Friday, September 30, 2011

Charming but thin

You're probly sick of Beatles-era memoirs by now. But Derek Taylor's AS TIME GOES BY (1973) is worth tracking down 4 a slightly diffrent take on what it was like 2 work at the Beatles' late-'60s Apple Records. Taylor's Apple memories take up almost 1/2 of the 175-pg book.
Taylor was the Beatles' press officer during their early days, left after "a huge row" with Beatles mgr. Brian Epstein (after Taylor ghost-wrote Epstein's bio A CELLAR FULL OF NOISE), spent 3 years in the States doing PR 4 a number of famous acts & helping organize the Monterey Pop Festival, then returned 2 England in '68 2 B Press Officer 4 the then-new Apple.
The picture of Taylor painted in Richard DiLello's classic Apple memoir THE LONGEST COCKTAIL PARTY (1972) shows Derek as witty & sophisticated, worldly-wise & always ABSOLUTELY ON TOP OF whatever problem came up, never 2 busy 2 offer a drink or a joke or an encouraging word despite whatever crisis was unfolding. & he was always glib. Great 4 a fast punchy quote.
Some of that comes across in AS TIME GOES BY. You might not learn much new about the Fab 4, but you'll learn something of what it was like 2 work 4 them, & how a person "on the inside" saw things a little diffrently from the rest of the world.
Taylor sez Apple never went broke, even with all the stealing that went on, that it was never even CLOSE -- but every day was a crisis, there was never any time 2 plan ahead, & the staffers panicked from early on. Taylor describes longtime Beatle assistant Neil Aspinall coming in2 Taylor's office, collapsing on2 a sofa, & just staring in2 space 4 hours ... from fear & Xhaustion.
Taylor's also 1 of the few people at Apple who didn't end up hating Allen Klein -- Taylor calls him a friend, even tho Taylor & Klein ended up GOING TO LUNCH while Klein's house-cleaning firings were carried-out by others back at the Apple office....
Taylor recaps sevral of Apple's worst days in the course of the book. & he captures the general atmosphere of the place, especially when it was headed downhill. 4 Taylor it ended when George Harrison "fired" him & told him 2 go home & write this book -- which Taylor's original publisher sez in the intro "reads like a book written by a man who doesn't want to write a book."
What you get is whatever popped in2 Taylor's head 2 write on a given day. & when he got enuf pgs piled-up 4 a book-length manuscript, he stopped. Along the way you get a little about Monterey, & little bits & pieces about what it was like 2 handle press-relations 4 The Beach Boys ("Christ, they were a lot of work...."), The Byrds, The Mamas & The Papas, Paul Revere & The Raiders, & briefly The Doors, Captain Beefheart -- & Mae West. She gets a chapter all 2 herself, & she's just as odd as any of these other personalities....
It's vivid & funny & charming, but there's not enuf of it. 1 of Taylor's tangents asks how people become critics -- Taylor was 1 4 awhile during his newspaper career in northern England -- & how he wishes people could B warned up-front about lazy, uninformed, bitter critics. He found-out 1st-hand as a PR guy that there R a lot of them out there....
Worth a look -- you'll get sucked-in fast. But at the end you'll wish there was 2wice as much....

Rock Snobs Radio!
Joel Whitburn answers MOST of my questions
The Last Exit
& more....

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Got Dave Marsh's original BOOK OF ROCK LISTS (1981) 4 an Xmas or birthday present back around 1983 & enjoyed it even if I wasn't Xactly bowled over -- I marked it up & desecrated it & marked all the Good Parts & earmarked especially good pages, like I do with almost all the books I keep (I've gotten a LITTLE better about this as I've grown older)....
But even as I was enjoying it I realized it wasn't as good as it should've been. There wasn't enuf comedy. There was 2 much "Best songs of the year"-type stuff -- stuff rabid rock&roll fans would already know anyway. There was a list of Elvis's greatest hits. Marsh & other critics' lists of essential albums & 45's thru the years. There were a lot of silly space-filling lists about "best bassists," "best guitarists," stuff like that.
You could see the book WANTED 2 B a lot of fun. The effort was there. But the execution.... It was just a little thin, somehow. Not fun enuf.
Marsh & James Bernard's 1994 update THE NEW BOOK OF ROCK LISTS is more like it. It's massive -- nearly 600 pages. All those old best-of-the-year lists R gone. MOST of the kinda-pointless how-much-do-you-know-about-the-Beatles-or-Elvis? lists are gone. There's a lot of then-new stuff on Rap & Hip-Hop artists (doesn't do much 4 me, but summa the stories R pretty funny). There's a lot less effort wasted in trying to make the book a critical piece -- a lot more time spent on just funny, off-the-wall or intresting stuff. There's probly a little 2 much space spent on Tipper Gore & the Parents' Music Resource Center.
But if all else fails, the book's big enuf 2 use as a doorstop. Or a bookend.
There is at least 1 new critical theory in this book: that Eric Clapton's laid-back, lazy & useless "Wonderful Tonight" -- a fairly big hit in '78 & a fairly common item on Classic Rock radio -- is actually a frustrated peek inside the final days of Clapton's marriage 2 Patti Boyd, about how frustrated he was that she took so long 2 get ready for EVERYTHING, including dinners; that his frustration with her was bursting out of him, & finally took shape in what is perceived as a sweet laid-back lovesong -- no suprise they got divorced soon after.
Ghod forbid. I might actually havta listen 2 the WORDS of that wretched song 2 find out if Marsh & Bernard & Co. R right. Who woulda thot such a piece of hackwork had such hidden depths...?
There's lotsa other Good Stuff too: Chrissie Hynde's advice to women rockers; 21 rock stars who'd lose an intelligence test against Beavis & Butt-head; Really Dumb Record Deals; Overrated Music Biz Managers & Moguls; a ton of hilarious Dubious Achievement Awards; The Most Pathetic Grammy Award Winners (the list could sure B LONGER); Artists that critics think can do no wrong; the best & worst books about rock&roll; best pop-music fiction; 150 essential post-punk albums; Worst Career Moves; the best & worst "live" albums; tons of stuff on or about Parliafunkadelicment; rock&roll's "Enemies List"; 25 amazing censorship cases; best & worst album covers; clues in the entire "Paul is Dead" story; the 40 worst #1 hits; the 40 worst #1 albums; albums & songs where you can allegedly hear Satan lurking (anybody ever played Pat Boone records backwards?); & lots more....
I haven't marked this up yet, tho I HAVE started dog-earing pages 4 later reading....
Frank Zappa's list of his 10 Favorite Rock Critics is sorta balanced-out by Tipper Gore's 10 Favorite Rock Albums. But if you're a fan, this book's a keeper.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A look back at SMiLE

