Saturday, December 27, 2014

5th Annual TAD Awards

OK, real quick now because I'm on work-time, here's the 5th Annual TAD Awards for the best Strange Music and books I've noticed over the last year....
* BEST NEW-TO-ME SONGS OF THE YEAR -- Bonnie Raitt: "Angel From Montgomery," Aretha Franklin: "I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You," Irma Thomas: "The River is Waiting," Tedeschi-Trucks Band: "Made Up Mind," Bo Diddley: "Mona" (can you believe? This song is older than me!) ... and ... wait for it ... Janis Joplin: "Kosmic Blues."
* BEST BEST-OF -- Against some REAL heavy competition, the winner is THE SUPREME AL GREEN. This is the best-of I've enjoyed the most, played the most, learned the most from. And I'm still finding new greats on it. How come I never heard "Love and Happiness" before? Because I'm ignorant....
* RUNNERS-UP -- Best-of's by Deep Purple (a real ear-opener), Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Tower of Power, Sly and the Family Stone ("M'Lady" and "Sing a Simple Song" are really great -- why weren't they hits?), Earth Wind and Fire ("Serpentine Fire"!)....
* BEST MUSICAL-LISTENING TREND -- Soul/R&B/Funk/Blues. I got bored with everything else, so stuff I ignored when I was 12 years old sounds brand new to me now....
* BEST RADIO SHOW -- KPLU FM's "All Blues," every Saturday and Sunday from 6 p.m. to midnight Pacific Time. The show's so great I don't have to bring CD's to work with me on weekends. And they're streaming at If you're bored with music like I was, you should check 'em out. And I've learned a LOT....
* WRITER OF THE YEAR -- Paul Theroux. I read four books by him and re-read three others....
* BEST LOCAL PLACE TO BUY MUSIC -- Port Orchard Goodwill. People around here are donating a TON of great CD's ... a few dozen of which I emptied my bank account to buy, a few months back....
* BEST NEWS OF THE YEAR -- I wrote two more e-book memoir/novels, and a short story (which got rejected), and I'm halfway through another book. The short story marked the first time I'd submitted something to a fiction publisher in almost 15 YEARS.... And I'm slowly sneaking up on 800 blog posts.... I ain't done yet.
Truly there isn't much in this list that could be called "Strange Music" as I used to define it, but all the music mentioned here was new to me, and Ghod knows I'm happier with my listening these days, so....
More soon....

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Marathon 2

Greetings. Sorry I haven't been posting here.
Got through my 20 nights of work in a row back in October and actually got two days off. Then was told when I came back to work that my co-worker with the injured leg needed more recovery time. So now I'm working six nights a week through Thanksgiving.
I didn't ask for this and was already tired at the end of the last marathon. So now I'm more tired. Though it helps when the sun comes out....
Hate to whine, and I don't mind the extra $$$ -- I'm saving up for a trip back home to Idaho next summer. And it's nice to be able to pay the bills without worrying about how soon my checks are going to get to the bank. But otherwise I'm not thinking about the money much. I haven't had any time or energy to enjoy it. I'm barely thinking at all.
So I probably won't be posting here much in November, unless something unusual happens. I have nothing much to report anyway -- I haven't bought any new music, am still relying on my old Soul/R&B stand-by's at work, and they're still working fine to keep me motivated. Haven't had the time or energy to visit Goodwill and stock up on more cheap CD's, which might even be a good thing.
Am re-reading Paul Theroux's MY OTHER LIFE and MY SECRET HISTORY, among other things like the ROLLING STONE ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF ROCK and other bits and pieces here and there -- SALON.COM'S (really excellent) GUIDE TO CONTEMPORARY AUTHORS, etc. Was surprised to find that V.S. Naipaul (see review of Theroux's SIR VIDIA'S SHADOW, below) turns up in Theroux's MY SECRET HISTORY, too -- though under a different name, of course. I'd forgotten that whole section....
Have written a little lately, not much. The start of a fantasy about returning home, and just today the opening of a piece of fiction about a little radio station that tries to save the country. Too early to know if either of these pieces will lead anywhere, but I'll keep you posted.
Nothing much else to report except that I'm tired and it's getting cold at night here. Of course it IS November, that's what's supposed to happen. Hope y'all are having more fun than me. More eventually....

P.S. -- Friday night marked 11 years that I've been at my job. I even noted it on our calendar here at work, and naturally nobody noticed, nobody said a word, just like they didn't notice when I marked 10 years here last year. Don't know what I expected. But at least nobody's saying "Why are you still here?"

Sunday, October 26, 2014


Just finished my 19th consecutive night at work. If I can get through Sunday night, I'll actually get two days off. I plan to spend at least the first day in a coma.
I asked for this. One of my co-workers had her leg operated on earlier this month and needed time to recover, so I told the Boss to throw nights at me until I begged for a night off.
She believed me. And now I'll be grateful when my co-worker comes back Monday night. Or I would be grateful, but it would get in the way of my coma.
Not that this is a world record or anything, but it's a new record for me. I haven't worked this many days in a row in years. Five years or so back, the Afternoon Guy and I used to trade extra overtime-days every other week because we both needed the $$$. But I'm not the 35-year-old I used to be....
The extra $$$ is supposed to go toward a trip back home next summer. Assuming I don't get stupid and blow it all on music and books before then, which could happen.
It's been worth it, and I've learned a few things. I've learned how easy this job CAN be if you just KEEP UP WITH IT, do the work and don't put things off for someone else.
Also, I'm a LOT more relaxed when I'm tired. Back around night number 7 or 8 I was really starting to feel it and everything seemed like too much trouble. But since then I've been too tired to care. I don't have enough energy left to stress-out.
Stuff that would have put me in orbit normally I just laugh off now. A few nights ago a kind of scraggly, homeless middle-aged hippy couple came into the store and cooked their dinner in the microwave, then hung around eating it as if this was a snack bar. They never bought anything. And I just laughed and rolled with it.
I also make a lot of stupid mistakes when I'm tired. A couple nights ago I was $30 off -- the money was there, but I couldn't make it add up right. Two nights in a row I cashed-in $20-winning scratch tickets and rang them up as $2,000 -- normally I catch stuff like that right off, but both times I didn't notice the mistakes until after closing.
Of course the right music helps.Lately I've been playing the same old '60s/'70s Soul and R&B and old Motown stuff that I've been addicted to for the last couple of months. I started to get a little bored with it all a few days back, but nothing else works as well to keep me up and moving. And on weekends I've got KPLU's "All Blues," still doing great work.
New-to-me greats I've heard on "All Blues" in the last couple weeks include the Tedeschi-Trucks Band's "Made Up Mind," the Neville Brothers' "Hey-Pocky-a-Way," Joe Bonnamassa's new "I Gave Up Everything for You Except the Blues," Lowell George's "Two Trains," Irma Thomas's "The River is Waiting" and ... get this ... the Dixie Cups' "Iko Iko." KPLU "streams" over the Internet at, and on Saturday and Sunday nights from 6 p.m. to midnight Pacific Time they are well worth your time.
The weather's helped, too. Summer's over. It's been chilly and rainy here, with highs in the 50s and rain almost daily, occasional gusty winds as the fall storms start rolling in. Good sleeping weather. My problem is, without the store's magical hot chocolate, I'd never wake up. And no amount of sleep seems to make much difference. The rain and storms have made some nights in the store pretty quiet.
I've been reading in the afternoons while downing pots of coffee and trying to wake up -- lots of Paul Theroux, and right now I'm reading Nicholas Shakespeare's biography of writer Bruce Chatwin. Non-fiction and travel writing seem to work best for me, these days.
Just feel in a fog, like I usually do when winter gets rolling here. Only this time I blame it on work.
Tonight was busier than normal -- wind and rain knocked down trees and power lines, lots of people with no lights or heat. Being at work was a good place to be tonight -- we usually don't lose power.
But now I've got to drive home in it. And come back tomorrow for one more night....

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Are all writers pompous arrogant assholes?

