Saturday, December 28, 2013

#732: Third Annual Pipe Dream

That's right -- it's time for the 4th Annual TAD Awards, the yearly roundup of the best and worst stuff I heard and read over the previous year.
I started out 2013 listening to a LOT of Really Bad progressive rock -- and I'll be listening to more soon -- and I ended the year writing books and barely listening to or reading anything at all. But there's still more than enough to look back on for a best and worst list....
BEST NEW-TO-ME SONGS OF THE YEAR -- Kirsty MacColl's bitter, driving "Free World," and Van Morrison's ecstatic "Sweet Thing." "Free World" has great slashing guitar, driving choruses and verses, and Kirsty's great disillusioned, cynical vocal. Her lyrics are brilliantly sarcastic and cutting -- it's over with way too fast. Should have been a big hit.
"Sweet Thing" is the only song from Van's acclaimed ASTRAL WEEKS that I've ever been able to get into -- on it he sounds positively transported by love, and the playing behind him is pretty amazing, too. It's not a rocker, but the happiness in Van's voice is a pleasure to hear. And the lyrics are some of his most direct and revealing ever. You can see why he'd spend a career chasing this sound.
WORST NEW-TO-ME SONG OF THE YEAR -- Barclay James Harvest's "Dark Now My Sky" (1970). This is the kind of thing the Alan Parsons Project might have done half a decade later -- only Parsons and Co. would have done it BETTER. There's a long melodramatic recitation at the start, loud and meaningless guitar solos in the middle, massively overdone orchestrations, melodrama to the max -- it's a mini-opera, and it lasts for-freaking-EVER. Don't bother tracking this down -- it's 12 minutes you'll never get back. RUNNER-UP: BJH's almost equally-melodramatic and overdone "She Said," against heavy competition from half a dozen other songs on their "best-of."
BEST BEST-OF -- Junior Walker and the All-Stars' ESSENTIAL COLLECTION. Mostly pretty great party music. You can actually enjoy about a dozen of the 16 songs over and over -- it never really wears out. And the best tracks are where Junior SINGS. His sax playing is pretty great, too. RUNNER-UP: Booker T and the MG's VERY BEST OF. Some very good stuff here, but not quite enough catchy, upbeat R&B instrumentals....
WORST BEST-OF -- Barclay James Harvest's THE HARVEST YEARS. There are maybe half a dozen good songs here, out of 31. The rest is overly-melodramatic, uninspired, too-heavily-orchestrated -- what the heck were they trying to do? Did THEY even know? Best are the uncharacteristically simple rocker "Taking Some Time On," and the simple catchy love song "Ursula (The Swansea Song)." Both those could have been hits. Some of the early songs have an innocent charm. The rest are too heavy, too needlessly arty -- and there are stupid "heavy" rockers and heavy-handed blooze numbers that you'll never get through. There's even an orchestrated "Western drama." Save your money, buy BJH's GONE TO EARTH instead.
RUNNERS-UP FOR WORST BEST-OF -- The Strawbs' HALCYON DAYS and Be-Bop Deluxe's RAIDING THE DIVINE ARCHIVES. I like both these bands, and there's some good stuff on these discs. But these collections don't show off these acts at their best -- the Strawbs' package doesn't even have their best work with Rick Wakeman, it's almost like they were embarrassed that he was ever a member of the band. The Be-Bop could've used more tracks from SUNBURST FINISH, though "Maid in Heaven" is a real find that should have been a hit.
BEST ALBUM OF THE YEAR -- I don't remember getting all the way through any non-best-of's, though Ghod knows I TRIED....
BEST MUSIC-RELATED NON-FICTION -- LET IT BLURT by Jim DeRogatis. The life and times of legendary '70s/'80s rock critic Lester Bangs. Great details and wonderful nostalgic mood -- I only wished there was MORE.
WORST MUSIC-RELATED NON-FICTION -- Edward Wincentsen's MOODY BLUES COMPANION. This self-published booklet is not what you might think it is. Too many typos, misspellings and major errors in fact to keep track of, the history of the band can be ... a little puzzling, and the last half of the book is all fans' stories about meeting the band. Doesn't even include a complete, detailed discography -- which would have been easy to add. Save your cash 'til the real bio comes out -- if it ever does.
BEST MEMOIR OF THE YEAR other than mine -- Linda Lou's BASTARD HUSBAND: A LOVE STORY. Though the book is about how Linda's marriage to her soulmate fell apart, there's a big laugh on practically every page, and a Christmas scene around the family dinner table that has GOT to get into some Christmas movie someday. You'll laugh a lot. Well worth your time.
BEST NOVEL SORT-OF -- Well, I guess it was Brian Aldiss's BRIGHTFOUNT DIARIES, since that's the only one I remember getting all the way through. But I wasn't very excited about it. Still, it DID show me how "easy" it would be to write a memoir....
BEST BOOK I DIDN'T QUITE FINISH -- Hunter S. Thompson's THE PROUD HIGHWAY. I've been nursing this collection of letters for MONTHS. I've made it up to 1965, when Thompson started writing HELL'S ANGELS, and I've still got a couple hundred pages to go. If I ever get finished, I'm sure it'll be just as solid (and overwhelming) as his other letters collection, FEAR AND LOATHING IN AMERICA.
BEST RADIO SHOW -- Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot's syndicated music-news-and-interviews show SOUND OPINIONS. It'll never replace LITTLE STEVEN'S UNDERGROUND GARAGE, but the guys at SO have done some great programs over the past year -- especially in-the-studio concerts with Savages, Aimee Mann, and others, interviews with producers Tony Visconti and Joe Boyd, and in-depth looks at the work of Nick Drake and Lou Reed. Their best and worst of the year and their annual Thanksgiving Turkey Shoot were all a hoot. They still feature a lot of critic's babies and new/Rap stuff I don't have much use for, but these guys have become an every-Sunday-night addiction for me. Hope you can catch them, wherever you are....
BIGGEST NEWS OF THE YEAR -- Hey, I wrote TWO BOOKS! You can get them at's Kindle Store RIGHT NOW! For $2.99! And there's another book already in the works....

I know this is what You Out There want to hear -- my next book is going to be a guide to Strange Music, to be called LISTEN TO THIS! I'm already 10 or so pages into it, mainly what I've got so far is a list of the artists I want to include, but I've already got a few entries/critiques written. Should be fun. And from The Moody Blues to Cromagnon, anything "Strange" or Different that I can remember hearing over the last 40+ years is going to be in it.
Should be done in about ... oh, six weeks or so, right? I'll keep you posted....
Happy New Ear!

Monday, December 23, 2013

#731: After words

Holy crap -- my 200-page newspaper memoir/e-book THE CONFESSOR is now available at's Kindle Store for $2.99. I just e-mailed the package to Amazon at 4:30 this morning and it's already Out There doing its good for humanity. These Kindle folks do NOT mess around.
A few words of explanation: This book covers some of my adventures during the 20 years I worked for newspapers in the Air Force and out here in The Real World. It includes some of my favorite funny newspaper stories, and some tragic stories that I haven't been able to get out of my head in the decade since I "retired."
There are also some behind-the-scenes stories of stress and overwork and outrage and incompetence and abuse. Turns out writing for newspapers in The Real World was even harder -- and stranger -- than putting up with the Air Force. You'll see what I mean.
I think you'll have a good time -- but I also think this book is a little less light and fun than GUARANTEED GREAT MUSIC! was. There's some really good funny stories in it -- there are stories in there that I've been telling people for YEARS. But I also learned some tough Life Lessons during my 20-year career, and they're also included.
And you can assume that there isn't a conventional Happy Ending, or else I'd still be writing for newspapers. But I survived it, and I'm still here writing about it. I gotta get SOMETHING out of the 20 years I wasted....
Not sure why all this stuff came pouring out so fast -- it only took me six weeks to write the book. Maybe because I had 20 years of experiences to draw from, so I had no trouble remembering things I wanted to write about.
So, give it a shot! You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll kiss three bucks goodbye....
Holy crap, I've written two 200-page books since August! Why couldn't I do this while I was in my 20's?
Not sure what I'll do next, probably take a break -- but I've been thinking over finally pulling together TAD'S GUIDE TO STRANGE MUSIC. I've been piling-up information for it for YEARS. And I've sort of got a built-in audience waiting for it, right...?
Let's face it: Everything I write is pretty much one big long book that I hope people might dip into and maybe enjoy little bits and pieces of. What's a blog, if not a big long book in chapters?
BTW, I will NOT be starting another new blog to mark the publication of this book....
Also: One thing being a reporter taught me is that EVERYONE has an interesting life story. There's a reason you're here today, and there are reasons why you've ended up this way. You ought to get writing on YOUR story while you've still got some time left. Your family, your children, your friends will appreciate it....

BTW, through Christmas Day you can still download GUARANTEED GREAT MUSIC! for FREE at's Kindle Store....

AHEAD: Coming Real Soon will be the end-of-the-year 4th Annual TAD Awards, my annual roundup of the best and worst stuff I heard and read over this past year -- I'm probably going to call the post "3rd Annual Pipe Dream" just to see if anybody's paying attention....
Also Coming Soon: Overused Rock&Roll words, Songs it took me years to like, a salute to Caravan (drummer Richard Coughlan, RIP), and more.
Over at the Guaranteed Great Music! blog, a review of Todd Rundgren and Utopia's rather good 1980 ADVENTURES IN UTOPIA album is now posted -- the least I could do, since I stupidly forgot about it and left the album out of my RECORD STORE DAZE playlist/discography.
Sheesh, I'm surprised I can remember ANYTHING anymore. That must be why I'm scrambling to write all this stuff down now -- before I forget everything....
Happy Holidays, all....

Monday, December 16, 2013

#730: Christmas presents

Good Ghod -- my newspaper-career memoir, THE CONFESSOR, is almost done at 63,000 words/about 200 pages, just a little longer than my last book. I've written 25,000 words in the last week. I don't know why all this stuff is coming out so fast but I'm not going to question it.
All I have to do now is proofread the thing, which I started doing tonight. I think the first section -- about my experiences at journalism school -- is vivid and funny. I'm hoping I can keep it up.
Might take a few days to proofread, add a little, drop a little, dot the T's and cross the I's, etc. But at this rate, the book might be out for y'all to look over at's Kindle Store by Christmas. I'm hoping so.

Also: From Dec. 21 through Christmas Day, my first e-book, GUARANTEED GREAT MUSIC!, will be available FREE at Amazon's Kindle Store. You can already download the first 20 pages for FREE there right now and see what you think.
Right now, I'd be happy if a few more people read the book and let me know what they thought.
Speaking of which, my hat's off to Tim Breshears, who posted his review of GGM at Four stars! I'm grateful -- I owe you a dinner, Tim.
Help your friendly local aging hack writer plan for his imminent Retirement -- buy a copy of GUARANTEED GREAT MUSIC! for Kindle for Christmas. And if THE CONFESSOR just happens to be there too by then, what the hey...?
I'm going to continue to give this stuff away for $2.99. Except for the freebies, of course.

Hey, BTW -- Rastro is BACK, doing his thoughtful music-reviewing thing at La Historia de la Musica Rock. He's posted a couple reviews in the past week, some of his picks for best albums of the year, and he says there's more coming. Check him out, rejoice and enjoy. We've missed you, buddy....

