and Garfunkel: The Boxer.
...Again, it's not that some of these aren't great songs, it's just ... well, why's everything so OBVIOUS? What's wrong with Bing suprised 1nce in awhile...?)

COMING NEXT: An "alternate playlist" of great trax by classic rockers, based on stuff I've got around the house. But not the same old stuff....

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

About the stories....

Dunno if NE1's intrested, but "On Tour With the Little Green Men" was written back in the mid-'90s when I lived in Wyoming, & got rejected 1/2adozen times Btween then & the early 2000's, which is 1 of the reasons I felt "safe" about posting it here -- nobody's gonna publish it & pay me, tho I think it's funny enuf & diffrent enuf that somebody coulda given it a home. I sent it 2 the most appropriate magazines I could find, back when the science-fiction/fantasy market 4 short stories was 2wice as big as it is now, & I got a coupla nice notes back from them, but....
The 1/2adozen rock&roll-novel sections I posted a month ago were mostly written from 2002 onward, much of it during a period when I was unemployed & wanted desperately 2 B doing SOMETHING productive -- much of it was written before sessions & during intermissions at the bingo hall where my girlfriend worked.
The novel "stars" the dozen closest friends I had during my 5-year "aimless" dead-end-job period Btween highschool & when the Air Force dragged me away -- a period I now look back on often as "The Good Olde Days." At least 4 of my old friends know I've written about them, & nobody has objected yet, tho I imagine they'd B a little suprised 2 find this stuff posted here.
Much of the detail included in the novel sections is based on stuff that actually happened -- tho I think some of it cuts pretty close 2 the bone....
Some of those people actually WERE musicians, the rest I just transformed in2 a rock band. My idea at the time was that at least if I knew the characters & the situation I wanted 2 start from, maybe a novel'd B EZer 2 write.... I got about 25 pgs in2 it when the story ran out. It didn't seem 2 go NEwhere.
1 problem is that 2 work a story needs conflict -- & I hate conflict. Will go FAR out of my way 2 avoid it -- ask NE of my friends. The only real-life conflicts in this bunch were romantic frustrations & breakups -- I couldn't C NE other conflicts, couldn't imagine NE. Was 2 much in love with those Olde Days 2 cast NE shadows over them. Which may B why mosta what the story Xpresses 2 me is nostalgia & regret. Not Xactly good-time rock&roll.
I'm also aware that the novel TELLS a lot (thru my eyes & opinion) without really SHOWING much. The characters don't get 2 B much Byond my opinion of them. If I ever continue it, that's something I'll havta work on.
I think "Little Green Men" in some ways tells the same kinda story in a lot less space, & it probly works better Bcos it's funnier. & it was written strictly 4 fun. Hope summa that came across.
I might post more fiction in the future. There's probly some other stuff that wouldn't Cm 2 out-of-place here. Let me know what U think.

Am currently re-reading 2 novels -- Thomas Harris's RED DRAGON (as brilliant & unsettling as ever, still in awe of how Harris grabs U by the throat on the 1st pg, & I haven't re-read the book in years), & George Orwell's 1984.
What suprises me about '84 is how gray & gritty it is. At least 4 the 1st 50+ pgs it could B a Philip K. Dick novel -- like THREE STIGMATA OF PALMER ELDRITCH or MARTIAN TIME SLIP or MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE. The low-keyness of it, the focus on avg people going thru their avg days, the scarcity of the society evoked.... I was bored outta my mind when I read '84 around age 14, & was again when I re-read it as a class assignment later in highschool. MayB I can appreciate it more now, having done my own 20-year stint in The Ministry Of Truth.... We'll C if I can finish it. RED DRAGON I don't Xpect 2 have 2 much trouble with....
I'm probly gonna B on another horror kick here soon. I wanna B jolted, I wanna B shook-up -- from the safety of my own room, of course. U might wanna get ready 4 some more horror book reviews....

I'm sure some of U would like me 2 get back 2 writing about music, that's why most of U visit in the 1st place. But it might B the wrong time 4 me. I tried 2 play some completely-new-2-me stuff awhile back & it really left me cold. But I won't B giving up. Have bn playing Oldies & Album-Rock radio during work nites more&more often lately & that REALLY helps keep me moving when the coffee won't do the job NEmore.... Will naturally update ASAP if some music really knocks me over.
Hope everybody out there is well....

Monday, July 18, 2011

Little Green Men (conclusion)

