Monday, July 29, 2013

#702: All over the place

Hey, Mick Farren died. He was 69. Don't know a whole lot about him, except that with Lemmy he co-wrote the excellent dark rocker "Lost Johnny" on Hawkwind's above-average HALL OF THE MOUNTAIN GRILL album (1974). Farren was also a prominent member of the late-'60s British underground, & was quoted extensively in Johnathan Green's oral history about that scene & period, DAYS IN THE LIFE, which I read a few years back.
Farren was reportedly quite a character -- a music journalist & member of late-'60s punk-revolutionary band The Deviants. He occasionally released solo albums that had cool titles like VAMPIRES STOLE MY LUNCH MONEY. He also wrote a string of science-fiction novels, starting with the rock-flavored THE TEXTS OF FESTIVAL, which has been sitting on my shelf waiting to be read for years.
Apparently Farren died after collapsing on-stage while performing with his band The Deviants. That seems an appropriate way to go out....

Hope you've been catching rock critics Jim DeRogatis & Greg Kot's SOUND OPINIONS, which airs here every Sunday night at 10 on the University of Washington's KUOW-FM. Last night's show was a "Buried Treasures" special, in which the guys pointed out some current albums worthy of more attention.
Normally this would be an immediate tune-out for me, but in my current state of Musical Boredom, I held on. They played a few things that weren't bad. Two songs in particular impressed me:
* "Counting," by a Chicago rapper performing under the name Autre Ne Veut, from his album ANXIETY. Maybe this is rap, but it sounded more like futuristic soul to me, with lots of whirring machine-like sounds & keyboard washes. & the lyrics were pretty desperate. Murmured, not rapped. Pretty haunting.
* "Irene" by Trixie Whitley from her album FOURTH CORNER. This also sounds like soul/R&B, with very strong vocals.
Some of the other stuff Jim & Greg played was above-average though not stunning -- still better than tuning-out. But I might have to check out the two artists above. Plus I really should look into Savages' SILENCE YOURSELF....
Next week, Jim & Greg are supposed to play The Greatest Rock Instrumentals Of All Time. Should be a great one....

The latest playlist, pretty much the same old stuff:
Three Dog Night -- Let Me Serenade You, My Impersonal Life.
Badfinger -- No Matter What, Day After Day, Baby Blue, The Name of the Game, Rock of All Ages.
Doobie Brothers -- Neal's Fandango.
The Church -- Reptile, Under the Milky Way, Metropolis.
Modern English -- I Melt With You.
Fleetwood Mac -- Oh Well, Why?
Van Morrison -- Jackie Wilson Said (I'm in Heaven When You Smile), Domino, Wild Night, Cleaning Windows.
The Move -- Message from the Country, Do Ya?, Tonite.
Like the orchestrations & Pete Ham's apparently unpracticed vocal on Badfinger's "Name of the Game." & "Rock of All Ages" is a lot of fun.
The Church's "Metropolis" has some nice guitar work. Wish I could get into the rest of their best-of. & I'm still looking for a gorgeous guitar-drenched instrumental by them that I heard once on the radio around 1988 & have never heard since. Anybody got any ideas...?

Am more than halfway through Hunter S. Thompson's huge collection of early letters, THE PROUD HIGHWAY. For the past couple dozen pages he's been recounting his hilarious & painful adventures as a free-lance journalist in South America in the early 1960's. Some of his descriptions are laugh-out-loud funny. And an occasional line will stop my reading with a shock. The most surprising one-liner so far has been: "These guns will be the end of me." And that's exactly how it turned out. RIP....

Translating old posts into "Real English" continues here at the Back-Up Plan. So far, I've made it as far back as early May's post "The biggest missile base in the world." This rewrite work will be continuing....

On the way here are Kevin Ayers' BEST OF, Jim DeRogatis's KILL YR IDOLS, rock critic Robert Palmer's BLUES AND CHAOS, & two reminiscences by British SF writer Brian W. Aldiss: BURY MY HEART AT W.H. SMITH'S and THE BRIGHTFOUNT DIARIES. Reviews of all these are likely in the future....

Any musical suggestions? Please submit them below. If you know of any artists who mix British folk with loud guitars & keyboards & nice vocal harmonies (and aren't TOO expensive), they'd probably be right up my street....

Saturday, July 27, 2013

#701: Back to CD's!

Restocked with CD's for what turned out to be the easiest Friday night at work in months. Also got started early with the music after calling a moratorium on News Radio -- because it just gets weirder & scarier & more twisted.
Here's some of what I've been listening to at work this week:

Brotherhood of Man -- United We Stand.
Box Tops -- Soul Deep, The Happy Song.
Bobby Darin -- If a Man Answers, Sermon of Sampson, All by Myself.
Brothers Johnson -- I'll Be Good to You.
Go-Go's -- Head Over Heels, You Thought, Forget That Day, Capture the Light, I'm With You, Can't Stop the World, Vacation.
Bangles -- Let it Go, September Gurls, Not Like You, Manic Monday, Dover Beach, Going Down to Liverpool, Be With You.
Rascals -- See, Carry Me Back.
Bob Dylan -- Like a Rolling Stone, Tangled Up in Blue.
Lovin' Spoonful -- Summer in the City, Darling Be Home Soon, Six O'Clock.
Doobie Brothers -- Neal's Fandango, I Cheat the Hangman.
Boston -- Used to Bad News.
Stevie Wonder -- I Was Made to Love Her, Shoo-Be-Doo-Be-Doo-Dah-Day, For Once in My Life, My Cherie Amour.
Rolling Stones -- Happy, Tumbling Dice, Street Fighting Man, Gimme Shelter.
Rush -- Time Stand Still, Force Ten.
Cars -- Bye Bye Love, All Mixed Up, Dangerous Type.
Deep Purple -- Highway Star.
Steely Dan -- My Old School.
Journey -- Feeling That Way/Anytime.
Simon and Garfunkel -- Fakin' It, The Only Living Boy in New York, A Hazy Shade of Winter, At the Zoo.
Ronettes -- Be My Baby, Baby I Love You, The Best Part of Breakin' Up, I Wonder, Do I Love You?
Pam Tillis -- Homeward Looking Angel.

As you can see, this is basically The Same Old Stuff with a few new additions -- which I usually tripped over by accident....
Have already mentioned that the Box Tops' "Happy Song" sounds like something Dave Mason or Traffic might have done on an upbeat day. I don't think it's a Lost Classic or anything, but it is catchy & it does grow on you, & it definitely sounds different than "Soul Deep" or "The Letter" or the Box Tops' other hits....
The Bobby Darin songs are from an early-'60s EP my Cousin Carol let me have 45 years ago -- also not classics, but they're OK pop for the period, with some nice twangy guitar here & there. "If a Man Answers" is kind of funny. "All By Myself" is NOT the Eric Carmen #1 hit of 15 years later -- more sort of a light-hearted look at being lonely(?).
The Doobies' "Neal's Fandango" continues to get comments when I play it in the store. Think they really missed out on a hit with this one. From STAMPEDE.
Stevie's "Shoo-Be-Doo-Be-Doo-Dah-Day" is as light & bouncy & charming as any forgotten Motown Top 10 hit, though I only heard it by accident between "I Was Made to Love Her" & "For Once in My Life." Why hadn't I ever heard it before? I'll have to go back & play it again, though it's obviously not a timeless work of art for the ages -- interesting that even Stevie's filler is almost as good as his classic hits.... From 20TH CENTURY MASTERS/BEST OF.
Why wasn't the Stones' "Street Fighting Man" a hit? Had to be the lyrics about revolution in the streets. If they couldn't get that played on the radio in '68/'69 it was probably never going to happen. Still haven't heard any "album rock" station play it, even though it (wisely) led-off their FORTY LICKS best-of....
Continue to be a sucker for the Ronettes, even though I don't think EVERYTHING they did was great, or sometimes even very inspired. But as soon as those gorgeous vocal harmonies kick in, I'm a goner. Ronnie's solo tracks "Why Don't They Let Us Fall in Love?" & "So Young" are iffy. But the rest are freakin' knockouts.
I still think "Best Part of Breakin' Up" (apart from Ronnie's sultry vocal) sounds like the Beach Boys snuck into the studio -- there's a real palm-trees-swaying-in-the-ocean-breeze vibe on this one; easy to see where Brian Wilson learned some of his production touches. "I Wonder" is still amazing, should've been a hit. & "Do I Love You?" is sweet & bouncy & bound to gain charm on repeated listenings.
I sat through practically all of the Ronettes' BE MY BABY best-of a year or two ago, but now I'm starting to wonder how much of it I actually HEARD. Will be investigating further....
More soon....