We all know the most overplayed Christmas songs -- we hear them to death every year at this time. But the folks at the syndicated music-news-and-reviews radio show SOUND OPINIONS played some great obscure Christmas songs during last Sunday night's show, hope you caught them.
Practically everything they played was great -- especially Cheap Trick's "Come On, Christmas," Slade's "Merry Xmas Everybody," and The Ramones' "Christmas Night (I Don't Want to Fight)."
But their expert's pick for greatest Christmas song ever was The Kinks' 1977 classic "Father Christmas" -- which really is freakin' awesome -- you'll be singing along with the choruses by the end, and there's some great guitar from Dave Davies. It sounded just slightly familiar, like I may have heard it once years ago....
SOUND OPINIONS has been doing some great stuff the past few months. See if you can track them down in your area. Here, they air every Sunday night at 10 p.m. on KUOW, 90.7 FM, the University of Washington's radio station. Or you can check them out at
Happy holidays....

#729: Scandalous!

What's news? Depends on where you look. Let's take a brief look at some of today's silliest headlines as the world continues to go crazier....
In the news, President Barack Obama refuses to attend Nelson Mandela's funeral in Mandela's home village in South Africa. During a White House press briefing, Obama said "I dunno ... I never really liked the guy that much anyway...."
In entertainment, Grammy winners Taylor Swift and Adele have agreed to team up on an album of brand-new broken-hearted love songs. The album's due to be completed and released early in the new year. "Might as well just slash your wrists NOW," rock critic says.
In sports, the Seattle Seahawks blow another big game as they lose shamefully to the New Jersey Giants, 63-0 -- a new record in futility for the Seahawks.
At the press conference after the game, cornerback Richard Sherman -- known for his straight-shooting comments to the media -- said about the team's shameful performance: "I dunno ... Maybe we really ARE as lame as everyone says...."
In other sports news, the Seattle Mariners signed yet another unknown ball-player to a multi-year $63-gazillion-dollar contract in another futile effort to bring the team out of perpetual cellar-dweller status. The team's general manager said "We'll sign ANYONE. Money is no object. My checkbook's open. Come on down to Safeco Field and try out...."
In celebrity gossip, Kanye West has offered to pay $5 million for his wedding to Kim Kardashian -- and Kim STILL isn't happy.
"It's not about the MONEY," Kim told the tabloids. "It's just that ... Kanye can be SUCH an asshole...."
In local traffic: According to a new study, the Seattle area continues to have the WORST traffic backups in the country, with some survey respondents reportedly being born, growing old and dying while waiting on I-405 to get from Renton to Bellevue....
In business news, Boeing officials admit that they are looking at moving production of the new 777-XXX "Dreamsleeper" airplane to South Carolina, where costs are lower, salaries are cheaper, and each plane can be built at a shockingly low overall cost to Boeing of just 29 CENTS.
"Sure, they can build it there cheap," said one Boeing machinist. "But let's see how long they can keep it UP...."
He apparently spoke for thousands of machinists, who have been asking the same question about Boeing's CEO....
More coming soon, unfortunately....

Saturday, December 7, 2013

#728: A thin writing life....

I owe British science-fiction writer Brian Aldiss for showing me how I could pull a memoir together through reading his first book, THE BRIGHTFOUNT DIARIES (1955), which I read back in August. Right after I finished it, the light bulb went on over my head and I started on my record-store memoir GUARANTEED GREAT MUSIC!
But I have to report that Aldiss's own writing-life memoir, BURY MY HEART AT W.H. SMITH'S (1990) is thin and disappointing. You can probably tell how compelling it was, because it took me three months to get through 190 pages. Of course I was doing other things, too....
There's some more detail here about Aldiss's younger days, how he ended up writing BRIGHTFOUNT, and what happened after. There's some detail about writing his early novels which made him a big name in '60s science fiction. His first Hugo Award from SF readers came as a totally unexpected surprise through the mail -- and was left at his door all wrapped-up like a lamp or a table-leg.
There's good stuff on how Aldiss wrote his "anti-novel" REPORT ON PROBABILITY A, which sat for nearly a decade before anyone would publish it -- and about his late-'60s "new wave" "acid-head war" novel BAREFOOT IN THE HEAD.
He touches on some more of his books along the way -- he's written a whole shelf full since the late '50s. It would probably help if I'd actually READ some of these -- there's a big section on his three-book HELLICONIA series.
But all I've read by Aldiss is BRIGHTFOUNT, his excellent SF overview TRILLION YEAR SPREE (and its predecessor BILLION YEAR SPREE), and a short story or two.
Throughout, Aldiss is witty, chatty, pleasant -- but BURY MY HEART reads very much like notes he jotted down while between writing projects, and he says so while he's writing it. There's not a whole lot of depth here. Aldiss admits he doesn't know precisely what it is that keeps him writing. But more of the depth he showed in TRILLION YEAR SPREE would have done this book some good.
It's light and fun and witty -- OK reading while you're munching on lunch, maybe. Something to pass the time. But it's pretty surfacey....

...Meanwhile, if you have a Kindle, you can now download the first 20 pages of my record-store memoir GUARANTEED GREAT MUSIC! for FREE at's Kindle Store. Hopefully, this will entice some of You Out There to give the rest of the book a try. I think it's worth the $2.99 for the whole package. If you've enjoyed any of the music reviews or nostalgia pieces I've posted here, I think you'll have a pretty good time.
And work on the NEXT book is continuing....
More soon...!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

#727: Book 2 update

Counting the notes I've bashed into the laptop so I don't I forget stuff, I'm 37,500 words/about 120 pages into Book 2, the newspaper-reporting memoir I'm calling THE CONFESSOR. The writing hasn't been hard. I've been feeling guilty that I haven't been able to work on the book every day -- there's all these jobs and relationships that get in the way, don't ya know.
Have made it all the way through recounting my 10-year Air Force public-affairs career and am now about to tackle life on newspapers out here in the Real World, where the fun really begins.
I'm estimating this book will be longer than my record-store memoir, GUARANTEED GREAT MUSIC! I'm not so worried about getting EVERYTHING down this time, though I am of course doing my best. There are enough outrageous high points that I trust a minute-by-minute recap of my 20 years as a reporter won't be necessary....
A few blog posts from here will be recycled and thrown into this book as well -- so far, bits and pieces from "Facing Dr. Pagan," "The Smallest Air Force Base in the World," "The Boogie Monster and Other Adventures," "Three years in Tay-jazz!," "Two years in Turkey," "The Apneac," and some other bits have been used -- usually at a shorter length than the version that appeared here.
Full Disclosure rules force me to warn You Out There that "The poster-child for stressing-out," "The worst Prom date EVER," and "My worst moment" will also be recycled and tossed in. Can't help it if I've written about a lot of this stuff before, and I doubt if I can improve much on the versions that have appeared here. Though I'll try, of course. And I still think it will be worth your time when it's all done....

Speaking of GUARANTEED GREAT MUSIC!, the sales figures haven't improved since the last time I posted here, though there are some holiday sales specials coming up, and I'm trying to get a sample section of the book posted at's Kindle Store so you can read the opening 10 pages or so -- stuff you've never read anywhere else before. Hopefully that will entice some of you into giving the book a shot. Hope so, anyway. I think it's pretty good, and if you've enjoyed my nostalgia pieces here you'll probably like it....
A stunning 4 people have bought the book so far, and I have NO IDEA who the fourth person is, so that's something.... Anybody out there who's read the book and doesn't mind the work -- feel free to post what you thought of GGM on the book's page at Amazon's Kindle Store. Might help me sell a few books. And I'll remember you in my will....

I've been neglecting the Guaranteed Great Music! blog, and I regret that. I haven't always been close to the Internet lately and it was a LONG holiday week at work. But I will do my best to get back to it soonly, with a review of Split Enz's goofy 1981 album WAIATA....
Also will have a new post up soon at THE GAS NAZI! -- it will be called "Trust me...?," referring to a lecture I got from a customer a couple of weeks ago. Should be fun. And just in time for the holidays....

Meanwhile, Good Ghod it's COLD here -- 30s during the day, and down in the teens and 20's at night -- pretty freaking cold for western Washington. So I'm keeping warm by typing my fingers off and dreaming of having enough income from writing to retire with. Dream on....

Have been making notes for the 4th Annual TAD Awards, my annual round-up of the best and worst stuff I read or heard over the past year. It might be a little thin, due to my recent extracurricular activities, but there'll be some shockers in there anyway. That'll be coming before the end of the month....
By the way, I started blogging five years ago this week....

Have been listening to some new music while at work, though not much. Lots of Van Morrison, from his STILL ON TOP best-of. Have really started enjoying Van's "Wavelength," "Saint Dominic's Preview," "In the Garden," "Real Real Gone," "Gloria," and "Stranded" -- along with the other great stuff that's on there, like "Jackie Wilson Said," "Wild Night," "Into the Mystic," "Domino," "Cleaning Windows," "Wonderful Remark," etc.
Even the songs that aren't really that great as songs have wonderful little moments in the singing and playing that are worth waiting for -- like the playing and vocals on "In the Garden," or the synthesizer and backing vocals on "Wavelength." It's also sort of interesting how out-of-it Van sounds on "Real Real Gone," which is a very basic, simple song....
My only real complaint about this LONG (3-CD) collection is that "Sweet Thing" isn't on here -- it's the only song from Van's acclaimed ASTRAL WEEKS that I've ever been able to get into. On it he sounds positively ecstatic, absolutely transported by love. That's a vision anybody could spend a career chasing.
Also had a great time hearing syndicated music-news-and-reviews radio show SOUND OPINIONS' choices for the best rock songs about the music business -- the show aired last Sunday night. Almost everything they played was pretty great. Hadn't heard Patti Smith's version of "So You Want to be a Rock and Roll Star" in years. And I have GOT to track me down some Graham Parker -- his grudge tune "Mercury Poisoning" is GREAT!
Course my favorite rock song about the music biz is Badfinger's masterful, dramatic "In the Meantime/Some Other Time" off of their WISH YOU WERE HERE album. Go track it down, it's well worth it....

By the way, that post I did for Halloween about dressing up in women's clothing and hanging around in bars has attracted more views (73) then anything else I've done in quite awhile. Glad you liked it. Might have to toss that into the new book too, if I've got any room left....
More soon....

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

#726: Book 2

I'm 18,000 words/somewhere around 40 pages into a new book, another memoir -- this time about the 20 years I wasted in the newspaper-reporting business -- to be called THE CONFESSOR. Don't know if anybody will care, my last book ain't exactly makin' me RICH, but what the hell -- I've got to get this stuff down while I can still remember it.
The problem this time will not be GETTING to 60,000 words/200 pages -- the problem will be keeping the book from getting too long for anyone to bother reading. I've got a lot of great/outrageous stories to cram in there -- only a couple of which you've seen here.
Just as in my last book, there will be a ton of embarrassing personal details to show what a putz I was back in the day -- and still am. You all know I have no shame.
I'll keep you posted on how this goes. So far I'm up through about 1988, most of the way through my second Air Force assignment and first REAL AF base-newspaper experience. Should be a scream when I'm finally finished.
So far the writing hasn't been tough -- couple days in a row I've cranked-out around 6,000 words. Again, the problem's going to be eventually deciding which details to DROP OUT so readers will be able to actually get through the book while they're still young.
This book-writing stuff's become as compulsive for me as blogging, and way easier than I expected -- and it's too late to turn back now....
Meanwhile, my record-store memoir GUARANTEED GREAT MUSIC! has sold a massive four copies, and the playlist that goes with it, RECORD STORE DAZE, was snapped up by 50 folks when it was available free a couple weeks back.
Both are still available at's Kindle Store for $2.99. In the spirit of the season, those of you Out There who are as broke as I am will want to know that more sale deals are Coming Soon. I'll keep you posted....

