Saturday, February 25, 2012

#531: Messin' 5

Hello, Mothership? TAD here.
Think there might B some hope 4 these humans after all. Am continuing 2 use lite Strange Music Therapy on them at every possible opportunity while "working," & Fri nite's session had more responses than NE evening so far. Research & testing will continue. Recent playlists have included:

Go-Go's -- Head Over Heels, You Thought, Forget That Day, Capture the Light, I'm With You.
Bangles -- If She Knew What She Wants, Let it Go, September Gurls, Angels Don't Fall in Love, Not Like You, Manic Monday, Different Light, Walk Like an Egyptian, Return Post, Hero Takes a Fall, All About You, Dover Beach, Going Down to Liverpool.
Wigwam -- Bless Your Lucky Stars, Kite, Do or Die, Simple Human Kindness.
Golden Earring -- Snot Love in Spain.
The Move -- Do Ya, Message from the Country.
The Pop -- Go!
Camel -- Sasquatch, Manic.
Tears for Fears -- Broken, Head Over Heels.
'Til Tuesday -- Maybe Monday.
Icicle Works -- A Whisper to a Scream (Birds Fly).
Cream -- Badge.
Van Morrison -- Wild Night.
Paul McCartney -- No More Lonely Nights.
Youngbloods -- Get Together.
Tracey Ullman -- I'm Always Touched by Your Presence Dear.
Squeeze -- Pulling Mussels from the Shell.
A Flock of Seagulls -- I Ran, Space-Age Love Song.
Manfred Mann's Earth Band -- Stranded.
Steve Tibbetts -- Ur.
Glass Moon -- Solsbury Hill.
Roxy Music -- The Thrill of it All.
REO Speedwagon -- Roll With the Changes, Blazing Your Own Trail Again.
Journey -- Feeling That Way/Anytime.
Dave Edmunds -- Information.
Jeff Lynne -- Lift Me Up, Every Little Thing.
Heart -- Never.
ELO -- Twilight, The Way Life's Meant to Be.
Kansas -- Can I Tell You? (demo), Journey from MariaBronn, Song for America, Carry On Wayward Son, The Wall, What's On My Mind, Miracles Out of Nowhere, Questions of My Childhood, Cheyenne Anthem.
Easybeats -- Friday on My Mind.
Bobby Fuller Four -- I Fought the Law.
CCR -- Who'll Stop the Rain?
Stones -- Tumbling Dice.
Raiders -- Hungry.
Badfinger -- No Matter What, Baby Blue.
Cheap Trick -- Surrender.
Bob Seger -- Rock and Roll Never Forgets.
Five Man Electrical Band -- Absolutely Right.
Spencer Davis Group -- Gimme Some Lovin'.
Martha and the Vandellas -- Dancing in the Street.
Cyndi Lauper -- Money Changes Everything.
Buffalo Springfield -- Bluebird, Mr. Soul.
Jefferson Airplane -- Somebody to Love.
Three Dog Night -- Celebrate, Out in the Country, Shambala, Let Me Serenade You.
Chicago -- Feelin' Stronger Every Day.
Fanny -- Charity Ball.
Blue Ridge Rangers (John Fogerty) -- Hearts of Stone.
Freddy Cannon -- Palisades Park.
Brotherhood of Man -- United We Stand.
Bram Tchaikovsky -- Let's Dance.

Continue 2 think that -- at their best -- these humans might B worth some consideration B4 we take over their planet. On Fri nite, 1 guy asked me about Wigwam while the ominous, rumbling "Bless Your Lucky Stars" was playing -- he said they never heard much music from Finland while he was growing up in Detroit. When I asked if he thot it was turned up 2 loud, he said "Are you kidding?" 1 woman asked who was singing "You Thought" & was shocked 2 learn it was the Go-Go's, tho she thot she recognized the singer -- "Man, that's a blast from the past," she said. 1 woman way 2 young 2 have heard it the 1st time around recognized "Friday on My Mind" & sang along with it! An older gentleman asked "what group" was playing on "Ur" & was suprised 2 hear it was just 2 guys..... 1 guy asked about "Hearts of Stone" & wasn't suprised 2 hear it was really John Fogerty in disguise. 1 guy said while Tears for Fears' "Head Over Heels" was playing "You always have something good playing in here." Coupla women said at least I had some good tunes goin' while I worked. 1 older guy bounced around pretty good 2 "Information"....
...& as 4 me, I actually figured out a few more words to "Palisades Park" -- & I've only been listening 2 it 4 45 years....
So, I urge that this slightly-strange music therapy should continue. The humans seem to like it. Even stuff I hadn't played in awhile (Bangles, Go-Go's, Wigwam, Golden Earring, The Pop) sounded really good on Fri nite. & if I'm hearing new things in music I've bn listening-2 4 yrs, it must B doing good things 4 me, 2.
Hope 2 try out some new & even odder music in the evenings ahead.
More soon....