Thursday, July 25, 2013


OK, let's keep this fairly brief.
When I started doing this stuff 4-1/2 years ago I had no idea I'd end up writing 700 posts. Crap, I thought I was All Written Out a couple of years ago and had nothing left to say.
But lately, stuff just keeps popping into my head, so I keep putting it here.
I'm not sure what I'm writing, exactly. But since a novel doesn't seem to want to come out, maybe I'm writing my memoirs here while I can still remember stuff. And that's OK with me.
I remain Musically Bored, so if anybody's got any suggestions, Now's The Time.
I can still get caught off-guard by stuff. Last night at work I was playing some tapes from my old Wyoming buddy Jim Yule's record collection, and was tripped up by some sort of good-timey male acoustic duo doing some kind of light-hearted party song, sort of a "Dear Mr. Fantasy" without the dragging length, over in two minutes without wearing out its welcome. It sounded like something Dave Mason or Traffic might have done when they were mostly-awake.
But I didn't remember recording it, couldn't remember who it was, probably hadn't heard it since 1996 when I made the tape. So I had to go home and check my files to clear up the mystery.
Turns out it was "The Happy Song" by the Box Tops, which I assume was the B-side of their great "Soul Deep." Which it sounds NOTHING like.
Not saying this is some Lost Classic for the ages or even a Great B-Side. But it was new and different to me, I didn't remember it, and there you go. Tracking down this kind of stuff is what this blog is supposed to be all about.
Something else that's struck me as odd recently: That post I did awhile back about Kevin Ayers' ODD DITTIES ("Sitting on the beach like Clarence in Wonderland," see below) has had 40 views so far. That's a lot for this blog. I never know what's going to get looked at the most, what's going to ring your chimes Out There....
Over the past few days I've also been going back and turning my older posts into "Real English." No more "shorthand" or texting-style. I've made it as far back as that "Dream 3" post at the end of May. Only 475 more  to go!
The reason for this is ... for one, I got a comment awhile back that convinced me maybe it's time to Grow Up a little bit here. Not that I plan to start taking myself seriously....
The other reason is -- now more than ever I want to be understood, I want feedback, I want to know what you folks Out There think. And I'm never going to get that if the stuff I post here is too hard to read.
Plus it always helps to have a Mission In Life....
At least since "The poster-child for stressing-out" or "My Worst Moment" it's seemed to me there's nothing I CAN'T write about, as long as I have somewhere to start and a handle on what I want to say.
I've posted some things here in the past that I was actually scared to put Out There, that I thought were too revealing, that had me shaking before I hit that "Publish" button.
But these days I'm not worried about that stuff. Full speed ahead! (As soon as I finish putting stuff into English....)
I'll still be reviewing things, but these days more than ever I am a Low Budget Guy. So if I can hear or read something & keep it cheap, that's where I'll be heading.
I predict More Nostalgia ahead too, though I never know when the next one's coming or where it will end up....
Thanks for reading here. And for gosh sakes, let me know what you think. I've been waiting for years for someone to tell me I'm full of shit, & it ain't happened yet.... (Which doesn't mean YOU need to jump in, Crabby....)
More soon....

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

#699: 8-by-40-foot trailer

After moving back home with my parents for over a year, early in 1980 Tina The Girlfriend & I pulled together our measly cash & moved into an antique 8-foot-wide, 40-foot-long mobile home on West Boise's main drag, Fairview Ave.
Located next door to a Wendy's, a used bookstore and pizza parlor were right across the street, & a record store was just around the corner. The location was perfect. & the price was right, because it was CHEAP. I was getting tired of sleeping on my parents' hide-a-bed in their living room. & I'm sure they were getting tired of me.
The trailer had Charm to spare. Built sometime in the '50s, it had cute little solid-wood cabinets & cute little closets & a cute little kitchen with a cute tiny refrigerator (and the world's smallest icebox) -- & an adorable little bathroom in which you could practically sit on the toilet, brush your teeth & take a shower all at the same time.
But you had to be FAST. The hot water for the shower ran out in about five minutes.
There were other bonus surprises: The trailer had a gas stove that had to be re-lit anytime you wanted to use it. So I'd stick my whole head into the oven, lit match in hand, search for the pilot light, and then BOOM! And I was ready to warm up some instant coffee. Needless to say, I didn't do that too often....
But the biggest surprise was when it rained. Then rain water would POUR out of the trailer's fuse box.
I'm still amazed we weren't electrocuted, or blown up in a gas explosion, or frozen when the hot water ran out. Oh, & in the winter, if you turned on the heater, it took about 20 minutes to START getting warm....
But we didn't care, it was OURS. We had privacy & a place to call our own, & the trailer was really comfy & charming -- if you ignore that I had to turn sideways to move up and down the hallway.
The place was crammed full of my music, my books, my rock&roll posters (some of which were stapled to the CEILING because there was no room on the walls), all of Tina's clothes and other belongings.... The living room was so small there was room for a loveseat on one wall (where I worked), and a small old wooden dining table with a chair on the other wall -- & just barely enough room to walk between the two.
There were other problems. The place was perfect for one person. For two, it was a little SMALL. And if someone got upset, there was nowhere to go.
I'd just become Singles Buyer for the local four-store Musicworks record-store "chain," & I took it with all the Seriousness of any job I've ever had -- Completely Seriously, And Don't Bother Me When I'm Working. When I first took over the work, I even took the job home with me, trying to get stuff organized. And bit Tina's head off when she tried to talk to me.
I don't blame her. I was a jerk. And we were probably too young to be trying to keep house together.
But we were so thrilled to have a place of our own, we didn't even realize what a run-down neighborhood it was.
Most of the other trailers in the trailer court were more beat-up than ours, though I don't remember any of them being much OLDER. The place really was pretty trashy, though I remember it as being pretty quiet. My cousin Jim lived right next door, & I wonder now how many of our arguments he must have overheard....
But we learned some strong People Skills while living there: We had one fairly obnoxious neighbor who lived across the court, & whenever she visited & started talking a mile a minute, I'd put on David Sancious and Tone's offbeat jazz-rock "Transformation (The Speed of Love)" as "mood music" -- and within 10 minutes the talky neighbor would be gone. Something about Sancious's odd melodic twists & turns would drive her out of the house. Worked every time.
Whenever the stress got to be too much (whether it was job-related or personal), I'd put on the Pretenders' first album -- and by the time I got to the glorious guitar meltdown at the end of "Lovers of Today" & the brutal kiss-off of "Mystery Achievement," I'd feel better. Because I knew that no matter how bad a day I might've had, Chrissie Hynde had lived through a bunch of them that were WORSE. That album got me through 1980 alive.
But after 9 months in the tiny trailer, things started going bad. I saw someone peek in our bedroom window one morning about 1 a.m., & when I moved to chase them all I saw was a flash of light running away. This triggered the first of several phone calls I made to the local police. I started sleeping with a club right next to the bed, just in case.
I had started reading the works of Hunter S. Thompson (THE GREAT SHARK HUNT, FEAR AND LOATHING ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL '72), & perhaps was seeing the world as more complicated & sinister than I had before.
A friend needed somewhere to live cheap, & the three of us moved into a twice-as-big trailer elsewhere in the court. It was much nicer & much roomier, though darker.
And people still kept trying to break in....
I don't think we stayed longer than three months before moving to an upscale two-bedroom apartment across town, which is another part of the ongoing story....
The last time I was in Boise I noticed the old trailer court had been bulldozed (probably YEARS ago) and replaced by more stores....

Monday, July 22, 2013

#698: Great Instrumentals, Oldies, etc.

Or: As the Boredom Turns....
Continuing to be Musically Bored, but this past week olde jazz & prog-rock instrumentals & underplayed Oldies from my old Wyoming buddy Jim Yule's 45 collection Did The Job to keep me moving at work. Here's The List:

Happy the Man -- Service With a Smile.
Group 87 -- One Night Away From Day.
Steve Tibbetts -- Ur.
Camel -- Sasquatch.
Pat Metheny -- Phase Dance, New Chautauqua, The Search, Ozark, Praise, The First Circle.
Lyle Mays -- Ascent.
Synergy -- Icarus.
Mark Knopfler -- Going Home (Theme of the Local Hero).
Keith Jarrett -- Country.
Renaissance -- Rajah Khan.
Deodato -- Also Sprach Zarathustra (Theme from 2001).
Sky -- Where Opposites Meet, Vivaldi.
Gryphon -- Lament, Ethelion.
The Nice -- America.
Miles Davis -- It Never Entered My Mind.

Van Morrison -- Caravan, Into the Mystic.
Neil Diamond -- Crunchy Granola Suite.
Gordon Lightfoot -- High and Dry.
Bob Dylan -- One of Us Must Know.
Billy Joel -- All for Leyna.
Fleetwood Mac -- Green Manalishi.
Roxy Music -- The Thrill of it All.
Shawn Phillips -- Bright White.
Frank Zappa -- My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama, Directly from My Heart to You.
Nektar -- Do You Believe in Magic?
Carolyne Mas -- Stillsane, Sadie Says.
Spider -- New Romance (It's a Mystery), Burning Love, Shady Lady, Everything is Alright, Crossfire.
Pretenders -- Kid, Mystery Achievement, Talk of the Town, Message of Love, Birds of Paradise, Pack it Up, Back on the Chain Gang, Time the Avenger, 2000 Miles.