Also recently had pop into my head another song that should have been in the playlist and isn't, 999's "Inside Out," which I haven't heard in almost 35 years. As I remember, the choruses were pretty great -- driving New Wave/Punk Rock -- but I can't remember anything about the verses. The album it's from, THE BIGGEST PRIZE IN SPORT, IS included in the playlist, so I didn't completely blow this one....

A new post about Split Enz's great overlooked 1981 album WAIATA will be posted soon at Guaranteed Great Music!, along with reviews of some "one-sided wonders" like Spider, The Records, Tarney/Spencer Band, New England, Holly and the Italians, and etc., and that will all be coming along soon.
But right now I've got to take a break and warm up. It's 35 degrees and foggy outside, the house has no central heat, and my fingers are about to turn blue and break off. More eventually....

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

#725: WTF?

Just went on Washington state's health-care-finder website and learned that with my current income I can be medically covered with a massive deductible for "only" $161 A MONTH. And that's AFTER my $300 income-tax credit. Hails of hysterical laughter: Hahahahaha....
WTF? I don't have the money. They can bloody well fine me. If I was BLEEDING FROM MY EYES I couldn't afford $161 a month for medical care. God, do they think we're all MADE of money?
What the hell is wrong with this country? How does this plan benefit anybody? I'm broke, but there are millions of people WAY worse off than me -- how are they gonna manage? Or is my problem that I'm just not broke ENOUGH?!
Where's that free health care I thought some of us were supposed to qualify for? Do I have to be living in my car and eating dirt before I can "afford" to see a doctor? Did I miss something?
Good thing I'm currently in pretty good health. I'm overdue for a SERIOUS trip to the dentist, but otherwise I don't feel TOO bad. So if I start having health problems, my plans remain the same -- to throw myself upon the mercy of the Veterans' Administration, who assured me a few years ago that even though I only served 10 years in the military, chances are I DO qualify for VA benefits.
I'm holding on to that right now, because clearly Obamacare is a farce. This is not what he wanted. This is not what ANY of us wanted.
I remember writing about this stuff a few years back, when I went to see a doctor for a 50-year physical/check-up ... and it ended up costing me something like $270. But at least I got to talk to someone.
This is not about being able to keep my current doctor, because I don't have one. This is about being able to afford to see ANY doctor. EVER.
And meanwhile, Obamacare in its current perverted form is sending MILLIONS of new customers to the insurance companies -- open season, lambs to the slaughter -- under penalty of fines or losing their future income-tax refunds.
Well, the federal government can kiss my big fat disease-free behind. If I pay $161 a month for health care, how am I supposed to pay for anything else? Oh, I know -- just give up my car, give up my room, live under a bridge, stop eating?
I'm just getting by as it is, and I know there are millions more who are way worse off.
What a friggin joke. And meanwhile the insurance companies pile up the money. I see LOTS of people on the road these days who can't even afford to renew the license-plates and registration on their cars. How the hell are they gonna afford THIS?
We all went into the wrong business. We should've gone into insurance. Or banking. Or government.
Anybody out there wanna DEBATE this?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

#724: A few new additions....

Hey there. Been doing most of my on-line writing lately over at Guaranteed Great Music!, where there are 4 posts up so far with more coming soon.
Posts so far include a little bit about my book, some of the stuff I forgot to get into the book, a dozen items I somehow left out of the playlist/discography that goes with the book, and one album review (of The Shoes' great PRESENT TENSE). Coming soon will be reviews of albums by Split Enz, Spider, The Records, The Headboys, Tarney/Spencer Band, New England, Grace Slick, Group 87, Sky, and many more overlooked albums from back in the day.
As of 17 November, 39 folks have picked up free copies of RECORD STORE DAZE, my 20-page detailed record-store-era playlist, and that's flattering. But only three folks have bought copies of my 190-page record-store memoir GUARANTEED GREAT MUSIC!, which I think is the more important part. If you think the playlist is intriguing, please check out the real book, available now at's Kindle Store for a measly $2.99 -- where you'll get the stories BEHIND the playlist....

I'm already started on my next book, which I hope will be a longer memoir about the 20 years I wasted in the newspaper-reporting business. I'm already 4,000 words into it, and I'm aiming to call it THE CONFESSOR. I'll keep you posted....

Meanwhile, on my last "weekend," I hit my favorite local second-hand store, Jen's Attic in Bremerton, and scooped up a few things. On vinyl I grabbed Cream's HEAVY CREAM best-of (so I can hear "Deserted Cities of the Heart" and "Those Were the Days" again -- and "Badge," of course), Dave Edmunds' TWANGIN', Teena Marie's STARCHILD (is this her album with all the heavy guitars on it? Hope so), and Van Morrison's SAINT DOMINIC'S PREVIEW.
Looked at Lou Reed's NEW YORK so I could get some idea what all the fuss about him was, but it was warped BAD. So he'll have to wait 'til later.
Haven't had a chance to test-out any of these yet.
On CD I was able to score some stuff I've wanted to get in the house for years, like the Eagles' "Outlaw Man" and Paula Abdul's "Blowing Kisses in the Wind." Hadn't heard "Outlaw Man" since about 1974, and it still sounds great, not a letdown at all. And I don't even like the Eagles much....
Also grabbed Split Enz's HISTORY NEVER REPEATS best-of, for the title song and "Hard Act to Follow," "Six Months in a Leaky Boat," "Message to My Girl," "I Hope I Never," and the cosmically silly classic "Poor Boy."
Also bagged Don Henley's ACTUAL MILES best-of, mainly for "The Heart of the Matter," which strikes me as the most human thing he's ever done. Though it's a little long, I love The Message. Always was a sucker for his "Boys of Summer." And when I'm in a really grumpy mood I almost like "Dirty Laundry," the theme song for reporters and former-reporters all over the world. Other than those, I never liked Henley that much....
Also: Bruce Springsteen's best-of, for "Brilliant Disguise" and "Born to Run" of course, and "Born in the USA" and "Dancing in the Dark." Just one question: Why isn't the marvelous "Rosalita" on here?
Oh, also grabbed ... SOME old Garth Brooks CD, just so I can hear the great "Ireland" again.
I've been inflicting all of these on customers at work ever since. Junior Walker and Booker T and the Temptations and Stevie Wonder and old Motown hits are still working too, and getting good responses from customers. Plus they keep me moving on nights when I'm draggin', which is most nights....

Hey, my thanks to Crabby, who put up a link to my e-book at his blog, RS Crabb's Music Review and Top Ten Site. Crabby has been one of my most-regularist readers and commenters since back in the day, and you should be reading him if you aren't already. Thanx, Crabbster!

Have a new post for THE GAS NAZI! about half-written in my head, so that should be coming along in the next day or so....
...So, if I'm not around here I'll be busy posting overlooked 1979-1981 music greats over at Guaranteed Great Music!, or working on my next book. I've discovered that this book-izing stuff is as obsessive as blogging -- even if it's not as fast or as immediately gratifying. Too bad I wasted so many years before I figured this out....
I'm not done here. I'll be around. So until next time, be good to yourself and grab a copy of GUARANTEED GREAT MUSIC!, would 'ya? Help a feeble old man gather some funds for his fast-approaching Retirement....

Monday, November 11, 2013

#723: Nothing is easy....

OK, it's official -- my record-store memoir GUARANTEED GREAT MUSIC! is now available at's Kindle Store for $2.99 -- which is as cheap as Amazon would let me go. I definitely think the 190-page e-book is worth it. Just punch in the title or my name -- Tracy Deaton -- and it'll be right there, along with a pretty detailed description (written by me) about what you're in for.
If you've liked any of the late-'70s/early-'80s working-in-a-record-store nostalgia pieces that I've posted here, you'll like GUARANTEED GREAT MUSIC!, because there's a ton more behind-the-scenes record-store stories included....
OK, enough sales-pitching for a minute. This adventure in e-publishing hasn't been COMPLETELY smooth: Due to technical difficulties caused by me, the 18-page detailed playlist I wanted tacked onto the end of the book will now have to be published separately. It's already in the works, I'll keep you posted on that, and when it becomes available I plan to offer it for FREE as often as Amazon will permit. If you're a member of AmazonPrime or the Kindle sales-deal programs, you can already get this stuff for free....
Now then, here's why I'm excited: You know I'm a sucker for nostalgia. Yeah, this book is a memoir/autobiography and I'm all through it -- but I think it's a vivid and funny look back at the late-'70s and early '80s, a time when Disco ruled the radio and New Wave was still on the way up and we couldn't GIVE AWAY the first U2 album. There's a lot of music details here, a lot of behind-the-scenes music-industry stories (Want to know why the first Knack album sold a million copies? Want some new theories about why Fleetwood Mac's RUMOURS sold 20 million?), a detailed close-up look at a subculture that has almost died -- your friendly local hometown non-nationwide-chain record store.
Plus you'll get to meet the wild characters I worked with back in those days, you can criticize their (and my) odd musical tastes, and you can meet the friends I hung around with back then -- and the wonderful women who somehow allowed the geeky, nerdy younger me to get close to them.
If you've read the record-store posts I've written here -- or the segments of the book I posted as I wrote it -- you've got a pretty good idea of what you're in for. All I can say is there's a TON MORE of the same kind of thing, including some stories you probably won't believe, and some incidents I hadn't thought of in 35 years. Less than 10 percent of the book has appeared previously in shorter, different form on this blog.
The book's even in Real English.
If I wasn't excited, if I didn't think the book was worth your time, then I wouldn't have written it, and I wouldn't be promoting it shamelessly like I am right now. I'm pretty sure you'll have a good time. Sex and drugs and rock and roll -- it's all in here somewhere.
One more thing -- Memoirs often seem to be about setting things straight, or settling old scores. I just wanted to see how clearly I could remember those Good Old Days, and as I went on with the book, more and more details came back to me as clearly as if they happened last week.
I can understand if some of my old friends might not want to be depicted in precisely this way... But I've got to tell you: I tell WAY more stories that reflect badly on ME than I do about my old friends. I believe in Full Disclosure, and if you read the book, you'll see clearly that back in those days I wasn't always a very nice guy.
But luckily, the statute of limitations has passed for all that stuff. So consider this your warning. And your welcome.
I'd like this to be a "real" book, too -- but I've learned that self-publishing can be expensive, and everybody knows I'm a low-budget guy. So my plan right now is to (hopefully) use the e-book format to eventually fund a "real" book that you can hold in your hands. I prefer those kind. Hey, it took me awhile to get used to the idea of being "published on the Internet," too....
(By the way, if you're ever planning on writing a book, I recommend the Kindle folks -- they have been an absolute breeze to work with -- the only real problems have been the ones I've made for myself.)
My life has been leading up to this. I'm excited about it. Score yourself a copy of GUARANTEED GREAT MUSIC! for Kindle and help me secure some retirement funds for my fast-approaching Old Age.
By the way, I've already got my NEXT book planned....