Sunday, February 19, 2012

#530: Messin' 4

Continuing 2 crank-out the sometimes-off-the-wall homemade hits 2 help get me thru work nites. The past few nites' playlists have included:

Kansas -- Song for America, Carry On Wayward Son, The Wall, What's On My Mind, Miracles Out of Nowhere, Questions of My Childhood, Cheyenne Anthem.
The Nice -- America.
Nektar -- Do You Believe in Magic?, The Dream Nebula Parts 1 & 2, It's All in Your Mind, King of Twilight, Wings, Astral Man, Fidgety Queen, Good Day (live), It's All Over.
Fanny -- Charity Ball, Ain't That Peculiar?
Marvin Gaye -- Ain't That Peculiar?, What's Goin' On?
Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell -- You're All I Need to Get By.
Dave Clark Five -- Any Way You Want It.
Todd Rundgren -- Just One Victory.
Mark Knopfler & Gerry Rafferty -- That's the Way it Always Starts.
Sally Oldfield -- Fire and Honey.
Bruce Cockburn -- Badlands Flashback.
Pete Townshend -- Give Blood, A Little is Enough.
Waterboys -- A Life of Sundays.
Uriah Heep -- Easy Livin'.
Guess Who -- Road Food, Star Baby, Clap for the Wolfman.
Blue Ridge Rangers (John Fogerty) -- Hearts of Stone.
Mason Williams -- Classical Gas.
Fendermen -- Mule Skinner Blues.
Trashmen -- Surfin' Bird.
Dramatics -- Whatcha See is Whatcha Get.
Freddy Cannon -- Palisades Park.
Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart -- I Wonder What She's Doin' Tonight.
Beau Brummels -- Laugh Laugh.
Ricky Nelson -- Hello Mary Lou, Stood Up, Be-Bop Baby, Waitin' in School.
Steam -- (Na Na Hey Hey) Kiss Him Goodbye.
Dion -- Daddy Rollin' (In Your Arms).
Del Shannon -- Runaway.
Cowsills -- Hair.
American Breed -- Bend Me Shape Me.
Beatles -- Eight Days a Week, I Saw Her Standing There, Baby You're a Rich Man, Old Brown Shoe, Paperback Writer, I Don't Want to Spoil the Party, Misery, Roll Over Beethoven, You Know My Name (Look Up the Number).
Richie Valens -- Come On Let's Go.
Diamonds -- Little Darlin'.
Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers -- Why Do Fools Fall in Love?
Silhouettes -- Get a Job.
Chuck Berry -- No Particular Place to Go, You Never Can Tell.
Joe Walsh -- Meadows.
Sweet -- Ballroom Blitz, Fox on the Run.
Bachman-Turner Overdrive -- Tramp.
Ten Years After -- I'd Love to Change the World.
Status Quo -- Pictures of Matchstick Men.
Jimi Hendrix -- The Wind Cries Mary, Purple Haze.
Blue Oyster Cult -- Godzilla.
Chantays -- Pipeline.
Leo Sayer -- Long Tall Glasses.
Bobby Freeman -- Do You Wanna Dance?
Barry McGuire -- Eve of Destruction.
Peter, Paul and Mary -- Don't Think Twice It's All Right, For Lovin' Me.
Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Ponies -- Different Drum.
Seekers -- I'll Never Find Another You.
Michael Murphey -- Carolina in the Pines.
Raiders -- Do Unto Others.
Loudon Wainwright III -- Dead Skunk.
John Fogerty -- Rockin' All Over the World, Almost Saturday Night.
Glen Campbell -- Gentle on My Mind.
Petula Clark -- I Know a Place.
Blue Haze -- Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.
Troggs -- Wild Thing.
Kingsmen -- Louie Louie.
Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs -- Wooly Bully.
Young Rascals -- Good Lovin'.
Music Explosion -- A Little Bit of Soul.
Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels -- Devil With a Blue Dress/Good Golly Miss Molly.
Santana -- Everybody's Everything.
Gary Lewis and the Playboys -- Count Me In, This Diamond Ring.
Strawberry Alarm Clock -- Incense and Peppermints.
Association -- Windy.
Beach Boys -- Kiss Me Baby, Susie Cincinnati.
Johnny Rivers -- It Wouldn't Happen With Me, Memphis.
Elvis -- Promised Land.
Stones -- 19th Nervous Breakdown, Paint it Black.
First Class -- Beach Baby.
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band -- House at Pooh Corner.
Isley Brothers -- Shout (Parts 1 & 2).
Teegarden and VanWinkle -- God, Love and Rock and Roll.
Robin MacNamara -- Lay a Little Lovin' on Me.
Brotherhood of Man -- United We Stand.
Focus -- Hocus Pocus 2.
Jethro Tull -- Love Song.
Fleetwood Mac -- Dissatisfied.
Turtles -- Grim Reaper of Love, Outside Chance, We'll Meet Again.

...Some of this went over pretty well. 1 guy was thrilled 2 hear the Beatles, & I hadta laff cos "You Know My Name" was playing at the time. 1 guy my age sang along with the choruses of "Everybody's Everything." 1 guy asked if I'd bn watching ANIMAL HOUSE while "Shout" was playing. 1 guy said he hadn't heard "Hair" in quite awhile. A couple in their early 20s bopped around pretty good 2 "Lay a Little Lovin' on Me," which I was suprised by cos it's so bubble-gummy.
In fact, a lotta this list is pretty bubblegummy, which may B cos of what I've bn reading lately....
But "Susie Cincinnati" has that 1 great line: "Her looks aren't exactly a plus...."
& "Eve of Destruction" still sounds great. & it's still pretty accurate....