For awhile after that, life with the guys was a breeze. Late in their following tour they played what was probably their greatest concert ever -- at Little America in Antarctica. It was transmitted "live" all around the globe. An estimated 4 billion zombies snuggled up to their Cyclopses and saw the concert. The pros said it couldn't be done, but as usual The Men showed them how to do it. And the result was something historic.
I still remember the searchlights sweeping the sky and the light motes bouncing off of the icebergs....
Temperatures at the concert site hovered around -20, not counting the wind chill -- the kind of temps that, when you step outside and take a breath, the hairs inside your nose instantly freeze and crackle ... or you just pass out. Fairly mild weather for Little America in February.
The Men were set to take the stage at 4 p.m., just as the "midnight sun" began to set. There was no audience, except for a few techs, camera ops, and me -- and the billions of zombies eagerly waiting in warmer climates. And a few scrawny-looking penguins who gathered around the site to see what all the fuss was about.
I remember standing there in my electric underwear as the bone-chilling breeze blew by me and ruffled the fur collar of my parka, and I realized this was either going to be one of the greatest concerts of all time ... or it would go down in history as the dumbest thing the band ever did.
And then I realized I couldn't feel my feet. I was frozen to the spot.
The band took the stage right at 4. The satellite Cyclops hookup to the 4 billion zombies watching at home went off without a hitch.
The Men opened with the mellow, artsy stuff that everyone wanted to hear -- "Welcome Home," "Sublime Feline," "Hey Jules," all the faves. Jon wrapped his reed-thin fingers, more precise than a violinist's, around the neck of his motar and pulled deep blue bass tones out of it ... and those blue motes of fiery light floated up into the sky above the wind-blasted tundra ... and then were blown in a rush into Kainan Bay, where they sizzled and spat and slowly sank out of sight.
Jeff rode out gorgeous riffs on his bank of keyboards, and the light-emitter belched out anguished orange balls of light -- anguished because Jeff's fingers were freezing and he couldn't hit the right keys.
We thought at first that something was wrong with the equipment, but it was much simpler than that: Jeff was the first to let on that the frigid temperatures might not lead to a truly sweaty, sizzlin' concert performance. Or even a mildly warmed-over one.
Jon started frosting-over around the edges -- a definite crust of white began creeping up his sides and was dutifully caught by the Cyclops cameras. He started shakin' all over.
After their third number, the band had a quick huddle. This situation called for an abrupt adjustment in activity.
That's when The Men did something completely unexpected and unrehearsed that I thought would permanently endear them to the Earthbound audience. They dug into their bag of tricks and started performing a scorching set of rock and roll oldies.
"Johnny B. Goode"! "Great Balls of Fire"! "Wild Thing"! "Louie, Louie"! "Tutti Frutti"! "Wooly Bully"! "Mony Mony"! "Roll Over, Beethoven"! And -- perfect in its appropriateness -- "Stray Cat Strut"!
Oh jeez, it was such a total gas, such a HOOT to see the freezin' guys jitterbugging and duck-walking their way across the stage in front of the cameras, simply trying to keep warm.
And meanwhile my teeth chattered and I was so cold and I was laughing so hard I thought I was gonna pee my pants....
Jon and Jim and Joe and Jack rolled and hopped and be-bopped and waddled back and forth across that stage and occasionally fell over because their stick-thin little legs just wouldn't work right in the cold ... and their hair whipped around in the wind and fell over their faces and got caught in their fingers as they sucked notes faster and faster out of the motars, sending cascades of freeze-dried motes of light spiralling up over the back of the stage and drifting off to sink in a frozen sea.
All Jeff could do to stay warm was keep pounding on his keyboards and try to keep up with the rest. Jules at least had his drum kit to bash away at, and his sheets of aluminum siding and those two huge gongs to beat on.
I think all the guys may have actually broken into a sweat during "Friday On My Mind" -- or maybe it was on "I Fought the Law." A pretty historic moment, anyway.
Even the penguins seemed to enjoy the performance.
That tour ended with the release of the reassuring and uplifting MEN FROM EARTH album -- the entire Antarctica concert on disc. Fans couldn't get a more positive message than that: The Men were back, and they were here to stay.
The disc was their biggest seller ever.

On the fourth tour I started seeing something that bothered me a little.
Fans had started dressing up like the band, complete with potato bodies, long, stringy hair and longer, dangling arms.
This wasn't the first time that musicians had made a big impact on fashion -- Cyclops commentators noted how Elvis, The Beatles and Madonna had affected the styles of their day.
But the apparent level of acceptance for The Men among Earthpeople led Jon to make a statement that brought the group even more free publicity -- not all of it good.
"I have to admit that we seem bigger right now than The Beatles ever were," Jon told a group of newssheet reporters during a tour stop in NYC.
To hardcore zonk zombies this was blasphemy, even if it happened to be true.
And when the Cyclops and the scandalsheets got ahold of it....
"This isn't the first time that a band has had to face a backlash from the public due to some stupid, poorly-thought-out political statement," Carl told the Cyclops. "We'll survive it."
And we did. Most folks just let Jon's comments roll right off them. After his flop solo album and earlier statements about What Makes Great Music, Jon had become well-known as the group's resident crackpot.
But when The Alley Cat Revelations finally leaked-out to the public, well....

So there I was, road manager of one of the biggest, most popular performing acts in the planet's history, trolling the backstreets and alleys of SeaTac and Cheyenne, looking for Dinner ... or at least as many cats as the local Oriental restaurants hadn't already snatched up to serve to their customers disguised as sweet-and-sour chicken or pork-fried rice....
There I was on many nights, dressed basically in SCUBA gear covered by a set of worn-out old overalls, long hair dangling, crouched, hunched-over, slowly making my way down a deserted dark alley long after sunset, calling out gently in a gravelly voice like some character straight out of Charles Dickens:
"Here kitty, kitty, kitty...."
And when some unsuspecting, mangey old feline took me up on my offer for undiscriminating companionship and warmth (there was always at least one, eventually, and I got really good at waiting them out) -- I'd snatch him up by the tail and tuck his mewing head into my belly and carry him gently back to the hotel, where he would then be tossed into a vat of furiously bubbling oil....
A few minutes later I'd deliver the latest in a series of (what they told me were) scrumptious meals to the guys, my REAL employers, whose job mine was to keep happy, and again I'd have accomplished my main mission for the day.
And so the show went on.
And the most shameful part of it all, of course, was ... getting paid -- fairly well! -- for doing all that!