I was in Greece for three weeks in 1991, thanks to the Air Force. Doing a very small part to help a base in Athens close, I was surrounded by one of the oldest, most gorgeous countries in the world -- and it was so expensive I couldn't afford to see any of it.
The hotel the AF stuck us in cost $50 per night -- for a TINY room. The most modest dinner in the hotel's dining room was another $50. The cheapest meal I could find close by was the $17 dinner special at the charming dirt-floored taverna down the hill from the hotel: a pork chop, a salad and a Coke -- and all the Greek atmosphere I could absorb. I loved it, but at $17 per meal I was still going to be broke soon.
There was a book stall next to the taverna -- cheap paperbacks imported from England. With costs to take a taxi downtown or a bus around the area so expensive, the only traveling I was going to do was in my head. So I grabbed a copy of Paul Theroux's RIDING THE IRON ROOSTER, about taking a train trip across China.
I got to stick my toes in the Aegean Sea and saw the Parthenon out the window of a bus, but the only other parts of Greece I saw were the dramatic coastline, blinding-white houses, the sheer rocky cliffs and the palm trees. It was like California with Greek road signs.
The rest of the time I was traveling across China on a train. IRON ROOSTER was so vivid and detailed that I went back to the book stall and grabbed two more of Theroux's imports -- a lurid sex-change murder mystery called CHICAGO LOOP (I admit I was attracted by the purple woman on the cover), and a collection of short stories, SINNING WITH ANNIE. I don't remember anything about the stories.
But I had a great time with Theroux's China trip, though I thought it was absurd that I should be reading about China while lounging in Greece.
Later, I picked up Theroux's novels THE MOSQUITO COAST (vivid and fun, and hero Allie Fox is outrageous, but the movie's better) and MY SECRET HISTORY, which is full of brutal, intense relationship problems. It might be his best novel. MY OTHER LIFE features a wish-fulfillment alter-ego hero named "Paul Theroux" and is nearly as intense and successful as SECRET HISTORY.
Theroux's travel writing gets better as he goes on. THE GREAT RAILWAY BAZAAR, his first travel book, seems to me thin compared to his later adventures, though he had a big success with it. THE HAPPY ISLES OF OCEANIA is a non-stop joy, as Theroux paddles between Pacific islands in a kayak, dodging headhunters and cannibals.
A month or so back I read two of his travel books in a row -- THE PILLARS OF HERCULES, about a trip around the Mediterranean Sea, and DARK STAR SAFARI, about a trip south across Africa from Cairo to Cape Town. Both painted vivid pictures of the areas he covered. I read HERCULES because I wanted to see what Theroux thought of Greece and Turkey. Theroux loved Turkey, and thought Greece was too touristy and fake -- exactly the opposite of my experience. SAFARI is at its best when Theroux returns to Malawi and Uganda, where he lived as a Peace Corps volunteer and teacher in the late '60s and early '70s. He is shocked to find that things there have gotten worse.
Several of Theroux's other books are well worth trying. THE KINGDOM BY THE SEA is a vivid, sometimes hilarious walk around the coast of the British Isles. FRESH AIR FIEND is mostly a collection of longer travel pieces, with some profiles of memorable friends and excellent reviews of other travel books thrown in. SUNRISE WITH SEAMONSTERS is a collection of shorter pieces and includes some bits of pure gold -- hilarious pieces on going home for his high-school reunion, hanging out with his entire extended family on Cape Cod ... and riding New York City's subways for a week to see how bad they really are. They're pretty bad.
Right now I'm halfway through Theroux's HOTEL HONOLULU, which reads more like a long series of excellent character sketches rather than a novel.
This is all back-story. I just finished reading Theroux's SIR VIDIA'S SHADOW (1999), about his 30-year friendship with Nobel-Prize-winning (but difficult) Indian/Trinidadian writer V.S. Naipaul. Theroux takes nearly 400 pages to show what an ass Naipaul can be. We catch on much faster.
They met in Africa, when Naipaul was guest writer at a university in Uganda where Theroux taught. Naipaul urged Theroux to keep writing, told him not to downplay anything, told him to always Tell The Truth, whether he's writing a novel, short stories, essays, reviews. Pull no punches. Naipaul eventually introduces Theroux to book-publishers and editors.
Naipaul may be a great writer and a good friend, but he's also an eccentric, overbearing pain in the ass. From the beginning, he's absolutely sure of his own genius and brilliance. He has no time for most people, thinks he's above almost everyone (he calls most people "infies," for inferior). He claims to hate all music. He treats his wife harshly, passes instant sweeping judgements on people, dismisses almost all writers, seems on the surface to be disgusted by women.... And he NEVER PAYS FOR ANYTHING! Even when he invites Theroux out for lunch. He's as outrageous a character as Allie Fox in THE MOSQUITO COAST.
While poor-mouthing, Naipaul travels the world, owns a house and an apartment in England, takes long tours of India, Africa, and the American South. While his wife is dying of cancer, Naipaul spends his time and takes his long trips with another woman. Then, two months after his wife dies, he marries some other woman who's 20 years younger. Long-suffering Pat Naipaul is the saddest person in the book.
Finally their friendship ends at least partly because Naipaul's new wife hates Theroux. And Naipaul just walks away.
Theroux admits he can be a bit of a know-it-all too. Interesting that two such difficult men should have such a long-lasting friendship. But by the end, Theroux is seeing all the flaws in his friend, too.
As with Theroux's travel books, VIDIA is easy to follow, involving, and laugh-out-loud funny. I devoured it in about three days.
It also made me think about writers -- about what I act like when I'm writing, about how I treat people. I don't want to treat people like V.S. Naipaul. About the only way you can get away with that crap is by being a genius.
I don't want to be an "infy," either.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Live blogging from Work!

Tonight is a snoozefest. The first major rainstorm of the fall is passing through, and I've seen about half a dozen paying customers in the last two hours.
So, at the possible risk of my job if my boss should suddenly appear, I thought I'd babble here for awhile.
This is my seventh work night in a row. One of my co-workers had her leg operated on, and may be out for the next two weeks or more. I volunteered to cover her shifts as well as my own, until I beg for a day off. So far, this unexpected extra work hasn't been that bad, and I'm sure I'll enjoy the paychecks.
But tonight, I'll bet we're barely paying the electrical bill.
More in a bit....
..Is anybody out there? Have had ONE more customer since I started typing this. The rain has lightened up a little, was POURING an hour ago. Not so much now. Seems like most of the storm hit central Puget Sound and the hills to the east. That happens here sometimes. When it snows, THEN we get hit....
...Rain's coming down steadily, though not thundering down like it was for awhile. Little more like a shower, now. A few more people out, most apparently scared away by storm forecasts....
We normally have some Regulars come in for beer between now and midnight -- we'll see if they show up tonight.... I haven't worked a Monday night in so long, I don't know what to expect, don't know what "normal" is....
Any questions from the audience about this weird work I do...?
...OK, in the past 10 minutes have sold 2 Scratch tickets & one pack of smokes. Really burnin' it up tonight, folks!
...Have not played any music tonight -- want to have as much advance warning as possible if the boss should drop by. With no noise, can hear cars drive up in the parking lot, etc., and can get the jump on people. Am I just being paranoid? Probably....
...Have both the front doors wide open and it's 68 degrees in here -- for the first time tonight, I feel comfortable. All my work is done, or I wouldn't be typing this. I'm just waiting for midnight so I can lock up. A few minor chores to do before then.
We all got new corporate-logo work shirts a couple weeks ago -- they're comfortable, but they're WARM. It can be raining and 60 degrees outside and I'll still be sweating like a pig as I run around inside the store getting my work done. Hey, I'm a hot guy. Can't wait 'til summer comes back around and I'll be sweating off 10 pounds a day.... But I don't have that much weight to lose....
So, yes, I'm officially a corporate kiss-ass now, and have the shirt to prove it.
...The rain has stopped. But it's still quiet out there.
Hey, somebody got second-prize in tonight's Powerball drawing. Was it you? That's a cool million dollars for someone. I'll take it, if it goes unclaimed....
...If this continues, this is going to be our worst business night since last winter -- we might even break my personal all-time night-shift record-low of $650....
...OK, sold a couple beers and some gas....
...Here's a great one -- I heard from somebody who's mentioned in my record-store-memoir e-book! Over at the Back-Up Plan's Facebook page, my old record-store manager Robin said she downloaded the FREE first 20 pages of GUARANTEED GREAT MUSIC! and enjoyed it -- but she said I got a few facts wrong....
I wouldn't be surprised, knowing my faulty memory. Ghod knows what she'd think of the rest of the book.... I think it's cool to hear from her, since I haven't heard from her since late 1981. And I'm also kind of dreading what else she might tell me is wrong with the book, if you know what I mean....
...OK, sold some bottled waters, a couple sandwiches, and some energy bars -- still right on track to have the slowest business night here EVER....
...OK, just helped a guy break his steering wheel loose so he could start his car. You know how steering wheels sometimes lock up if you turn 'em too far one way or the other? Like that. Good thing it was nothing more complicated. Cos I sure ain't no mechanic....
Now 11:10 p.m., Pacific Time. Gotta count Scratch tickets here in a bit....
...Had the radio news on for awhile earlier, but it's nothing too surprising. Ebola outbreak, now an American nurse infected, etc. I was glad that they at least mentioned that you can't get Ebola unless you have contact with an infected person's bodily fluids.
Worried about Ebola? Go read Richard Preston's THE HOT ZONE, copies are available at for a penny -- and it will scare the SHIT out of you....
OK, sold some gas and some more scratch tickets. Need to count scratch tickets now....
...Have started doing stuff so I can close down the store at midnight -- counted scratch tickets, emptied a coffee pot, took out this morning's old dead newspapers, brought in squeegees, took apart the soda fountain....
Still on track for this to be the quietest business night ever. Tonight definitely has been nothing to Write Home about.... This has been an experiment that probably won't be repeated. But at least it kept me awake. And if I'd been busy, I wouldn't have had TIME to write about it....
...12:40 a.m. -- OK, it's OFFICIAL: The worst, slowest business night here EVER, $535 total. Unbelievable. I wonder what scared everybody away? The weather wasn't THAT bad. Is it because it's the 13th? It couldn't have been ME, right?
Thanks to everybody who dropped in ... and don't be expecting this again in the future....

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Soul/R&B/Blues playlist

OK, here's a long list of MOST of what I've been inflicting on unsuspecting customers at work for the last couple of months. Many of these came cheap from my local Goodwill store -- a great source for music if you don't mind diggin'.
Especially Great Stuff is marked with a *. Notes follow....