If you're looking 4 a fast, lite, breezy rock&roll read, you might check out Tommy James & Martin Fitzpatrick's ME, THE MOB AND THE MUSIC (2010), which follows James' & his band The Shondells' 6-year string of hits on the Roulette label from 1966 thru '71.
& I mean it when I say fast -- by 1/2way thru this 225-pg book, James has already covered his early life & his 1st batch of hits -- "Hanky Panky," "I Think We're Alone Now," "Mirage," etc. The book takes a big jump in intrest around pg 50 when "Hanky Panky" -- a record James cut 2 years earlier -- finally gets some radio airplay in Pittsburgh in '66 & then starts climbing the national charts. There's another jump on pg 60 when James meets the notorious Morris Levy, the head of Roulette & the man who will run James' life 4 the next 6 years....
James is not a Deep Thinker. He gets his highschool sweetheart pregnant, they marry, they have a son -- & then the wife & son R both pretty-much dropped from the story. James moves in with a Roulette secretary after arriving in NYC & causes her 2 lose her job -- tho they stay 2gether. James briefly reflects while touring the country after his 1st couple hits that none of the people who were in his life a year earlier R in it now. & tho he returns 2 his hometown, he never mentions seeing his wife & son....
James is very good on some of the tactics used 2 get his songs on the radio back then. He's solid on summa the ugly behind-the-scenes details about how those songs came 2 B created. & he's real clear on how the only person getting paid at Roulette was Morris Levy.
There is of course a big final Xplosion Btween James & Levy, but it all works out OK. James has 1 more hit after he leaves Roulette, & gets married 4 a 3rd time ... & almost feels guilty when he doesn't attend Levy's funeral.
This is all handled breezily enough. But it's THIN. The book could easily have been 100 pgs longer. Members of the Shondells come & go, some of them R never more than names mentioned 1nce. There's a lot more that coulda bn told here. It woulda bn a better book.
Maybe the biggest punchline is on the back cover: "SOON TO BE A BROADWAY MUSICAL." Hmmm.

Also looking good is Kim Cooper & David Smay's BUBBLEGUM MUSIC IS THE NAKED TRUTH (2001), a collection of short pieces about the "artists" that made bubblegum music happen -- Archies, Banana Splits, Monkees, Partridge Family, Turtles, Raiders, Cowsills, Greenaway & Cook, Katzanetz/Katz, etc.
Have only peeked at this volume, but I like the editors' approach -- the articles look hilarious, but the writers R also absolute fanatics about this stuff. Looks like it could B lotsa fun.
More soon!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

#529: "Love Chronicles"

OK, so tonight, Early Al Stewart. & later, Later (post-Classic-period) Al Stewart. But 4 right now:

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN, 1966-1970: The Elf, Turn into Earth, Bedsitter Images, Swiss Cottage Manoeuvres, The Carmichaels, Scandinavian Girl, Pretty Golden Hair, Denise at 16, Samuel Oh How You've Changed!, Cleave to Me, A Long Way Down from Stephanie, Ivich, Beleeka Doodle Day, Lover Man, Clifton in the Rain, In Brooklyn, Old Compton Street Blues, Ballad of Mary Foster, Life and Life Only, You Should Have Listened to Al, Love Chronicles, My Enemies Have Sweet Voices, A Small Fruit Song, Gethsemane Again, Burbling, Electric Los Angeles Sunset, Manuscript, Black Hill, Anna, Room of Roots, Zero She Flies.