The band wasn't -- COULDN'T have been -- prepared for the backlash, the ugly fallout, once The Alley Cat Revelations slipped out to the public -- thanks to the same scummy newssheets that once printed Jon's vomit-inducing RAW pics.
Somehow, having a diet made up mainly of house- and alley cats just didn't go over well with vast numbers of the disc-buying and concert-attending public. Even hard-core zombies -- who supposedly didn't care about anything beyond getting their next fix from the Cyclops -- rejected the guys almost overnight.
I'd been almost certain that in light of the guys' great sense of humor, gorgeous music and utter uniqueness, the public could forgive them for almost anything. But....
The band couldn't imagine anything other than being loved by an audience. They weren't ready for the booing. For having rotten vegetables thrown at them during concerts -- even POTATOES....
The first time a rotten potato was thrown from the crowd and landed with a PLOP! near Jeff, I thought all his eyes were gonna pop right out of his head. He immediately ran to the side of the poor, dented, moldy vegetable, sobbing "You'll be OK! You'll be OK!"
Then the crowd started throwing tomatoes. Which didn't go PLOP at all. They went SPLAT instead.
All over the band.
It was all over.

But that's all over now. The Men are waiting somewhere in their giant cocoon, in suspended animation. Waiting 'til the vibrations are right and it's safe to come out again. Waiting for a time when they won't be booed. For a time when their music won't be judged based upon their appearance, their diet, and the reactions those things provoke in others.
Knowing us Earthmen, that could be a long, long wait.
The Men will know when the time is Right. They always did before.
But, hey ... I miss you guys.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Little Green Men (Part 2)

So they stank. They were ugly too. But their music was GORGEOUS. And popular. Great art comes from the strangest places sometimes....
Their first album was called OUT OF THIS WORLD. Pretty subtle, huh? It was a three-disc set. The Men recorded it in four days.
Basically, they walked into the studio, set up, switched on the recording console, and taped everything that came out for the next 96 hours.
And it was brilliant. Jon painted a gorgeous, swirling starfield cover for the discs, and we got the package out onto store shelves within a month.
Last we heard, it had sold more than 40 million copies worldwide....

Then The Men went on tour. They hardly needed any promotion or publicity -- which was one of the reasons Carl wanted them on White Knight Discs in the first place. They made their own publicity just by existing. Low overhead, high profit -- we couldn't lose. Carl liked to go for the Sure Things.
Newssheets and Cyclops reporters followed us everywhere. One of my primary responsibilities during those early days was keeping the reporters far enough away long enough for the band to perform a set. Or eat a meal.
At first it was just curiosity that attracted crowds. Then folks started coming back for the music.
I'd been hooked long before then.

At first The Men followed the basic tour circuit, all the big population centers and factory towns, as well as occasional stops at music-producing centers: LA, Frisco, Portland, SeaTac, Den, Dal, SanTonio, Austin, Houston, St. Louie, Indy, Chi, Det, Cleveland, Cinci, Pgh, Philly, Baltimore, DC, NY, Bos, Montreal, Toronto, Memphis, Nashville, Lanta, Miami, Jax -- you know the syndrome.
Then overseas: MexCit, London, Paree, Munich, Rome, Istanbul, Moscow, Calcutta, Beijing, HongKong, Tokyo.
The Men never took a day off. Day after day of performing, no breaks. This was much harder on me than on them. The only time they ever got in any trouble was when I'd passed out from exhaustion and the band was forced to entertain themselves.
After awhile they started doing shows in odd places they'd heard about and wanted to visit for whatever reason: Boise, Craters of the Moon, Vancouver, Cheyenne, Yellowstone, Ankara, Ayers Rock, Alaska's Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes....
Then there was the infamous "Hot Date Tour" of the American Southwest: Phx, the Grand Canyon, Zion, Tucson, Yuma, Albuquerque, SantaFe, Gila Bend, Death Valley -- they loved the heat. ...And the crowd loved them, though concertgoers kept sitting farther and farther away from the stage as the tour went on. Maybe folks couldn't take the smell, but they couldn't leave the music.
We couldn't always take the tube to get to those less-well-traveled locations -- there weren't always connections to the tube. Sometimes we had to charter a landbus, and it was usually during those times (with someone else driving -- none of the guys could ever grasp the basics of driving, too forceful for them to handle, not enough delicacy involved ... and now that I look back on it, it's probably a good thing: think of the wrecks they could have caused!) that I collapsed and got the only rest I'd ever get while the guys were on tour. Not that I minded so much....
I remember that public and critical reaction to the shows was at first VERY mixed. One early newssheet headline read: "Can a green man sing the blues?" But the response soon turned rapturous....

Whether it was during practice, while recording, or when playing in concert, the Little Green Men were mesmerizing. Their sheer alien-ness, combined with the timeless other-worldly beauty of the music they created, cast an almost-unbreakable spell over an audience.
Just seeing Jon wrap his impossibly long, delicate, tentacle-like fingers around the specially-elongated neck of his motar was enough to boggle some fans ... but when they heard the exquisite sounds he was able to coax out of that instrument, that ended any further reservations. Critics and hardcore zombies alike started throwing around names of famous motarists from zonk history to compare Jon's work to. Names like Hendrix and Clapton and Page kept popping up....
Because of their incredibly nimble, dexterous hands, The Men could perform music that literally no one else on Earth could play.
Take for instance their first hit, "Welcome Home," a moving, mellow zonk instrumental. In concert, through the wonders of motar technology, that track became a gorgeous raining firestorm of color, breathtaking in its beauty.
The band always thought recording was a step below playing "live." They needed an audience. They basked in the warm glow of an audience's wonder, approval and love. The only thing better than the feelings evoked inside them by the music they played was the feeling they got from an audience's applause.
The solution to this minor technical problem was a live concert album, which we finally got around to recording on the most historic of occasions....