So, is there anything left 2 B said? Is there anything new that CAN B said at this late date about this wonderous psychedelic classic, this masterwork in which the Beach Boys & their resident genius Brian Wilson caught the imagination of the public & ushered-in the Love-Filled Spring of '67?
Perhaps it's enuf 2 just recap how this amazing album changed the face of pop music all those years ago....
Brian & his Xtended family delivered SMiLE on-schedule as a sort of Christmas present in mid-Dec 1966, just a few months after their psychedelic hymn "Good Vibrations" had topped the charts. Tho it's safe 2 say that at 1st radio programmers & listeners alike were blown away by this new music, within days radio stations across the country were playing the album from start 2 finish, sometimes around the clock.
The 1st single, "Heroes and Villains," was released at the same time as the album, & reached the #1 spot after only a coupla wks. Tho more complex than "Good Vibrations" -- & featuring a strange, arty & fun "Part 2" on the B-side, the single went on 2 sell a million & SMiLE's success was assured.
But the Boys & Capitol Records didn't stop there -- after "Heroes" had its run, Capitol released the gorgeous, maze-like Western folktune "Cabinessence" as a follow-up, & the song's unique cinematic production & marvelous vocals made 4 another chart-topper.
The SMiLE hat-trick was completed when the gorgeous & dramatic "Surf's Up" hit #1 a coupla months later.
By then SMiLE had already sold a coupla million copies & new fans were flocking 2 C the Boys on their latest tour -- which climaxed with them performing B4 the "peace, love & flowers crowd" at the Monterey Pop Festival, where they performed the entire SMiLE album flawlessly, then encored with all their old hits. They brot down the house, & witnesses claimed that then-new acts such as Jimi Hendrix, The Who & Otis Redding were in awe of Brian & the Boys' ability 2 perform their complex new music in a live environment.
Meanwhile, fans were discovering that beyond the hits, the album was a nearly bottomless treasure trove of gems -- like the airy & bubbly "Wind Chimes," the hilarious singalong "Vegetables," the mournful "Old Master Painter/You Were My Sunshine," the comical bopping chickens in "Barnyard," the gorgeous 1-of-a-kind vocals in "Child is Father of the Man," "Our Prayer" & "Gee," the eerie "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow," the bouncy & breezy "On a Holiday," & the spooky "In Blue Hawaii." & of course there was "Good Vibrations" 2 top it all off....
The album went on 2 win a ton of Grammy Awards: for Best Album, Best Pop Vocal Performance, Best Producer, Best Instrumental ("Mrs. O'Leary's Cow"), & Best Engineering. At last count SMiLE had sold more than 8 million copies.
But that was just the beginning. You could say SMiLE changed the face of pop music, ushering in the psychedelic era, pointing the way 2 a lighter, airier approach 2 popular music & composition. SMiLE also created a more optimistic, sunny outlook in the counterculture -- a development that was 2 have long-lasting effects....
The 1st big impact from SMiLE was when the Beatles announced they were retiring. The formerly-Fab 4 were in England working on their intended masterpiece, SGT. PEPPER, when they received an advance copy of Brian & the Boys' work. Beatle John Lennon said later that hearing SMiLE destroyed their sessions. They had bn unable 2 complete an intended epic-masterwork called "A Day in the Life," a psychedelic collage called "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds," & a nightmare called "I Am the Walrus." All 3 trax eventually were bootlegged in unfinished, fragmentary form.
Beatle Paul McCartney said later that when the quartet realized they couldn't finish these adventurous productions or reach the heights of Brian & the Boys, the Fabs knew there was nothing left but 2 give up. The writing was on the wall. Lennon said it took him years 2 recover.
It could B said that SMiLE changed the world, as well. The optimistic outlook of the counterculture -- & of many Americans who heard the album -- led the U.S. 2 withdraw from the Vietnam War B4 the end of 1967. Sen. Bobby Kennedy latched on2 this optimism & rode the wave 2 B elected President in 1968. The States went on 2 remain the world's top superpower -- but with a kinder, gentler, more optimistic, more HUMAN outlook when dealing with our neighbors around the world.
The results of this "gentle revolution" can B seen in the peaceful, friendly, bustling, technology- & success-drenched world we all see around us 2day -- a world where everybody has a place & where every1 has a chance 2 succeed....
No suprise that Brian was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize 4 his efforts in bringing peace & enlightenment 2 the world....
Brian retired after SMiLE, choosing 2 stay at home in Bel Air & write occasional ditties at the piano in his sandbox. He said he'd written his "Teenage Symphony to God" -- he claimed there were no more masterworks in him.
But the Boys kept touring, & Brian occasionally wrote or co-wrote hits 4 them, when it amused him 2 do so. These pleasant hits -- perhaps less adventurous but still very enjoyable -- continued thru the late-'70s: "Darlin'," "Do it Again," "I Can Hear Music," "This Whole World," "Add Some Music to Your Day," "It's About Time," "Long Promised Road," "Feel Flows," "'Til I Die," "Marcella," "Sail On, Sailor," "California Saga," "The Trader," "Good Time," "Johnny Carson," "Good Timin'" -- I'm sure you know the list....
The long-term impact of SMiLE is all around us, each day. The roots of the peaceful, tranquil, high-tech world we live in can B traced straight back 2 the philosophy Xpressed in that modest little album with the "Smile store" cartoon on the front cover, released in December of 1966.
Just try 2 imagine what the world would B like if Brian & the Boys somehow never finished it...?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