I was pretty-much addicted 2 Scottish folk-rocker Al Stewart in the late '70s & in2 the early '80s, from the time I heard "Year of the Cat" on the radio & then went out & bought the enjoyable but sometimes rather cold & distant album it came from.
Then while I waited 4 more new releases, I worked my way backward: PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE had a brilliant 2nd side but I still don't think I've ever heard the 1st side all the way thru. I still think the underrated MODERN TIMES is Al's best album ever -- amazingly consistent songs & a solid-gold 2nd side.
Then came the 2-slick-4-its-own-good TIME PASSAGES, which nevertheless included a few hidden gems like the rockin'(!) "Valentina Way," the thotful "Almost Lucy" & the moody "Life in Dark Water." But some of it was just TOO COMMERCIAL!
24 CARROTS had great high points (the cloak&dagger theme "Running Man," the gorgeous folky "Rocks in the Ocean"), but a lot of it was mood music, pleasant enuf but not very deep. By the time of LIVE/INDIAN SUMMER, the romance was wearing thin.
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN repackages Al's 1st 3 albums (BEDSITTER IMAGES, LOVE CHRONICLES, ZERO SHE FLIES) + an early single. I'd heard summa this stuff on Al's 1977 2-record THE EARLY YEARS, where I thot it was mostly flat & dull & a little overwrought. & it sure as hell didn't rock much.
But 35 years later I mighta bn wrong, & I got a copy of TO WHOM cheap, so I figured whathehell. The songs I'd heard B4 at least SOUND better here.
Al reportedly disowned all this stuff years ago. Not hard 2 see why. The 31 songs here mostly break down in2 3 diffrent types -- grim & depressing drawn-out folky ballads, Donovan/Incredible String Band soundalikes, or folky acoustic-guitar instrumentals. 1 of the big selling points of EARLY YEARS was that folks like Jimmy Page, Rick Wakeman & members of Fairport Convention helped out with the trax -- it usually didn't help much. 
& you think Nick Drake is depressing? You ain't heard nothin' yet. & I LIKED Al, when he was at his best.
We gotta lotta ground 2 cover here, so this is gonna B quick. Hang tight on the curves, Al fans....
The opener "The Elf" is bouncy, folky, lite & optimistic, & shoulda bn included on his earlier best-of's. Even tho it sounds most like Donovan. "Turn into Earth" is sorta pop-jazz.
BEDSITTER IMAGES: By the time of the orchestrated pop of "Bedsitter Images," Al's voice had already softened. Al's manager reportedly was able 2 convince EMI 2 use an orchestra on the album, but it doesn't help much -- the songs mostly get blown away by the over-production. You start wondering whether the orchestra or the singer is sposta B the star here. "Swiss Cottage Manoeuvres" has strings + horns.
"Swiss Cottage," "The Carmichaels" & "Scandinavian Girl" R all kinda charming songs about love affairs, OK tho not earthshaking, long as the production doesn't get 2 heavy. But the orchestra often swamps them.
"Pretty Golden Hair" is a deceptively lite-hearted song about a victim of male prostitution. The lyrics R pretty brutal. But it's done so straightforwardly & almost heavy-handedly that it can't really B taken ironically. Which makes it kinda uncomfortable -- the 1st of sevral trax 2 have that effect.
"Denise at 16" is a vaguely pretty acoustic-gtr instrumental, the 1st of sevral. "Samuel, Oh How You've Changed!" is kinda haunting -- sounds like it might B narrated by a little girl's toy, unless I'm missing something. Again, closer 2 Donovan or the Incredible String Band.
"Cleave to Me" mostly features the orchestra showing off. A minute in, Al starts singing. "Ivich" is another, more forceful acoustic-gtr instr. The tune sounds a bit like it mighta bn recycled 4 the later "Nostradamus" or "Roads to Moscow."
"Beleeka Doodle Day" -- despite its silly title -- has some of the same ominous, doomy atmosphere that can B found in some of Al's better later work. The production is thin -- just gtr, organ & drums. & tho it goes on 4 almost 7 minutes, it ain't boring.
"Lover Man," however, IS silly, & it sounds JUST LIKE Donovan, probly on purpose. This is another of those comedy songs Al did periodically thru his career, like the later "Mondo Sinistro" & "Red Toupee."
LOVE CHRONICLES: No more orchestra! "In Brooklyn" sounds a little more like later Al -- much more folk-rocky, with definite signs of life. But then there's "Old Compton Street Blues," another painful life story, despite what sounds like some rather nice Richard Thompson gtr. "Ballad of Mary Foster" is the story of another sad, empty life, & it drags on 4 almost 8 mins -- but it's actually pretty hypnotic. "Life and Life Only" is even more grim folk-rock, but also pretty hypnotic, & with more pretty-good gtr.
Coming after this grimness, "You Should Have Listened to Al" is a nice break. Tho it's about a breakup, it's lite-hearted & brief & maybe coulda gotten some radio play. "Love Chronicles" was Al's magnum opus back in '69 -- an 18-minute recap of his romantic conquests. Sounds kinda boring, but it's not -- it's involving, even funny. There's some occasional OK gtr (possibly from Jimmy Page?), + Al snuck the F-bomb in2 the lyrics & got away with it....
ZERO SHE FLIES: "My Enemies Have Sweet Voices" is kinda stark & bluesy, with lotsa harmonica. "Electric Los Angeles Sunset" almost rocks & has some nice electric gtr -- it's almost good. "Manuscript" is notable as Al's 1st journey in2 historical topics. "Zero She Flies" is a pretty good closer, with a memorable construction & some good gtr -- it might B the best thing here. It's also the closest 2 "pop."
ZERO's songs R more forceful, less depressing -- Al's getting better. But the problem is, there's only 5 real songs here. The rest R all brief song fragments or acoustic-gtr instrumentals. "Burbling," "Black Hill," "Anna" & "Room of Roots" all have some striking gtr work -- but it's like Al didn't have enuf material 2 fill an entire album.
Overall, a decent minor talent, based on the evidence on display here.
COMING SOON: What Al's bn doing since the early 1980s....