From the Jim Yule Oldies Collection:
Fanny -- Charity Ball.
Uriah Heep -- Easy Livin'.
Guess Who -- Road Food.
Gordon Lightfoot -- The Circle is Small.
Lobo -- A Simple Man.
Blue Ridge Rangers (John Fogerty) -- Hearts of Stone.
Mason Williams -- Classical Gas.
Fendermen -- Mule Skinner Blues.
Trashmen -- Surfin' Bird.
Dramatics -- What'cha See is What'cha Get.
Freddy Cannon -- Palisades Park.
Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart -- I Wonder What She's Doin' Tonight?
Beau Brummels -- Laugh Laugh.
Dave Mason -- We Just Disagree.
Faces/Rod Stewart -- Stay With Me.
Rick Nelson -- Hello Mary Lou, Stood Up, Waitin' in School, Be-Bop Baby.
Steam -- Kiss Him Goodbye.
Dion -- Daddy Rollin' (In Your Arms).
Del Shannon -- Runaway.
Cowsills -- Hair.
American Breed -- Bend Me Shape Me.
Johnny Rivers -- It Wouldn't Happen With Me, Memphis.
Beach Boys -- Kiss Me Baby.
Elvis -- Promised Land.
Chuck Berry -- You Never Can Tell.
Joe Cocker -- Feelin' Alright.
Music Explosion -- A Little Bit of Soul.
Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels -- Devil With a Blue Dress/Good Golly Miss Molly.
Santana -- Everybody's Everything.
Gary Lewis & the Playboys -- Count Me In, This Diamond Ring.
Strawberry Alarm Clock -- Incense and Peppermints.
Association -- Windy.

...So, basically Nothing New here EITHER, but at least it kept me moving.
Response to most of this was pretty thin, except for those few who appreciated that there were Oldies playing -- "I can't stand the rap," one guy said ... & the married couple who walked into the store & saw me swooning to the Beach Boys' gorgeous "Kiss Me Baby." To go from that into Elvis -- well, what more could you ask for on a summer Saturday night...?
I have my own sentimental Olde Favorites in this list. I still think Spider sounds pretty great -- from Peter Coleman's trebly high-impact production to Holly Knight's solid pop songs & Amanda Blue's loopy vocals, these guys should've been famous. & drummer Anton Fig now plays with Dave Letterman's CBS Orchestra....
Carolyne Mas was hyped back in '79/'80 as a female answer to Bruce Springsteen -- I now think she sounds like a female Billy Joel -- lotsa New York accent & Attitude....
..."Rajah Khan" is the loudest, most ... forgive me ... "psychedelic" thing Renaissance ever did, a swirling mix of spacey Middle Eastern Arabian-Nights-type sound, wordless vocals from Annie Haslam, & great loud guitar. They should've gotten loud & -- comparatively -- dark like this more often....
...I still think "One of Us Must Know" is THE great lost Bob Dylan hit. It's got the same sound as "Like a Rolling Stone," the same great musical accompaniment, & the lyrics are hilarious.
...Steve Tibbetts' "Ur" is still the ultimate speaker-melting guitar piece. He's never cranked it up as loud again, it seems....
Consider everything in the above list Recommended if you've never heard it before.
Still accepting Musical Recommendations if anyone Out There has any....
More soon....

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

#697: Take 2.1

OK, since yesterday's suggested radio format went so well (more than 30 views overnight, which is almost a new record for me), how about this one?:

3 minutes of National & Local News. Then:
Deep Purple -- Hush.
Beatles -- I'm Down.
Steve Earle -- Copperhead Road.
Charlie Pride -- Is Anybody Goin' to San Antone?
Afro-Man -- Because I Got High.
Eminem -- Ass Like That.
Smokey Robinson and the Miracles -- You've Really Got a Hold on Me.
Aretha Franklin and George Michael -- I Knew You Were Waiting for Me.

2 minutes of National and Local News. Then:
ELP -- Fanfare for the Common Man (long version).
Bob Dylan -- One of Us Must Know.
Fanny -- Charity Ball.
Dave Brubeck -- Take Five.
Aaron Copland/Eduardo Mata/Dallas Symphony Orchestra -- Hoedown.
Uriah Heep -- Easy Livin'.

Into 3 minutes of National and Local News....
(This updated version breaks up the commercials & music a little more -- which maybe most people wouldn't like; they'd prefer the four-track blocks of music in the previous format. But this is probably closer to Real Life radio....)

See how easy this is? Any trained chimpanzee could do it. & there's room for hits from all eras, album tracks, weird stuff, rock, heavy-rock, singer-songwriters, jazz, country, classical, comedy, blues (an area I'm pretty weak on) -- basically anything. It's not hard. It doesn't have to be so far out that listeners get scared away.
So why can't anybody do it?
No reason this format couldn't have "theme" hours -- the "on the road" hour (Born to Run/Running On Empty/Highway Star/On the Road Again, etc), or the "rain" hour (Who Will Stop the Rain?/Have You Ever Seen the Rain?/In the Rain/Rain, etc.) -- though those might get cliched pretty fast. & I'm sure it's been done on FM before. The key would be to have a little IMAGINATION about it -- something that seems in short supply at Radio these days....
Keep those kind donations coming, folks, & we'll make it happen. We want the airwaves!

I've reluctantly decided to delay my big cash-mongering trip to my "local" Half-Price Books store, since today is supposed to be the hottest day of the year so far, here. Don't want my big box full of vinyl to melt on the way there. But I'll keep you posted....

I really love Locus. Really. Even though lately it's become more&more like a list of "Which famous writers have died recently?" But I sure wish it was a lot more like Bookslut....

Still working my way through Hunter S. Thompson's huge selection of early letters, THE PROUD HIGHWAY. It's laugh-out-loud funny in lots of places, and amazingly shows off a lot more personality (and desperation) than his later letters collection FEAR AND LOATHING IN AMERICA (which is reviewed below under the title "Scrambling for $$$"). More on this eventually....

COMING SOON: It's Money That Matters....

Monday, July 15, 2013

#696: Crossection

A suggested experimental radio format:

Coming out of 3 minutes of National & Local News:
Easybeats -- "Friday on My Mind."
Cheap Trick -- "Surrender."
Eagles -- "The Greeks Don't Want No Freaks."
Beyonce -- "Irreplaceable."
Marvin Gaye -- "Inner City Blues."
Spinners -- "I'm Coming Home."
Stylistics -- "You Are Everything."
Beatles -- "There's a Place."

BOTTOM OF THE HOUR. 2 minutes of National & Local News.
REO -- "Don't Let Him Go."
Five Man Electrical Band -- "Absolutely Right."
Johnny Cash -- "Dirty Old Egg-Sucking Dog."
Buck Owens -- "I've Got a Tiger by the Tail."
Fleetwood Mac -- "Hypnotized."
John Coltrane -- "Giant Steps."
Miles Davis -- "It Never Entered My Mind."
Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass -- "A Beautiful Friend."
TOP OF THE HOUR, into 3 minutes of National & Local News....

This is just for starters. All the songs could be exchanged for others of a similar genre. SURPRISE should be the format's motto. That and WHAT'S NEXT? Or even WHO'S NEXT?!
Possible changes/additions:
* Replace Beyonce with any GOOD Urban/R&B/Rap/Hip-Hop song from the past decade (your choice). (Outkast's "Hey Ya" for example....)
* Replace Marvin Gaye with any good Motown hit or album track from the '60s/'70s.
* Replace "There's a Place" with any good Beatles B-side or album track.
* Replace Fleetwood Mac with any other good underplayed Mac song.
* Toss in a '70s singer-songwriter to replace The Spinners or The Stylistics -- Joni Mitchell's "Coyote" or "Raised on Robbery," Carole King's "Been to Canaan," Jackson Browne's "The Fuse," Van Morrison's "Into the Mystic," Cat Stevens's "Bitterblue," Jim Croce's "Lover's Cross," Steely Dan's "Gaucho," etc.
* Toss in BOC's "Morning Final"/"E.T.I."/"Astronomy" (IMAGINOS version) to replace REO or The Eagles -- or some other good heavy-rock song: Deep Purple's "Hush"/"Kentucky Woman"/"Highway Star," Motorhead's "Killed by Death," AC/DC's "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap," Hawkwind's "You'd Better Believe It," Led Zeppelin's "Over the Hills and Far Away"/"The Rover"/"Immigrant Song," Spooky Tooth's "Feelin' Bad," etc.
* Replace the Country stuff with any other good seldom-heard-on-pop-radio Country song since the '60s ("Six Days on the Road," "The Girl on the Billboard," "Passionate Kisses," "Melancholy Child," "Whenever You Walk in the Room," etc).
* Replace Herb Alpert with Dusty Springfield's "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me" or any other GOOD MOR hit from the '60s -- Glen Campbell's "It's Only Make Believe," Petula Clark's "I Know a Place," Fifth Dimension's "Carpet Man," etc. ...or even a REAL Oldie like Louis Jordan's "Barnyard Boogie."
* Toss in other jazz numbers -- Thelonious Monk's "Underground," Miles Davis's "In a Silent Way," Keith Jarrett's "Country," etc.
* Toss in a recognized Classical piece now & then -- Aaron Copland's "Hoedown" or the "Simple Gifts" coda to "Appalachian Spring," etc.
* Toss in a Prog Rock Oldie -- Yes's "The South Side of the Sky," ELP's "Karn Evil 9/First Impression (Part 1)," Genesis's "Inside and Out," King Crimson's "Frame By Frame," etc.
* Keep the Local News in there so folks know if there's an ugly wreck on the freeway or some other emergency.