More music, less motto

...Yeah, well, I'd liketa blog more often, but.
I've bn sick 4 the last week, fighting some kinda cold/flu/upper-respiratory THING that won't go away. I'm coughing-up a lung right now -- Xcuse me while I wipe off the screen....
Just when I think it's gone, ... it comes back.
This cold/whatever is apparently connected 2 the wild swings in temperature & weather around here lately: low-90s & sunny 10 days ago, 50's & raining a day later -- & continuing that way 4 the next week....
Haven't played NE music in weeks, other than at work. Most days have bn 2 tired 2 get 2 it B4 work -- & 4 the past week my roommate has been home 24/7 fighting-off his OWN cold/flu/upper-respiratory whatever, in his case made worse by his downing a dozen beers per nite & smoking 2 packs of cigs per day. He sez whatever he's got it's not catching -- he's bn 2 a doctor. So my problems R my own damn fault. NEway, no point trying 2 play music while he's home, cos I'd never hear it over his TV.
Am I whining? Fine, I'm whining.
Other than that, everything's about the same.
I'll try 2 get back 2 the music soon, actually have a few new things up my sleeve.... SUPERNATURAL FAIRY TALES, WONDEROUS STORIES, The Fifth Dimension's SECRET GARDEN, & the SMILE SESSIONS highlights coming in Nov....

Continuing my love-hate relationship with local radio, which I listen 2 every nite while I'm at work. They think a lot of themselves -- it shows in their on-air mottoes:
* "The best mix of everything." Uh, well no.
* "It's DIFFERENT here." Well, it's not diffrent ENOUGH.
* "Seattle's ONLY Classic Rock station." Yeah, & with your playlist it's EZ 2 C why that is....
* "We play ONLY the hits of the '60s & '70s!" ...& a few lame '80s hits slip in when we get forgetful or lazy....
* "We play what we want." 2 bad it's mostly what everybody ELSE wants 2 play, 2....
This past Sun nite all the overplayed "greats" were on the air: "Smoke on the Water," "Stairway to Heaven," "Sweet Home Alabama," "Don't Go Breakin' My Heart," "Someone Saved My Life Tonight," "Layla," "Hotel California," "Band on the Run," "Slow Ride," "Heartache Tonight," "Life in the Fast Lane," "One of These Nights".... It was stunning.
At least 1nce they threw in something slightly unXpected, Deep Purple's "Hush" -- but I don't remember NEthing else that suprised me.
Even Little Steven was playing a lotta familiar stuff on the "Underground Garage." But at least he threw-in The Launderettes' "Red River" & The Smithereens' "Sorry" -- & there was a nice birthday tribute 2 Joan Jett. I've only recently realized that her "I Hate Myself for Loving You" is a pretty great piece of no-frills rock&roll. & I liked a few of the back-up trax on her I LOVE ROCK AND ROLL album, especially "Nag" & "Be Straight" & mayB a coupla others I can't remember now....

Hope y'all R healthier than I am. More soon....

Sunday, September 18, 2011

(Insert your title here....)


THE SF BOOK OF LISTS was the most-fun 3+ hrs of reading I've had in quite awhile. It's in no particular order, there's no index or table of contents, it's completely disorganized -- & makes 4 great bathroom or waking-up reading. & if you're a science-fiction fan, the funny stuff is REALLY funny: I coulda used more lists like the 10 "Unreadable and Overrated SF Novels" -- & that list coulda bn a LOT LONGER....
But there's also "10 Characters Who Have Promoted The Consumption of Coffee In Improbable Quarters Of Space And Time"; the late John T. Sladek Xplaining some of the Real World's biggest unXplained mysteries; Spider Robinson's List Of Silly Weapons; Brian Aldiss's 10 Favorite Cities; Famous science-fiction & fantasy writers who've committed suicide; SF & fantasy writers who've also played rock&roll, & LOTS more....
There's also a LONG list of award-winning novels & stories -- info which is available in lotsa other places & which I coulda done without, but without which the book woulda only bn 1/2 as long.... There's also a long list of best stories of the year based on SF's annual best-of collections -- I'll havta go back & see how many of  'em I've read: a pretty large percentage, I'll bet....
Overall, good mindless fun with which 2 blow a few hrs if you're a fan....