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

#722: Big News!

Big news, faithful readers -- as of this afternoon, The Record Store Book has been sent to Amazon/Kindle, and now I'm waiting to see what they think.
I'm a little shaky -- I haven't had to worry about whether some work of mine was going to get rejected in about 13 years....
I know they got it, because they immediately flagged for me what they thought were spelling errors in the text and in the playlist/discography. And I told them those "errors" were exactly what I wanted. So....
Kindle claims they can get books published in 2 days -- pretty amazing. Do they reject stuff that fast, too? All I can do now is wait and see what happens....
Can't believe I made it, can't believe I might be done. I promise to keep you posted....

This is about the only really GOOD thing that's happened to me in the last week. I'm still tired and achey and dragging, and the sun has apparently disappeared. I hate the winters in western Washington, and here comes another one.
But this bright spot might be enough to get me through.
More soon....

Monday, October 28, 2013

#721: Book update 2

Hey there. The Book is "cooling off" while I look at publishing options. I spent a few hours last week burning my eyes out, looking through Amazon/Kindle's publishing-contract/guidelines/content-requirements. It's COMPLICATED.
Amazon's book-publishing arm seems mainly geared toward Making Money through editing/consulting/cover-art, but the Kindle end seems pretty reasonable, and FAST -- though I'm still not sure how much to charge to let y'all Out There read this "masterpiece." Will be consulting with my Official Unpaid Publishing Consultant on all this and will keep you posted.
Will note that reading Kindle's content-guidelines made me re-think and tone-down a couple scenes in The Book -- I dropped a total of maybe five sentences that made me uneasy in terms of privacy issues, etc. Nobody needs that much detail.
Even after all this "work," assuming Kindle even looks at The Book, they could still reject it for any number of reasons. Been over a decade since I've had to worry about anything like that....
I'll keep y'all posted. Worst possible outcome is I'll serialize The Book here and see what you all think. Wow -- 60+ blog posts already written and ready to go! In Real English! Ghod help us all....

Meanwhile, I'm feeling pretty useless because I'm not Writing Seriously and I'm not blogging here and I've heard No New Music in over a month. Some correspondent....
Ah well. At least the sun is out today for the first time in two weeks....

I don't have much to say about Lou Reed, who died Sunday at age 71. This is probably just my ignorance -- I'm sure in a few months or years I'll be kicking myself because I didn't realize what a genius he was. I can see that he was massively influential, but I just haven't heard enough of his work, and he was the other direction away from most of what I listened to for a lot of years.
I liked "I Love You Suzanne," and my favorite Velvet Underground song is "All Tomorrow's Parties," and I liked "Sweet Jane" -- but the Cowboy Junkies' version, not Lou's. Heard a bit of his TAKE NO PRISONERS live album and thought it was OK, for a stand-up comedy routine. Haven't even "heard" METAL MACHINE MUSIC.
I'm sure there'll be lots of overviews of Lou's work out there in the blogiverse. I think Lou was just one of those guys I Didn't Get....

Monday, October 21, 2013

#720: Book update

The Record Store Book is basically done. I'm at 61,000 words for the memoir itself -- and a detailed playlist/discography of all the good and bad music we played in the store back in the day bumps it up to 65,000 words, which seems like a good place to stop.
I'm thinking I must be pretty close to finished, because scenes have stopped popping into my head at 2 a.m. and demanding to be written-up.
Except for a couple of minor little music-research details that I have to nail down, I guess I'm done. Have re-read and proofread the book over the last week-plus and I think it's not bad. Some of it's pretty vivid, parts of it are funny, and I think in places it even does what I want it to do.
So, what next?
I'm thinking I might go the Kindle route to get the book Out There, since I've recently learned that self-publishing can be EXPENSIVE. And everybody knows I'm on a Low Budget (Kinks)....
However, I also know you can get lots of books for free on Kindle, so I remain confused about how much I should charge for this masterpiece. Guess that'll come down to How Much Balls I think I've got.... However, I plan to research this further almost immediately.
I'll keep you posted. Am also open to advice about all this stuff. In the current market, I have major doubts about whether a book about working in an old record store has a large enough potential audience to be accepted by an established publisher....
Even if the book DOES have everything a potential best-seller needs -- sex, drugs, rock and roll, it's all in there. A close-up look at a whole subculture that's nearly vanished....
...Uh, sorry, just trying to crank up the hype machine a little, since I guess I'm about to become my own promotional company as well....

Am continuing to use Stevie Wonder, Junior Walker, Booker T and the MG's, The Temptations, The Spinners and Parliament as motivational music at work, and they have all helped get me through the rough spots. Have listened to nothing much New lately apart from songs I'd never heard before played on the syndicated music-news-and-views radio-show SOUND OPINIONS.
Mercifully, this past week at work was easier than the previous week. An update on current work conditions will be posted at THE GAS NAZI! eventually....
It is cold, overcast and gray here, daily high temps around 50. I can tell Winter is coming because I feel like I'm shutting down -- feel like I have half the energy I did a few weeks ago. Pretty much normal for me, this time of year. Hope you are NOT the same....
More soon....

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

#719: Dressing up in women's clothing and hangin' round in bars

My best Halloween ever happened a long time ago, around 1994 in Rawlins, Wyoming -- very much a "Wild West" sort of town.
My family was visiting my then-wife Cyndi's best friend Deb, a former newspaper co-worker of mine ... and between the two of them, the two women I trusted and loved most in the whole world, they hatched a plan for me to compete in a Halloween costume contest at the bar where Deb worked.
Cyndi dressed up as an Old West schoolmarm -- not far from what she was in Real Life. Deb went as a bar floozie -- again, not far from what she was in Real Life.
When they were done putting themselves together, they turned to me. And you could almost see the lightbulbs go on over their heads simultaneously. They whispered between themselves briefly.
I thought I was going to stay home, or at most be their Designated Driver. I was wrong.
"Do you trust me?" Deb asked. Of course I did.
"How do you feel about dressing up as a woman?" Cyndi asked.
I took a deep breath. I could use a good laugh. Work had been a non-stop stress-a-thon, and I could use a good hilarious Night Out With The Girls.
"If we're gonna do this," I said, "let's go all the way out. Let's not hold back. Let's make it something we can look back on and laugh our asses off about."
Suddenly I was Into It. I went to Deb's closet. There I found a garish purple number cut off above the knee, with some thin spaghetti straps to hold it up. Deb pulled out a wild brunette wig with hair splaying out everywhere.
They started laughing. Nobody would believe it. Nobody would be able to take it seriously. It was perfect.
I was gonna be a white, flat-chested Tina Turner.
They started working on my lips and my eyes. Deb slathered on the purple eye-shadow. They lined my eyes in thick black and put on mascara to enhance my eyelashes. All that stuff's a pain in the ass. They gave me the reddest lipstick Deb could find.
They gave me two handfuls of Kleenex for my fake "boobs" -- I had to have them to hold up the front of the dress.
They slapped on the wig, and teased it up and out even more.
When they were done, I looked in the mirror. And I couldn't stop laughing. I was gonna win that damn contest just from comedy effect.
When I was done, my kids looked me over.
"Dad, you look ... funny," said my then-8-year-old son Andy. But he wasn't laughing. I'll bet my then-6-year-old daughter Alicia was even more confused.
We headed for the bar. When we got there the place was packed and rowdy. Deb got us a table, and the ladies started doing tequila shots and other stuff that's beyond my experience. Good thing I was driving.
I settled in, and except for constantly having to pull up the front of my dress, I started getting fairly comfortable.
Until I started attracting ... admirers....
A rugged cowboy type, probably in his mid-30s, sat down at the table right next to me. He was hammered.
"Wow ... you're really something," he slurred.
"Thanks," I said in my normal voice.
Then he started buying me drinks.
I turned to my wife the schoolmarm, who was sitting on my other side -- for protection if nothing else.
"Do you think this guy realizes I'm not a woman?" I asked her.
She gave the cowboy a long look-over.
"If I were you, I'd go for it," she said.
After the contest was judged, we somehow got out of the bar alive -- and to push the ante even higher, we headed for a nearby Truck Stop for breakfast.
I learned some interesting things while climbing in and out of the car on the way there. Like how women in skirts climb in and out of vehicles without showing off all the goods. It ain't easy!
And I had to keep ... readjusting my "boobs" because they kept trying to fall down to my stomach ... which I hear can happen as you get older....
We pulled up a table at the Truck Stop and ordered breakfast. The Truck Stop staff seemed to take it all in stride -- it was Halloween, after all. But halfway through the meal, the Ultimate Challenge appeared.
I was gonna have to head for the restroom. This was a disaster waiting to happen.
So I walked through the Truck Stop, massive hair, slumping boobs and all, and turned the corner to head for the Men's.
From the bar, one of the truckers called out: "Hey, are you sure you've got the right room?"
In my deepest, most manly voice, I said: "Oh. Yeah, right. Thanks."
And kept on going. Faster.
Somehow got out of there without getting the crap kicked out of me. And when we got home we laughed about it a lot. When I looked in the mirror at the end of the night, I didn't look half as "good" as I had earlier. But I was still laughing.
Oh, the contest? Well, I placed sixth. My wife, who's schoolmarm-in-cowboy-boots costume took absolutely no fashion risks whatsoever, placed fifth. And the floozie placed third. Sometimes it's best to go for the obvious.
When I got back to work, I wrote about the experience in a weekly column I did for the newspaper. Nobody knew quite what to make of THAT, either -- whether they should laugh ... or what. And I thought that was pretty funny too....