If I can come up with this format -- which SHOULD work and could potentially please a wide variety of listeners -- in less than 10 minutes, why can't Radio grow some balls and do it?
And if somebody wants to donate lots of cash, I'll make it happen. We'll probably have to BUY a radio station first.... Please make your kind and generous donations below....
Suggestions and complaints are welcome, too....

Sunday, July 14, 2013

#695: My Worst Moment.... a newspaper reporter had nothing to do with reporting. Way more to do with interpersonal communication & overwork & stress.
This post is for you Out There who've somehow gotten the impression that I'm A Nice Guy. I'm not. Or at least I sometimes wasn't back in my reporting days. It's also offered as an extreme example of what stress & overwork can lead to. Here's what happened....
It's mid-May 1999 at the world's smallest weekly newspaper, somewhere on the Washington coast. After pulling together another stress-filled issue, the Editor -- let's call her Judith -- calls the four-member writing&layout staff together for a Friday planning meeting. Where she drops the bomb that the annual Tourism Special Edition -- a 24-page advertising-filled tourist brochure -- is due MONDAY, on top of the usual work required for the next normal issue of the paper.
Then she drops another bomb: Myself, the Sports Editor & the Layout chief (who is my wife, who worked for 6 stress-filled months at the paper with me) are going to pull the Tourism Edition together while The Editor spends her weekend across the state in Spokane. She's going to write and do NOTHING for the Tourism Issue.
And she just leaves it there. The meeting breaks up. & I'm furious.
Because this continues a pattern The Editor has had since she came aboard 8 months earlier. She does only what she wants, dumps all the work on everybody else, blames other people for her mistakes, and spreads stress like a plague carrier. When the paper is delivered to the printers late, she blames everybody else for her short-sightedness -- when the front page is usually waiting for her writing & layout work to get finished before it can be delivered.
Over the last 6 months I've been doing more & more writing. At the worst point I'm covering 4 nighttime meetings per week, then coming back into the office at 9 a.m., writing my ass off. I'm on salary so I collect no Overtime. I hardly ever see my kids. About the only time I see my wife is when we bump into each other in the office. & Judith keeps piling on the work. Every time she calls my name from inside her walled-in cubicle my stomach locks up in knots because I know it means More Work.
We've had words before. The last time was when she asked me to do a hatchet job on an overworked city employee -- a guy who was hired to do all the stuff the Mayor and City Engineer couldn't get to. "He just smells wrong," she said. "There's got to be something there." This guy had never hurt anyone as far as I knew. There was no reason for us to go after him. I told her to write the hatchet job herself. She never wrote it, of course. Because there was nothing there to write.
This time around I'm so angry that I'm shaking.
"Can we talk about this?" I ask gently.
"No!" she said, slamming stuff into her travel bag. "I'm outta here. I need a break."
"Yeah, but you're leaving all the work for us."
"I'm allowed a break. I'm going to Spokane."
"That's nothing new," I said. "You take EVERY weekend off. While we clean up behind you."
"You guys can handle it."
"You're counting on that to be true," I said, and I start following her around the office as she gathers stuff to put in her bag. "You always dump all the work on us so you can have the weekend off."
"I do not," she said.
"You DO," I said. My voice is getting louder. "You never do your share, you always leave the work for everyone else. When is enough enough? Where do you draw the line at?"
"Mind your own business," she said. "I'm leaving!"
She goes into the back room to grab her coffee cup. I follow her. By now I'm yelling. I'm full of anger because I know I'm right. This has been coming on for a long time.
"This IS my business!" I yell into her face. "When does it STOP?! How much work do you think you can dump on people before they freak out?! We're ALL overworked! We're ALL burned out! When do WE get to go to Spokane?!"
"Shut UP!"
"NO!" I yelled. "You don't GET it! You dump work on everybody! You do NOTHING! All you do is create stress! You don't know what the F you're doing!"
"Get the F away from me!" she yells.
"NO! Run away to Spokane! Who CARES?! Don't F'ing come back! WHO CARES?! YOU don't! Get the F outta here! We'll cover for you! We always DO!"
"Get the F away from me!" she repeats, this time lower, angrier. I have her backed into a corner as we yell into each other's faces. All the rest of the newspaper's employees are out front in the main office where I'm sure our voices are echoing. Our Publisher is upstairs, directly above us, and can hear every word. And no one is interrupting.
She makes a break for it and heads for the front office.
"You're F'ing NUTS!" she yells. "I'm F'ing outta here! Who CARES if you do the work?! It's YOUR F'ing JOB! Don't do it and you're FIRED! See ya!"
I scream gibberish at her as she runs out the office door. Something about how I hope she crashes and burns and ends up dead in a ditch. Something like that. I walk back to my desk and collapse.
So much for professionalism. I'm still shaking. It's VERY quiet in the office. I expect my Publisher to come downstairs and fire me. It doesn't happen.
Over the next half-hour or so, 3 or 4 of my co-workers swing by my cubicle and say thanks for putting The Editor in her place. They've wanted to say all that stuff for a long time.
"Sure," I tell them. "Next time YOU do it."
The Sports Editor, my wife & I pull together the Tourism Issue over the weekend. We recycle a lot of info from the year before. None of us get paid any overtime for the 12-hour days we put in writing, photographing, updating and laying-out the issue. But that's nothing new, and the package gets done on time. It's one of the last things my wife does for the paper -- 6 months later she decides to divorce me.
The Editor returns Monday morning, & checks to see that the Tourism Issue got done. I cringe in my chair wondering what she'll say to me, but instead she goes upstairs to see The Publisher. They talk for an hour behind closed doors. Then she comes back downstairs, goes into her cubicle, grabs her things, and leaves.
It's quiet in the office for a minute or two. Then our Receptionist says "Uh ... I think Judith just Left."
She didn't even tell the Publisher she was quitting. Later that afternoon, he offers the Editor's job to me. I've told him No twice before, but this time I think I couldn't possibly do a worse job than Judith. So I say Yes.
And immediately Judith gets her revenge from beyond the grave, so to speak.
Immediately I start doing 50-hour work weeks, or more. I continue writing my ass off. The stress is actually less because I'm in charge, but the same amount of writing I was doing as a reporter is still there.
The first issue comes off pretty well. A local alternative highschool holds a rather modest and secretive graduation ceremony -- bassist Krist Novoselic of Nirvana is the surprise guest speaker. One of the girl grads pauses to pose for me right after getting her diploma, and it makes a beautiful front-page picture.
After that it gets tougher. Much tougher. My wife takes the kids and a friend and goes off to Canada for a week. I still don't realize my marriage is in serious trouble. I still think Life Is Good as I approach 40. I even take a week off to celebrate my 40th birthday....
And when I come back to work after my first vacation in three years, by 9 a.m. I'm hyperventilating, and soon after I'm lying on my back on the floor, gasping for breath like a fish....