Whitburn's ULTIMATE BOOK OF SONGS AND ARTISTS is a sorta stripped-down, edited BILLBOARD TOP POP HITS book 4 folks with iPod's -- I don't have 1, but I thot an up-2-date list of hits might help me track down some more-recent stuff.... & Bsides, this book was WAY cheaper than Whitburn & BILLBOARD's massive TOP POP HITS bible. Chart positions Rn't even mentioned, & Whitburn lists "classic album trax" as well as Top 40 stuff. There R a few suprises: Ike & Tina's "River Deep, Mountain High" is in here (marked as a "classic") -- but I wish there were more entries 4 Love (3) & Spirit (2). Led Zep has 36 songs listed; the Beatles have 98. Elvis gets almost a full page.
Way more up-2-date than I am -- we'll C how often I use it....

Russ's COUNTRY collects all of her angry, sarcastic & brilliant '60s & '70s book-review columns from THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION (I was bummed 2 learn there was only 1 of them I hadn't read B4), + some essays & an acclaimed scholarly piece called "The Wearing Out of Genre Materials." Worth tracking down if you've never read her reviews, which were scathing -- & hilarious. WRITE LIKE A WOMAN has more essays, & 1 hilarious piece on '70s Gothic Romances: "Someone's Trying to Kill Me, And I Think It's My Husband." I've barely gotten in2 HOW TO SUPPRESS -- lots more anger, & I've already thot of sevral women SF writers who escaped from Russ's trap-theory....

SMILE is a little disappointing. Priore doesn't add much 2 the story that wasn't already in his brilliant '90s scrapbook LOOK! LISTEN! VIBRATE! SMILE! There's 2 much scene-setting back-story here -- nearly 50 pgs of it in a 200-pg book. NE1 who's intrested in this book knows who the Beach Boys were & what SMILE was supposed 2 B. There R ways of including this info without making it a big infodump 2 lead off yr book. The book could also have bn proofread 1 more time....
Priore doesn't get much new stuff outta the SMILE-era-recording stories either. But he IS solid on Brian's 2005 reconstruction of SMILE -- which was done with some friends of Priore's!
There R some wild accusations made here 2 -- 1 is that the Beatles heard a batch of SMILE trax during a visit 2 LA, against Brian's wishes -- adding more fuel 2 his Dcision 2 abandon the project in mid-'67.
This book should make a Dcent companion 2 the SMILE SESSIONS BOX due 4 release Nov. 1. But if you're a BB's or SMILE fan, I'd still track down Priore's earlier book -- Dspite the scrapbook 4mat, there's a lotta fascinating stuff in it....

ROCK AND ROLL ALWAYS FORGETS is also a touch disappointing. Most of it is reviews of '90s stuff I don't care much about. & tho Eddy includes his Xcellent review of Rhino's HAVE A NICE DAY series (from ROLLING STONE), he doesn't even include the review that allegedly led producer Rick Rubin 2 team Run-DMC up with Aerosmith....
I'll havta C how much of this is of use 2 me. The INTRO is intresting tho: I didn't know Eddy served in the Army -- & not as some base-newspaper guy, either: He was an artillery officer in Germany! No WONDER he likes stuff LOUD....
Speaking of which, when I 1st read STAIRWAY TO HELL back in '92 I thot the 1st 50 pgs were a screaming laff riot ... but then I hadta set the rest aside 2 finish as a duty later. The '98 version includes more pgs & reviews of the 100 greatest metal albums of the '90s.... Not really my area, but I'm hoping 4 a little education.... Keeping in mind that Eddy thinks anything really loud with guitars qualifies as metal. His top pick 4 all time is LED ZEP 4, of course. But the book also includes punk, disco & lots more. The Ramones R in here, as R the Sex Pistols. & AC/DC don't rank so high....
If this turns out 2 include major yucks I will report more later....

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Stump the band

UPDATE: Seattle-area radio stations still get a C-minus grade overall 4 their music selections. NEthing they play during the day is still just a warm-up 4 their nighttime programming. But the locals DID suprise me with a few good & unXpected songs on Sun nite as I tried 2 finish working thru the hottest & busiest week of the year.
I started paying attn when my buddies at my fave oldies station KMCQ-FM 104.5 tossed-in Ike & Tina Turner's 1966 classic "River Deep, Mountain High" -- a heavy-melodrama Phil Spector masterwork that's right up there w/ "Be My Baby" & "Baby I Love You" & "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" -- & which peaked at #99 in America. I'd NEVER heard it played on radio B4.
So I cranked it up as loud as it would go -- the tiny little store-stereo speakers were rumbling & distorting w/ the sound of Spector's Wall Of Sound Orchestra trying 2 escape -- & I yelled 2 a customer: "Is this the end of the world?"
"Sure SOUNDS like it," he said -- which gave me a chance 2 go in2 my rap about what the song was & what a suprise it was 2 hear it on radio....
The folks at KMCQ followed-up a few mins later with another great shoulda-bn-hit, Todd Rundgren's "Couldn't I Just Tell You?" -- a power-pop gem from 1972, from Todd's album SOMETHING/ANYTHING?, which has lots more great tunes on it. Never heard "Couldn't I Just Tell You?" on the radio B4, either.
Some1 at KMCQ knows what they're doing -- even if they DO play 2 much Tom Jones & Frank Sinatra & Bobby Sherman & Perry Como & Shaun Cassidy. Still....
A few mins later a coupla high-school-or-slightly-later-aged guys walked in, 1 w/ spiked purple hair pointing 2 feet straight-up outta his head, + a Nazi-swastika T-shirt -- & the other wearing a Ramones T-shirt. & I said: "Hey, it's like being back in 1977 again! How ya doin...?!"
But I had 2 interrupt this tirade 2 turn up The Stylistics' 1972 classic "You Are Everything." Still a sucker 4 that "Sweet Soul."
The locals continued w/ occasional pleasant (tho not shocking) suprises thruout the evening. 4 every "Don't Go Breakin' My Heart" & "Philadelphia Freedom" & "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" (sorry 2 pick on Elton) -- or 1/2adozen lame Eagles songs, the local stations followed up w/ Badfinger's "No Matter What" & "Baby Blue," "Closing Time" & "Rockabye," & The Spinners' "I'll Be Around." It coulda bn worse.
Other high points:
Loreena McKennett: "The Mummers' Dance."
Dave Edmunds: "I Hear You Knockin'."
Modern English: "I Melt With You."