I said earlier that the guys saw and felt things differently. Here's an example:
"Don't you see visions when you hear music?" Jeff asked me once during a recording session.
"Well, KIND of," I said, "but it depends on the KIND of music that's playing, and what kind of mood I'm in ... and if I've been drinking or taken any chemicals...."
"We ALWAYS see things," Jules said without hesitation. "We feel things too. Sounds cause deep emotions within us. The music flows through our bodies like water. It cleanses us, purifies us. Makes us feel whole again. Doesn't it do the same for you?"
"Well ... KIND of ... SOMEtimes ... SOME types of music, but...."
Jon must have seen my confusion, my stumbling over the almost-metaphysical concepts his bandmates were juggling so easily. He looked at me with what seemed like pity.
"You must all lead very difficult lives, Earthman...."

Their second album was called MUSIC OF THE SPHERES. It sold almost twice as many copies as the first one, possibly because it was only a two-disc set....

The Men's addiction to cats had been a closely guarded secret among the road crew from the very beginning. And since I was most of the road crew while on tour with the guys, I did most of the cat-catching, cat-preparing and cat-cooking. Sometimes I hired help. It took A LOT of cats to keep up with the guys' appetites.
At first they liked their cats sauteed and served up with a thick, cheesy yellow sauce ... or soup ... or broth ... or whatever.
Then that proved to be not-quite-greasy-enough, and the guys went in a big way for deep-fried cat.
Considering their senses of humor, their wonderful music, and what a total GAS it was just to be zinging around the planet with them, I could have lived with all this.
But I had to be careful. Bribes in all the right places: To get people to catch breakfast, lunch or dinner for the guys when I was too worn-out to do it myself or tried to catch a couple hours' sleep -- and then to keep my helpers quiet about having done it.
We all probably could have gone on like this indefinitely. But I think the trail of missing cats took its toll. A large number of cats disappeared whenever the guys came to town, and eventually the law-enforcement agencies and the local Humane Societies started to notice. We tried to stick to just stray cats, but when those ran short we had to start buying them by the truckloads from the local animal shelters ... or even combing through people's back yards....
Meanwhile the guys had become just a little too bold about the whole thing. Placing ads in newssheets across the country volunteering to give unwanted cats a loving home was one thing -- but I thought the guys tipped their hands a bit too far when they called the closing track on their second album "Sublime Feline." That was just rubbing fans' faces in it.
And folks did eventually notice. I thought people would forgive them, but....

There were, obviously, some rocks in the road along the way. In fact, there were some very BIG ones. But nothing altogether THAT different from the kinds of troubles other successful zonk groups face all the time....
In the lull that followed the Hot Date Tour, Jon did a series of newssheet interviews about The Meaning Of Music -- focusing on the idea that he should have more control of group affairs, because after all he wrote most of the music and designed the album covers besides.
Jon had a point. He was pretty accurate about his contributions to the band, and maybe he was feeling a little bummed that his work didn't make him stand out more.
But the public took the Little Green Men as a package deal -- six pretty unique individuals, rather than one genius and the rest of the guys along for the ride.
Jon did what he could to try to change that.
In the last interview of the series, Jon posed nude for a newssheet photographer, exposing the many large brown eyes all over his massively-wrinkled body -- and in the interview he bragged about his 20-20-20-20-20 vision....
The other Green Men seemed to find this flaunting of traditional human values brave and daring. "Ooooh!" I remember Jules exclaiming when he first saw the photo.
It raised some eyebrows. But not as many as when Jon's solo album came out shortly after the interview -- and used that same photo for the cover.
The album was called RAW. Some stores sold it in a brown paper bag. Some cities banned it.
Most humans didn't know whether to laugh or throw up.
It was a huge sales failure, even though there was some pretty good music on it. But Jon's solo work lacked the tight ensemble feeling he had with the other guys, and he seemed to realize this.
The stress got to him pretty fast. He started turning red around the edges -- wherever those were. It was such an obvious condition that if the rash continued, soon humans would start mistaking him for a big alien tomato. They'd have to change the name of the band! If there still WAS a band....
Jon tearfully made-up with the rest of the guys, and they agreed to forgive his ego trip. They all got back together again, and it really did turn out to be better than before. At least for awhile. The breakup that newssheet columnists gleefully predicted would kill the band ... lasted about six months.
But this wasn't the last of Jon's public pronouncements....

(To be concluded....)