Tower of Power -- *So Very Hard to Go, *You're Still a Young Man, *Down to the Nightclub, *What is Hip?, You Got to Funkifize.
Earth, Wind and Fire -- *September, Shining Star, That's the Way of the World, *Sing a Song, *Serpentine Fire, *Fantasy, Kalimba Story, *Getaway, *After the Love is Gone, Boogie Wonderland (with The Emotions).
Bill Withers -- *Ain't No Sunshine, *Grandma's Hands, Use Me, Who is He and What is He to You?
Al Green -- Tired of Being Alone, I Can't Get Next to You, *Let's Stay Together, *I'm Still in Love With You, *Call Me, Let's Get Married, *Sha-La-La (Make Me Happy), *Take Me to the River, *Love Ritual, *L-O-V-E (Love), Full of Fire, *You Ought to be With Me.
Aretha -- *I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You, Respect, *Dr. Feelgood, *Chain of Fools, *Think, The House That Jack Built, *Since You've Been Gone, Spirit in the Dark, *Spanish Harlem, *Rock Steady, Oh Me Oh My (I'm a Fool for You Baby), *Day Dreaming, *Until You Come Back to Me.
Otis Redding -- *Mr. Pitiful, I've Been Loving You Too Long, My Lover's Prayer, *Shake, *Respect, Satisfaction, Fa-fa-fa-fa-fa (Sad Song), *Try a Little Tenderness, The Happy Song (Dum-Dum), Tramp (with Carla Thomas), Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay.
Commodores -- *Machine Gun, *Brick House, *Sail On.
Parliament -- *P-Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up).
Bonnie Raitt -- *I Can't Make You Love Me, *Angel from Montgomery, Finest Lovin' Man, Give it Up or Let Me Go, Women be Wise, Love Me Like a Man, Love Has No Pride, Guilty, What is Success?, Sugar Mama, others....
Booker T and the MG's -- *Time is Tight, *Hang 'Em High, Green Onions.
Isley Brothers -- *That Lady.
Dramatics -- *Whatcha See is Whatcha Get, *In the Rain, *(Gimme Some) Good Soul Music.
Junior Walker and the All-Stars -- *I'm a Road Runner, *I Ain't Going Nowhere, *Pucker Up Buttercup, *Anyway You Wannta, Probe Your Mind, *Nothing But Soul, Take Me Girl I'm Ready, Shotgun, *Moody Junior, *Shake and Fingerpop.
Spinners -- *I'll Be Around, *I'm Coming Home, *Rubberband Man, *Could it be I'm Falling in Love, *One of a Kind Love Affair.
Stylistics -- *You are Everything, *Betcha By Golly Wow.
Curtis Mayfield -- *Freddie's Dead.
Average White Band -- Pick Up the Pieces.
Brothers Johnson -- *Strawberry Letter 23, *I'll Be Good to You, Get the Funk Out Ma Face.
Wild Cherry -- Play that Funky Music.
Cheryl Lynn -- Got to be Real.
Emotions -- *Best of My Love.
Ike and Tina Turner -- Proud Mary, *River Deep Mountain High.
Funkadelic -- Super Stupid, *Can You Get to That?
B.B. King -- The Thrill is Gone, Nobody Loves Me But My Mother, How Blue Can You Get? (live).
Ray Charles -- Busted, Georgia on My Mind, Let's Go Get Stoned, Night Time is the Right Time, What'd I Say?, Hit the Road Jack.
Nina Simone -- *Funkier Than a Mosquita's Tweeter, Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues, Suzanne, Sunday in Savannah, Mississippi Goddam.
Motown's HITSVILLE USA singles collection/Various artists -- *He Was Really Saying Something, *Nowhere to Run, *When I'm Gone, *First I Look at the Purse, *Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me), *This Old Heart of Mine, Greetings (This is Uncle Sam), Function at the Junction, *What Becomes of the Brokenhearted, *Uptight.
K.C. and the Sunshine Band -- *Shake Your Booty, *That's the Way I Like It.
Wilson Pickett -- *Land of 1,000 Dances, Mustang Sally, Funky Broadway, *Don't Knock My Love, *Fire and Water.
Stevie Ray Vaughn -- *The House is Rockin', Cold Shot.
Timmy Thomas -- *Why Can't We Live Together?
J.C. Brooks and the Uptown Sound -- Baltimore is the New Brooklyn.
King Curtis -- *Memphis Soul Stew.
Solomon Burke -- Cry to Me.
Billy Paul -- Me and Mrs. Jones.
Labelle -- *Lady Marmalade.
James Brown -- *I Got You (I Feel Good), *Papa's Got a Brand New Bag, Soul Power, Night Train, It's a Man's Man's Man's World, Cold Sweat, America is My Home, Prisoner of Love, Ain't That a Groove, Try Me, Get on the Good Foot.
...All this in addition to the usual Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Motown and Sly hits I've been playing at work for years....

NOTES: Some of these songs I'd never heard before. Others I hadn't heard in 35+ years.
Tower of Power still sounds great. I think "So Very Hard to Go" and "You're Still a Young Man" are both classics. The surprise was "What is Hip?" which has hilarious lyrics and should have been a big hit.
Why weren't EWF's "Fantasy" and "Serpentine Fire" bigger hits? "Fantasy" is just about perfect, especially on the edited single, where one musical intrusion smack in the middle of the song is removed so the flow isn't interrupted. "Serpentine Fire" has a great groove that I'd missed for years....
I've already babbled about Al Green, but the song I missed on his imported best-of was "You Ought to be With Me," which definitely speaks to me these days, in light of personal-relationship issues that have been ongoing since late June. Almost brought tears to my eyes, and after not hearing it since the early '70s, I still remembered the words!
Bill Withers was master of the seemingly simple, compact song. I HATED "Ain't No Sunshine" in 1971, but it sure sounded great 20 years later, and still does now. "Grandma's Hands" shoulda been a hit too -- and it's only 2 minutes long!
Great a singer as Otis Redding was, what I remember most from his songs are the instrumental parts -- the horns and guitars -- except for "Shake," which is a total scream ... and the very different approach he had to "Respect." And Otis wrote it.
Bonnie Raitt strikes me as a great voice with mostly second-rate material. "Angel from Montgomery" is one of the best things I've heard all year, and I already knew about "I Can't Make You Love Me." As for the rest....
I was thrilled to find a Dramatics best-of CD because my old tape with "Whatcha See is Whatcha Get" was about dead. "In the Rain" is also nice though very different. The real lost classic is "(Gimme Some) Good Soul Music," which has the vocals and sound of a big hit. But I can see where a song hooked with the phrase "Gimme some...." might have some trouble getting airplay.... But it's sure worth hearing....
I'd forgotten how annoying Cheryl Lynn's "Got to be Real" was.
Finally heard some Funkadelic. "Super Stupid" is just about the heavy-guitar and frenzied-vocals thing I'd expected, but "Can You Get to That?" is something more -- almost black-harmony-group-meets-folk-music. It's a lotta fun, shoulda been a hit. Gotta find more.
I want to like Ray Charles, but I'm having trouble with the orchestra that so often backed him. It seems so old-fashioned.
Nina Simone was worth hearing just for the acapella/drums "Funkier than a Mosquita's Tweeter," an old Tina Turner song that MUST have been written about Ike. It's a scream, and it's pretty bitter. Another lost classic.
HITSVILLE USA is a multi-CD set of Motown's first dozen years of singles. Somebody broke up the set and left the parts at my local Goodwill. Each disc does not ID the artists, though I knew some of them. "He Was Really Sayin' Something" should have been a huge hit. "First I Look at the Purse" is hilarious. "Greetings (This is Uncle Sam)" is a real oddity -- an apparently pro-Vietnam-draft song that I'll likely never play again. "When I'm Gone" is good girl-group Motown; "Function at the Junction" is OK second-string Motown. Also the first time in years that I've listened to Stevie Wonder's "Uptight," actually heard the words. It's pretty great, another song of adoration.
I bought the Wicked Pickett's best-of for "Land of 1,000 Dances," "Don't Knock My Love" and "Fire and Water." The latter two I hadn't heard since '72, and they both still sound great.
"Baltimore is the New Brooklyn" is another oddity -- nice heavy guitar and lyrics about how Baltimore's just a short train ride from NYC, and at least it's better than New Jersey.... They coulda done a sequel: "Cleveland is the New Chicago"....
"Memphis Soul Stew" is a great almost-instrumental that I'd never heard before.
Wow, even "Me and Mrs. Jones" doesn't sound bad now, and I HATED it back in '72 or whenever....
There will likely be more of this....
This is a weird place for a white progressive-rock fan from Idaho to go, but at least I'm not bored....

P.S. -- Hey, I forgot to mention ... each post since late June has been a late-night rush-job ... that customer reaction to all this stuff has been REALLY GOOD ... as long as the tunes are good. Radio stations please note....

Sunday, October 5, 2014

CLAPTON: A progress report

I'm about two-thirds of the way through Eric Clapton's CLAPTON: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY (2007). I don't know if I'll be able to finish it.
With all the rave reviews this book got, the reviewers left out one very important thing.
It's dull.
Now Eric would probably be the first person to tell you that he's not the most exciting guy in the world. But still....
The chapters on The Yardbirds, Cream and Blind Faith are all pretty thin. The chapter on Eric touring with Delaney and Bonnie and Friends is actually pretty good.
The chapter on Derek and the Dominoes is short, but Eric did at least mention the fatherly talk Atlantic Records head Ahmet Ertegun gave him about drug addiction, and about how Atlantic almost lost Ray Charles that way....
Clapton does talk about making little homemade recordings of his guitar playing during the years he lost to heroin -- indicating that there was something inside him that was trying to get out.
He mentions Bobby Whitlock of the Dominoes sending him a tape of some guys in Tulsa that Whitlock thought Clapton might want to play with -- that led to 461 OCEAN BOULEVARD.
But Clapton never mentions crazy drummer Jim Gordon coming to Eric's house after the Dominoes fell apart and screaming for hours for Clapton to come out....
I've followed Clapton through his pursuit of Patti Boyd, to the point where it's obvious that even though they're finally together and should be happy, she isn't going to change his life either ... and so, after pursuing her for YEARS, after dedicating an album to her, he keeps sleeping with other women....
Now I'm into his heavy-drinking and seeking-treatment phase.... The years he lost to drug abuse and drinking get more pages in this book than his bands.... Clapton did keep a diary through at least some of these experiences, so the thinness of things can't be blamed on his bad memory....
Right now I'm going back through his chapter on playing with John Mayall on the BLUESBREAKERS album, because the whole "Clapton is God" thing was really starting to cause Eric and his band problems by the early '80s ... but up to then he hadn't mentioned the whole "Guitar God" thing anywhere else in the book. At least I didn't notice it before....
...OK. There's no reason for anyone to expect Clapton to bare his soul in his memoir when he's already done it in "Layla," right? But then, why write a book if you've got nothing that interesting to say?
If you want to know where songs like "Badge," "Let it Rain," or "Let it Grow" came from, this book won't tell you. He does explain what triggered "Presence of the Lord." You might be surprised. "Badge" isn't mentioned at all.
I'm gonna try to at least get through his marriage to Boyd and when he lost his son.... but if I never update this review, you'll know I couldn't finish the book. It's an easy read, but I wish there was more depth here.
Thanks to a Regular at work, I've been listening to Clapton and Steve Winwood's live album from Madison Square Garden -- some of it's pretty great. Their version of Hendrix's "Little Wing" is gorgeous. "Can't Find My Way Home" sounds really good. Even "Dear Mr. Fantasy" is OK. And even "Glad," one of the few Traffic songs I liked, sounds OK -- and I didn't think you could do that piece without Chris Wood's saxophone.
They do a good version of Buddy Miles's "Them Changes." "Forever Man" sounds pretty great. Buddy Holly's "Well All Right" is excellent. And what a band! And Chris Stainton helps out on keyboards!
It's a lot better than Clapton's book.