Monday, October 7, 2013

#718: Something different

Everybody knows self-published books are usually garbage. God knows you've seen me go on and on about several of them in this blog. Usually a self-published book (meaning one not issued by some established publisher) indicates that the writer had a great IDEA for a book ... but just couldn't bring it off.
Self-published books are usually Just Barely in English, were never proofread, and are usually a mass of typographical errors, mixed-up punctuation, and sentences that you can barely make sense out of.
A few of these "masterpieces" have been chopped-up in this blog over the years -- look up such stunning works as Jerry Lucky's PROGRESSIVE ROCK FILES, Joe Benson's UNCLE JOE'S GUIDE TO PROGRESSIVE ROCK, or that Moody Blues COMPANION I reviewed earlier this year.
But there are always exceptions....
Linda Lou's memoir BASTARD HUSBAND: A LOVE STORY is a big exception. It's vivid and funny -- and a bit scary, in places.
I admit I read BH because I'm in the middle of writing a memoir myself, and I wanted to see how someone else did it -- and if a "life story" memoir by someone I'd never met could hold my interest through 250 pages.
That definitely wasn't a problem here.
If you've read Linda's blog, Linda Lou, Live from Las Vegas!, you know she's always direct and funny, and when she writes, she knows exactly what she's doing.
What she's doing here is writing about how her marriage fell apart. There are worse places to end your marriage than Vegas, but Linda shows clearly that Vegas ain't such a party town when you're alone and lonely.
Here's what happens: While traveling for work, Linda meets a guy who seems to be her soulmate. They hit it off, they spend all their time together, they seem to be Cosmically Meant To Be Together. They get married, and as part of following his career as a college professor, they move around The West.
That's when Linda learns that her soulmate husband is an angry, scary drunk. There is an ugly, scary scene in their home in Laramie, Wyoming, that shows how frightening he can be. When they move to Vegas, it becomes clear he has a gambling problem, too.
There's an emotional showdown -- in a swimming pool, of all places. And it becomes clear that Linda can't "rescue" her husband. She can't save him from himself. All she can do is get out of his way.
So she does. He goes on with his life. And while she's looking for work, Linda makes friends, learns about the Vegas nightlife, meets a series of unforgettable characters while serving as a hospice volunteer, and starts doing stand-up comedy at age 46.
There are other good things. Almost every section of this book has some laughs, no matter how serious things sometimes get. Some lines will have you laughing out loud. There is a scene late in the book with Linda's family around the dinner table at Christmas that has GOT to get into some movie someday.
The ending may dribble away just a little bit, but Real Life is like that, and Linda gets something positive out of it. As a survivor's story, it's a winner, and it will make you laugh.
And this book avoids one of my big problems with self-published books: There are VERY few typos. Maybe only two or three in the very last section, which means someone actually proofread it before it was published. That's a definite bonus. You won't be jolted out of the reading experience.
Linda Lou makes writing a memoir look easy. I trust that it wasn't. Especially the ugly parts.
And believe me, these days when I can't get through most novels, anybody who can write about her life and make me hang on every word is worth checking out.
You should check out her blog, too....

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

#717: Junior Walker is God!

...OK, well, maybe he's not THAT great, but most of the songs on Junior Walker and the All-Stars' ESSENTIAL COLLECTION are excellent upbeat mid-'60s R&B/party music, some of the best and most motivational stuff I've heard in months. This coming in right after THE VERY BEST OF BOOKER T AND THE MG'S made September a pretty good music month for me.
Course I bought the CD just so I could hear Junior's "Take Me Girl, I'm Ready" again for the first time since 1971 -- and it's OK, not a letdown. The shock was that practically everything else on the CD is BETTER....
I already knew about "Shotgun," a Top 5 hit for Motown back in 1965 -- but nearly all the rest of ESSENTIAL COLLECTION I hadn't heard before. So if you're looking for some back-to-basics motivational R&B with some excellent sax, ESSENTIAL COLLECTION will Do The Job.
"I'm a Road Runner" lays out Junior's basic approach -- direct, no-nonsense R&B riffs with some good gruff sax and Junior's all-purpose shout/scream to keep things moving. In the same high-quality nothing-but-fun vein are "I Ain't Goin' Nowhere," "Pucker Up Buttercup," "Anyway You Wannta," "Nothing But Soul," and "Shake and Fingerpop." Some of these went Top 40, some are real solid B-sides.
"Probe Your Mind" expands the sound just a bit, into jazzier areas. "Moody Junior" is pretty good stuff too -- if you can get past the show-offy piano in the opening, which keeps trying to turn the tune into that old crooner's standard "The Impossible Dream."
I admit some of the later tracks are just a bit too mellow-soulful for me, if you know what I mean. But even the trendy early-'70s "Right On Brothers and Sisters" is tolerable, and a couple of the other later tracks aren't offensive, even if the energy level is down just a bit. I have yet to play all of Junior's version of "Urgent" -- though his sax on Foreigner's original was the only thing that made that song worth hearing. I'm also gonna have to play "What Does it Take (To Win Your Love)," which I see also went Top 5. Junior's version of "How Sweet it is (To be Loved by You)" is even lamer than James Taylor's.
So: 13 listenable tracks out of 18, value for money as far as I'm concerned. And test plays at work have confirmed that the best stuff will Keep You Moving. Audience reaction to this and THE VERY BEST OF BOOKER T has also been positive, with several customers commenting that it was good to come into the store and hear some good happy-music playing again.
For me, old R&B is about the only thing that's been able to keep me moving at work lately, so much so that I hauled in all the old Motown, R&B & early-'70s Soul stuff I had at home, hoping it would keep me going through the past week. & it worked pretty well. I'm to the point now that I've started to like The Contours' "Do You Love Me?" just for the energy level, plus I played old stand-bys like '60s Temptations, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Stevie Wonder, The Spinners, Sly, and my comedy buddies Parliament -- "P-Funk" and "Dr. Funkenstein" keep me laughin' while I'm movin'. And that's gotta be a good thang....
Is this any way for a white kid from Idaho to act...?

The Record Store Book is now past 57,000 words, and I am STILL coming up with new stuff to toss into it. Closing in on that magic 60,000-word/200+ pages figure that I hope to hit. Still have yet to re-read the whole thing -- got 10 pages into it last week before I had to take a break due to work, and by the time I got back to it I had new stuff to add. Though I hate it, so far my work schedule has forced enough breaks to keep me fairly fresh so I don't get too bogged-down in the book to be able to see it.
Old friends should hereby be warned that practically EVERYTHING I can remember from 1978-82 has somehow found its way into the book -- it's now more a memoir than a lightly-fictionalized tale from my past.
In short: It's still working and I'll keep you posted....

NEWS: King Crimson biographer Sid Smith's POSTCARDS FROM THE YELLOW ROOM website and DGM LIVE have both announced that King Crimson has reformed as a 7-piece band with three drummers and is looking toward touring in the fall of 2014.
Announced members of the band include longtime KC guitarist/lynchpin Bob Fripp, bassist Trey Gunn, drummer Pat Mastelotto, early-'70s KC member and longtime session-musician saxophonist Mel Collins, and singer/second guitarist Jakko Jackzyk. Longtime guitarist Adrian Belew is not a member of the announced band and reportedly was not asked to join....
As someone who saw the Crims live in Seattle in 2003, I think it's too bad Belew wasn't invited to take part. He was a solid frontman and he contributed a ton of great lyrics and lots of cool guitar to KC since 1980. But he & Fripp have reportedly had their clashes in the past....

Friday, September 27, 2013

#716: Those weren't the days

Hey, while researching music I might've forgotten over the years for The Record Store Book (which is over 53,000 words now, thanks for asking), I stumbled over a bunch of Godawful stuff I'd forgotten about from Back In The Day, probably because I'd successfully blocked it all out.
About some of this stuff I can only ask: What were we thinking? And by "we," I mean You Out There, because I sure as hell didn't buy any of this crap.
When looking back we all think that the late '70s & early '80s was all fun New Wave and silly Hair Metal bands, but it wasn't. There was a LOT of crap out there -- very successful crap. It was almost as bad as today. (Oh, and I found some good stuff I hadn't thought of in 30 years, too, but we'll get to that in a bit.) First, get a look at this list....
* M -- Pop Muzik. This is the music of the future? Ghod help us all....
* Lipps Inc. -- Funkytown. I admit, the last time I heard this -- unexpectedly, a year or so ago -- it sounded kind of cute. But the reason it sounds cute now is because we're 30+ years past the time when we were bombarded with it twice an hour....
* Olivia Newton-John -- Physical. #1 for 9 weeks! WTF?
* Kenny Rogers -- Coward of the County, Lady, She Believes in Me, You Decorated My Life. Ugh. It was a great few years for Kenny, back then. I thought he actually had one good song, the modest "Love Will Turn You Around." I still think that little instrumental riff right after the choruses was "borrowed" from somewhere, but I've never been able to figure out where....
* ONJ & ELO's XANADU soundtrack. The worst movie ever? There is actually one kinda charming overlooked song here -- ONJ's "Suspended in Time." Believe me, when you're forced to listen to junk like this, you really notice the stuff that sounds promising....
* Air Supply -- Lost in Love, All Out of Love, The One That You Love, Every Woman in the World. I'll admit that "Lost in Love" sounds ... almost OK now, but that big balloon on the cover of their second album was a perfect metaphor: These guys were lighter than air. And their best(?) moments were a few years later, with almost-tolerable stuff like "Sweet Dream" and "Making Love Out of Nothing at All."
* Rupert Holmes -- Escape (The Pina Colada Song), Him. Ever notice the similarity to Barry Manilow here? Barry probably wished he could write a song as good as Holmes' overlooked "Nearsighted."
* Rick Springfield -- Jessie's Girl. Whatever. But Rick's version of Sammy Hagar's "I've Done Everything for You" was pretty good....
* Frankie and the Knockouts -- Sweetheart. Boring....
* Pablo Cruise -- PART OF THE GAME. Worst album ever? This will smooth out your ADHD issues in no time....
* Manhattan Transfer -- EXTENSIONS, Boy From New York City, Twilight Zone/Twilight Tone, etc. How 'bout those ManTrans guys dressin' up like future-retro robots from some '30s sci-fi nightmare? But their version of "Birdland" had more life in it than Weather Report's ... if you can TAKE it....
* Devo -- FREEDOM OF CHOICE, Whip It, etc. Is this the future? Thank Ghod it wasn't.
* Kim Carnes -- Bette Davis Eyes. #1 for 2 months! Why?
These are merely the worst offenders....

Oh, the good stuff? Glad you asked....
* The Dickies -- Stuck in a Pagoda with Trisha Toyota. This is hysterical & shoulda been a big hit. The Dickies never did anything slow. & they do a funny sped-up version of "Nights in White Satin," too....
* The Yachts -- Tantamount to Bribery. Ghod, I haven't heard this in 35 years. Clever wordplay atop better-than-average pub rock.
* Nazareth -- Holiday. Why wasn't this a hit?
* Foghat -- Wide Boy. I was never a fan, but why wasn't THIS a hit?
* Flying Lizards -- Money. Hey, if Devo can make the Top 20, why not this clanky, mechanical desecration of a rock&roll classic?
* Hawks -- Let Me In. The only song I remember from their first album. Pretty gorgeous, with a nice long chimey guitar outro....
* Charlie -- Power Cut, Fight Dirty. These were pretty punchy, well-produced, radio-ready songs that never broke through. One of dozens of unlucky acts signed to Arista Records -- which meant they were cut-out within 3 months....
* Surf Punks -- My Beach. Great, quick, cheap laughs. The Ramones go surfing. Funny for 2 minutes. Stretched out over an album it gets boring real quick....
* The Pop -- Go! Great! Simple, loud, crashing! Try and find the album! On Arista, of course....
* Spirit -- My Friend. From JOURNEY TO POTATOLAND, released back when Rhino was a Very Strange Small Label. More life in these 2 minutes than the whole rest of the album....
* Madness -- One Step Beyond.... Love that sax.
* Carly Simon -- We're So Close. This ironic little classic is all I can remember from her SPY album....
* Stevie Wonder -- I Ain't Gonna Stand For It. He's done so much great stuff, some of it's inevitably gonna get lost....
* Heart -- Mistral Wind (live), Sweet Darlin' (live). They've never done an album I can listen to all the way through, and they lost some real memorable riff power when guitarist Roger Fisher left....

Ghod knows there might be more coming soon....