Friday, July 15, 2011

On tour with the Little Green Men (Part 1 of 3)

What was it like?
Everybody asks.
Touring with the Little Green Men was GREAT -- easily the best time I've ever had in this business. Certainly everything I've done since has been a drag. I've never seen ANY zonk band try some of the stunts the Men did. And I've been around the disc biz for a LONG time.
It's all over now, of course. The guys are all in hibernation, wrapped in their snug cocoons, nuzzled occasionally by warm ultrasonics. And as near as the medics can tell, it may be years before the guys come back out. There's no point waiting for them -- it could take decades. We might just as well get on with our lives and not wait up.
But I'll tell ya -- if they want to put ME in a cocoon and hold me in suspended animation 'til the guys wake up, I won't mind. I'm available, and they won't need to pay me any extra money to do it, either. I don't know anybody else who was willing to handle the guys, even when they were on top, and I'm ready for another go 'round.
Because let me tell ya -- there was nothing more fun than hanging out with the guys during the three years they had this planet on its knees. They were always relaxed, always having fun, always cracking jokes -- usually at my expense. Everything was so NEW to them. They looked at life's most boring everyday happenings in a totally new way.
And as a result, they helped me look at things in a new way too. Maybe they helped you do the same.
They weren't in it for the money -- I'm not even sure they HAVE money on Archernar 4. They did it for the music and the applause. They knew they were great at what they did. They wanted to be loved. And they were -- for awhile....
Sure you miss the music, so do I. But we've got the discs they left behind to take care of that.
I miss the guys themselves.
You do, too? Yeah, sure. Everybody says that....

When the friendly aliens from Archernar 4 landed on Earth, it was merely the biggest event in all of human history.
But we smart humans got past all of that.
When six of the aliens decided they wanted to form a zonk band, cut a disc and go on tour, that was something else.
It was the biggest shock the disc and entertainment biz had seen since The Beatles.
Jeff, Jack, Jim, Joe, Jules and Jon (without the "h" -- all names are rough translations of the original, and all beings' names start with "J" Back Home) signed with White Knight Discs because -- they said -- they liked us. Other companies offered them LOTS more money, lots more sales muscle, and better promotion, distribution and connections. We offered "a home-y atmosphere," they said. They liked our vibrations. They were always talking like that....
My boss Carl Davison assigned me to take charge of the group's initial recording and first tour. He said at the time it was because of my "hippie"-like background and because everybody knew I hadn't taken a bath or cut my hair since the 1990's. His view was pretty accurate back then, but I didn't see why that was a point in my favor. Carl just shook his head and told me to trust him -- the band and I were going to get along just fine. And he was right.
And soon enough I found out what he meant....

Carl led me into a darkened studio where the band was rehearsing. This was The Big First Meeting -- a chance for the band to meet their new road manager, and for me to size them up.
When we walked in, a barely-visible, gnarled-looking Utterly Alien Figure was busy playing some kind of horn with a huge bell on its front into a mike that stood out under a lone spotlight.
Behind this bulbous, wrinkled figure, further back in the shadows, another barely-seen figure hit a few mournful notes on a synth. The combination of the keyboard and the warm tones from whatever-kind-of-horn-it-was created a wistful, longing mood of loneliness and nostalgia.
This lovely, sad, faint, low-key melody played out to a brief silence. I'd been in the room for about 15 seconds and already my mouth had fallen open.
And then there was a rush of high-pitched chattering all around Carl and I. Little bodies began darting out of the blackness to surround the two figures who had been performing. Then the lights came up and we were surrounded by the aliens.
Of course they weren't the Little Green Men, then. Not with the capital letters. They were just six little aliens who wanted to pull-off something unheard-of. And our little company was set to help them do it.
Only a couple of problems: I already knew from Cyclops newscasts about the aliens that the band were never going to be teenybopper heartthrobs. Video and hypno-poster possibilities seemed just about non-existent.
They each stood about 3 feet tall and looked like big green, wrinkly, mushy ... potatoes. With big eyes. And skinny legs. And hair. Long, stringy, crinkly, scraggly brown hair.
They each had three or four long, scraggly strands of hair growing out of the tops of their heads ... wherever those were. They looked like they were basically All Head. They reminded me of those toys kids used to play with back in the Olde Days -- Mr. Potato Head.
They had LONG arms that dragged on the floor when they walked ... or waddled, actually. Their elbows were way down past where their knees would have been ... if they'd had knees.
They had high, whiny, keening speaking voices that issued from God-knew-where, and I couldn't tell one of them from another. Never could, really, even after all the time we spent together on the road. Still can't. I'd identify them by what instruments they played -- they always kept their instruments close by, and you never knew when any gathering might turn into a jam session. Some of their differences came out in their attitudes, but more about that later....
I already knew (as did you and billions of other humans) that -- though friendly -- the aliens were ... kind of ugly. But I hadn't heard about the SMELL....
Ever worked at an egg plant? Ever shoveled-out hog pens on a hot, humid summer day? Ever been sprayed by a skunk? Imagine a mix of all three, only 10 times worse. And I'm still not doing the smell justice....
I gagged. The smell brought tears to my eyes. It seemed to come in waves. It almost knocked me over. My first few minutes in the presence of the "band," our newest can't-miss moneymakers ... and I was already looking frantically for a window to open. Or jump out of. Anything to get away from that ... REEK. The tears poured from my eyes. My face turned blue. I saw immediately what one of my biggest public-relations challenges was going to be.
"Hey guys," I gasped, trying to be friendly.
"Greetings, Earthman," they responded in perfect, almost mechanical unison. And then they giggled among themselves. At least I THINK they were giggling. They were always doing that.
That's how I met the most popular recording act in the history of the universe.

Carl, almost immediately, officially named them the Little Green Men. He always liked to go for the obvious.