Friday, October 3, 2014

"Talented, but a piece of shit"

Mark Ribowsky makes '60s/'70s record-producer Phil Spector look like quite a creature in HE'S A REBEL (1989, updated 2000), and the book was written BEFORE Phil was convicted of murder.
Ribowsky makes a case for Phil being a screwed-up genius due to Phil's messed-up family life, including a crazy, overbearing sister and a father who suicided while Phil was young. As a result, Phil can't connect or empathize with anyone.
Maybe this explains why Phil uses and takes advantage of just about everyone in the book, from the record companies he works for at first, to the members of the "Wall of Sound" he assembles in the studio.
Ribowsky shows Phil constantly wheeling and dealing, from the time of his first huge hit "To Know Him is to Love Him" (the epitaph on Phil's dad's gravestone), through work with Imperial, Atlantic, Liberty, Warner Bros., and A&M before getting his own show rolling at Philles. Through it all, Phil is described as a shameless hustler, totally without conscience, always looking out for Number One.
There is LOTS of detail about the great songwriters Spector worked with, and PAGES of what it was like to be in the studio with the Wall of Sound, the Wrecking Crew, the greatest studio musicians of the '60s. Tons of folks from those days are quoted -- and a lot of them talk about the HOURS Phil spent blending musicians in the studio, adding and subtracting, pushing the recording gear until the flooding, overlapping sound of those '60s records was just what he wanted.
There's also plenty of detail about Phil's later less-successful adventures with the Beatles, John Lennon, George Harrison, Leonard Cohen, and the Ramones.
It's too bad nobody proofread this book. There are lots of typos and the writing's sometimes awkward. Ribowsky sometimes tries to cram way too much information into one sentence, and his sentences sometimes go on way too long. One more read-through could have smoothed those problems out.
But that's my only real complaint. It's interesting to see how many people in the music business had grudges against Phil -- there were a lot of them. Only some of the women are able to make Phil sound human -- like Brill Building songwriter Beverly Ross (who got used), and Phil's ex-wife Annette Merar, who clearly still loved him.
Of course, Phil's ex-wife Ronnie Spector isn't quoted, except through her divorce filings against him. Phil isn't quoted, either. He refused to participate with the book.
But LOTS of other famous names spill the details -- Atlantic Records head Ahmet Ertegun, producer and record-company executive Lester Sill, producer Jerry Wexler, Nedra Talley of the Ronettes, producer Russ Titleman, songwriters Gerry Goffin, Cynthia Weil, Doc Pomus, Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, singer Ben E. King, Sonny Bono, Nino Tempo, songwriter Vini Poncia ... but not Carole King or Tina Turner.
This book also reminded me how freaking awesome songs like "Be My Baby," "Baby I Love You," "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" and "River Deep, Mountain High" really are. Course I didn't need much reminding to play them again at work over the last couple nights.
Ribowsky does NOT include my favorite Phil Spector story ever, which is the one where Bobby Hatfield (the higher voice in the Righteous Brothers) asks Phil what he's supposed to do while bass Bill Medley carries the first two verses practically acapella in "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'."
"What are you supposed to DO?" Phil asks incredulously. "You're supposed to go directly TO THE BANK, that's what you're supposed to do!"
Not sure how Ribowsky missed that one -- it would have humanized Phil a little bit.
Oh, the title of this post is a direct quote from one of the many Big Industry Names interviewed for this book. You'll have to figure out who it is. It's worth the read....

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Who's 100 best?

At least I got this cheap. Goodwill's a really good source for cheap rock and roll books.
VH1's 100 GREATEST ALBUMS (2003), edited by Jacob Hoye, is a little CD-sized gift book published for Hallmark by Pocket Books. Inside you'll find essays on what are supposedly the 100 greatest rock albums ever, which VH1 compiled by polling musicians, rock critics, etc.
After ROLLING STONE's various shots at creating an "All-Time Best" list, VH1 probably felt they had to do this. They probably made an hour-long TV show out of it, too. Or a mini-series.
Wow, that's 21 albums already. You could probably come up with a "100 Best" list off the top of your head.
First thing that jumped out at me is that LED ZEPPELIN 4 isn't here. Which is strange, because 1 and 2 and PHYSICAL GRAFFITI are.
The second thing is that I didn't learn much. Most of these albums have been written about SO often that it's difficult to bring anything new to them.
In many ways, the best essay in the book is editor Hoye's introduction, where he talks about hearing ABBEY ROAD as a 5-year-old -- and how it sounded to him like a child's wonderland. Who wouldn't want to go with Ringo to the Octopus's Garden?
And though many of these are life-changing albums, few of the writers write like their lives were changed. They just aren't that enthusiastic.
There are other signs of a lack of enthusiasm. Musicians' names are spelled wrong, or spelled differently the second time they're mentioned. The punctuation and grammar aren't always real solid. This might have been a rush-job.
There is too much Eagles/James Taylor/Carole King/Joni Mitchell/'70s California rock included. But it could have been worse -- at least there's no Jackson Browne. Or Linda Ronstadt. Neil Young isn't here -- except as a member of CSNY on DEJA VU.
It was nice to see The Pretenders' first album here -- a record that really did change my life. And I would have been surprised if PET SOUNDS wasn't here. But only a couple of the other records that changed my life are here.
The best line in the book, the one that gets closest to why anyone would buy and read a book like this, comes from Mac Randall. Writing about BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME, he says: "What a song means doesn't matter much. What matters is that it makes you feel."
If you're a real beginner, this is an OK place to start. If you've been around for awhile, you're not gonna learn much new from this.
I don't think a book like this is very USEFUL. It's not even authoritative -- too many minor errors.
A useful book would be a list of the 100 WORST rock albums ever -- like a warning to stay away or else risk your sanity. Somebody should write a book like that.
Maybe even me.

COMING NEXT: Phil Spector -- Talented, or just a piece of shit?

Monday, September 29, 2014

On Gilligan's Island

J. Maarten Troost's THE SEX LIFE OF CANNIBALS (2004) is pretty funny, even though there are no cannibals in it, and not much sex. You'll laugh out loud many times. It's a funnier, better, longer book than his GETTING STONED WITH SAVAGES, which I reviewed here a couple of weeks ago.
Yes, in this case, bigger is better....
One of the reasons it's a better book is because it's clear that Troost and his beguiling wife Sylvia came to love the Pacific island of Tarawa during the two years they lived there -- despite the blistering heat, the iffy electrical supply, always having to boil the water for drinking, the limited options for food, having almost no communication with the outside world, and not knowing when they might stumble over someone ... uh ... well ... taking a dump off the edge of the reef.
Troost makes Tarawa -- one of the most remote islands in the Pacific, a tiny coral atoll with one road -- sound like hell at first. And then he and his wife adjust to it -- the friendly people, the gorgeous colors, the extremely laid-back lifestyle. They get used to Doing Without. They learn to relax away from civilization. They become almost like natives.
So much so, that by the end of the book -- when they head back to Washington, D.C. ... they can't take it. And they end up going back to the Pacific -- to Vanuatu and Fiji, where they have more adventures as described in GETTING STONED WITH SAVAGES.
Barring having to eat canned corned beef, almost getting killed in an ugly Pacific storm, taking his life into his own hands whenever flying on the island airline, the non-stop 100-degree heat, and random shark encounters, Troost almost makes Tarawa sound heavenly. You almost want to go there -- which I'm sure he wouldn't recommend.
But from the clear look you get at the island and its people through this book, it's obvious Maarten loved the place. Even when they ran out of beer for a couple of weeks.
And now I see he has a book out about China....

Monday, September 22, 2014

"All Blues"

Tacoma, Washington's KPLU-FM "streams" on the Internet at, and they are definitely worth checking out on Saturday and Sunday nights from 6 p.m. to midnight Pacific time when they play "All Blues" -- six straight hours each night of Blues/R&B/Soul with no commercials.
I've been listening for a couple of months -- and now that I'm hooked, I don't have to take CD's to work with me on weekends, because "All Blues" keeps me moving.
I hear they've been doing this show for YEARS -- and it took me years to hear it. I had to wait 'til I was completely fed-up with local radio and wanted to hear some strong emotions directly expressed. If you have anything like "All Blues" in your town, you're lucky. It is by far the best, most varied radio programming around here, and no one has complained -- and lots of customers have approved -- since I started tuning it in at work on weekends.
Now, I haven't become a huge blues fan -- I still can't tell Muddy Waters from Howlin' Wolf, though I've finally caught on to Bo Diddley -- and some of the more grinding, low-down or depressing blues numbers still don't do it for me ... and the more boastful stuff like "I'm a Man" or "Mannish Boy" just makes me laugh.
But most of the time "All Blues" is Really Good Stuff. It's impossible NOT to move to a lot of it. And I'm learning.
I think I first got hooked when they played Aretha's "I've Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You" awhile back. I'd never heard it before. So I grabbed an Aretha Best-Of CD, and realized what an idiot I'd been for 40 years. I knew she was great. I didn't know she was GREAT.
Since then, I just let them play. Unless someone's playing all downbeat stuff, I'm never disappointed. And I can't remember the last time I could stand to listen to local radio for six hours straight. As I said, if you've got something like this where you're at -- with the current rotten state of most radio -- you're lucky.
As much as I like "All Blues," and as wide as their playlist seems to be, they DO have a current playlist of recent stuff that they definitely push. Every night I've tuned in, they've played current blues tracks by:
* Gary Nicholson (as "Whitney Jordan") -- "Living it Down." Sounds like Eric Clapton on vocals.
* Grady Champion -- "On the South Side," which sounds to me like a laid-back old-school late-'60s/early-'70s R&B number, deserves to be a big hit.
* Johnny Winter and Ben Harper's version of Elmore James' "I Can't Hold Out."
* Elvin Bishop's "Blues With a Feeling."
* Mark Knopfler's "Someday," a J.J. Cale song actually credited to Eric Clapton, from Clapton's tribute album to J.J. Cale, THE BREEZE. Sounds like a Dire Straits piece, lots of Knopfler-sounding guitar.
* Dr. John's "Dipper Mouth Blues."
* Mud Morganfield's "I Want You to Love Me," which I can't take seriously -- I know he's Muddy Waters' son, but this sounds like a satire. Course the blues can also be fun, and funny....
* Daveena and the Vagabonds' "I Try to be Good," which is cute, but sounds to me like a Broadway show tune.
* Shameka Copeland's "Never Going Back" and "Lemon Pie."
They also play lots of Bonnie Raitt, Maria Muldaur, Joe Bonnamassa, the Tedeschi-Trucks Band, and stuff from as far back as the 1930's, possibly even older. I'm OK with the old stuff, but I prefer the newer.
They also play stuff like the Alabama Sheiks' great "You Ain't Alone," Dr. John's hilarious "Why Come it is?" (never liked him much, but it's a great, funny song), Lyle Lovett's "My Baby Don't Tolerate," Beth Hart and Joe Bonnamassa's great "I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know," and LOTS of Louis Jordan, like the hilarious and racy "Movin' to the Outskirts of Town," which I'd never heard before.
The folks at KPLU seem to enjoy playing Elmore James and Albert King and Freddie King and somebody you've NEVER heard of -- and THEN they throw in Aretha, or The Beatles' "Yer Blues," or Bob Dylan's "Maggie's Farm" just to see if you're paying attention. I also heard Aretha's "Dr. Feelgood" and "The Night Life" here for the first time.
They also throw in old spirituals, a little bit of street-corner doo-wop like The Persuasions, some Etta James and Nina Simone, Otis Redding, Carla Thomas, Ann Peebles' "I Can't Stand the Rain," The Meters, The Neville Brothers, hot guitar and organ and piano instrumentals -- and some woman doing a killer version of "Rock Island Line" ... I've never heard yet who it is.
Since getting hooked, I've bought some more R&B/Soul CD's for the other nights of the week. I've found one REALLY GREAT Bonnie Raitt song I'd never heard before -- "Angel from Montgomery." I'm getting to the point where I almost enjoy Ray Charles -- when he doesn't seem too "old-fashioned" for me. I've got some James Brown and Wilson Pickett CD's on the way -- and I'd like to hear a lot more of the Tedeschi-Trucks Band.
THIS is how radio should be done. It's never boring.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