Monday, September 23, 2013

#715: Improper toilet training

From The Book:

At this point, I'd like to make a few True Confessions about my music-listening habits:
* I'm a creature of habit. I tend to play one side of an album, get totally addicted to it, and never flip it over to see if there's any Good Stuff on the other side. This can go on for YEARS. Sometimes I discover there IS good stuff buried on the other side -- 30 years later....
* I'm picky. I keep the songs I love, that I can't live without, and pretty much ignore the rest. As Chuck Berry allegedly once said, "Nothing but the best, and later for the garbage." Maybe other listeners do this too, but I never hear them brag about it.
* I'm easily bored. I have a short attention span, and it gets shorter as I get older. Bore me for five minutes and I'm done. See above.
* It can take me years to catch on to some obvious things. It took me two years to admit that The Cars might have some talent -- and that was just because my co-worker Loren kept playing their first album over and over in the store.... Don't know what I was thinking, or why I couldn't hear. It took me almost a decade to decide Madonna was an Artist. I'm still not sure about Prince....
* I can condemn artists to Musical Hell for minor infractions, or for major assaults against good taste, and never listen to them again.
* I LOVE to make sweeping judgements about stuff I've never heard. Just ASK ME about any heavy metal band. Rap? I'm your man.
* I have this theory that every artist has one song they were put here to perform. Or, ALMOST every artist. Even Whitney Houston has one great song, possibly two. Even The Band has one great song, and I think almost all of their stuff SUCKS. (See previous item.) Even John Denver, Olivia Newton-John, Joan Baez, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, name your poison.... There are VERY few artists that are COMPLETELY unlistenable. But then, what are we supposed to do with Gary Puckett and the Union Gap? Or Engelbert Humperdinck? Debbie Boone?

...The Book is now just over 52,000 words, and I am seriously running out of material. A long, detailed Playlist from the period pushes it to 56,000 words. But I'd like about 10,000 more words of actual STORY. So I guess I'm gonna have to Make Something Up. I could use another sub-plot. Or more sex to go with the drugs and rock and roll. Or something.
Still, not bad for a month's work. I'm to the point now where I'm gonna have to go back through and read the whole thing again and see if it makes sense, or if any more useable memories are jarred loose. I'll keep you posted....

I'm addicted to the Good Stuff on THE VERY BEST OF BOOKER T. AND THE MG'S. Ever since hearing "Time is Tight" on the radio awhile back, I couldn't get the music out of my head, so I caved-in and bought the CD cheap. And actually got all the way through it.
And the best stuff on it's really great -- "Time is Tight," "Hang 'Em High" (which I hadn't heard in YEARS), "Green Onions," "Hip Hug-Her" (which I swear I've heard before, though Ghod knows where), "Mo' Onions," "Melting Pot," etc. Really great '60s R&B grooves.
However. When they were less inspired, Booker T and friends sound like fairly bad '60s-movie background music. The worst of it sounds like that cheezy organ music from NAPOLEON DYNAMITE. You can really do without their versions of Simon and Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson" and The Rascals' "Groovin'." In fact, the only version of "Mrs. Robinson" you ever really need to hear is Frank Sinatra's....
Coming soon: Junior Walker and the All-Stars' ESSENTIAL -- if only so I can hear "Take Me Girl, I'm Ready" for the first time since 1972....

Also played some of Carlene Carter's LITTLE LOVE LETTERS, after a previously-ordered cheap copy apparently got lost in the mail.
This is an Olde Favorite -- still love the fresh, happy, brash sound of "Every Little Thing," "Sweet Meant to Be" and "Heart is Right," and the goofiness of the two "Little Love Letters." All these make me bounce around the room every time. I might even play the whole thing through and find something new I didn't hear the first time around. And everyone knows I'm a sucker for women country singers....
Kevin Ayers' BEST OF may have gotten lost in the mail, or may just be taking its time coming in from England....

Haven't heard or read anything else new and shocking lately, what with writing my ass off when I can, working when I don't want to, and cheering for the Seahawks when they deserve it. Fall has officially started here, with occasional torrential downpours the past couple of days, overnight lows down into the low 50s, and snow in the mountains. And to think it was in the 80s just a week ago....
Gotta go research 1980-81 music for The Book and see how much I've forgotten -- back soon with more....

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

#714: Do-Overs

Ever hear a song that you think ALMOST does what it's supposed to do, but still doesn't quite make it? Whether it's the thin vocals or the lame production or the lack of drama in the playing, it just doesn't QUITE make it over the hump to "classic" status? So much so that you wish someone else would re-record it BETTER, so the song could become what it was obviously SUPPOSED to be?
Here's some of my choices for underachievers -- songs I wish someone would update and punch-up. I love the originals, but I still wish someone would take another whack at them....
* The Supremes: "Up the Ladder to the Roof." This was a Top 10 hit in 1970, but I can't help feeling it would have been better if Diana Ross had sang it. Or someone with a little more vocal projection.
This was the first single from the "new" Supremes, with lead vocals by Jean Terrell fronting Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong. Wikipedia says producer Frank Wilson actually asked Terrell not to go too far out with her vocals, fearing they might come across as "too soulful" and "not appeal to a white audience"!
Listening now, that's exactly what this song is missing. I've got the original 45, and it seems just barely punchy enough on the lead vocal. But the CD version softens Terrell's vocals even more. You can hear the excellent backup by The Funk Brothers just fine, but Terrell is just too soft, too crooning, she almost murmurs -- except at the very end of the last verse. A little more punch in the vocal and this could've gone right to the top.
I don't know -- it seemed charming enough coming out of the radio when I was a kid. But recent listens at work show it's just TOO SOFT.
* Buffalo Springfield: "Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing" and "On the Way Home." Buffalo Springfield's first album was mostly produced by Charles Green and Brian Stone, who managed the Springfield and previously handled Sonny and Cher. Green and Stone produced a record that sounds pretty primitive for 1966 -- it's recorded sparsely, with wide sound separations. This isn't helped on CD. I'm sure we've all heard that CD-version of "For What it's Worth" that comes on the radio and has NO Stephen Stills lead vocal -- just guitars chiming away in one channel and backing vocals coming in on the choruses way over on the other side....
"Clancy" is similar, very sparse-sounding -- which is too bad, because it's a great song with Neil Young's usual vivid, twisted lyrics. Use of the word "damn" in the last verse allegedly got "Clancy" banned from airplay. Richie Furay's vocals are just fine -- but Green and Stone allegedly told Young that his singing voice was "too weird."
If "Clancy" were to be updated today, there should be more punch in the vocals and more of a dramatic attack in that final verse and the closing choruses. Surprised Neil hasn't tried it himself....
I think Young's "On the Way Home" could have been a hit. Produced by Jim Messina in 1968 as the Springfield was falling apart, it features another nice Richie Furay lead vocal. Is Neil anywhere on this? The production is dated but OK, and I even like the horns. The sorta pastoral, reflective string middle-section is OK too, but there's something lacking. It's just tossed off too quick. They were probably lucky to get it on tape at all, since Neil and Stephen were gunning for each other by then. But still....
* The Kinks: "Days." I think the massive hit version of this is still waiting out there for someone. I THINK it was a big hit in England for some balladeer in the late '60s or early '70s, but I can't track down who. The only other version I've heard was by Kirsty MacColl -- who surprisingly did an even flatter, less emotional version than the Kinks' Ray Davies.
I think this is one of Ray's most emotional songs -- it thanks a lover for helping him deal with his life and not be scared; he mentions how he treasures each of the days they had together -- but it's done so modestly that it almost slips away. It gains strength on repeated listenings, but it still doesn't seem to hit with the impact that it should. Maybe the production's too low-key? Would a big string section help? Can you imagine what someone like Barry Manilow could have done with the downplayed emotion in this song? Simon Cowell, here's your next big ballad hit....
* Kate Bush and Pat Benatar: "Wuthering Heights." This is a special case. I love Kate Bush, but on this song her voice sounds like Dolly Parton on helium. And the instrumentation is just a bit too ornate. It could use some drama. Pat Benatar's version adds the drama with Neal Geraldo's excellent guitar solo in the middle, but Pat's delivery is kind of flat -- and so is Geraldo's unimaginative guitar work during the verses and choruses. If you could somehow mix the two....
...That's all I can think of, off the top of my head. I'll listen around and see if I can add more to this list, including maybe some NEWER stuff....

Monday, September 16, 2013

#713: Meanwhile....

...The Book is over 46,500 words, 85 single-space-typed pages, about three-quarters of the way toward what used to be a "normal-sized" novel. If I can write 15,000 more words, then I can start thinking about what to take OUT.
It's been an interesting experience -- things about my old record store days are still coming back to me, stuff I haven't thought about in 30 years, happenings I've never written about anywhere. Every few days I think I really have exhausted the material ... and then something else starts bubbling up.
Am still writing 500 to 2,000 words per day, even on work days. It's a great way to wake up. I have a couple more little things to toss in, then am about due to read back through everything and see where I want to go next.
Only thing that bugs me so far is I can see there's a lot of telling and not enough showing -- a lot of describing and not enough dialogue. But I'll be working on that....
Also, my journals from back then tell me little bits and pieces of some things that allegedly happened, but I've COMPLETELY forgotten about the rest of some incidents. Guess that's where the "fiction" will come in. Luckily, this hasn't happened too often. What I CAN remember from those days has kept coming back to me like it was last week -- and at least once these memories have forced me out of bed at 2 a.m., over to the laptop before I forget everything.
Needless to say, I'm now making notes constantly....
May post some more short, funny sections here if more occur to me -- if it's something that can stand on its own and doesn't need much explaining....

I remain musically bored. The last two CDs I ordered either got lost in the mail or were stolen out of my mailbox. That bag of CD's I take with me to work hasn't seemed worth the trouble to put on the player, most nights lately. But work itself hasn't been much of a problem, recently. Maybe it's because things are starting to cool down into Fall, and the nights are becoming less busy. Maybe it's also because I have other things to think about, these days....
Anyway, I do occasionally play some music at work, mostly the Same Old Stuff, but also including:
JoDee Messina -- Heads Carolina Tails California.
Kansas -- Miracles Out of Nowhere, Questions of My Childhood.
Doobie Brothers -- Neal's Fandango.
Jethro Tull -- Skating Away on the Thin Ice of the New Day, Teacher.
Led Zeppelin -- Good Times Bad Times, When the Levee Breaks, Over the Hills and Far Away.
Fleetwood Mac -- Oh Well, Why?, Green Manalishi.
Florence + the Machine -- Shake it Out.
Modern English -- I Melt With You.
Church -- Reptile.
Sly and the Family Stone -- Thank You Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin.
Marvin Gaye -- What's Goin' On?, Inner City Blues, Trouble Man, Ain't That Peculiar?, You're All I Need to Get By (with Tammi Terrell).
Rascals -- See, People Got to be Free, A Beautiful Morning, Carry Me Back, Good Lovin'.
Stevie Wonder -- I Was Made to Love Her, My Cherie Amour, For Once in My Life, Signed Sealed Delivered, If You Really Love Me.
Four Tops -- Reach Out I'll Be There.
Gladys Knight and the Pips -- I Heard it Through the Grapevine.
David Ruffin -- My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me).
Temptations -- I Can't Get Next to You, Ball of Confusion.
Jackson 5 -- I Want You Back.
Supremes -- Up the Ladder to the Roof.
Smokey Robinson and the Miracles -- Tears of a Clown.
Undisputed Truth -- Smiling Faces Sometimes.
Blondie -- Dreaming, Call Me, Hanging on the Telephone, Union City Blue.
Boston -- Used to Bad News.
Chicago -- Questions 67 and 68.
Spinners -- I'll Be Around, I'm Coming Home.
BTO -- Blue Collar, Roll On Down the Highway.
Pam Tillis -- Homeward Looking Angel.
I don't think JoDee Messina is the most natural vocalist in the world -- she sounds kind of awkward and hesitant at the start of "Heads Carolina." But once she gets rolling and those choruses kick in, all my reservations go right out the window. Great stuff, and it makes me smile every time.
One Store Regular was thrilled to hear "Miracles Out of Nowhere," though at first he couldn't place who it was. He said hearing it made his night. That's always nice to hear.