Saturday, July 13, 2013

#694: It's only music

Is it possible to get completely bored with this stuff? I'm still listening to my Olde Favorites at work, but trying to vary it up a little, trying to dig out stuff I haven't heard in awhile. Whatever keeps me moving. Here's The List:

Bubble Puppy -- Hot Smoke and Sassafras.
Pat Metheny -- New Chatauqua.
John Miles -- Highfly.
George Harrison -- What is Life?
ELO -- Can't Get it Out of My Head.
Mamas and the Papas -- 12:30, California Dreaming.
The Who -- I'm the Face, Disguises, So Sad About Us, I Can't Reach You, I Can See for Miles, Armenia City in the Sky, Tattoo, Our Love Was, Sunrise, Little Billy, Dogs, Dreaming From the Waist (live), Call Me Lightning, Let's See Action, Long Live Rock, Naked Eye (live).
John Mellencamp -- Authority Song.
Lynyrd Skynyrd -- Tuesday's Gone.
Hall and Oates -- Diddy Doo Wop (I Hear the Voices).
Police -- Does Everyone Stare?, On Any Other Day.
Donovan -- Season of the Witch.
Marshall Tucker Band -- Heard it in a Love Song.
Delaney and Bonnie and Friends -- Only You Know and I Know.
Dion -- Ruby Baby.
Chicago -- Critic's Choice, In Terms of Two.
Kingston Trio -- Greenback Dollar.
Yardbirds -- Heart Full of Soul.
Steam -- Kiss Him Goodbye.
ELP -- Karn Evil 9 1st Impression (Parts 1&2).
Neil Diamond -- Crunchy Granola Suite, Walk on Water.
Cheap Trick -- Surrender, Voices.
Steve Tibbetts -- Ur.

The only one of these that got a Reaction from the Unsuspecting Public was Neil's "Crunchy Granola Suite," which had a woman in her 60s bouncing around & singing along with. I laughed & asked if she was familiar with the song & she said "Oh yes -- but I don't get why women my age think he's so hot...."
So we talked that one over, agreeing that when Neil was in his Weird Period in the early '70s he did some Great Stuff, & that his mid-'60s leather-jacket phase was pretty great too.
But she really threw me when she said the greatest concert she ever saw was by Nine Inch Nails. She agreed they were pretty intense & suggested I might want to listen more.... & considering I've hardly heard anything by them....

I'm about to sell-off 5 years' worth of CD's, albums & books that didn't quite work for me -- a big box & 3 bags worth of stuff headed for my nearest Half-Price Books (in Tacoma, about 30 miles away) on my next weekend -- hopefully to help me with a current ...*AHEM* ... cash-flow problem. Most of what's going is stuff that Just Didn't Work, stuff that wasn't bad but which I can live without, or items I have duplicates of on vinyl or CD. I don't expect to be bringing home any New Music -- I'm seriously in it for the cash -- but I'll keep you posted.
Going off in the pile are OK-but-not-great works by ELP, Return to Forever, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Soft Machine, Gong, etc., plus books I've decided I'll clearly never get around to reading -- or reading again. I go through these clear-the-decks phases every year or two, but it's been 5 years since I've had an excuse to visit Half-Price. I'm hoping it's worth the trip. I'm also kind of bummed that I apparently spent my money on The Wrong Stuff....
I am so bored musically right now that I started reading Kim Cooper & David Smay's BUBBLEGUM MUSIC IS THE NAKED TRUTH -- which actually has some real good solid info in it if you're a sucker for the Monkees, Partridge Family, Cowsills, Archies, old Buddah Records singles, or any other late-'60s/early-'70s silliness. But it's like I overdosed & had to put it down for awhile.
Continued with Hunter S. Thompson's massive collection of letters THE PROUD HIGHWAY, which includes letters from all the way back to his 1957 days in the Air Force -- a marriage that didn't last too long. At one point Thompson wrote to a friend that for some obvious reason "the Air Force and writers just don't see eye to eye. ... I'm one of many writers who come in, do their time, and then leave as soon as possible." Had no trouble relating to THAT, it had me laughing out loud. Maybe I just need to read about something OTHER than music for awhile....

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

#693: "Sitting on the beach like Clarence in Wonderland...."

Hey, Kevin Ayers died back in February, he was almost 70 years old. Ghod, I used to be so ON TOP of this stuff, what the hell happened...?
Founder-member of Soft Machine, longtime eccentric solo artist, ol' deep-smooth-voice Kevin Ayers left a mark on my life with his mid-'70s album of singles & outtakes, ODD DITTIES, which I used to sing-along-with huge sections of back in my Silly Period (Summer '78) while sharing an apartment with old buddies Don Vincent and Jeff Mann.
Even back then I remember being mildly disappointed with ODD DITTIES because it wasn't more "Canterbury-sound"-like, was way closer to the Incredible String Band than to Soft Machine or Caravan.
But I bought the album based on Ayers' reputation & because there were a LOT of talented folks on it: Guitarists Mike Oldfield & Steve Hillage, keyboardist/composer Dave Bedford, improvising saxophonist Lol Coxhill, almost all of the members of Caravan, almost all of Soft Machine on the silly singalong "Soon Soon Soon," still one of my favorites (it opens with the line "What do you know about Nothing, people?" Where do you go from there?) -- & Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd allegedly played guitar on "Singing a Song in the Morning."
But once I got comfortable with the record & Ayers' whimsical lighter-than-air outlook, there was some great stuff inside: "Butterfly Dance" was 2 songs squoze together -- one a moody ballad; the last half a joyous rocker; "Gemini Child" was a nice mid-tempo rocker, fairly straight-ahead for Ayers; there was the eerie, atmospheric "Lady Rachel;" and the French smoochers "Puis-je?" ("May I?") & "Jolie Madame," in which it became obvious that the laid-back Ayers could have seduced millions of women with just his voice.
But best of all was the goofy "Connie on a Rubber Band," with its silly lyrics, bouncy tune and catchy choruses -- apparently I used to sing it to myself a lot: "Let's go ... to my chateau...."
From this start, I tried some of Ayers' other work but was unable to get into it. THE CONFESSIONS OF DOCTOR DREAM was his most acclaimed album, & included a heavily-produced side-long title song, but I don't remember a thing about it now -- except that it didn't grab me.
Never heard any of Ayers' later, allegedly more commercial work with guitarist Ollie Halsall. Have never heard "Decadence," which is supposedly a less-than-nice portrait of doomy singer & former Velvet Underground vocalist Nico.
Ayers' Wikipedia page has some interesting details about his life -- including a story about how Ayers, Nico, John Cale & Brian Eno's live album JUNE 1, 1974 was a little more dramatic than intended, since Cale had discovered Ayers sleeping with Cale's wife the night before the concert. Maybe another woman had fallen for ol' deep-smooth-voice?
I STUPIDLY sold-off my copy of ODD DITTIES about a decade back because I hardly ever listened to it anymore. (Five pretty-great songs out of 16? Those old Harvest Heritage import albums were really pretty generous....) Vinyl copies will now run you $40 at -- & the CD could cost you even more.
But there are times I miss it -- like when my old high school sweetheart dropped me an e-mail this morning about Ayers' "Connie on a Rubber Band." She remembered me singing along with the silly lyrics 35 years ago -- but she couldn't remember who sang the song or where she could find it.
There are several Ayers best-of's available -- including a cheap single-disc that includes half of ODD DITTIES -- & a number called "Clarence in Wonderland" that could actually be "Connie" in disguise. I hope to get a copy of this soon so I can clear up this mystery....
On the other hand, Ayers probably would have liked the confusion....

Monday, July 8, 2013

#692: Motivational stuff

After weeks of learning (again) that the Mahavishnu Orchestra & Hatfield and the North & Hawkwind & Clannad & Illusion & Nick Drake & Sandy Denny don't always make for good motivational music at work, I'm now back to relying on homemade tapes of old favorites to keep me moving.
I'd like to stay open-minded, plus I thought Work was a good venue to try-out New To Me music, but clearly there's lots of music out there that just Doesn't Work at work. And when all else fails, I go back to what's worked for me in the past -- all the cassettes I've got at home that are marked "Motivational Stuff." Here's some of that:

The Who -- Relay, Slip Kid, Daily Records, Another Tricky Day.
Elvis Costello -- What's So Funny About Peace Love and Understanding?
Donna Summer -- State of Independence.
Bubble Puppy -- Hot Smoke and Sassafras.
Carlene Carter -- Little Love Letter #1, Every Little Thing, Sweet Meant to Be, Little Love Letter #2, Heart is Right.
Beach Boys -- There's No Other (Like My Baby).
Traffic -- Glad.
Mark Knopfler -- Going Home (Theme of the Local Hero).
Jeff Lynne -- Lift Me Up, Every Little Thing.
Five Man Electrical Band -- Absolutely Right.
Bob Seger -- Feel Like a Number.
Boz Scaggs -- You've Got Some Imagination.
Queen -- It's Late, Need Your Loving Tonight.
John Fogerty -- Almost Saturday Night, Rockin' All Over the World.
Manfred Mann's Earth Band -- For You, Heart on the Street, Stranded.
B.J. Thomas -- Rock and Roll Lullabye.
Poco -- A Good Feeling to Know, Here We Go Again.
Billy Joel -- Travelin' Prayer.
Dave Clark Five -- Any Way You Want It.
Marvin Gaye -- Ain't That Peculiar?
Nektar -- Astral Man, Fidgety Queen.
Aretha Franklin -- 'Til You Come Back to Me.
Doobie Brothers -- Nobody.
Eagles -- James Dean, Seven Bridges Road.
Mott the Hoople -- All the Young Dudes.
Jane Wiedlin -- Rush Hour.
Bangles -- Let it Go, September Gurls.
Pentangle -- Light Flight.
Roxy Music -- The Thrill of it All.
Steve Tibbetts -- Ur.
Glass Moon -- Solsbury Hill.
REO Speedwagon -- Roll With the Changes, Don't Let Him Go, Blazing Your Own Trail Again.
The Nice -- America.
Holly and the Italians -- I Wanna Go Home, Youth Coup, Miles Away.
Journey -- Feeling That Way/Anytime.
Dave Edmunds -- Information.
ELO -- Twilight, The Way Life's Meant to Be.
Cyndi Lauper -- Money Changes Everything, When You Were Mine.
Brewer and Shipley -- One Toke Over the Line.
Christie -- Yellow River.
Bruce Springsteen -- Rosalita.
Missing Persons -- The Noticeable Ones.
Madonna -- Bad Girl.
Todd Rundgren -- Couldn't I Just Tell You?, Saving Grace.
Pogues -- Lorelei.
Outlaws -- I Can't Stop Loving You.
.38 Special -- Chain Lightning.
Paula Abdul -- Blowing Kisses in the Wind.
Travis Tritt -- T-R-O-U-B-L-E.
Boston -- Used to Bad News.
Pete Townshend -- Slit Skirts.
Blondie -- Angels on the Balcony.
Saga -- Wind Him Up.
Steve Winwood -- Still in the Game.
Procol Harum -- Grand Finale (live).
Cars -- Dangerous Type.
Heart -- Mistral Wind.
Mary-Chapin Carpenter -- Passionate Kisses.
Fleetwood Mac -- Hypnotized.
Icehouse -- Great Southern Land.
Badfinger -- In the Meantime/Some Other Time.
...+ about 20 different Beatles album tracks, & a dozen old Motown hits....

...These are all Good Stuff, of course, but I don't necessarily have much to SAY about them at this late date.
I think The Who's "Relay" has great lyrics that work especially well in our new age of all-seeing, all-knowing, all-surveilling Big Brotherly-ness -- take a listen & see. I think MCA or whoever should reissue the song NOW and call it the "40th Anniversary Remix" or something -- no one would ever know the difference, since the song peaked around #39 back in '73. And Pete's lyrics are especially good on the issue of "control" and how to get around it.... & all that's in addition to the cool synth squiggles & Roger's angry vocal & etc....
The Beach Boys, Jeff Lynne, Brewer and Shipley & Traffic songs all got good responses from unsuspecting members of the public, if that helps.
But at this point, I'm not sure I care much. I can feel it's time for another vacation coming on -- the music's just another way for me to get through an evening of work. As soon as customers become Too Much to handle, the music gets cranked-up. And after that everything's Fine again. As soon as things got Too Crazy on the night of July 4th, I turned the music UP. & the rest of the night was a breeze.
But in this mood I could inflict on the unsuspecting public something like Cromagnon. Or Borbetomagus. Or Pat Metheny's ZERO TOLERANCE FOR SILENCE. And not even care.
I'm still bored. Musical suggestions would be welcomed....

Sunday, July 7, 2013

#691: Put another nickel in....

Boise's Nickelodeon Records was a hole-in-the-wall record store located on main-drag Fairview Ave. at Garden Street, just a couple miles west of downtown. At its height around 1976-77, Nickelodeon was pretty well-stocked with mainstream rock&roll for a tiny store, had a "head shop" doing a bang-up business next door (with an arched entryway connecting the two stores), & an upstairs loft with a pretty good selection of imports and used albums.
By the time my employers The Musicworks had taken the store over in their drive to monopolize Boise's record-buying dollars, the head shop was gone, the archway had been sealed off, and the loft upstairs was closed off and used for storage. This took a lot of atmosphere out of the place.
I worked there part-time for awhile around 1980-81, and a lot of it was pretty dull. People seemed to have forgotten the store was ever open.... Working there helped inspire a piece of fiction in which I (*AHEM*) sort of predicted the invention of Walkmans & i-Pods, though through a more direct route to the brain. I might even post the story here, someday....
I was introduced to the store by my old buddy Jeff Mann while we were still in high school, searching for more great new sounds. I was grabbed by the place immediately: When you walked in, mounted on the wall to your immediate left was a wildly warped old vinyl album, posted there to warn lazy record-buyers about the dangers of heat on vinyl. The album they warped on purpose was an old favorite of mine, Rare Earth's ONE WORLD -- still worth hearing for tracks like "If I Die" and "I Just Want to Celebrate," "Under God's Light," "Someone to Love," "Any Man Can be a Fool"....
Though I looked around a lot, I don't actually remember BUYING much at the Nickelodeon -- though the folks there did set me up with Be-Bop Deluxe's SUNBURST FINISH and Al Stewart's great MODERN TIMES and Miles Davis's IN A SILENT WAY....
I remember only 2 other guys running the place after MW took over -- one older, overweight guy who could've almost been a double for Gentle Giant's singer Derek Shulman, & a tall dark-haired skinny guy of about my age & the same level of starry-eyed-ness about finally having his Dream Job. It was these 2 guys I filled in for a couple days a week.
At one point I lived in a "classic" 8-by-40-foot mobile home directly west of the Nickelodeon and could have walked to the store in 90 seconds. But I don't think I worked there during that period -- it wasn't until after I'd moved that I got to fill-in at the shop. (Like the Nickelodeon, the trailer is long gone....)
Don't remember much of what we played in the store back then -- it all seems like a boredom-filled haze, looking back. Played lots of Kansas's AUDIO VISIONS and perhaps Styx's PARADISE THEATER. Nothing too stunning.... Oh, except for the Go-Go's BEAUTY AND THE BEAT, that was pretty great....
Mainly I just remember waiting for someone to walk into the store. The place sure was livelier when the head shop was next door....
Management noticed this too, and closed the Nickelodeon as a money-loser midway through 1981. The 2 other guys who worked at the store (and whose names I've forgotten over the years) went on unemployment, & I was transferred to the Fairview & Five-Mile MW store, by which time my starry-eyed-ness was pretty much gone, paychecks started bouncing more & more often, & I gave my co-workers a pretty rough time. The honeymoon was about over between me & the Musicworks.
I was too stupid to realize it could just as easily have been ME looking for a new job as well....

Thursday, July 4, 2013

#690: Odyssey

Boise's Odyssey Records was housed in a HUGE former-car-dealer's showroom along downtown's Capitol Blvd., a store big enough to play football in, complete with a cheering crowd.
The store briefly made a big noise for selling albums CHEAP in the summer of 1978. I scored a $3 copy of Gentle Giant's GIANT STEPS imported best-of there, & probably other stuff I can't even remember -- & first heard Ian Dury's "Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll" while browsing through Odyssey's endless stacks of albums & rare imports. My store, The Musicworks, briefly looked at Odyssey as a possible threat to MW's near-monopoly on Boise record sales.
By 1980 Odyssey was gone, leaving what was left of their huge store, almost all of its inventory, and an empty cavernous back-room/repair-shop/warehouse. The store was bought-out by my employers, & I got to work there a couple nights a week through the Summer of '80.
There was a HUGE cleaning & updating job first. We hung up huge SALE posters in the enormous windows to try & block some of the summer heat out. It was HOT in there, & for the first few days the air conditioner didn't work. I remember scrambling around with my co-workers, trying to hang signs, dust, throw out trash, rearrange a massive pile of albums into some easily-followable order, hand-writing plastic artist-header divider cards with markers, trying to get a handle on the haphazard wreckage that was left.
(This was during the period when I was still mostly starry-eyed in love with working for a record store -- My Dream Job -- & would easily have done all this work for free, just to BE THERE.)
At first we didn't even have a turntable. When we started playing music in the store, we began with the albums Odyssey had left over. That was very much a mixed bag -- the album selection had been dug through pretty thoroughly before closing. We pulled out Ian Dury's NEW BOOTS AND PANTIES!!!, & I remember other New Wave stuff being played (The Police's ZENYATTA MONDATTA; possibly Stewart Copeland's "Klark Kent" EP?), along with Blue Oyster Cult's then-current CULTOSAURUS ERECTUS. And later in the evenings when customers thinned-out I played stuff as uncool as Renaissance's A SONG FOR ALL SEASONS.
As the store slowly became more "professional," we started playing what was being "pushed" by record companies at the time -- things like the Rolling Stones' hideous EMOTIONAL RESCUE, & Jackson Browne's rather-average HOLD OUT. Our company even used Browne's "down on the boulevard" tagline from his "Boulevard" single in radio commercials to announce the location of their new store....
Of the group we had cleaning the store, there was one former Odyssey employee left over -- a real rock&roll groupie named Rikki, Nikki, Randi, Andi, something, I can't remember. She was fairly wild compared to some of our other seemingly rather strait-laced employees (especially the 4 other women who worked for the company), & there were rumors of wild partying & wild sex always following her around -- but nothing that was ever confirmed, as far as I remember.
My old buddy Thom West worked at Odyssey for awhile -- maybe as a summer fill-in -- even though his tastes back then ran to Frank Zappa & some of the "artier" stuff I preferred then over "that New Wave Punk-Rock crap." Ghod knows what we were thinking....
I remember those summer evenings on the boulevard as being quite hot -- and QUIET, unless we could drag in music fans from Julia Davis Park, right across the street. & when one of the albums we HAD to play over & over was EMOTIONAL RESCUE, one of the worst albums of all time, it didn't seem like we were going to drag in too many people. Most people didn't even seem to realize we were there. There was a LOT of traffic on Capitol Blvd., but not that much traffic into our store -- even after the official "Musicworks" sign finally went up.
Things were so quiet the cashiers/customer-service folks on shift actually took BREAKS -- hour-long breaks for lunch, 15-minute breaks to explore the vast inside of the old car-dealer's building, parts of which were decorated with psychedelic high-definition posters from the Odyssey days. You never knew when you'd run into one of those. The bathroom had a meditational poster right above the toilet. And there was a completely mirrored-in cubicle off of the sales floor where Odyssey used to sell stereo equipment or drug paraphernalia or something -- a great place to space-out, very trippy. We left it as it was, but started using it as a storage space for leftover furniture & fixtures....
I don't remember working there very long. I was eventually transferred to one of our other stores, while the boulevard location stayed open. It eventually worked out & did a decent business -- until The Musicworks overextended itself (4 stores in a city of less than 75,000) & went out of business early in 1982.
At some point I'll write about working at The Nickelodeon, a hole-in-the-wall store also bought-out by The Musicworks, with a whole different sort of atmosphere....