More not-cranky travel writing

Been reading pretty compulsively since I finished writing THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. Over the past couple of days I read through J. Maarten Troost's GETTING STONED WITH SAVAGES (2006), a fun little volume describing a couple years that Troost and his wife spent in Fiji and Vanuatu.
This is an easy read. There may not be any big belly laughs in it, but you'll read through it with a smile on your face -- which is kind of odd, because Troost talks about stuff like cannibalism and headhunting ... and the importance of kava. Ah, yes.
Troost has a nice light touch, even when things get a little heavy. Like when his house is almost washed away in a cyclone. Or when he has to ask a tribal chief about cannibalism and headhunting. Or when various tribal factions in Fiji try to take power in a coup.
But it's always pleasant reading. Very pleasant. You can read the book in a couple of hours. Now I'm gonna have to track down Troost's earlier epic, THE SEX LIVES OF CANNIBALS. How can you lose with titles like these?
Troost is lighter than air compared to my travel-writing hero Paul Theroux. I'm currently 150 pages into Theroux's epic DARK STAR SAFARI, about traveling across Africa from Cairo to Cape Town. So far it's hot and dry and mildly tedious -- even though the book has probably the best opening of any of Theroux's travel books. The thing with Theroux is he has a great eye for detail, he finds great characters in his travels, and he's always happiest when he's miserable. So I'm sure it'll be worth the trip.
I read Theroux's THE PILLARS OF HERCULES awhile back -- it recounts a year-long trip around the Mediterranean Sea. I was in Greece and Turkey 20 years ago, and I wanted to see what someone else thought. Theroux had pretty much the exact opposite opinion I had -- he loved Turkey, hated Greece, thought Greece was way too touristy and stagey. Hmmm.
Despite that, Theroux's descriptions are so vivid and detailed that you can SEE these places he goes to -- clearly enough that you almost don't have to go there.
And believe me, some of these places you WOULDN'T want to go to....

Coming soon -- A Soul/R&B/Blues playlist....

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Whatta Life!

Keith Richards' LIFE (2010) probably IS the best rockstar memoir ever. That doesn't mean you'll be missing something if you don't read every word.
For me, the reason LIFE ranks high above any other rocker's memoir is because Keith actually writes about where all those great old Rolling Stones songs CAME from -- how they were put together, and what that was like. This puts Keith's book miles ahead of some of those other rockers who barely touch on the music.
Of course, the dirt's here too, if you want that. How many drugs Keith took, and for how long? Check. Lots of details about his heroin addiction? Check.
There's also lots about the women he slept with -- Ronnie Spector, Anita Pallenberg, Marianne Faithfull, Patti Hansen, others.
I started around Page 140, where Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham locks Keith and Mick in a kitchen and orders them not to come out until they've written a song together. The song turns out to be "As Tears Go By," which they think is too wimpy for the Stones, so they give it to Marianne Faithfull ... until they decide to cut their own version.
Then Keith tells how he came up with the guitar riff for "Satisfaction" -- turns out he heard it in a dream. He kept a tape-recorder by his bed, woke up long enough to get the riff down on tape ... then the rest of the reel was 30 minutes of Keith snoring!
Keith writes at length about how he started playing an open-tuned five-string guitar to get the sounds heard in "Jumping Jack Flash," "Honky Tonk Women," "Happy," "Tumbling Dice".... He also confirms that on "Happy" it's mainly just him on guitar and bass, Bobby Keys on sax, and producer Jimmy Miller on drums. The song was written and down on tape within four hours. They sweetened it up a little later....
Keith talks about coming up with riffs or guitar sounds for songs, maybe a line or two of lyrics, then handing the rest over to Mick -- and it almost always worked out. Even when Keith was supposedly doped to the eyeballs while making EXILE ON MAIN STREET, Keith says he and Mick were still writing at least two songs a week.
The interest level drops later, unless you want to hear about Keith's fights with Pallenberg. I held on until Keith and Mick began arguing heavily in the mid-'80s, after Mick signs a solo record deal and Keith thinks it's a betrayal.
I could have heard more about TATTOO YOU, which I thought had a pretty great second side. The album's mentioned once, as the home of "Start Me Up." Even the hideous EMOTIONAL RESCUE gets more space.
I admit I haven't heard a Stones record since TATTOO YOU, so the details about their later adventures didn't interest me much. I took from the book what I was interested in, is what I'm trying to say.
But the parts where Keith talks about coming up with those great late-'60s/early-'70s hits is worth the read. The book could have been shorter -- it's another one of those 500-page memoirs. But I even learned a few lines of lyrics for "Happy" and "Brown Sugar" that I could never figure out before. The line from "Brown Sugar" -- a song I've never liked much -- made me laugh.
Of course lyrics usually haven't meant much with the Stones. Instead, they're all about the SOUND. Especially the guitar sound. Keith knows all about that, and that's where his book is at its best.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Outtakes from Nowhere

This has happened before. The day AFTER I finished writing my latest Kindle e-book, THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, I woke up that morning and things started popping into my head that SHOULD have been in the book. And I thought I was finished. (Actually, I just wanted the thing out of the house.) Same thing happened with my first e-book, the record-store memoir GUARANTEED GREAT MUSIC!
If any of the following interests or amuses you, you should see what's IN the book....

My wife Cyndi had this theory about the Beatles' ABBEY ROAD album. She thought it was a comedy record -- that all the songs connected together and commented on each other. That Mean Mr. Mustard and Polythene Pam on Side 2 were planning to climb out the Bathroom Window and go live with Ringo in his Octopus's Garden over on Side 1. That Ol' Flat Top and the Walrus in "Come Together" were gonna help Carry That Weight, but they couldn't because She's So Heavy. Or something like that. Oh, Darling....
This infuriated me. Because I didn't want to see an album I loved turned into a comedy farce by a no-nothing non-Beatles fan -- and especially not the perfect, symphonic second side of ABBEY ROAD.
Cyndi always threatened to write-up her bizarre theory, but she never did. Thank Ghod. It probably would have sent me into a screaming fit.
Or it would have been one of the best, funniest pieces of rock criticism ever.
That probably would have been WORSE....

You couldn't avoid country music in Moreland. With only six radio stations in Wyoming's Big Horn Basin and five of them country stations, a certain tolerance for country was required.
Cyndi got me hooked on some country singers, especially the women -- Mary-Chapin Carpenter, Pam Tillis, Trisha Yearwood, Wynonna. I liked Travis Tritt's "T-R-O-U-B-L-E," and the more rockin' stuff by Dwight Yoakam: "A Thousand Miles from Nowhere," "I Ain't That Lonely Yet," "As Fast as You."
But the women were amazing. Mary-Chapin Carpenter's COME ON COME ON was one of the great albums of its year. Trisha Yearwood didn't do much for me at first, 'til I was sucked in by "Wrong Side of Memphis" and Emmylou Harris's mournful "Woman Walk the Line." Then later Trisha got me with "She's in Love With the Boy," "X's and O's" and "Thinkin' About You."
Pam Tillis had a gorgeous voice and a great band. I couldn't understand why "When You Walk in the Room" wasn't a huge hit. Or "Melancholy Child." Or "Homeward Looking Angel."
But Mary-Chapin Carpenter was IT. Whenever I played "Passionate Kisses" I thought of Deb -- it was her theme song. It summed-up what I hoped, dreamed, fantasized. And I played it a LOT.

A molar on the lower right side of my mouth went bad -- started keeping me up all night in pain. I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep, I could barely work or function at all. I asked my co-workers at the paper who was the best, cheapest dentist in town. I hated dentists.
When I called him -- in mid-February -- his receptionist said they might be able to fit me in around May. I said I'd be dead by then. I begged. I pleaded.
Finally she said come on in and wait in the lobby, and maybe they could squeeze me in somewhere. I mumbled my thanks.
I went in, and they got me into the doc's in 45 minutes. I begged him to pull my bad tooth, just rip it out of there.
"Oh, we don't want to do that if we can save it," he said.
"Sure," I said, "but how much? I'm not a rich man."
"Oh, I think we can do it fairly cheaply...."
He went to work, did a root canal on the bad tooth, built a new surface for it, got me out of pain, and never caused any further pain.
But the meter was always running. The root canal and repair job ended up costing $2,000. A quick extraction would only have cost me $200.
Another reason why I hate dentists....

There was a low-level bass tone that hung over the town. You could hear it especially well at night -- just a constant low-level hum, hovering behind everything. It never went away. You could hear it best on really cold winter nights. I could never figure out where it came from, and I could never hear it during the day.
Moreland had lots of possibilities for what big industry created the tone. The sugar-beet processing plant? The Pepsi bottling plant? The Crown aluminum-can manufacturing plant? They all ran 24/7. Could have been any of them. I never found out which one, and nobody else ever mentioned hearing the tone. But it was always there at night.
The Pepsi plant was a block down the street from the newspaper office, but you couldn't hear the tone there, not even late at night when I got off work.
But it was always there. I always wondered how many other people around town were laying in bed, listening to the hummmmmm....