Little Steven's Underground Garage followed later with a slew of overlooked greats & suprises -- as part of a show in tribute to the victims of 9/11 & 2 the people of New York City. The high points I caught included:
John Lennon: "New York City."
Bob Dylan: "Talking New York."
The Masterplan: "Fourteenth Street."
Freddy Cannon: "Palisades Park" -- which I thot was the best song in the world when I was 6 years old; it's still pretty great.
Jimi Hendrix: "Crosstown Traffic."
Launderettes: "Red River."
Velvet Underground: "I'm Waiting for the Man." Kinda a shock 2 hear this on the radio -- tho of course they coulda played "Heroin" & REALLY shocked me.... You sure can't mistake Lou Reed's voice 4 NE1 else's....
Blondie: "Sunday Girl."
Dictators: "Avenue A." Kinda cute considering their reputation....
Smithereens: "Sorry." Nice rumbly guitar & good choruses.
Dion: "If I Fall Behind." Coulda bn straight outta the '50s but apparently was recorded just a few years back....
Nancy Sinatra: "How Come the City Never Sleeps?" The B-side 2 "These Boots Were Made for Walkin'" -- intresting, if not Xactly a classic....
Jim Carroll -- "Different Touch."
+ a coupla Ramones trax I was unfamiliar with, including 1 that's apparently not-officially-released yet...? 2 bad these weren't on when the punk-rock guys walked in2 the store....
+ a couple by Bruce: "The Rising" (good, solid, high-quality stuff from The Boss) -- & "Meeting Across the River," which has a gorgeous mood, great piano by Roy Bittan & superb mournful trumpet from Randy Brecker. ...Of course, I have the BORN TO RUN album in the house, but had never played this track. Proving again that I'm impatient & 2-easily bored & that I can overlook stuff 4 YEARS....
...Would love 2 hear Spanking Charlene's brilliant, hard-hitting & hilarious "Dismissed With A Kiss" again, but Steven hasn't played it the last coupla wks.... Just found out during a Google search last nite that the song was released back in 2007 -- proving again that I'm at LEAST 4 years Bhind the times. No suprise there. But I'm still learnin....
More soon....

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 +10

Lotta sirens going off out there 2nite, even 4 a Sat nite, even 4 a Full Moon. Hope it's just people being stupid, drunk drivers winding up in the ditch & so on.
Just B4 I left work, 1/2adozen police cars, an ambulance & a coupla fire engines screamed off 2 the east, out toward where the ferry dock 2 Seattle is. & a few mins later 1 of the ambulances w/ a 2-car police escort raced back the other way toward Bremerton.
I hope it was just an ugly car wreck, not something worse. There's nothing on the Net, the newspapers don't come out 4 hours (& might not have it), & the radio stations I listen 2 at work R useless 4 news. But you never know....

I don't remember that much about 9/11. I remember being awakened by my old girlfriend's son, calling & crying that the World Trade Center had bn hit & we were all gonna die. I remember switching-on the TV & seeing that chilling footage of the 2 towers collapsing in2 a cloud of dust. I remember going in2 shock, 3,000 miles away from where it all was happening. Here's what I wrote in the journal I kept at the time:

"...Bn a wild week in Reality: On Tues morn, Islamic terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center & part of the Pentagon, & the stunning saturation-news coverage of the event & the rescue operations after have continued ever since. Just stunning, terrifying -- thousands dead, & the pictures & stories continue 2 suck us in2 the TV nite after nite. Some amazing reporting being done, & TV again unites the country after a horrible disaster like no other media can. (The old girlfriend) has had a lotta trouble sleeping since Tues, she's hadda coupla bad nitemares -- I'm pretty sure she's worried about her son who's on Okinawa & getting ready 2 deploy with the Marines."

...Her son would go on 2 pull 2 tours in Iraq, 1 as a troop-driver in the initial invasion force.

...What I mainly remember is how QUIET it was during the days after. All air travel was grounded 4 a coupla days after the attack, & it was so QUIET where I was (Raymond, Wash). & the weather was beautiful. I was working in the Pacific County Superior Court Clerk's office as a part-time archivist then, & from their 2nd-floor windows you could see all the way west down the Willapa River in2 the bay & seemingly the ocean beyond -- & all of it framed in silence.
Everyone who came in2 the clerk's office talked quietly, even if they were upset -- which folks often were when going 2 criminal court or juvenile proceedings. But no1 raised their voice, no1 wanted 2 cause more upset. Everyone spoke in hushed tones.
& everybody kept looking out the windows, as if we all Xpected another attack any minute.
I think we were all waiting 4 the other shoe 2 drop -- wondering if the attacks were over, wondering if it could get any worse.
& nobody talked about the attacks, other than 2 say how terrible it all was. Most people hardly talked at all.
Everybody was quiet, thotful, distracted, a little tense, wondering what could happen next.
This went on for days.
& the radio kept playing Brotherhood of Man's "United We Stand." Great song, I'd always liked it. But now I can't hear it without thinking of 9/11....