Was bummed when longtime science-fiction writer and editor Frederik Pohl died over Labor Day weekend. He was 93, and over the past few years had been writing a popular online memoir at The Way the Future Blogs.
Pohl was a heckuva novelist in the '70s and '80s -- books like GATEWAY, BEYOND THE BLUE EVENT HORIZON, HEECHEE RENDEZVOUS and MAN PLUS had a big impact on me. I was only able to get halfway through his CHERNOBYL, a "docudrama" about that Russian nuclear disaster -- it was a little TOO Real, if you know what I mean. I still have Fred's THE YEARS OF THE CITY on my bookshelf waiting to be read. For awhile in the '70s and '80s, Fred Delivered The Goods every time, whether it was a new novel or a short story in one of the SF magazines.
He also had an amazing career as an editor. In the '60s he edited GALAXY and IF magazines through their best years, boosting the careers of writers like Robert Silverberg, Roger Zelazny, Harlan Ellison, Larry Niven, James Tiptree Jr., Keith Laumer and dozens more.
In the mid-'70s he was editor of Bantam Books' SF line and brought out difficult novels like Joanna Russ's THE FEMALE MAN and Samuel R. Delany's DHALGREN and TRITON. Brave, uncommercial choices. But they usually paid off....

Have also read (and heard) that Linda Ronstadt has lost her gorgeous singing voice, due to Parkinson's Disease. I was at times a big Ronstadt fan -- didn't think everything she did was great, or sometimes even worth listening to -- but moments like "Long Long Time" and "Someone to Lay Down Beside Me" are in my collection, plus the entire MAD LOVE album, especially the great "I Can't Let Go" and an amazing dramatic vocal on Elvis Costello's "Party Girl"....

If you haven't already, you should check out 2000 Man over at Dropped for Negligible Interest. Though I hesitate to compare bloggers, 2000 reminds me a bit of Rastro before he went quiet. I like 2000's mix of old and new stuff, and especially his nostalgia trips to Back In The Day (as in his recent posts about albums by Bruce Springsteen, Joe Jackson, Elvis Costello, Fleetwood Mac, etc.) -- anybody who reads here shouldn't be surprised by my addiction to that. Be sure and give 2000 a look. And my thanx to Crabby for turning me on to another great blogger....

Haven't read much for fun lately -- have been too busy writing with most of my free time.
Will be Back Soon with at least a short list of "do-overs" -- oldies I wish someone would re-record BETTER....

Saturday, September 14, 2013

#712: "Strike One"

From The Book:

Toward the end it all just seemed like drudgery and paychecks bouncing. Cleaning up after everyone else and telling customers "I'm sorry, we're out of that," and either getting paid two weeks late or never getting paid at all.
I started getting pretty grumpy at work. Even at what had once been My Dream Job.
So I started telling customers how I felt.
When customers came in asking whether The Cars' then-new album PANORAMA was any good, I told them the truth.
I told them it sucked.
"You CAN'T say THAT!" my Manager Robyn said when she found out. "We won't SELL any! Just tell people if they liked the last one they'll probably like this one! NOBODY CARES about your opinion!"
"But Robyn, you KNOW it sucks!"
"Wall of Voodoo ALWAYS tells people EXACTLY what he thinks," I explained, falling back on the in-store behavior seen since day one on the part of the company's resident heavy-metal expert. "If something sucks, he TELLS people that!"
"NOBODY CARES about the crap HE likes!" Robyn said. "And besides, The Wall doesn't work here!"
That was probably the first official step on my downhill slide toward quitting the record store. And probably the first time I ever really pissed-off Robyn, who had once been my hero -- who I would never have gotten the job without....

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

#711: "But what's she REALLY like?"

From The Book:

It's a normal morning at the record store. Gary my Manager's on the phone from the new Capitol Blvd. store, wondering how much Current Hit Product he can "borrow" from our other stores for Capitol's Official Grand Opening, which is set for this weekend.
Robyn, my former Assistant Manager and now Manager of her own store at Fairview and Five Mile, is in the store picking up mail and new albums to go out to her store.
"Ask Sheena how she sits on Tom Petty," Gary says over the phone, wondering if he can grab some copies of Petty's recently-released hit DAMN THE TORPEDOES album to build-up the stock at Capitol.
I turn to Robyn. "Gary wants to know how you sit on Tom Petty...?" I ask.
There is a pause. Robyn grins. She's not-too-secretly in lust with Tom Petty.
"Well," she says, "usually like THIS!"
And she spreads her legs and kneels, as if to straddle Tom Petty if he were lying on the floor beneath her.
I back away, laughing and waving my hands in surrender ... and accidentally hang up on Gary....

Monday, September 9, 2013

#710: "The Voice"

From The Book:

Even in the middle of the stress and financial ruin that marked my last few months with the record store, there were still some good moments.
One was learning that a voluptuous, earthy female voice had started answering the phone at the alarm company all our stores used.
It wasn't so much WHAT she said as the WAY she said it. I'd call up the alarm company just before locking up the store, give the gorgeous voice my name and alarm-code number, and she'd laugh and say "Whatever you say, honey! Have a great night!" And I'd be out the door and on my way home.
And then it escalated.
Again, it wasn't so much what she said.... It was her sultry voice that grabbed me, her throaty, knowing laugh. That warm, buttery voice was like being smothered in kisses, like being surrounded by warm lips. I could cuddle inside that voice forever.
I started looking forward to closing, so I could toss the meagre amount of cash we'd made that day into the bank bag, reach for the phone, and hear that voice purring into my ear -- even if it was just for 30 seconds. I'd pass on my name and my alarm code, and she'd sigh and say "Have a great night, sweetheart!" And that would make my night.
She seemed to know exactly what she was doing, because as we got used to each other she stepped it up: The hints and innuendoes were becoming more and more obvious. That voice was laughing lightly, teasing, inviting, welcoming.
Maybe she was just bored with her job and wanted to liven it up. Or maybe she knew exactly what she was doing, and wanted to see how far she could push it.
I already had a fantasy going and I'd never even met this woman. I didn't even know her name.
Already I was thinking of asking her name, asking what she looked like, asking whether she'd ever consider going out with some geeky guy she'd never met....
I couldn't just let it lie there.
One night at closing I was suddenly circling around the ceiling after just talking with her on the phone for 30 seconds. I was giddy with it.
"GOD, you've got a GORGEOUS voice," I said. "You give GREAT phone."
She laughed, delighted. "So do YOU, sweetie! Sweet dreams!"
I walked on air out to the car.
After that I couldn't let it go. The next time I worked, I called Brad at the Overland store. Even though he was married, Brad always seemed to have the latest information on any attractive women who shopped regularly at our stores. He was our go-to guy when it came to hot-women rumors.
I asked if he'd ever talked to the woman with the voluptuous voice.
"Oh sure," he said casually. "I've met her. Her name's Ann."
"You're making it up!"
"No, man, really."
"Is she as gorgeous as she SOUNDS?"
"Oh, man, she's a freakin' knockout!"
Brad described in detail a heavenly vision with long dark hair and a huge chest. She sounded like Just My Type. Somehow I held it together.
"Does she talk to ALL the guys this way?" I asked, cringing.
"Oh yeah," Brad said, confirming my worst fear. "We've all talked to her. We've all got crushes on her."
I felt momentarily deflated, but Brad was saving the best for last.
"She thinks YOU'RE crazy," he said, "and she wants to come out to Fairview and meet you!"
"Brad, you're F'ing MAKING IT UP!"
"Then why didn't you TELL ME?!"
The next time I closed, I invited Ann to come out to the store anytime. She sounded delighted and asked what time would be good for me.
"ANY time, really!" I said, a bit too eager. "We never have any customers anyway...."
And she laughed, and I was circling around the ceiling again.
I was thrilled about this, the first positive response I'd had from a woman in months, and I told everyone that the woman with the gorgeous voice at the alarm company wanted to meet me and thought I was crazy.
"I'll agree with THAT," said Robyn my Manager.
But I never got to meet the woman with the voluptuous voice. For some reason, Ann stopped answering the phone. And the next step in my ongoing drama with the record store kicked in way too fast....