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Homer revisited, Kerouac again

Bob Dylan's CHRONICLES VOLUME 1 (2004) is five slices from Bob's life. Parts of it are very good. Other parts, eh. But it's all jumbled up.
It opens with young Bob signing a publishing contract with Leeds Music right after signing a recording contract with Columbia Records. This early section is solid -- vivid and detailed, even funny.
But then he starts jumping around. The best part of the book recounts the recording of Bob's '80s album OH MERCY in New Orleans with producer Daniel Lanois. I'm not that big a Dylan fan -- I've never HEARD OH MERCY -- but I thought Bob recounting how the album came together (and almost didn't) was pretty interesting.
But of course I wished he'd told about recording something a little more historic -- like BLONDE ON BLONDE or HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED or BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME....
The stuff about his early days in Greenwich Village is pretty interesting, too. Detailed and vivid, and Bob doesn't mess around much. But then we jump again.
We meet producer Bob Johnston in a section called "New Morning," and see what Bob was like in the early '70s -- he just wanted some quiet space to raise his kids away from the media and overzealous fans. We never learn the names of his kids, and his wife's name is never mentioned either.
In some later flashback, he recounts seeing Joan Baez on TV, and knowing somehow that he would meet her someday. But he never writes about meeting her, or the time they were together. Maybe that's in Volume 2?
Here's the thing: There's some good writing here, as well as some that's kind of lazy -- and I'm OK with the nostalgia. But it's all kind of ... trivial. He doesn't write much about his huge popularity in the mid-'60s, he doesn't talk about his screaming tour of Britain, he doesn't talk about hitting the road with The Band, he doesn't talk about his motorcycle accident. He doesn't talk about his "vacation" after the wreck, or about THE BASEMENT TAPES.
He talks at length about not writing songs for a play written by Archibald MacLeish. He says he recorded one album of songs with stories "borrowed" from Anton Chekov -- was that BLOOD ON THE TRACKS? Bob never says.
What I'm wondering is, if Bob could have written about ANYTHING in his career, why did he give us these pieces?
I don't mind Bob being tricky, but I'd like him to spill something MEANINGFUL to him in 300 pages. And there's not much of that here. Of course, what does he owe us by this late date? Nothing.
Trust me that you will learn more about Dylan and have a much better time by reading David Hajdu's excellent POSITIVELY 4TH STREET.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Four books in a year! (Sort of....)

My newest e-book for Kindle, THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, is now available at's Kindle Store. This one is gonna cost you a dollar more -- $3.99 -- because it's ... Good Ghod! ... 256 pages long, about 50 pages longer than my first 3 e-books.
This one is "a newspaper novel." Anyone out there who managed to get through my newspaper memoir THE CONFESSOR will probably recognize the setting -- a small town in Wyoming that was home to the smallest daily newspaper in the country, where I worked for six years.
What this book does is pull together some of the funniest, most outrageous stories about working on newspapers ... that weren't already included in THE CONFESSOR. I was surprised how much good stuff I had left....
Though folks who've read CONFESSOR may recognize some of the events, they've all been re-written, extended, elaborated, messed with ... 90 percent of this book is all-new stuff nobody's read before.
The names have been changed, but the stories are all true. This is also fiction, so some of it's just plain made up....
And of course if you haven't read CONFESSOR, it's gonna be all new to you....
Unlike CONFESSOR -- in which it's now obvious to me that I was trying a little too hard to grind an axe -- this book has an upbeat, happy ending. I think you'll like it. I like parts of it very much, and it's an accurate portrayal of what living in an isolated, tiny town for six years felt like.
Most of the book was written in the month between the 4th of July and early August -- though I was adding new stuff all the way up to the end. Proofreading the book took a lot longer than I expected. I wanted to have it done by my birthday, Aug. 21.
Not sure what else to say except I never would have written this if I hadn't read half of Garrison Keillor's A RADIO ROMANCE ... which I couldn't finish, but which helped me think of a way that I could get this material out.
I think this is what writers do -- cannibalize their lives and make stories out of what they've seen and done. Anyway, once I got going I couldn't stop -- which is usually a good sign for me.
Hope you like, and even if you don't, let me know what you think. I'm not getting rich doing this, but the feedback has been nice....
More soon.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Who is he?

Picked up a cheap copy of Pete Townshend's autobiography WHO I AM (2012) at Goodwill last week, and I'm so glad I didn't pay the outrageous $35 cover price for the hardback, because this book is barely worth $2.99.
This is disappointing. I'm a big fan of Pete's, a big fan of The Who, and I was hoping Pete's autobiog would give me more insight into the band, where his songs came from, a peek behind the scenes.
Nope. I had a much better time and learned a lot more with Richie Unterberger's WON'T GET FOOLED AGAIN and Dave Marsh's BEFORE I GET OLD.
Townshend knows how to write. Over his career he's done pieces for ROLLING STONE and the British rock tabloids -- his review of The Who's early best-of MEATY, BEATY, BIG AND BOUNCY in RS was one of the funniest album reviews EVER. He's had a book of short stories published, and he was an editor at England's Faber publishing house.
So what happened? Don't know. I think a better editor could have dug some better stories out of Pete. He just doesn't seem to dig very deep here. I wanted some anger, some raw emotion, some SOUL. I wanted to know where those great anthemic songs CAME from -- and the quieter, haunting ones, too
If you want the dirt, there's plenty of that here -- lots about Pete's drinking and drugging, and his cures. Lots about touring. Lots about Pete's stress, little about his breakdowns. Not as much as I'd hoped for about recording albums.
There's a LOT here about TOMMY -- especially the movie version and the Broadway show. There's little to nothing about tensions surrounding QUADROPHENIA -- I thought it increased tensions between Pete and Roger, Roger was disappointed with how the mix made his vocals sound ... John re-did his horn parts in the 1980 movie-soundtrack remix, etc.
I learned a little about WHO'S NEXT and LIFEHOUSE -- didn't realize (or forgot) there were sessions for those songs in New York, with Kit Lambert producing. But those sessions were abandoned quick Oh, and Pete hated NEXT's cover....
There's a little on SELL OUT and "I Can See for Miles." Not much on BY NUMBERS. A little on WHO ARE YOU. Keith Moon's death at least brings more feeling from Pete. There's some on why Kenney Jones was the perfect drummer to replace Moon, a little on FACE DANCES -- which I thought was half of a great comeback album. Pete thinks IT'S HARD was "a pretty strong album." Millions disagree. Course he also thought "Eminence Front" was "the most radio-friendly song on the album." Has everyone forgotten "Athena," which was an actual hit? It's not even on The Who's best-of box. Course the lyrics are pretty embarrassing, but....
There's a bit on EMPTY GLASS and the contracts Pete signed around that time that required six Who albums and five solo albums within 10 years. How could he do it? Well, of course, he couldn't.
There's a bit about CHINESE EYES, on which production was halted halfway through due to Pete's stress and health problems -- but then he never finishes the story. We never find out why some of those songs are so danged WORDY and the others are the usual Who-type anthems. A definite change in style that goes unexplained.
Happy to see there was quite a bit on the underrated PSYCHODERELICT, which I liked a lot. And there's more on trying to bring LIFEHOUSE to some kind of finished form....
There's a lot about the many women Pete slept with, the houses he bought, the studios he set up, the boats he purchased. You may feel sorry for his long-suffering wife by the time they get divorced.
But if you want to know where all those great songs came from, and what they mean to their creator -- you won't find it here.
This is another book to add to the pile that proves that rock stars are their own worst subjects for books. Pete covers a lot of events, but he doesn't say much about them.
Ghod help us, would this book have been better if it was LONGER? It turned out to be 500 pages -- cut down from a thousand, Pete says at the end.
Maybe he was just too old to do it justice. I would have preferred to see a series of memoirs about various periods in his career -- something with some DEPTH to it. But you guys know me -- I always want to know MORE....

Friday, September 5, 2014

A few things about Al Green

Been playing Al Green's imported best-of CD THE SUPREME AL GREEN at work a lot lately, and here's some of the things that have impressed me as I've hummed along with Reverend Al:
* That sneaky descending guitar figure that comes in at the end of "Call Me," his vocal throughout, and the modest lyrics: "Just remember the time we had/And how right I tried to be...."
* The horns and organ on "Let's Get Married," and the fact that Al isn't really that thrilled about getting married -- the depth of his commitment is "Might as well...."
* The really great simple-as-a-nursery-rhyme choruses on "L-O-V-E, Love."
* The way he sings these lines in "Take Me to the River": "I wanna know/Can you tell me?/Our love will stayyyyyyy...."
* The lyrics on "Love Ritual" -- the ones I can make out -- are pretty great ... if "lyrics" is the right word to describe the words on a piece that seems so improvised. I hated it at first, thought it was a comedy throwaway, but it works, the groove's pretty great -- and Al's feeling about how sacred love is really comes across. Not sure about some of what he's ... chanting(?) though.... (I hear "wanna" and "loser" -- can that possibly be right?)
* On "Full of Fire," the way he sings: "There's some things that I know/But I want the horns to blow...."
* There's a hilarious one-liner near the end of his remake of the Temptations' "I Can't Get Next to You," ... which I will leave for you to discover....
* After all of this, "Full of Fire" (his last big hit?) almost sounds like a return to the basics, fairly simple dance music. Its sound doesn't seem that far from his first hit "Tired of Being Alone."
* True confessions: I HATED most of these songs when I was growing up. They weren't loud enough or obvious enough for me then. I thought "Let's Stay Together" was great, but the rest just left me cold and I was turning the radio dial trying to find something else. As a result, these songs really hit me now -- just like with Aretha and Otis Redding and....
* So, I love about a dozen out of 18 tracks on the best-of.
* But so far, I can't take ANY of the SLOW stuff. It's EXCRUCIATING!

...Got 40 more pages of THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE proofread on Thursday, only 40 pages to go. It might be done before Christmas. I like parts of it very much. And it's still 90-percent all-new stuff....
...The silly horror story I sent to back in April got REJECTED, I found out in an e-mail yesterday. That's OK -- I didn't really expect them to take it. It was just a joke I couldn't resist writing. It was either TOO silly or not silly ENOUGH. So I may look at it at some point and send it out again....
More soon....

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Is it worth it?