...The old girlfriend & I broke-up & got back 2gether, & I was holding her hand when the 1st "shock and awe" footage of the Iraq War played over CNN a few months later. I knew she was thinking her son was soon gonna B in the middle of that mess....
He came out of it OK, but he's had nightmares & other problems 2....

...Those R my 9/11 memories, & they aren't much.
Hope you all are well. Be careful out there today. & every day....

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Letters from home

Indian Summer here, temps in the mid-80s, 90s predicted by Sunday. For us, that's HOT. Summer finally got here, just in time 4 back-2-school....

Currently re-reading Kathe Koja's THE CIPHER (1991): really creepy, & as abrupt & painful & involving as NE of her work -- & Tom Wolfe's THE RIGHT STUFF (1979): hilarious, especially in his overuse of the phrase "burned beyond recognition," among other things. The chapter "The Lab Rat" is a classic. Great how Wolfe can joke about this stuff (the gathering & life-histories of the 7 Mercury astronauts) & still get across all the basic info 2. Never really liked Wolfe that much, but this & THE ELECTRIC KOOL-AID ACID TEST are both pretty great....

This is probly gonna sound a little sentimental, but so what....
I wish there were more good music bloggers out there. Because I'd like 2 read them.
Ghod knows I've tried. I've found a dozen or so bloggers whose writing I can enjoy, relate-to, or at least have fun disagreeing with -- & I check-in with them almost every day.
I urge You Out There 2 read Rastro (at and at, Crabby (at, & Gardenhead (at Not only R they all more musically obsessed than I am, they know their stuff. & they're funny.
This new guy Groove Sandwich is pretty funny too ( -- he's also a musician & knows his music theory.
There's also some good folks out there who've started posting a little less-often recently 4 various reasons: Drew (at has posted some real good stuff in the past, + some Xcellent reviews of albums I'd overlooked. But recently he's developed a Real Life separate from blogging, & who can blame him if that's where his attn goes? You go, Drew! (& I'm not just saying this cos Drew's sent me more readers in the past year than I can even believe....)
Layla (at recently went back 2 work after being unemployed 4 awhile, so you can see where her attn might B going. B4 that she posted a TON of Classic Rock news at 1 of the longest-running & most popular blogs of its kind. She also sometimes writes more personal stuff at her other blog, "Writing from the Inside Out."
Perplexio (at has posted some great stuff in the past, tho he seemsta have slowed down recently. 1 of his best reviews led me 2 grab Nick Hornby's rock&roll novel JULIET NAKED awhile back, & you should too....
Tonal Memories ( has posted some intresting stuff in the past, but family matters seemta B eating up his time these days.
The grandaddy of all web-reviewers, Mark Prindle ( is still as hilarious as ever, despite some recent upheavals in his life. His recent reviews of the Complete Works of a band called Anal Cunt made me laff until my head hurt. (Jeez, 1st the Butthole Surfers & now this?)
Eoin Butler ( only occasionally posts about music, but as a working journalist over in Ireland he's posted some amazing -- and often hilarious -- stories at his blog "Tripping Along the Ledge."
Adam at "There Will Be Blog" seems 2 have retired....
...& at 92, longtime science-fiction writer & editor Frederik Pohl is still showing the rest of us how to do it at
...I think what grabs me about a lotta these people is that they don't just blog about music or books or current events or whatever -- they talk about their jobs, their lives, the thots that go thru their heads during an avg day, how they get thru each day, what their lives are like. I feel like I know some of these people & that's pretty neat.
It ain't always pretty. But it's always REAL. & reading someone who speaks from the heart -- even if they're angry -- is as involving 2 me as any music review.
There used to be more. Now I can't even FIND the wildman in Orlando who's every progressive-rock review ended with the music descending like a "caterwauling cacophany into the very bowels of Hell." Sure he could barely write in English, but he was 1 of a kind! & his spooky review of Van der Graaf Generator's PAWN HEARTS finally convinced me 2 grab that scary album awhile back -- suprised I had enuf nerve 2 finally put it on the CD player! Xpected 2 get scared out of my wits....
I've tried a bunch of other bloggers & there R a few I haven't quite made up my cluttered mind about, but I wouldn't mind finding more good 1's. In fact, I'd love it.
Problem: Try punching in "good rock music blogs" at Google & see what happens. I got 249 MILLION results. Life's 2 short 4 that -- tho I did look at a couple dozen.
I've also tried "music blog aggregators" like Digital Meltd0wn, & that didn't narrow stuff down much either.
So here's the deal: If you're a music blogger doing something diffrent or adventurous or personal or funny, drop me a line, I'll check you out, review you here, & point my dozen-fans-worldwide your direction.
Or if there's some1 you're reading who's absolutely freaking brilliant & hilarious, lemme know. I'll appreciate it, & I'll let other folks know 2.
I don't even havta "agree" with you, musically. But if you hate all the stuff I love, you're gonna at least havta B entertaining about it....