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

#709: Back in black

I'm back, technical issues resolved. Went a couple weeks without Internet access, now fixed.
The real news: The Novel is now over 36,500 words, and I'm still going. Added about 1,500 words earlier today. Have been able to write at least 500 words a day; on my best days it's been more like 5,000.
This story is the longest thing I've ever written, already. I finished proofreading through what I have so far a couple days ago, and I think it's not bad. I think parts of it are pretty good, vivid, funny.
The downside is that if this is really going to be a novel, I'm only about half done. The good news is, more stuff to toss into it is still coming to me.
I plan to post at least one or two small sections here -- something short and funny. I already have a couple things in mind. They'll be appearing soon.
I'm surprised that I've been able to remember as much about my record store days as I have for this book. I've only had to consult my journals a couple of times for extra details -- most of the time stuff just pours out. And that's a good thing.
But I need more. So I'll be thinking about it....
While on vacation, about all I did was write. My Girlfriend had to work, and with no direct Internet access I had plenty of free time, so it was all good. We did get down to see my GF's Father in Oregon, again -- and we took the DIRECT route home this time, not the eight-hour scenic tour. Also got out to the beach before I went on vacation, so that was all taken care of.
While off, I sniffed at a couple of music-related books. Jim DeRogatis and Carmel Carrillo's KILL YOUR IDOLS lets a new generation of rock critics have at the older critical generation's sacred cows -- with mixed results, so far.
While I agree that SGT. PEPPER and DARK SIDE OF THE MOON could both have been better, I'll not put up with young snot-noses going after PET SOUNDS and SMILE. And SWEETHEART OF THE RODEO is a total bore, no arguments here.
But Jim Walsh's write-up on RUMOURS is just a fantasy about shooting the members of Fleetwood Mac -- he doesn't even TALK about the ALBUM. And that album could USE a good trashing. I've always thought that there's a lot of filler on it....
I don't think Walsh's fantasy is very funny, but then I remember Lester Bangs once suggested going after James Taylor's throat with a broken beer bottle, and I thought THAT was funny, so....
There are a few newer albums critiqued: NEVERMIND, OK COMPUTER, MELON COLLIE AND THE INFINITE SADNESS, etc., but most of the items up for slashing are the critic's babies you'd expect -- Dylan, Springsteen, Clapton, U2, Stones, Neil Young, etc.
I was shocked to see someone go after the Sex Pistols. And the Dead Kennedys! And Patti Smith! Co-editor Carrillo reviews her old boyfriends in the context of old rock & soul hits. That's a breath of fresh air -- at least someone did something different with the idea.
There IS a cut-up of TOMMY, and a hilarious discussion about LED ZEPPELIN 4 that ends up defending the album instead of critiquing it.
But I was looking for some DANGEROUS critical choices. Why didn't anyone go after The Velvet Underground, or Lou Reed? Between them they have three good songs in their careers.
Or how 'bout Bowie, that poseur! Four good songs in a decade and he's STILL making albums?
Or The Ramones? One great joke -- three great songs!
Two former Beatles get chopped up -- Springsteen gets zinged twice! Even Captain Beefheart takes a beating.
Other than Pink Floyd, no prog-rockers get slammed. This was kind of disappointing.
I'll be reading more of this, but it's not quite the cheap laughs I'd hoped for, so far.
And at the back of the book, there are short bio notes on each of the contributors, plus a list of their Top 10 fave albums -- most of which are raked over the coals by somebody elsewhere in the book....
BLUES AND CHAOS is a collection of late music critic Bob Palmer's best work, covering topics from blues pioneers to classic rock to late-'90s guitar noise. Some of it's pretty good, though I haven't gotten very far. So far have enjoyed his liner notes for the Led Zeppelin box set, a lengthy interview with Eric Clapton, and a short but hilarious piece on why he took a "mojo hand" with him to studio sessions when he was producing blues albums.
There's a lot more here -- over 400 pages -- and you can still get copies cheap. Palmer was the blues and world-music expert at ROLLING STONE for a lot of years. He knew a lot about a lot of different music, but he comes across as really modest -- like he's sharing all this info with you, not lecturing.
...Will be back soon, with some book sections, plus I'm coming up with a list of hit songs I wish someone else would re-record BETTER -- starring The Kinks, Buffalo Springfield, The Supremes, and more.
Oh, and I've got another nominee for that "Worst Best-Of's" post I did awhile back: THE BEST OF WEATHER REPORT....

Monday, August 19, 2013

#708: A birthday present

I'm on vacation. And I turn 54 on Wednesday.
To celebrate, I'm trying to write a novel. Again. While I still have time.
I'm trying to take my three years of experiences working in a record store back in 1979-81 and turn them into something like a book. I think there's sort of a story there, and Ghod knows there's some Characters, who I knew well.
If this goes according to plan, the novel will use a lot of the record store stuff I've posted here and add a lot more, in more depth, trying to make things as clear and detailed and funny as I can. Or at least get the details and the feel of that time down right, while I can still remember them.
The story will also use other things that were going on in my life at the same time, some of which I've also posted here -- that "8-by-40-foot trailer" post from awhile back, for example. (Old friends, consider yourselves warned!)
Remembering this stuff hasn't been a problem, so far. More new stuff just seems to bubble up the longer I think about it.
I've only had parts of three days to work on it, but so far I've bashed-out a 4,000-word narrative to kick things off, and I've tossed in another 2,000+ words of notes and pieces, plus there's some more notes I haven't even bashed into the laptop yet. That's more than 10 single-spaced typed pages, so far. I'll be bashing away on it during my next 9 days off, and maybe by the end of this break I'll have gotten Somewhere. I'll keep you posted.
The only problem I see will be getting out of MY head and into the heads of my characters, getting across things in their voices, describing what I assume they must have been thinking.
Oh, there will also be a PLAYLIST, naturally....
Don't know if this'll work, don't know if it'll sell, don't know if anyone would care -- I don't even care. I know I need to write SOMETHING, while I've still got time, and this stuff seems to be pouring out. I've told the Girlfriend repeatedly that I'd be a happy man if I could just get going on some big writing project ... and now it seems like I've got one.
I haven't bashed-out this much material this quickly in 10 years -- ever since I tried to take all my closest friends from my post-highschool going-nowhere years and turn them into a fictional rock&roll band. I got more than 20 handwritten pages into that before the story stopped.
And now I'm writing about the same period again. The Good Olde Days.
The funny thing to me is, I've had this material for over 30 years and I never even THOUGHT about fictionalizing it until I read Brian Aldiss's THE BRIGHTFOUNT DIARIES (see review below), about working in a bookstore. And even though Not Much happened in Aldiss's novel ... Well, hell, I can write a book where Not Much happens, too....
I might even post some new stuff from the project here, if something new jumps out at me as worth it.
Right now I'm calling the novel project GUARANTEED GREAT MUSIC!, though I've also thought over RECORD STORE DAZE. But mainly I just want to get some serious wordage down, and that hasn't been a problem yet.
If I can't make this one work, I might as well give the whole "novelist" dream up and just keep blogging 'til I keel over. And I'm not planning on going anywhere.
I'll still be posting here, during this -- probably as compulsively as ever. I have some new music-related books in the house that I've barely cracked open: Music critic Bob Palmer's BLUES AND CHAOS, & Jim DeRogatis's rock-crit-revisionist KILL YOUR IDOLS. I'm also a couple chapters into Brian Aldiss's writing memoir BURY MY HEART AT W.H. SMITH'S, which looks at least as charming as BRIGHTFOUNT DIARIES was.
And at some point, Kevin Ayers's BEST OF is supposed to come floating leisurely in from the U.K. ....
I'll also be working my way backward, "re-writing" old posts into Real English when I get bored -- King Crimson (post #666) is next up to be "translated."
These have been good days lately, and I know it. I'm broke but I'm happy. I even got out to The Beach last Monday, for the first time in 10 years.
And now, hopefully, I have a week and a half off to Get Some Work Done. I'll keep you posted.
More soon....

P.S. -- Passed 10,000 words written as of late Monday night. This might actually work....
P.P.S. -- Passed 15,000 words as of late Tuesday night, and am still thinking of more details to toss in. Don't want to jinx it, but I'm wondering when this is going to start to feel like "work" ... though I'm sure that time will come along soon enough....

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

#707: The other music mags

Back in the day, when ROLLING STONE got too boring or stuck-up, there was always TROUSER PRESS and MUSICIAN to fall back on.
TROUSER PRESS was home for just about anything British, New Wave, or Overlooked. Where else were you gonna find reviews of the newest Caravan album? (Nowhere!) Where else were you gonna learn that National Health was touring America? (Absolutely nowhere!)
At the time I didn't have much use for TP's coverage of Elvis Costello or The Ramones, but TP also ran great in-depth features like The 100 Greatest Rock Guitarists Of All Time (which gave me a renewed appreciation for Al Stewart's lead guitarist Tim Renwick, among others), & 70 Great Lost Rock Albums From The '70s (with wild forgotten stuff like World War 3 and Crabby Appleton and Michael Fennelly, and....)
They also had reviews of hard-to-get import albums, & even singles. They had a small stable of good writers like editor Ira Robbins and Scott Isler and Jim Green and....
The whole magazine was written and put-together with the kind of fanaticism and attention to detail that only real hard-core music fans (who were likely underpaid or unpaid) could bring to the job. It seemed like they did it all out of love.
And just as they were getting really good ... they vanished, sometime in the early '80s.
Some of the magazine's spirit has been carried on in Ira Robbins' TROUSER PRESS RECORD GUIDE, a huge volume of reviews that covers not only New Wave/Punk Rock stuff, but also harder-to-classify acts like Roxy Music, Sparks, The Residents, Can, Hawkwind and lots more. I still don't think I've made it all the way through the RECORD GUIDE, even after all these years. But Trouser Press also has a website where most of the RECORD GUIDE's reviews are carried and updated (at That's where you can learn that Hawkwind has released something like 85 albums over the years....
The website's not the same as the old magazine, of course, but what is?
While TROUSER PRESS was fading away, MUSICIAN was coming on the scene, & for about 10 years I thought it was the very best music mag around. MUSICIAN started out being completely devoted to jazz ... but it slowly expanded into covering more popular artists -- first Miles Davis, then Steely Dan, then long pieces on Dire Straits and Roxy Music and the Dixie Dregs, with an occasional look back over their shoulder at John Coltrane....
There were always tons of album reviews and some GREAT interviews -- moments like when Steely Dan admitted they stole the tune for their great "Gaucho" from Keith Jarrett's "As Long As You Know You're Living Yours." ...Or when Sting finally admitted that maybe the other guys in The Police deserved just a little bit of credit, too....
All this good content took a ton of great writers -- people like the hilarious Charles M. Young, the great Vic Garbarini, Matt Resnicoff, Chip Stern, Rafi Zabor, Dave DiMartino, Jill Blardinelli, the late Lester Bangs, King Crimson's Robert Fripp, and many more.
When King Crimson hit the comeback trail in 1980, Fripp published his journals about the experience in MUSICIAN (& I would LOVE to see Fripp's journals published in book-form someday). Lester Bangs did a hilarious overview of The State Of Rock as 1980 dawned -- it was called "Rock in the '70s: Where Was It?" ("Synthesizers all over the place! Disco, you trashy thing!") Bangs included a list of The Most Depressing Music Of The '70s -- Miles Davis's GET UP WITH IT and ON THE CORNER were right up there....
Rafi Zabor published the first section of his long and wooly jazz novel THE BEAR COMES HOME in MUSICIAN, then stayed around to write reviews. Chip Stern wrote short, savage, hilarious jazz reviews that showed ABSOLUTELY NO PATIENCE for the frothy lite-jazz that started taking over the spotlight in the '70s and '80s. Charles M. Young once published a long hilarious review covering all the albums he received in the mail in ONE DAY....
MUSICIAN only got better as it turned into the '90s. Features covered everyone from Van Halen to Sinead O'Connor to The Replacements to Laurie Anderson. Dave DiMartino looked over a dozen Can albums in one review and called them The Most Overlooked And Ripped-Off Band In Rock History.
Somewhere in the middle of moving from Turkey back to the U.S., I lost track of MUSICIAN. Then I spent six years in Wyoming, which was almost as isolated as Turkey. The next time I saw a copy of MUSICIAN on the newsstand in 1998, it was a shadow of its old self. All the old writers were gone, and the mag had become a thin, technical, equipment-obsessed mag for Working Musicians. I don't know if it's even still in business.
But I sure miss the old mag....
I didn't have much use for the other music mags. Though CRAWDADDY/FEATURE ran some good stuff, it died early, before I could really appreciate it -- and about 3 months into my subscription. I always thought CREEM was just a little too silly -- which maybe shows I wasn't in tune with their party-hearty lifestyle. HIGH FIDELITY and PHONOGRAPH RECORD sometimes ran some good stuff -- HF had good, long CD-overviews of the Beatles & Stones, King Crimson, Frank Zappa & Todd Rundgren, plus a GREAT piece on Musical Guilty Pleasures. But their reviewers sometimes seemed kind of artificial and stuck-up.
And none of them matched MUSICIAN and TROUSER PRESS at their best. I'd do almost anything to get a complete run of both back in my hands -- especially TP. I miss those old mags. I miss those DAYS....