The "Earthman" tag they used with me during our first meeting stuck. Usually the guys just called me Terry, but when they were joking around or were having trouble understanding any particularly frustrating human trait, they'd go back to calling me "Earthman." I think it was intended as a kind of joke. I didn't mind it so much. And it came out at the strangest times....
One night during the band's dinner -- broiled alley cat -- in response to my gagging and retching, Jon looked up from his meal, jowls dripping with hot grease and cat parts, and said "Your primitive tastes are obviously not equipped to appreciate the culinary delights contained in even the smallest morsel of this sublime feline, EARTHMAN...."
And then he went back to slurping and munching while the rest of the band giggled.
That's what I mean.

I got a personal introduction to the band because they were about to become my full-time job.
For most humans, their first official intro to the band came through the liner notes on the Men's first disc:
The Little Green Men are....
Jon -- Lead motar, vocals, songwriting, album-cover art.
Jeff -- Keyboards, vocals, music.
Jack -- Bass motar, sunglasses, vocals, lyrics.
Jim -- Sax, flute, woodwinds, brass, percussion, vocals, songwriting.
Joe -- Rhythm motar, percussion, vocals, lyrics.
Jules -- Drums, percussion, syndrums, gongs, shakers, rattles, breakables, aluminum siding, hats, backing vocals.

(To be continued....)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Vacation, had to get away....

Hey y'all. Took the past week off from work, hung out with the old girlfriend, ended up camping for a few days out on western Washington's Olympic Peninsula, next to the Dosewallips River. Nice little campsite, quiet, not too many people. Mostly just laid around a lot & enjoyed the quiet, tried not to think too much. Just sat on a big log at the edge of the river & let the sun bake me for awhile, happy with not having to worry about BEING anywhere anytime soon.
Also got to eat some fresh crab & fresh clams like I haven't had since I was around 6 years old. Also went out in the boat onto Hood Canal when they pulled the crab pots. That was ... intresting. I hadn't been in a boat since I was 12 years old. They tell me that when the boat picked up speed & started bouncing across the waves, I yelled & my eyes got huge & I tried to stand up and jump out of the boat. I don't actually remember that part, I must've blocked it out. But once I got settled I was OK, & it was beautiful out on the water with the mountains all around....
Work hadn't been that terrible, not like last year, I hadn't started yelling at people yet -- but it had been a year since I had any time off & I was due. Glad I did it. Wish I didn't havta go back 2 work 2morrow, I'd love 2 have another week. But....

When I came home, the roommate was shitfaced & the 1st thing out of his mouth was "So, what are YOU cooking for dinner?" I swear, I think he was jealous that I took a week off & went somewhere WITHOUT him.
So then he pushed my buttons 4 a coupla more hours & then stumbled off 2 the bar 4 6 hours with a friend of his. I didn't care: I did my laundry & mowed the lawn & settled back in -- it felt kinda good 2 sleep in my own bed after a week away. & on Monday my roommate spent the whole day lying on the couch moaning, holding his head in his hands & wondering why his stomach wasn't working right. This is becoming an every-weekend thing 4 him: Get shitfaced every Sunday & spend Monday moaning & puking. 1 of the reasons I left was 2 get AWAY from this shit.
I swear I could write a horror novel based on this, call it ROOMMATES! -- He drinks until the inner monster BREAKS LOOSE, & then he can't be held accountable 4 ANYTHING he sez or does....
Look, I'm sure I ain't that EZ 2 live with either, I got my moods -- but I always pay my rent on time, I split the utilities, I buy 1/2 the food, I do dishes & mow the lawn & take out the trash, I'm quiet -- I'm a good roommate. So if you need a good roommate, drop me a line. I'll go anywhere where there's JOBS.... (You can all start laffing now....)

...Not much new 4 me musically, tho I did learn during my vacation that the soaring, haunting R&B ballad I heard awhile back is actually sung by Kelly Clarkson ("I'm Already Gone"), making 2 great songs she's done as far as I'm concerned (the other 1 was "Walk Away"). But some of you out there R probly already throwing up, so enuf of that....