Saturday, September 3, 2011


I guess they still publish music-popularity charts -- USA TODAY prints a way-detailed weekly list based on sales & download numbers from Soundscan. But these charts R no longer about singles sales -- R there "singles" NEmore? Now it's all about downloads.
Bsides, the charts R way broken-down & categorized. There is no more "Top 40," hasn't bn 4 years. Now it's all Adult Contemporary & Modern Rock & Alternative & Hot Country & Urban & Whatever. Not like Back In My Day when Every1 KNEW what was Number 1.
But, as the folks at the PENGUIN ENCYCLOPEDIA OF POPULAR MUSIC say, when looked back on from a few years later, charts develop their own certain charm.
I Bcame aware of charts fairly early in my singles-buying period. By early 1971 I knew there were musical-popularity charts issued weekly, & every time I grabbed 2 or 3 of the latest 45's (at 77 cents each!) I made sure 2 score a copy of the latest chart.
In Tacoma, Wash., where I was at the time, these charts were issued on legal-lengthed lite-green-shaded sheets of paper. 1 side listed the current Top 100 hits, complete with title, artist's name, record label & serial number, current chart position, position the week earlier, & position 2 weeks ago. A lot of data.
The B-side had an alphabetical list of current hit albums -- 100+ of them, many by people I'd never heard of then, tho mosta the names quickly Bcame more familiar.
I can guarantee you that at least 1/2 the songs on that "Top 100" singles list I NEVER heard on the 2 best local AM stations, Tacoma's KTAC & Seattle's KJR. Some of the songs that made the Top 40 I never heard on the radio. When The Moody Blues' "The Story in Your Eyes" peaked at something like #39 locally, I'd heard it played on the radio 1nce. When The Buoys' silly-horror "Timothy" hit #1 locally, I'd never heard it played on local radio.
This sorta thing seemed 2 happen a lot. I often thot the charts failed 2 follow my musical reality. It got weirder when I discovered Casey Kasem's AMERICAN TOP 40 countdown, based on BILLBOARD magazine's official nationwide sales & airplay chart, & aired every Sun nite on KJR. I often didn't like BILLBOARD's official numbers -- Melanie's "Brand New Key" made #1?! By bumping off Don McLean's "American Pie"?! Sacrilege!
AT40 also played a lotta stuff I'd never heard B4 & couldn't really relate 2 at the time -- & a lot of it I never heard again. But the Good Stuff seemedta never climb HIGH enuf: Crabby Appleton's "Go Back" peaked at #31?! Dwight Twilley's "I'm On Fire" peaked at #17?! Who was compiling this data?
It got weirder when I moved back 2 Idaho & started looking at hometown-fave Top 40 station KFXD's charts. In late '73 their charts listed the top 40 hits, but also a bunch more stuff, broken down in2 sections labeled "Hot" (4 current big hits), "Moving" (Not-quite-so-hot hits), "Warm" (4 stuff that had cooled off), & "Night" (4 songs they only played at nite -- album trax & such). This made 4 a giant 3-part fold-out chart with tons of data on it.
It was only slowly that I realized no1 seemed 2 B proofreading this stuff or keeping track of the chart data. Songs would miraculously debut at #2, then vanish from the chart a week or 2 after dropping outta the top spot. Songs that got massive airplay at the time (Steely Dan's "My Old School," ELP's "Still You Turn Me On," Poco's "Here We Go Again," 10 C.C.'s "Rubber Bullets," Aerosmith's "Dream On," Ian Thomas's "Painted Ladies") would get only middling numbers on the charts, which were supposedly based on sales, requests & airplay. Uh huh....
This oddness continued at the end of '74 when Olivia Newton-John's "I Honestly Love You" (which never got played on XD when it was popular -- possibly cos it wasn't rock&roll?) swooped outta nowhere 2 Bcome XD's #1 song of '74 in their end-of-the-year countdown. What...?
A few years later XD put out a massive chart 2 celebrate the station's 20th Anniversary or something, & listed all the biggest hits of the previous 20 years. I'd previously heard the station play Paul Revere & the Raiders' "Do Unto Others" & announce it as "a Number 1 hit from the Summer of '67" (it was actually a B-side, but the Raiders were a hometown band). So I checked XD's anniversary list 2 C if it was there. & of course it wasn't, cos "Do Unto Others" never made #1 on NE chart in this universe. Instead, XD printed the titles of all the usual BILLBOARD-approved top hits you'd Xpect....
I was starting 2 wonder in what fantasy world these charts were compiled....
When I worked at the record store & started ordering 45's 4 the 4-store "chain," I found out how easily a single could make it on2 the local charts -- R selling 20 copies a week of "Another One Bites the Dust" was enuf 2 guarantee it the #1 spot. & 4 us 2 sell 20 copies a week of NE single was like an earthquake....
I kept grabbing copies of XD's weekly music survey (now a great deal simpler & more compact) thru at least the end of '79, but the music was boring & I was 2 close 2 the chart mechanics 2 get much fun out of it. I had a pretty good stack of those charts piled up, but I tossed them all around '80 or so -- I figured there was nothing left that they could teach me, & the new stuff was 2 dull 2 get much of NEthing from.
...The weird part is I'd pay (small) $$$ 2 get some of them back now -- especially the Washington charts & the early XD's. Now I feel like there's a lot I could learn from them, that a quick study might in some ways re-cast my musical memories from age 11 to 20. I probly didn't realize what I had -- that's usually the way it works 4 me.
Awhile back I found a website that posts some of this old chart info, they even had a few charts from KFXD, KTAC & KJR. But not enuf, or not from the right period. So if NEbody out there can hook me up in the intrests of more solid & realistic musical history....