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

#528: The smallest Air Force base in the world

I've bn stuck in some pretty small places. Ankara Air Station in Turkey (where I was assigned by the US Air Force in 1990-91) was about 4 blocks long & 3 blocks across -- a home 10,000 miles from home 4 the 2,000 or so Americans assigned there. It's all closed up now.
Onizuka Air Station in Sunnyvale, Calif., was even smaller. Not counting the 3-story parking garage, you could almost throw a baseball from 1 side of the base 2 the other.
But that'd B leaving out "The Blue Cube" -- a 4-story, windowless high-tech block, "shrouded in secrecy" (as the local newspapers put it), that was the whole reason the base was there.
Unfortunately, the Blue Cube sat right next 2 US Highway 101, where hundreds of thousands of cars passed by every day, possibly with 1,000s of people inside them wondering what went on inside that huge light-blue building....
Onizuka's whole mission was satellite tracking -- including GPS satellites that I assume were used 4 enemy surveillance & target-spotting during the 1st Gulf War. But in 1992, when I was there, We Couldn't Talk About Any Of That. It was all still Top Secret. This was LONG B4 everybody & his brother had a GPS system in their car.
I'd bn in other places where we Couldn't Talk About Our Mission -- in the 3 years I was at Francis E. Warren AFB in Wyoming, I could never Confirm or Deny the existence of nuclear missiles at any particular location. Everybody just knew they were Out There ... somewhere. That's about as detailed as I could get.
Onizuka AS was even MORE secretive. Imagine being a public-affairs guy at a place like that. Sure you could talk 2 the local media -- you just couldn't tell them what the base DID.
Imagine being a base newspaper guy at such a place. What the hell could you write about?
Well, somehow I found SOMETHING to fill the 8-pages-per-week of the Xerox-copier-reprinted typing-paper-sheet-sized ONIZUKA ORBITER. Since I couldn't talk much about the mission, I tended 2 write lots of humorous pieces, & focused on base intramural sports & people with intresting off-duty hobbies -- the 1's who'd talk 2 me about those. 1 guy wouldn't talk about being a member of a local rap group (when he was off-duty) Bcos he thot it would signal 2 his superiors that he didn't take his job seriously.
I had 2 put up with this heavy-handed Big Brother take-your-job-deadly-seriously stuff EVERY DAY. It was the kiss of death 4 a reporter who tried 2 have fun with his job. & it helped me decide 2 get out of the Air Force that much sooner.
In an AF base newspaper, 1 of a reporter's highest callings was sposta B 2 write a "mission feature" -- a slice-of-daily-life-style piece that would vividly show how 1 person's or 1 unit's job helped get the mission (national defense) done. In a place as secretive as "Oz," mission features were tough 2 write. Impossible, even.
1 unit didn't like the fact that I led off a story by focusing on the 9 empty 3-pound coffee cans they had stacked up in their break room. I thot the coffee cans showed the kind of demanding, ongoing, routine kind of job they did -- as important as it was. They wouldn't let me print the story with that description in it. I was able 2 convince their section chief of my reasons behind including such an image -- she even agreed with me. But she said publishing it would cost her her job. So I backed off.
Another unit (as close as I could get 2 the satellite-tracking center of the base's mission) was offended when I pointed out that their main work area (a cluster of huge satellite dishes that sometimes had 2 B climbed out on 2 B cleaned) included a "Pigeon Attack Zone" -- this area ID'd by big signs next 2 the door out 2 the dishes.
The guys thot the signs were hilarious -- so did I -- but they didn't want the signs (or the kind of "attacks" the pigeons often dive-bombed them with) mentioned in the base newspaper. We talked it over, & I held on. & the story ended-up winning an award.
But after that, fewer offices & work areas around the tiny base would talk 2 me in NE depth. Mission features got tougher 2 find. So much so, that 4 an April Fool's Day edition, I wrote a mission feature on the base's janitors -- a dozen guys who spent hours each nite vacuuming carpets & mopping miles of tile floors. I thot the story was hilarious -- so did the janitors. & when I printed the story under a "Mission Feature" banner, nobody could miss the joke. That story also won an award.
I fought the overly-secretive silliness every way I knew how -- not always good-naturedly. & I told every1 I knew there that I couldn't see why everything was so hush-hush -- we hadn't bn THAT secretive during those 3 years I served at the biggest missile base in the world (which I promise 2 write more about soon).
...It wasn't all bad. Tho I wasn't there 4 the very 1st issue of the ORBITER, they let me re-design it a little with the 2nd issue. Since the Sunnyvale/San Jose area was even then known as a high-tech mecca 4 computers & such, I chose a modern, high-tech look 4 the paper, with a sorta computerized-looking sans-serif typeface that let me squeeze even more info in2 every issue's 8 (or sometimes more) pages.
& despite the frustrations, I wrote some stuff I was pretty happy with. 1 piece was on 1/2adozen base guys who had up&coming parts in the Bay Area rap music scene. I wish I coulda done more of that stuff. I hadda lotta fun with base intramural sports -- usually attracted 2 the losers, but trying pretty conscientiously 2 get everything covered. It was a small base & pretty EZ 2 keep up with.
Possibly the best story ever while I was there was on a base golf tournament -- & naturally, I followed around some REALLY BAD golfers, including R base Chaplain who was still learning how 2 play. He was hilarious -- after he scored a 9 on the 1st hole & a 10 on the 2nd, we were all crying from laffing so hard. & luckily the comedy came over in the story.
But all the stuff I Couldn't Talk About left me with a lotta stuff I Couldn't Write About -- & sometimes if I tried, people I'd never met would rewrite me 4 reasons unknown. Certainly not Bcos of National Security. I was able 2 convince most of these folks that I Knew What I Was Doing. But their rewrites would always stand. I started taking my name off of lots of stuff -- the only way I could noticeably protest.
I'd bn planning on getting out of the AF since B4 coming 2 Oz. When things started going bad, I started sending out a dozen resumes a week 2 Real Newspapers, begging 4 a writing job. Finally, in Sept 1992, The Smallest Daily Newspaper In The World -- located in Worland, Wyoming -- offered 2 hire me as a managing editor. It was the beginning of a whole new adventure.
After 10 years of service, the AF did at least let me out when I asked nicely. & I left Oz with a couple of end-of-the-year awards, 4 AF Space Command's Best Feature Writing & Best News Writing of 1992. (The 2nd of these was kinda a joke. There was no "news" at R base. Not Officially.)
...Oh, music was important in all this, 2. The cheapest house we could find 2 rent was 45 mins away from the base in San Jose (which then had the most Xpensive rent prices in the nation, we were told). 2 dare California's freeways (101, 680, 880, etc), music was ESSENTIAL. It was while driving these freeways that I realized Madonna was an Artist -- a mix-tape of her songs that I could actually STAND ("Open Your Heart," "Live to Tell," "The Look of Love," "Oh Father," "Dear Jessie," "Dress You Up," etc.) probly kept me from wrecking the car a dozen times. On the way 2&from work I also played the HECK outta mix tapes I'm still playing 2day.
& that 45-minute commute was on the Good Days. When it rained -- which it seemingly always did each Fri aft -- the drive home could stretch in2 3 hours....