I have been reading a bit now & then, of course. Still absorbing Stephen Jones & Kim Newman's HORROR: 100 BEST BOOKS and ANOTHER 100 BEST BOOKS, but if you're a fan of spooky stuff I recommend them, & if nothing else they'll give you lots of ideas 4 more great spooky stuff 2 track down. Each book includes essays by 100 horror writers (from King, Straub & Barker on down) on their favorite horror books ever. There's great stuff like John Clute on Tim Powers' THE ANUBIS GATES, Caitlin Kiernan on Kathe Koja's SKIN, write-ups on lotsa Stephen King novels, coverage of lotsa olde classics in the field -- stuff I've never read or always wondered about -- & plenty more.
Read 2 books by rock critic Greil Marcus: WHEN THAT ROUGH GOD GOES RIDING (2010) is all about Van Morrison & continues Marcus's Xploration of "the yaaargh" at the center of Morrison's best work. The book's a fast read -- just over 100 pgs -- & it's obvious Marcus hadda lotta fun with it: 1 "chapter" is only 3 lines long, some of the music reviewed is only available on bootlegs or thru live performances or radio-station sessions, & Marcus dismisses some 20 years of Morrison's career as "aimless." But if you're a fan of Van (or Marcus) you'll probly like it. I did. But I woulda bn happier if it was 2wice as long....
Marcus's IN THE FASCIST BATHROOM is a fat collection of columns from ROLLING STONE, THE VILLAGE VOICE & other places, focusing on Punk Rock & the Punk Attitude in rock&roll. It's pretty solid, tho summa the same artists keep popping up thruout: Sex Pistols, Elvis Costello, The Clash, X, The Mekons, Kleenex/Lilliput, X-Ray Spex, Buzzcocks, Wire, Lora Logic, etc. Worth tracking down, tho I woulda bn happier if Marcus had ranged a little wider....
Have started re-reading Marcus's STRANDED, a classic collection of rock critics' picks 4 which album they'd want if stranded on a desert island. Lester Bangs' writeup on Van Morrison's ASTRAL WEEKS is amazing, but 4 me the best part of the book has always been Marcus's lengthy LIBRARY of desert-island albums listed at the end of the book....
Charles Schaar Murray's SHOTS FROM THE HIP is a big collection of pieces he wrote 4 the British music papers from the '70s thru the '90s: Some of these can get a little silly, but it's addictive: I think I read the whole tiny-print book in about 2 days. I'll havta go back & pick out the really good bits....
John Clute's STROKES, SCORES and LOOK AT THE EVIDENCE are collections of science-fiction book reviews & critical pieces from the '70s through the early '00s -- I loved them, but I've become addicted 2 his work. Some folks say he's kinda snooty or doesn't always communicate clearly (he often seems 2 MAKE UP words, especially in his more-recent Net-published reviews), but he has lotsa good insights & he's funny -- especially when he really hates something. I learned a lot.
Lester Bangs' BLONDIE bio (about the only thing by Lester I hadn't read yet) wasn't overly nice 2 the band, but the best part of the book is available in Bangs' collection MAINLINES, BLOOD FEASTS AND BAD TASTE ... along with a lot of other Good Stuff....
Am trying 2 get in2 Ellen Willis's OUT OF THE VINYL DEEPS, but it seems kinda thin 2 me. Likewise Carl Belz's THE STORY OF ROCK, which I LOVED as a 10th-grader (I was especially thrilled 2 read back then that he thot The Beatles' WHITE ALBUM was rock's Ultimate Statement Ever) -- but which now also seems Xtremely thin....
Also got a copy of The Beatles' ANTHOLOGY, which I've just barely sniffed at -- it's freaking HUGE. Would B a nice suprise if there's something NEW in this story, this time told by the Fab 4 themselves....

I'll be back soon ... with more....