Friday, September 2, 2011

The "F" List

4 awhile it looked like it was gonna B THE WORST nite of radio-listening since I started listening again fairly religiously a coupla months ago. Nothing But The Beast -- wretched excess & shit, overplayed crap I'd heard 1,000x B4 -- this stuff wasn't helping my work-nite go EZer, wasn't helping my job-related stress disappear. This was Not Working. At All.
The Seattle-area radio stations FINALLY got better, but it took them until after dark, as if everything earlier was just warming-up. 4 everything B4 9 pm they get an F. After that I'll give 'em a C.
Thot I might B in trouble when the 1st time I turned on the radio at work on Thurs evening it was in the middle of "Sweet Home Alabama." Could hear that NE nite of the week. But I couldn't find NEthing better, so I switched the radio off & got some other things done, handled a madhouse rush-hour of customers -- many of whom were heading out 2 Njoy their Fri nite -- we hava lotta fed gov't Mployees here who work 4-day work-weeks, so Thurs nites work as a sorta preview of Fri.
It didn't get better. The overplayed instant-tuneouts continued. When I checked back, hadta avoid "Cold as Ice," "Tequila Sunrise" & "My Eyes Adored You." Then "Walk of Life" -- 2wice within 10 mins. "Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2." "Wouldn't it Be Nice" -- yeah, greatest pop album ever, sure, but the most overplayed song on it cos it's closest 2 the Beach Boys "sound." "God Only Knows" woulda bn nice....
The crap continued with:

Phil Collins: In the Air Tonight.
Ricky Nelson: Travelin' Man.
Stones: Beast of Burden, Start Me Up.
Cliff Richard: Devil Woman.
Beach Boys: Kokomo. They've bn playing this WAY 2 much lately....
Free: All Right Now.
Abba: Dancing Queen. Hey, Abba's great, but there are LIMITS....
Cream: White Room, Sunshine of Your Love. Ugh. But "Badge" is still amazing....
Dylan: Knockin' on Heaven's Door.
Blood, Sweat & Tears: Spinning Wheel. I tune-out immediately almost anything by BS&T Xcept "And When I Die" ... & "You've Made Me So Very Happy." If I'm in a really good mood. Which I wasn't.
Queen: Another One Bites the Dust.
Journey: Open Arms.
The Band: Up on Cripple Creek. Is "The Weight" the only good thing they ever did?
Rita Coolidge: Higher and Higher. Just say no.
Bowie: Young Americans.
Steve Miller: Jet Airliner.
Eagles: Take it Easy, The Long Run.
Tull: Aqualung.
Heart: Magic Man.

...About here this ongoing rain of shit got me thinking about summa the other stuff Seattle radio has played recently that I have mercifully not mentioned un2 You Out There. But karma being what it is, those days R OVER. I also got 2 thinking about some other immediate tune-outs & wondering why radio still 4ces such crap upon us. Who actually LIKES these songs? There must B SOMEONE -- but have you ever met them?
Olivia Newton-John: Physical, Heart Attack.
Whitney Houston: I Will Always Love You, The Greatest Love of All. I tune-out everything by Whitney Xcept "I Want to Dance With Somebody."
Doors: Hello I Love You.
Elton: Don't Go Breakin' My Heart, Honky Cat, Bennie and the Jets.
America: Tin Man.
Foreigner: Hot Blooded, Dirty White Boy, etc.
Carpenters: Top of the World.
Deep Purple: Smoke on the Water.
Leon Russell: Tightrope. SO much better when he DOESN'T sing....
Janis Joplin: Xcept for "Me and Bobbie McGee," which I can almost stand....
Later Chicago: Mostly everything after "Hard to Say I'm Sorry"....
Fleetwood Mac: "Dreams" & "Don't Stop." Both lame.
ANY of Clapton's "laid back" stuff, like "Lay Down Sally," "Wonderful Tonight," etc. Not "Promises," tho, which has rather nice choruses & backing  vocals....
Pat Benatar: Hit Me With Your Best Shot, Hell is for Children.
Doobie Bros: What a Fool Believes.
Blondie: The Tide is High.
...I know there's WAY more... I'll get back 2 this again the next time I'm feeling real cranky....

Mercifully, things got better. The stations finally seemed 2 realize it was NIGHT TIME & the Labor Day WEEKEND is coming, & they lightened up. Summa the following is way overplayed 2, but....
It may not seem like much, but I thot things were improving when I caught the Carpenters' guitar outro 2 "Goodbye to Love" -- THAT I cranked up. I've always loved it.
The radio folks followed-up with:
Steely Dan: Rikki Don't Lose That Number. Never liked this much back in the day, but am loving it more as the years go by, especially that sly piano & the later gtr solo.
Cat Stevens: Moonshadow.
ZZ Top: La Grange. Best thing they ever did? Have always loved the sorta muttered vocals at the beginning.
Blondie: Call Me.
Steve Miller: Jungle Love.
Bowie: Changes.
Heart: Crazy on You.
Kinks: Shangri-La. Also cranked this up loud....
Pat Benatar: We Belong.
Cee-Lo Green: Forget You. Love the way he whines like a baby in the middle -- & the funny lyrics.
Doobies: Taking it to the Streets, Long Train Runnin'.
CSNY: Carry On.
Who: Behind Blue Eyes.
Yardbirds: For Your Love.
Rod Stewart: Maggie May, twice, within 15 seconds of each other....
Stones: You Can't Always Get What You Want.
Rush: The Spirit of Radio.
We Five: You Were On My Mind. I don't get 1/2 the words & I don't care, it still sounds great loud, & those group vocals....
Tommy James & the Shondells: I Think We're Alone Now.
Van Morrison: Caravan.
Chicago: Wishing You Were Here.
Fleetwood Mac: You Make Loving Fun.
Stevie Nicks: Stand Back.
Beatles: Back in the USSR.
Paul Revere & the Raiders: Hungry.
Coldplay: Clocks.
Des'ree: You Gotta Be.
Def Leppard: Photograph.
Elton: Your Song.
Clash: Train in Vain (Stand By Me).
Creedence: Bad Moon Rising, Have You Ever Seen the Rain?
Blind Faith: Can't Find My Way Home.
THAT's a good way 2 end the evening....