Friday, February 10, 2012

#527: Messin' 3

Xperiments continue on the humans. Tho there have bn some signs of progress, I remain in grave doubt about these Earthpeople. I swear that during what they call the evening "rush hour" I could play "Deutschland Uber Alles" or Bloodrock's "D.O.A." on the store stereo & no1 would notice. Maybe I should try it as a test!
Nevertheless, the following "pop" songs were inflicted on the unknowing general public Thurs nite, with a few encouraging responses (which follow):

Hall & Oates -- How Does it Feel to be Back?
Pogues -- Lorelei.
Who -- I Can See for Miles.
Eagles -- Peaceful Easy Feeling, Seven Bridges Road, James Dean.
Outlaws -- I Can't Stop Loving You.
Georgia Satellites -- Keep Your Hands to Yourself.
Aerosmith -- Dude Looks Like a Lady.
Billy Ocean -- Love Really Hurts Without You.
Quarterflash -- Find Another Fool.
B.W. Stevenson -- My Maria.
Tricia Yearwood -- X's and O's.
Mary-Chapin Carpenter -- Downtown Train, This Shirt, You Win Again, Middle Ground, The Hard Way, He Thinks He'll Keep Her, Passionate Kisses.
Doobie Brothers -- Nobody.
Guess Who -- No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature.
Mott the Hoople -- All the Young Dudes.
Warren Zevon -- Werewolves of London.
Bubble Puppy -- Hot Smoke and Sassafras.
Kinks -- Victoria, Village Green Preservation Society, Dead-End Street, Shangri-La, Apeman, Sunny Afternoon.
Men at Work -- No Sign of Yesterday.
Buffalo Springfield -- Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing, Broken Arrow, Rock and Roll Woman, Go and Say Goodbye, On the Way Home.
Joan Armatrading -- I Love it When You Call Me Names, Drop the Pilot, When I Get it Right, Temptation, Talking to the Wall, Me Myself I, All the Way from America, I Need You, The Weakness in Me, Persona Grata.
Monkees -- Porpoise Song, Tapioca Tundra, Your Auntie Grizelda, Zilch, No Time, Sunny Girlfriend, The Door into Summer, Love is Only Sleeping, Daily Nightly.
Lindsey Buckingham & Stevie Nicks -- Without a Leg to Stand On.
Fleetwood Mac -- World Turning, I'm So Afraid (live), The Farmer's Daughter, Silver Springs, Fireflies, One More Night.

...Not the most outlandish lineup, but 1 must fit in, & a good proportion of these Rn't normally played on US radio.
RESPONSES: 1 Regular said he liked coming in 2 the store at nite & hearing the music. 1 young woman said she liked coming in at nite 'cos the music keeps things lively (this was during "Tapioca Tundra"); I responded that the music keeps me awake -- & HAPPY. 1 man asked about Joan Armatrading during "Talking to the Wall," so I got a chance 2 show-off summa my ignorance about her; maybe he'll buy summa her stuff -- hope so, she's pretty great. Another Regular came in while I was howling along with the Xtremely loud "I am in love with you" choruses of Armatrading's "Persona Grata" -- & she just smiled at me. 1 guy said "Hot Smoke and Sassafras" sounded pretty good, & we both agreed that was a long time ago & you don't hear 2 much stuff like that NEmore. 1 woman "vaguely" recognized "Daily Nightly" (she was humming along with it) & wasn't suprised 2 hear how old it was....
So, a better crop of responses than usual. Progress is being made. Radio-weary ears R being opened. However, all this Xperimenting was done after 9 pm. B4 8 pm it doesn't seem 2 matter what music is used as a soundtrack -- the Earthers R 2 wrapped-up in their "rush hour" activities 2 notice.
Xperiments will continue, however. My cover story remains safe Bcos nobody cares. They all ignore me cos they don't know I'm really a spacer from those UFOs....

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

#526: Global warming...?

It was sunny & in the mid-50s here on Tues, the 5th consecutive day of Spring-like weather. I even went out & MOWED THE LAWN Tues aft. How sick is THAT? & I hadda pretty good time, 2. It felt pretty good being out there. Not at all like work. I was even laughing. It was almost relaxing. Didn't even havta hum little songs 2 keep me motivated. A body in motion....
I would love it if this were the Official Start Of Spring, but I'm fairly sure Mother Nature/La Nina is just softening us up 4 another round of rain & cold & crap. In fact, it's already started sprinkling 2nite. But it was nice while it lasted. Next time we'll see the sun will probly B in April. Or June....