Friday, July 1, 2011

Great Scary Stuff

OK, it's a new month. I'm giving the fiction a break -- tho it may return -- but instead of writing fiction here I'm going 2 write ABOUT fiction, as a way Back To Reality after 2 weeks of serializing that unfinished rock-group novel. I might even get back 2 reviewing some new-2-me music, possibly as early as 2morrow. But 1st....
I've only just started sniffing at Stephen Jones & Kim Newman's HORROR: THE 100 BEST BOOKS, in which 100 horror writers (Stephen King, Peter Straub, Clive Barker, etc.) choose their all-time favorite horror novels or short stories -- but it got me thinking....
Back in the '90s, horror fiction was about all I read. Science fiction had pretty-much worn out for me, whereas horror not only offered fresh thrills, it also sort-of at-times addressed things that were going on in the Real World. The best Xample of this I have is that I'd just finished reading Thomas Harris's THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS when the Jeffrey Dahmer case broke....
I think I really caught the disease as early as 1984, when I read something like 7 Stephen King novels in a row -- THE SHINING, THE DEAD ZONE, SALEM'S LOT, CHRISTINE, FIRESTARTER, CUJO & CARRIE, then later threw-in DIFFERENT SEASONS (a story collection), PET SEMATARY (yuck), DANSE MACABRE (a non-fiction history/overview of horror), MISERY, TOMMYKNOCKERS, etc., etc., ... & only MUCH later got around to IT & THE STAND.
This OD'ing on 1 writer (which I do A LOT) really worked -- I haven't been able 2 finish anything of King's since NEEDFUL THINGS & THE DARK HALF. More & more over the last 20 years I think King's needed an editor. Started GERALD'S GAME, DELORES CLAIBORNE, ROSE MADDER, couldn't finish. Started INSOMNIA -- it put me 2 sleep. Even THE GREEN MILE -- great movie, couldn't get into the book.
4 much of the '90s I was hooked on Dell's Abyss paperback horror line -- beautifully packaged books that weren't always that great 2 read. But they included lotsa work by my hero Kathe Koja, the writer who ruined my attn span & who has never let me down. Everything she's ever written has been worth it 4 me, even the young-adult novels she's bn writing 4 the last 10 years.
But the Abyss line also had lotsa work I couldn't get thru (by Poppy Z. Brite, Melanie Tem, Nancy Holder, Tanith Lee), or writers that didn't seem worth the trip -- Robert Deveraux, Ron Dee, Daniel Gower, Mary Hanner.... But when they got hold of something good -- WOW. In the past decade I was a subscriber 2 Leisure Books' horror line (mainly 4 Jack Ketchum), but there were some disappointments there 2....
I still feel this way about most horror -- a lot of what's out there is sludge I can't get thru, but the good stuff goes on the permanent shelf. Here's a list of summa the best stuff I can remember....
* Kathe Koja: SKIN, THE CIPHER, BAD BRAINS, STRANGE ANGELS, KINK, THE BLUE MIRROR, EXTREMITIES -- Koja wastes no time. Her abrupt, direct, sometimes brutal writing will plunge you in2 her stories & guarantee that when her characters hurt you will 2. SKIN is my favorite novel ever & includes a sorta performance-art/punk-rock/gothic atmosphere that it whirls around. It's amazing. THE CIPHER's no slouch, either....
* Jack Ketchum: HIDE AND SEEK, SHE WAKES, THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, OFF SEASON, JOYRIDE, THE LOST.... Speaking of brutal.... Ketchum's books R usually short & Xtremely direct. HIDE AND SEEK is my choice 4 the best -- a twisted love story, the last 1/2 of it's like being repeatedly punched in the face ... in a good way. SHE WAKES features the rebirth of an ugly, hungry Greek goddess & a brutal finale. The Greek atmosphere is perfect. GIRL NEXT DOOR has a reputation as the most Xtreme horror novel ever -- it's not; some parts could be even more brutal, but it's still pretty tough 2 read Xcept 4 1 almost Bradbury-like moment early in the book ... before the bad things happen.... The others R pretty great 2....
* Thomas Harris: THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, RED DRAGON. You've read these, of course. LAMBS locks you in by Page 10. RED DRAGON grabs you by the throat on the FIRST PAGE. (Wish I could figure out how he did that....) The later HANNIBAL is almost a great novel until the stupid throwaway ending that made me wanna throw it across the room. Haven't gotten 2 HANNIBAL RISING yet....
* Peter Straub: IF YOU COULD SEE ME NOW, KOKO, THE THROAT. KOKO's the best Vietnam War novel ever. THE THROAT is a stunning epic, worth the 600 pgs. IF YOU COULD is a strange 1 -- I reread it every 10 years & each time it seems like a different story, or I pick up more or get more out of it. Straub's short stories "The Juniper Tree" & "Blue Rose" R pretty great 2. & the horrifying "Mr. Clubb and Mr. Cuff"....
* Stephen King: IT and THE STAND R amazing epics, worth the 3 months it'll take you 2 read them. The TV miniseries' of these in no way do them justice.... King's got some amazing short stories 2, all seemingly with "The" in the title: "The Body," "The Reach," "The Mist," "The Raft," "The Jaunt," "The Mangler"....
* James Ellroy: THE BLACK DAHLIA, L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, THE BIG NOWHERE. You probly think these R police-procedural novels, but horrifying out-of-control nightmarish stuff happens in each of them....
* Michael Blumlein: XY, THE BRAINS OF RATS. XY is a brutal nightmare with no exit. BRAINS OF RATS includes some amazing, scary, outrageous short stories -- the title story, "Tissue Ablation," "Bestseller," "The Wet Suit," "Shed His Grace" ... & the quiet & moving "The Thing Itself."
* K.W. Jeter: MANTIS. An unreliable narrator leads you in2 a creepy, dark LA world where a (possibly imaginary?) femme fatale leads him 2 kill.... 1 of a kind.
* Edward Lee: COVEN. Can horror also B funny? This is. Brutal, gloppy, slimy, like a really bad B-movie you hate yourself 4 liking. So over-the-top you can't take it seriously. & I mean WAY over the top....
* Dan Simmons: SONG OF KALI. The Calcutta setting rings true, & the thuggees who follow Kali R scary enuf. But the brutal ending is what will stay with you years later....
* Clive Barker: I can't read his novels. But some of the stories in his BOOKS OF BLOOD were pretty direct & pretty great, especially "In the Hills, the Cities," "Dread," "Revelations," "The Age of Desire"....
* David J. Schow: Also very direct & vivid. Any short-story collection will do, but especially check out "Not From Around Here," "Red Light," "Lonesome Coyote Blues," "Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You," "Pulpmeister"....
* Michael Shea: "The Autopsy."
* Martin Cruz Smith: NIGHTWING. Much more than just another vampire-bats-attack-people novel....
* Melanie Tem: WILDING has 1 beautifully-written chapter in the center of the book when her werewolf heroine runs thru the streets of Denver; the rest of the story's about average. DESMODUS had possibilities but I couldn't take the man-bashing. REVENANT has a beautiful framing device: a ghost town narrates the stories of the souls that "live" there; but the stories themselves were so sad I couldn't finish the book.
* George R.R. Martin: FEVRE DREAM puts vampires on a Mississippi riverboat. Definitely something diffrent. THE ARMAGEDDON RAG had possibilities, but the '60s nostalgia is buried by an evil cloak&dagger plot 2 destroy the world....
* Daniel Gower: THE ORPHEUS PROCESS. Frankenstein moved 2 today, grim & creepy & sad & not really worth it.
* Mary Hanner: RAPID GROWTH. Women in California's Silicon Valley start giving birth 2 giant tumors. Eeeuuuu....
...& of course the 3 scariest non-fiction books I can think of:
* Richard Preston: THE HOT ZONE, THE DEMON IN THE FREEZER. HOT ZONE's about ebola, DEMON's about smallpox; both R fascinating & neither R a picnic....
* Tim Cahill: BURIED DREAMS. The terrifying true story of infamous Chicago serial-killer John Wayne Gacy, who buried the bodies of 33 young men under his house. 4 chapters near the end R like being hit over&over by a sledgehammer. Amazing reporting, if you can take it....
And your favorite scary stuff is...?