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

#689: Easily bored

VERY easily bored, these days. Been awhile since any new-to-me music grabbed me by the throat. But I'm still looking & listening ... even though when I get too bored & tired I still give up on CD's & go back to cassettes of Olde Favorites to keep me motivated & moving at work.
From the job to the car to home, here's SOME of what I've been listening to over the past couple weeks:

Waterboys -- A Life of Sundays.
Journey -- Majestic, Too Late, Destiny, Snow Theme, Sandcastles, A Few Coins.
Blue Oyster Cult -- Astronomy, Magna of Illusion, Blue Oyster Cult.
Dusty Springfield -- You Don't Have to Say You Love Me, Little by Little.
Roches -- The Death of Suzzy Roche, My Sick Mind, Nurds, It's Bad for Me.
Eric Burdon -- Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood/Nina's School.
Laura Nyro & Labelle -- I Met Him on a Sunday, The Bells, Desiree, Wind, It's Gonna Take a Miracle.
Elton John -- Solar Prestige a Gammon.
Patrick Moraz -- Impact.
Jean Michel Jarre -- Oxygene Part 4.
Miles Davis/Bill Laswell -- PANTHALASSA: He Loved Him Madly, Black Satin/What If?/Agharta Prelude Dub, Rated X/Billy Preston, In a Silent Way/Shhh/Peaceful/It's About That Time.
Beach Boys -- Our Prayer, Gee, Heroes and Villains, Do You Like Worms?, I'm in Great Shape, Barnyard, The Old Master Painter/My Only Sunshine, Cabin Essence.
Kansas -- Bringing it Back (live), Miracles Out of Nowhere (live).
Return to Forever -- ANTHOLOGY: Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy, After the Cosmic Rain, Captain Senor Mouse, Theme to the Mothership, Space Circus, The Game Maker, Vulcan Worlds, The Shadow of Lo, Beyond the Seventh Galaxy, Song to the Pharaoh Kings, Dayride, Sofistifunk, No Mystery, Celebration Suite, Medieval Overture, Sorceress, The Romantic Warrior, Majestic Dance, The Magician, Duel of the Jester and the Tyrant.
Soft Machine -- Out-Bloody-Rageous (live), Esther's Nose Job (live).
Ian Dury -- Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll, Wake Up and Make Love With Me, You're More Than Fair.

Though not much of the Waterboys' stuff grabbed me, there's a fresh breeze blowing through "A Life of Sundays," especially in Mike Scott's singing & guitar solo, & Anto Thistlethwaite's sax & backing vocals. Another song that lightened-up two hot & dusty years in Turkey....
Journey's "Majestic" is just a fanfare, but it DOES get your attention. "Too Late" is the exact moment when Steve Perry became too impressed with his own vocals & started spending more time looking in the mirror; the version on their live CAPTURED is better than the original on EVOLUTION. "Destiny" & the rest are from Journey's rather short 1979 Japanese movie soundtrack DREAM AFTER DREAM, & there's some solid non-cliched guitar from Neil Schon & nice keyboards from Gregg Rolie. Singing is kept to a minimum. I should probably try to play Side 2 again someday....
I've always loved BOC's IMAGINOS version of "Astronomy," & thought I'd see how much further into that album I could get. The album is produced for maximum dramatic impact, even if the songs aren't all that strong. "Magna of Illusion" is OK, & the idea of naming an album track after the band is ... kinda silly. I couldn't cut through the narrative overview of the album's song-cycle, either. Compelling writing, but what does it MEAN?
"You Don't Have to Say You Love Me" -- My Ghod, the MELODRAMA! Who produced this?! You could cut through the drama with a knife, but it doesn't matter on those great kitchen-sink choruses. "Little By Little" is pleasant enough, if not exactly a Lost Classic. Might grow on me with repeated listenings....
The Roches, awww. "The Death of Suzzy Roche" is a funny recap of the contemplated murder of that clueless heroine, performed with the usual sisterly harmonies, of course. "My Sick Mind" & "Nurds" are pleasant enough, & "It's Bad for Me" is a cover of an old Cole Porter song. Nice as this all is, it's nowhere near as pretty or gripping as "Hammond Song" or "Quitting Time" or even "The Married Men" from their First Album. Some indiosyncratic, angular electric-guitar solos probably would've helped....
Hadn't heard Eric Burdon's solo "Misunderstood" in probably 35 years -- now he sounds almost vulnerable on most of it, until the very end where he goes into full-on raving, gibbering & babbling -- great stuff! His guitarist was pretty great, too. Interesting how the part of this song that I hated & which almost scared me back in 1974 is now the part I look forward to....
Bought Laura Nyro's GONNA TAKE A MIRACLE because I'd never heard her voice before, though she wrote late-'60s hits for Three Dog Night, BS&T, Fifth Dimension, etc. MIRACLE is a collection of old Soul/R&B numbers on which Laura & Labelle perform vocal workouts -- I started with the song titles I didn't recognize: "The Bells" is especially haunting & I look forward to hearing it again. The rest of these are nice enough -- I should probably play the rest of the record....
Critic Robert Christgau nailed "Solar Prestige a Gammon" 30 years ago, when he noted that Elton was as sincere about enunciating the nonsense lyrics on this as he was on any hit ballad -- meaning that maybe the words weren't all THAT important to his success. Part of this almost sounds French....
Patrick Moraz's "Impact" has about 9 million different keyboards squiggling all over it -- nice enough, though I admit I turned the album off when the vocals on the next song started.... Jean Michel Jarre's "Oxygene Part 4" is bouncy & poppy enough that it could've been a hit in America. I should try to play the rest of the album someday....
Critic Lester Bangs might've been wrong about Miles Davis's '70s work -- the tracks from ON THE CORNER and GET UP WITH IT remixed on PANTHALASSA do in fact express something: I love the deep bass tones & the overall vibe on "He Loved Him Madly," even though it does sound like Miles & the band were recorded at the bottom of a very deep, dark cave -- the production & echo is cavernous....
Elsewhere, on "Rated X" & "What If?," you can hear the electronic squiggles Bangs wrote about -- the little motifs that dart in & out of the music only to reappear again a few minutes later, like characters in the ongoing drama of the neighborhood.... Have never heard the originals of most of this stuff, but might have to look into ON THE CORNER and GET UP WITH IT. The IN A SILENT WAY suite still sounds great....
In contrast, what could possibly be lighter & brighter than the Beach Boys? The first half of SMiLE sounds great, especially all those polished-up bootleg tracks we never thought we'd get to hear Officially ("Barnyard," "My Only Sunshine," "I'm in Great Shape," "Do You Like Worms," etc). "Cabin Essence" is still breathtaking. & with its Old West/Frontier setting, most of SMiLE would've sounded as out of place in 1967 as it does now....
"Bringing it Back" has some great wild fiddle-playing from Robbie Steinhardt. "Miracles" has some different keyboard sounds but lacks the drama and dynamics of the gorgeous original studio version.
I dreaded putting on Return To Forever's ANTHOLOGY best-of because I figured they'd be Just Another '70s Jazz-Rock Band. & I was wrong. Through most of the collection they are quite upbeat and lively, with melody lines WAY easier to follow than those of the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Whenever Al DiMeola's or Bill Connors' guitar lines got too screechy, Chick Corea's keyboards were there to bring things back down to earth, melody-wise. Lenny White was ALL OVER the drum kit. Sometimes I could even hear Stanley Clarke's bass. They did at least keep me moving at work, which was all I asked.
However, by the time of "Dayride" & "Sofistifunk" (from their NO MYSTERY album), RTF's instant-cliches helped create the lite-jazz genre that became a scourge in the late '70s & early '80s (remember Spyro Gyra? Jeff Lorber? Hiroshima? Pierre Moerlen's Gong? Of COURSE you do, even if you've tried to block them out). Corea's keyboards got a little TOO tinkly & chirpy. & I expected more of "Sofistifunk" than just light jazzy background music.
They partially recovered with ROMANTIC WARRIOR -- the earlier freshness is gone, but the tunes are stronger, especially the title track & "Sorceress." My old buddy Don Vincent used to like these guys quite a bit -- to the point of buying the members' solo albums. So now I can hear what some of the attraction was. Doesn't explain why RTF's Columbia best-of sucked so bad -- except for the cuts from ROMANTIC WARRIOR. Probably because the version of the band that Corea kept going with after this was pretty-much a whole different group....
Elton Dean has a beautiful sax solo in the middle of "Esther's Nose Job." & the sax-led opening theme of "Out-Bloody-Rageous" still sounds great. Still can't get through the screechy-feedback opening of "Facelift," though....
Hard to believe now that Ian Dury was a figure of some controversy back in '78. The 3 songs listed above are funny & charming, & not the slightest bit threatening. They almost sound like British music-hall -- WAY closer to Benny Hill than the Sex Pistols or the Clash. But I remember there was a lot of controversy about Elvis Costello & The Cars, too....
More soon!