Spent the past couple of days reading Judith Merril & Emily Pohl-Weary's BETTER TO HAVE LOVED (2002), Merril's life story pasted-2gether by her granddaughter Pohl-Weary after Merril's death in 1997.
Merril was a prominent science-fiction writer, book critic & anthologist from the '50s in2 the '70s -- her wide-ranging selections in her '60s annual YEAR'S BEST SF short-story anthologies influenced current SF writers like William Gibson.
I remember Merril best as the book reviewer 4 THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION in the mid-'60s when she championed the works of Samuel R. Delany, Philip K. Dick, J.G. Ballard, Roger Zelazny, R.A. Lafferty, & most of the British "New Wave." But her columns weren't just book reviews -- they were travelogues of the places she visited (mid-'60s London, the brutal '68 Chicago Democratic Convention), descriptions of writers she met, whatever struck her fancy.
The book is a bit of a grab-bag: The opening chapters that follow her life story R pretty riveting, as she meets The Futurians in New York City, marries writer/editor Frederik Pohl, argues & collaborates with C.M. Kornbluth, befriends a ton of SF writers (including lifelong friends Virginia Kidd & Katherine MacLean), & has affairs with star SF writers Theodore Sturgeon, Fritz Leiber, Walter M. Miller Jr., & others.
She was a tough woman, & she went thru a lot. But after witnessing Chicago '68 up-close she moved 2 Toronto 2 become a "resource person" at the city's experimental Rochdale College. & after that the book sorta slowly dribbles away as the details of her life get thinner. Pohl-Weary sorta apologizes 4 this up-front. But there's no need.
The best part of this book is as good & as vivid an SF reminiscence as Damon Knight's THE FUTURIANS and Frederik Pohl's THE WAY THE FUTURE WAS. If you're an old-time SF fan, you'll probably love it. & as a peek behind the scenes, it's pretty priceless.
& some of it's beautiful. Here's Merril's opening, written by a woman who outlived nearly all the lovers in her life:
"Every way to lose a lover is unbearable. ... Grief is not knowing where to give the love that does not stop."

Have also been trying 2 read Ray Coleman's massive LENNON biography (1984/1995/2000), but I'm suprised about how surfacey it is. Some of the descriptions of the early days in Liverpool & Hamburg R pretty fresh, but the later stuff thins out drastically, & I think Coleman even gets summa the minor details wrong.
Maybe there just isn't anything new & fresh left 2 say in this story. But I'd think in 700 pgs of text (originally published as 2 books) that Coleman coulda found something new -- he'd interviewed Lennon many times.
It is, at least, better, more positive, more optimistic than Albert Goldman's wretched THE MANY LIVES OF JOHN LENNON, which was so outrageously negative that I couldn't finish it -- despite being locked in by Goldman's earlier ELVIS.
At this point I'm not looking 4 new dirt, & I don't need the same old facts repeated again, I'd just like the story told with some depth, insight, style, feeling.... Is there any way 2 make it all new again...?

COMING SOON: Early (& Late) Al Stewart.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

#525: The Stupor Bowl!

Hey, hear there's some big football game coming up this weekend, Giants/Patriots, a lotta people R Xcited....
Yeah? So what? Who cares?
The Giants won the Super Bowl last year, the Pats have won a buncha times. So what? It's the same old guys in there. Big deal.
Won't miss NOT seeing it. Glad I'm workin.
I hear that big-screen TV sales go thru the roof in the weeks leading up 2 the Super Bowl every year.
I also hear that more & more people suffer heart attacks every year during the game -- especially if it's really close. They just can't take the stress.
+ it's a fact that there R more Domestic Violence incidents reported on Super Bowl Sunday than on NE other day of the year.
So, since we're having all this "fun" already, I've thot of a way the National Football League can hype their annual championship game even more. If the NFL's smart -- & they usually R when it comes 2 $$$ -- they'll adopt this idea....
Why not have the 2 WORST teams in the league during the regular season face-off in a sorta pre-Game game, & have the prize B who gets 2 pick the 1st college draft-choice in the off-season?
Of course the "winner" of this game would havta B the LOSER, Bcos the worst team overall always makes the 1st pick.
THERE's a game even "my" Seattle Seahawks would B thrilled 2 play in -- would B thrilled 2 LOSE -- Bcos even by losing they'd win, if you see what I mean. + they'd B on national TV & all -- & losing, something they usually do, would B a worthwhile goal in this match.
They could call it The Stupor Bowl -- a chance 4 the 2 teams who faced the utmost futility during the regular season 2 fight it out 1 last time 4 "bragging rights"....
MayB the Seahawks weren't actually bad enuf 2 B "invited" 2 The Stupor Bowl this year -- but it sure SEEMED like it. MayB they didn't go 1-15 for the season. Maybe they were only 4-12 or 6-10 -- doesn't matter. Who cares?
My point is, a pre-Game game like this would get some NEW TEAMS in the spotlight, some folks you don't C all the time -- 4 obvious reasons. Some teams that got overlooked in the pursuit of Xcellence.
Let's see -- I'm thinking Seahawks/Raiders, maybe? Or Seahawks/Bills? Who was REALLY BAD this past season? Detroit? Cincinnati? (I didn't really pay much attention....)
Look, I useta B a BIG football fan. For YEARS. Back when I was married & spent mosta my Sundays doing laundry, that TV was tuned 2 football from 10 am 2 10 pm, & I yelled & cheered & screamed when my favorite teams did well. There was nothing on TV as pretty as seeing Joe Montana complete an 80-yard pass over Jerry Rice's right shoulder just as the clock ticked down 2 the end of regulation time.
But a couple days B4 the Super Bowl of 2000, it was like I OD'd on football. I called the cable company & told 'em 2 pull the plug & come get the equipment cos I was done.
& Xcept 4 the Seahawks' wasted trip 2 the SB a few years back, I haven't watched a single game all-the-way-thru since.
& I haven't missed it.
In fact, most sports events seem more & more pointless the older I get.
Basketball season was almost cancelled this year? So what?
Baseball? They're all WAY overpaid.
Jeez, I don't even watch HOCKEY anymore, & I thot I'd NEVER break THAT addiction.
But I think The Stupor Bowl has possibilities. I'd switch-on the TV 2 C the 2 worst teams of the year face-off 4 1 last all-or-nothing match-up. & if I would, I'm sure there's 1,000s of others who'd watch, who mayB don't give a crap about the Real game....
R U listening, NFL? Give me a call or drop me an e-mail & we'll do lunch....