Kevin Avery's EVERYTHING IS AN AFTERTHOUGHT: THE LIFE AND WRITINGS OF PAUL NELSON (2011) is a sad, beautiful, heartbreaking book. If you're a fan of rock criticism or just plain great writing, you ought to check it out. But you might end up crying like a baby by the end of it.
Paul Nelson was among the first rock critics. He started writing about folk music in THE LITTLE SANDY REVIEW, a magazine he published back in 1963, during the early-'60s "folk boom." He started writing about pop music when Bob Dylan "went electric" at the Newport Folk Festival.
After that, Nelson wrote for CIRCUS, ROLLING STONE, THE VILLAGE VOICE, MUSICIAN and others, and was the record-review editor for ROLLING STONE in the early '80s -- a job he walked away from when RS Publisher Jann Wenner tried to impose more control on the magazine's music critics.
Nelson also worked in publicity and A&R for Mercury Records in the early '70s, where -- among other things -- he signed and helped handle the New York Dolls.
Avery follows Nelson through his rock-critic and record-company life, and into the confused period that followed. Nelson's bio -- which takes half the book -- is a case study in the fact that you can have a sharp mind, a creative outlook, and all the writing talent in the world ... and it still won't help you deal with Real Life.
Nelson had trouble dealing with The Real World, and it pretty-much ate him up.
The book is saddest in the confusing period after Nelson leaves RS and begins drifting. He writes a little, gets published in MUSICIAN, pulls together three books with help -- his bio on Rod Stewart was completed by fellow critic Lester Bangs, who wrote 88 pages in a weekend while Nelson managed five -- and withdraws farther and farther from people. He tries to write books on Clint Eastwood, Neil Young, Jackson Browne -- and he can't do it.
His last few years, he ends up working in a video store -- the great obsessions of his life were movies, music and books -- and is practically homeless. At the very end of his 70 years, Nelson starts drawing Social Security payments -- but even when he has money in the bank, he can't handle it. He's so used to being broke that after he dies, his friends find sticky-notes all around his apartment that read "I've got $2. I'm hungry. Thirsty. I need some meals."
At the end, Nelson's own reclusiveness, OCD, and something like Alzheimer's gang up to finish him. His body isn't found for a week. In New York City. In July.
This is tough to read. Though short, Avery's bio is solid and beautifully written. And there's much more in it -- about the marriage that went bad, the girlfriends who barely knew Paul, the son he barely knew. And there are quotes from dozens of Nelson's friends -- fellow rock critics as well as "normal people," folks who helped Nelson, and dozens who say they WOULD have helped, if only they'd known, if only Nelson had SAID SOMETHING. Instead, he withdrew.
The other half of the book is some of Nelson's best writing -- on Jackson Browne, Warren Zevon, Bruce Springsteen, Leonard Cohen, the New York Dolls, Patti Smith, Neil Young, Bob Dylan and more. And there's a HILARIOUS 30-page look back at those five years Nelson spent at Mercury. It must have been hell to live through, but it's great to read. I remembered several of the interviews and reviews from when they first appeared in RS, MUSICIAN and elsewhere.
Here's what scares me: I see Nelson's tendencies clearly in myself and others I've known. The creativity, the obsessiveness, and the withdrawal when things get tough. I don't want to end up like this, and I wouldn't want my friends to, either.
This is the fourth book I've read recently by or about rock writers that clearly shows the job is anything but a dream. Bob Palmer's BLUES AND CHAOS gathered his best work -- and it was informative and well-written, but kind of dull except for the occasional obvious joke. Palmer was a heroin addict from what he called "the William Burroughs school of junkies," and he died of liver failure.
Richard Meltzer's A WHORE LIKE ALL THE REST and Nick Tosches' READER gather their best work -- in Tosches' case his writing covers a wide range. Meltzer's WHORE collects just his music writing. I think both of these "noise boys" kind of trashed their talent, though I'm sure they'd disagree, and both have cranked-out lots of books. They don't seem very happy, though. Meltzer is pretty bitter about his rock-crit days.
As someone says in the Nelson book, there's no 401k plan for rock writers. But there's got to be a better retirement plan than being sick and broke and alone.

Monday, August 18, 2014


My newspaper-memoir e-book THE CONFESSOR is available FREE up through Aug. 22 at's Kindle Store. Just punch in the book's title and it should come right up.
Hopefully you'll find it's worth more than 3 stars -- I think there's some good laughs and some wild stories in it. See what YOU think.
And you can thank me later.

My newspaper-novel e-book THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE is almost finished -- I just have to proofread the whole thing. I'm hoping to have it out by Aug. 21, but I can't guarantee it. It looks like this monster is at least 220 pages long....
I'm also shocked to announce -- to those of you who've read THE CONFESSOR -- that 90-percent of this new book is brand NEW stuff about the newspaper business that I didn't know I still had in me -- the wildest, funniest stories about 10 years of living as a newspaper guy in small towns. I PROMISE it won't be recycled crap you've (maybe) already read.

More soon. Hopefully next time I'll have a brand-new e-book to announce....

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Book update, etc.

Work proceeds on my "good-parts version" newspaper novel/e-book THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. Wrote 3,000 words of NEW stuff today before coming to work -- wrote 8,000 words of NEW stuff on Tuesday. The thing has its own momentum now, it's over 64,000 words long, and I MIGHT have it done by my birthday on the 21st, though I think that's pushing it. I think it's good -- and it's way happier than the newspaper memoir was. Even the stuff I was not thrilled about writing has come out OK, and I'm surprised I had this much NEW material left.
Would like to get the thing done by the 21st so I can have bragging rights -- 4 books written in a year! But we'll see how it goes.
I'm still not rich from doing this yet, but I'm hoping....

Oh, started my "side job" on Monday, the hottest day of the year here, so far. Dusted-off a ceiling fan, cleaned paint off a heating vent, sanded down a hunk of wood, talked some, got a tour of the guy's house that he's remodeling room-by-room. ... After 3 hours he tossed me $50 and told me to get lost 'til next week! Hey, I'll take $50 for doing Nothing Much anytime!
I officially cashed-out my vacation week today so I can stay ahead of the bills -- so no trip home to Idaho 'til next year! Am also piling up stuff for my next trip to Half-Price Books in Tacoma ... but don't send money yet, I'm actually in pretty good shape right now....

Hey, it sucks about Robin Williams. He was really great. Depression is the worst. This country has got to wake up about mental health issues. This stuff really messes people up.
Too bad about Lauren Bacall, too. She was one classy dame....
More soon....

Friday, August 8, 2014

Notes from the bookstore, etc.

Thank Ghod for the folks at Half-Price Books in Tacoma. I took five huge boxes of music and books to them on Tuesday, figuring I might get $50 from them, maybe $75 if they were generous.
They gave me $160 -- enough for me to pay my roommate the rent money he expected, grab a couple cheap books to bring home (two travel books by Paul Theroux), and crawl through the rest of this week until payday arrives again.
I told the Half Price folks they were wonderful -- they probably wondered what kind of meds I was on.
It's possible I might miss some of what I took in -- but most of it was music I couldn't get into, vinyl I had duplicated on CD, books I couldn't get into, or that I'd read once and liked but probably would never have time to re-read -- life's too short now and I've got my own stuff to do.
I might miss some of the music -- Gong, Soft Machine, Hatfield and the North, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Strawbs, Dixie Dregs, Return to Forever, etc. But hey -- if it don't work for you, there's no point forcing it, right? So.
I'm already thinking there's more stuff in the house I might be able to sell.
And my painting/cleanup job starts on Monday. If I survive, it should be good for an extra $60 a week for four hours of work.
I might not starve yet.

93 crazy people grabbed copies of my record-store-memoir e-book GUARANTEED GREAT MUSIC! while it was available free last week. Ghod bless you all. I didn't get rich doing this, but I hope y'all might take a chance on the NEXT one....
Work continues on my newspaper novel, THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. Am still writing a couple of new scenes each day. Am now to the point where I am streamlining the plot and reading through my "framework" for novelization purposes. Anybody Out There who survived reading my newspaper memoir THE CONFESSOR will probably recognize some of the situations -- but this version is funnier. And a lot of it's brand new.
I'll keep you posted -- I'd like to have the new book done by Aug. 21 so I can say I wrote four e-books in a year, but that might be rushing it. Should at least have something fun to read by the fall.
More soon....

Sunday, August 3, 2014

"Sales" update 2

Good Lord -- So far, 73 crazy people have picked up FREE copies of my record-store memoir/e-book GUARANTEED GREAT MUSIC! from's Kindle Store. If you haven't already read this shocking expose that blows the lid off of what REALLY happened at record stores across the country back in the early 1980's ... well, you've got a couple more days to grab it for free. Just visit Amazon's Kindle Store and punch in the title. And while you're there, you can download the first 20 pages of any of my e-books for FREE to try them out.
Of course, I don't get rich when you do this. But maybe you should just send your troublesome spare cash to me at this blog. Ghod knows I could use it. Maybe I'll put out a tip jar....
Oh, and my newspaper memoir THE CONFESSOR will be available free the week of Aug. 21....

Meanwhile, work continues on my small-town newspaper novel, THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. I'm still writing a couple of new scenes each day -- as happened with the record-store book, the more I remember, the more I CAN remember. For those of you who survived reading THE CONFESSOR, this novel will be "the good parts version," with more NEW lighter and funnier stories. I'm surprised by how much material I still have. Still hoping to have something completed by the fall.

Meanwhile, due to the cutbacks at work, I'm looking toward working through my planned vacation to try and pile up a little extra cash and stay ahead of the bills. I'm also looking at taking a part-time job helping a guy re-paint his house. He says he'll pay cash! My problem is I have too much overhead from old bills, and being cut back 10 hours each month is fairly serious money ... which is starting to have its impact felt by yours truly. I'm thinking I may not have another day off for awhile....

If you're wondering, there's a reason why I'm writing here more often. The girlfriend and I haven't broken up, but we're seeing a LOT less of each other, due to a clash I had with her 31-year-old son a month or so ago. We'd Had Words a few times before, but this last clash was IT. I'm tired of being messed with by drunks, and I'm tired of his attitude. So I'm staying away. Life's too short -- who needs the headaches?

By the way, this blog passed 40,000 page-views awhile back. Thank you all.

Hoping you and yours are well....
More eventually....

Friday, August 1, 2014

Oh, by the way....