Monday, July 1, 2013

#688: Todd R.

I remember first hearing Todd Rundgren in the Summer of 1972, when Tacoma's KTAC started playing Todd's "I Saw the Light." Light & bouncy, fresh & summery with lots of great overdubbed-Todd vocals, I loved it immediately, & grabbed the 45 the next time my folks took me to K-Mart. I had no idea who the heck this Todd guy was, but I noted his name for the future....
The next time I heard him was in the Fall of '73 when "Hello, It's Me" got played to death in Boise. Somewhere along the way I heard "We've Gotta Get You a Woman," which became me & my Cousin Jim's themesong for the Summer of '74. I also heard the dreamy, Beach Boys-ish "A Dream Goes On Forever" once or twice, but radio didn't seem to play it much. I heard the great "Real Man" exactly twice when adventurous automated local FM station KBBK played it. I couldn't understand why these great light pop songs hadn't made Todd a star yet.
In the Summer of '78 I finally did my homework & bought a second-hand copy of Todd's SOMETHING/ANYTHING? It was a sprawling 2-record set with a LOT going on, from the two earlier hits "Light" & "Hello" to should-have-been hits like the great reflective "Dust in the Wind" (not the Kansas hit of the same time), to silly fake-operas like the hilarious "Song of the Viking," a fake "rock opera" that took up all of Side 4, silly producer's-tricks like the game-show-style "Intro," & wild frat-boy party-closers like "Slut."
The REAL killer was hidden away among the 25 tracks -- the brash power-pop of "Couldn't I Just Tell You?" But it took me years to hear it....
My pick was the gorgeous "Saving Grace," a song Todd called -- with his usual modesty -- "a song for our generation." And he was right....
After this, I decided to see what else I'd missed. TODD was another 2-record set with what seemed like a LOT of filler. But buried amid the overkill was the gorgeous "Dream Goes On Forever," plus a real opera piece borrowed from Gilbert and Sullivan, the hilarious "Lord Chancellor's Nightmare Song."
A WIZARD/A TRUE STAR was another crammed-full affair with more than 60 minutes of music filling its grooves. There was more there than anyone could focus on clearly, including "Just One Victory," an anthem it might not have taken me years to hear, except for the 4 or 5 different musical themes winding their way through it. It was nice, but really cluttered. So was the rest of the album.
INITIATION was home to the great sparkling lead-off "Real Man," but it took a big plunge almost immediately with the silly "Born to Synthesize." I made it through the rest of the first side once or twice, but the real overkill was on Side 2, with the synthesized half-hour "Treatise on Cosmic Fire," which I don't think I ever got all the way through. It sounded too close to Todd's side-project Utopia & their overly-busy cluttered prog. I've still never been able to get through a whole side of Utopia's "proggier" stuff.
After these disappointments, I let Todd go for awhile. But in 1980 when I was working at the record store, we started playing Todd & Utopia's ADVENTURES IN UTOPIA, & I got sucked right back in again. The album seemed to me a good-enough compromise between Todd's sparkling pop & Utopia's prog. The killer was the bitter & dramatic "The Very Last Time" over on Side 2, but "You Make Me Crazy" was irritating enough to be a big hit, & some of the mellower stuff like "Set Me Free" & "Second Nature" would have fit right in on radio. "The Road to Utopia" & "Caravan" added the prog without losing the pop hooks.
Despite how good I thought the album was, I lost track of Todd after that. Never heard his & Utopia's Beatles parody DEFACE THE MUSIC or anything else that followed. Never heard "Bang the Drum All Day" or "Hideaway" or "Couldn't I Just Tell You?" until I picked up Todd's ANTHOLOGY best-of a decade later, wondering what else I'd missed. Other than those 3, I didn't find much.
Still have ANTHOLOGY & Rhino's single-disc VERY BEST OF (which is just a bit too thin), & Todd is still cranking out albums every year or so these days, along with activities like touring with The Cars. & I still don't get why Todd didn't get rich with his own music, rather than through producing Meat Loaf & Grand Funk & Badfinger & Patti Smith & XTC & Sparks & etc.
My pick of his work is still "Saving Grace." As soon as I heard it, I knew he was speaking directly to me, about what motivates people's lives, & the ways people's lives work out, & about whether or not there's ever a pay-off, & how you might feel when that day comes. And it still speaks to me....

#687: The best of Li'l Feisty?

Whenever I read anything by rock critic Dave Marsh, I think of a cartoon by Matt Groening from back in the '80s, a few years before he created THE SIMPSONS. In the cartoon, one of Groening's copyrighted spiky-haired creatures holds up a book: HOW TO BE A FEISTY ROCK CRITIC, by "Li'l Feisty."
If there was ever a model for "Li'l Feisty," it had to be Dave Marsh.
He started out writing a variation on rock critic Lester Bangs' adrenaline-fueled blather for CREEM magazine, then later on was the short, skinny, loudmouthed, smart-assed punk who stood up for old-time rock&roll virtues in the pages of ROLLING STONE.
Marsh was one of the key writers who made the original red-cover ROLLING STONE RECORD GUIDE the book you loved to hate as you threw it across the room. But he mellowed as he got older, turned his back on all those snarky putdowns in the RS RECORD GUIDE, & wrote a wonderful 500-page love letter to rock: THE HEART OF ROCK AND SOUL -- reviews & hidden sexual meanings for 1,000 great rock and soul singles! Classic stuff!
He also wrote the best, most detailed history of The Who that I ever expect to read -- BEFORE I GET OLD ... even if he did scrimp a bit on details after Keith Moon died.
You get samples of all these kinds of writing in the pages of Marsh's best-of, FORTUNATE SON (1985). Unfortunately, there isn't all that much here to love. Marsh never seems to really get that far INTO the music. The music hardly ever carries him away. He's always thinking. He's always analyzing. He's always looking for a fight. He's too political. He thinks too much.
There are a few obviously expressed bits of love and admiration -- like when Marsh remembers the first time he heard Smokey Robinson, The Righteous Brothers, Phil Spector, etc. And there's some warm, vivid writing about Marsh's early days as a suburban Detroit kid.
But after that, a lot of the book's kind of ... DRY. There's an expert demolition job on Bob Seger's 1980 album AGAINST THE WIND, which I remembered from its first appearance in ROLLING STONE. Marsh's view was that the laid-back lameness of AGAINST THE WIND betrayed Seger's past & future as a rocker. I just thought the album was tired hackwork from an obviously uninspired artist. It was SO dull that I actually FORGOT to include it in my list of The Most Boring Pop Albums Of All Time, awhile back....
There's a long, solid, sociologically-based review of Bruce Springsteen's NEBRASKA that makes me want to go put it on right now. There's also a funny story from Bruce at the very end that made me laugh.
But after that, the rest seems too angry or too picky, or just not enough fun. There had to be better work out there for Dave to put into a retrospective.
There was a punchline to that old Matt Groening cartoon:
Q: Will Li'l Feisty be able to put his best rock writings into a big best-selling book?
A: No.