Friday, February 3, 2012

#524: Open letters....

1st, a big shout-out 2 the folks at, who stumbled over that off-the-cuff review of the Kinks' VILLAGE GREEN PRESERVATION SOCIETY in my last post, latched a link on2 it, & sent me ... nearly 200 visitors over the past few days, making that "Laundry-doin'" post suddenly the 2nd-most-viewed post EVER here at the Back-Up Plan.
I'm not used 2 this kinda response. As of this update (5 Feb 12, 2 am), apparently about 225 folks have looked at that post. That's wonderful, of course -- but it would B great if some1 would comment, if only 2 tell me that VILLAGE GREEN has been a great Lost Classic album since late 1968 & where the hell have I been?
Who can ever predict how this InterWeb thingy works....?

Ever wanted 2 tell your boss what you REALLY think of him? Maybe write a resignation letter he'll NEVER forget?
Keith Altham's THE PR STRIKES BACK (2001) is a series of open letters from renowned press-flack Altham 2 summa the many music superstars he's handled publicity 4 over his 30+ years as a PR & music journalist.
It's pretty funny. Altham uses the letters 2 poke fun, remember old times, & maybe settle some old scores & frustrations. Included R letters 2 & reminiscences about Mick Jagger, Pete Townshend, Rod Stewart (whose last name is mis-spelled on the back of the book), Sting, Jimi Hendrix, Van Morrison, Brian Wilson, Ozzy Osbourne, Keith Emerson, Ray Davies, Marc Bolan & a coupla dozen more.
The letter 2 Jagger is pretty brutal. The letter 2 Rod the Mod includes Ronnie Wood's description of The Tartan-Clad One's famous stinginess: "Tighter than two coats of paint."
Altham's directness is often brutally funny. Not all the letters R criticisms -- the letter 2 Sting calls him misunderstood. The letter 2 Brian Wilson sez no1 in rock has suffered more 4 his art. The closing letter 2 Pete Townshend takes a tone of near-adoration -- despite Pete's ugly temper & the fact that Altham was fired 4 times from doing publicity 4 The Who.
Altham calls Manfred Mann "arrogance personified." The letter 2 Joan Armatrading makes it clear that "Me, Myself, I" really was her theme song. The letter 2 Van Morrison is about what you'd Xpect. & Altham nails Squeeze when he sez they had "plenty of talent but absolutely no charisma."
A letter 2 Justin Hayward calls him "the steel spine that glued The Moody Blues together."
Some of the most moving letters R 2 stars who R no longer with us -- Hendrix, Bolan, Steve Marriott, Ronnie Lane, etc., or 2 those who disappeared when they couldn't cope with fame -- Brian Wilson, Scott Walker, etc.
It's a lite, breezy, fast read, & very enjoyable. If you're a Brit fan, you should eat this book up.
Only a few complaints: The farther you get in2 the book, the more typos there R & the more words R dropped thru bad proofreading.
Also, this is the 1st 300-page book in YEARS that I've bn able 2 read in just a coupla days -- that's cos you only get about 200 pgs of letters. Every artist included gets a full-page photo, & the section-heads (the artists' names) each take up a full pg. There's a lotta wasted pgs here.
All that said, I'd B happy 2 devour another volume-full. Got anymore, KA?

Have also bn trying 2 get thru Don & Jeff Breithaupt's PRECIOUS AND FEW: POP MUSIC IN THE EARLY '70s (1996), a good companion 2 go with Rhino's old HAVE A NICE DAY series of '70s hits repackages.
I should love this book, it's the period I 1st started listening 2 the radio, & I know almost all the music that's discussed. But I'm finding it a tough read.
Not the Breithaupts' fault. They know their stuff, & the book is intended as a lite, breezy, silly read, nothing 2 deep. They look at 100s of pop singles released from 1970-75 in 30 short chapters, & they mention dozens of other almost-hits in passing. & tho they love the period, most of the book's played 4 laffs -- the kinda comedy that comes from looking back with warm-hearted nostalgia.
It's mildly amusing. I wish it was funnier. & it's meant 2 B a quick read, not Deep And Meaningful Rock Criticism. 1 of their points is that the early '70s is kinda hard 2 take seriously. Musically, at least.
No real complaints, but I got farther in 1 afternoon with Altham's book than I did in a week of trying 2 read the Breithaupts'. This might just B my taste; if you agree the early '70s Rn't worth taking 2 seriously, you might like this.
Oh, & the Breithaupts apparently missed Climax's follow-up 2 "Precious and Few" -- a nice little number called "Life and Breath," which failed 2 make the Top 40 in the US. & they missed Edward Bear's follow-up 2 the Top 3 hit "Last Song" -- the much-better "Close Your Eyes."
But Xtra points 2 them 4 mentioning ALL the singles by Five Man Electrical Band....