...My record-store-memoir e-book GUARANTEED GREAT MUSIC! is supposed to be available FREE through the first five days of August at Whenever Aug. 1 "starts" -- I just checked at Amazon and they hadn't reduced the price yet. But assuming they DO, all you gotta do is go to Amazon's Kindle Store and punch in the title, and it should pop right up for you. And of course you can download the first 20 pages for free anytime, as you can with any of my e-books.
So, if you haven't yet read this massive international best-seller that blows the lid off of early-'80s record-store culture ... well, now's your chance. For free.
You can thank me later.

Aretha and Al Green best-of CD's have arrived and are playing to rave reviews with customers. And they seem to relax ME pretty good, too.
I knew Aretha was great, but I didn't know she was GREAT. Some of this great stuff I've never heard before. Some of it I haven't heard in 40 years -- "Spanish Harlem" sounds WAY better now. And how come nobody ever told me about "I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You" or "Dr. Feelgood"?
As for the Reverend Al, I hadn't heard most of the hits off of his best-of in 40 years. "Let's Stay Together" still sounds great, and the rest sound real fine. I remember pretty-much hating "Tired of Being Alone" back in '71. I remember hating a lot of R&B/Soul when I was growing up -- it kept getting in the way of the good stuff that I wanted to hear more of. You know, like Three Dog Night and the Carpenters and the Partridge Family.
Yeezus, I was an idiot. Just a stupid white kid from Idaho. So it's taken me 40 years to be able to HEAR this stuff.
The thing that gets me about the Reverend Al is that even the FILLER sounds pretty good -- "Love Ritual" and "Belle" and some other non-hits sound just fine. Not sure what he's up to with the Bee Gees' "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?" though.
And Al's "Take Me to the River" sure is different from the Talking Heads'. Neither version ever quite EXPLODES, though both sound like they're GOING to....
Anyway, have gotten more reactions to these than anything else I've played in the store in a long time. Had several women dancing, one who got QUITE into "I've Never Loved a Man" ... and other folks bouncing musical suggestions off of me like The Brothers Johnson and Wah-Wah Watson and Herbie Hancock. I'll have to see what else I can dig up. Brothers Johnson could really move sometimes. Bet THEY'VE got a best-of out there somewhere....
Need to get some James Brown into this joint, too....

(PS -- Just checked again at Amazon, they DID get that freebie deal goin'....)

Monday, July 28, 2014

New book update

Work on my new newspaper e-book/novel THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE is going good -- I've been writing from 2,000 to 4,000 words worth of new stuff each day for the past week or so. This is all brand-new material that wasn't in my newspaper memoir. I've still got a lot of stuff left that didn't get into the newspaper memoir, some of it includes some pretty funny stories. If anything, the new book will be even MORE personal than the newspaper memoir was. Though "fictionalized."
The way it's going, I might have something new done by the fall. I've already written the ending, which is MUCH more upbeat than the end of the newspaper memoir was. I'm using the small-town part of the memoir as a sort of framework to build the new novel on -- though altered a bit so it's more of a straightforward narrative.
So far, it looks like my biggest problem is going to be not repeating myself....
I'll keep you posted. I'm still not getting rich doing this e-book-writing stuff, but as long as the writing's going well, I don't care much. And this stuff obviously wants to come out.
So, onward. I don't want my headstone to read "He kept a clean store."

Am still listening to local radio station KPLU's "All Blues" on the weekends and bouncing around the radio dial and tossing CD's in the rest of the time.
Still listening to Madness's ULTIMATE COLLECTION -- "Shut Up" is pretty great, so is "Madness is All in the Mind," "House of Fun" (still can't quite catch all the lyrics), and "Yesterday's Men" is a nice nostalgic ballad.
Have some Aretha and Al Green best-of's on the way -- thank Ghod for's cheapo CD's.
Rosanne Cash was on SOUND OPINIONS Sunday night. She has a beautiful voice. Her new album sounds pretty haunting.

I hear we're in for another blast of HOT summer weather here.
That's all for me, here. How are y'all?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Made in heaven 2

About the time last week when I was bitching here about my roommate(s), they had a fight. Sort of.
Turns out my roommate went to pick up his girlfriend(?) from her mother's house nearby. The GF had gotten in a fight with her mom and was SCREAMING over the phone. When my roommate showed up, the screaming was still going on, the GF climbed in the car raving about what a psychotic bitch her mother was. My roommate told his GF she was wrong, her mom WASN'T a psycho bitch -- and the GF SCRATCHED DOWN THE SIDE OF HIS FACE AS HE'S DRIVING HER BACK TO HIS HOUSE.
They didn't plunge into a ditch and die because of his injuries, everything's fine. But now my roommate has a big bloody scar down his forehead and the side of his nose -- and his GF is STILL in the house, though she hasn't said a WORD for DAYS.
It took four days before my roommate even filled me in on what the hell happened.
So: All my original questions remain. What the hell is he getting out of this "relationship"? And does she live in the house or not? Beats me.
Ah well, Love Is Strange, right?

I have failed to get into two consecutive music-related novels. Stanley Elkin's THE DICK GIBSON SHOW (1971) was supposedly a brilliant novel about a radio talk-show host, but it was way too strange. Lots of odd verbal riffs, nothing much in the story or character-building department. I gave up after 50 pages.
I had some hopes for Garrison Keillor's RADIO ROMANCE (1993). I read his LAKE WOEBEGONE DAYS back in the '90s and remembered it as cute and folksy and funny, though I don't remember a single thing about what HAPPENS in the book.
RADIO ROMANCE is cute and folksy and funny -- but somehow that isn't enough. I got 100 pages in and skimmed some cute later bits, but it's a 400-page novel.
RADIO ROMANCE did inspire me to try to re-write my newspaper memoir as a small-town-comedy novel. I've even got a title for it: THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. I'll keep you posted.
If you want to know what great radio was like, go read Marc Fisher's beautifully-written SOMETHING IN THE AIR.

Haven't made it to Tacoma with that load of music and books to sell yet -- maybe next week.
Am wishing I had more soul/R&B on CD. Am missing Aretha, Al Green, etc.
Spent most of the past two nights at work playing Madness -- their ULTIMATE COLLECTION is pretty great. I love the sax and the vocals and the bounciness. "Embarrassment," "Our House," "Baggy Trousers," "My Girl" and "One Step Beyond" are all classics, and the rest is growing on me. And I'm trying to figure out where the HELL I heard "Wings of a Dove" before.... Some movie...?

 If you're REALLY desperate for more reviews, I've posted a bunch of new ones at since the winter -- I've got more than 100 reviews posted there now. All the recent ones have been in Real English. Look up something like Marc Fisher's SOMETHING IN THE AIR, Ramsey Campbell's PROBABLY, or Peter Straub's SIDES, scroll down to the review section, click on the link that's my real name, and your computer should bring up all my other reviews, if you're really desperate. And if you ARE, Ghod bless you.
Cheers! More soon....

Monday, July 21, 2014


Not absolutely sure about this. It's been sneaking up on me for awhile. But I may be about to become a big soul/R&B/blues fanatic.
I've been bored with music for a long time. All the stuff I used to rely on mostly just sounds dull now.
But lately I've been listening more and more to stuff like Tacoma college radio station KPLU's "All Blues" on Saturday and Sunday nights, and it's been sounding better and better.
And they've been educating me. A week or two ago they played Aretha's "Dr. Feelgood," and that sounded pretty good. I'd never heard it before. I already knew about "Think" and "Chain of Fools," and as a kid I was a sucker for "Day Dreaming" and "'Til You Come Back to Me."
Tonight while I was working, KPLU played "I've Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You." I was distracted when it started, didn't realize who it was. But that first chorus stopped me in my tracks. God, it's freaking GREAT! And I've got it at home on ARETHA'S GOLD, and I can't believe I've never played it, or at least never PAID ATTENTION. Well, the next chance I get I'm gonna put it on and crank it up, and I don't care if the roommate's girlfriend doesn't like it.
Played "All Blues" almost all Sunday night at work, and almost all of it sounded really good. It's a whole area I know practically nothing about. I know some of the artists' names, but I can't tell Muddy Waters from Howlin' Wolf. So we'll see how this plays out. I think maybe what I'm needing musically these days is some strong emotion directly expressed. All that prog and stadium rock I grew up on don't seem to be cutting it anymore, so....
The only other thing I've heard lately that hit me as hard as "I've Never Loved a Man" was when SOUND OPINIONS played The Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop" for Tommy Ramone (who passed away recently at age 65), and man, that still sounds great. It only took about 10 years for me to hear THAT one....
Anyway, I'll keep you posted. Almost 55, and maybe I can still learn a few things....

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A marriage made in heaven

I have this roommate. My roommate has this girlfriend. Sort of.
Even though money is tight and we can barely feed ourselves and stay ahead of the bills, over the last few months my roommate has let his sort-of girlfriend move into the house, bringing all of her stuff with her, and taking over a bedroom my roommate could have rented-out for at least $300 or $400 per month.
My roommate is not being "a nice guy." He Wants Something from this sort-of relationship. And he's not getting it. She won't sleep with him. She always has some kind of lame excuse.
She doesn't pay rent. She doesn't have a job. She's technically homeless. She gets food-stamp money every month, and spends it at the nearest grocery store ... but she also has five little nieces and nephews that live nearby, and most of the food ends up going to them. And my roommate has to go pick them up when she wants to see them.
When she cooks, it's for the kids. She never cleans up after herself, no matter how big the mess. She won't do dishes.
When she's in the house, she always has the TV blaring -- even when she's asleep. A couple days back she noticed some of the old record albums I have stashed in my room -- Aretha, Al Green, THE MOTOWN STORY. "There's some great old stuff here," she said. "You should play some of it."
"I would," I said, "if you'd ever turn the TV off."
She can be drunk by 11 a.m. She can go through a bottle of wine or vodka in a day, easy -- and start looking around for more. And when she gets a good buzz on, she won't shut up.
When she's really hungover, she spends all day in her room and never makes a sound.
She sometimes creeps around the house like a drug addict, sneaking in and out so no one can ever tell when she leaves or returns. Sometimes she leaves the TV turned up to cover the sound of her sneaking out. Sometimes she leaves just before my roommate gets home from work -- maybe so she won't have to deal with him...?
She's stolen money from my roommate three times. Last winter, a $1,000 electrical generator was stolen out of the back yard when she was the only person in the house -- she claims she never heard a thing. For awhile, I was constantly carrying my laptop and checkbook with me, because I don't trust her. I'm still carrying the laptop -- it's too easy to grab and go pawn-off.
My roommate has threatened to leave all of her stuff out on the front porch, has threatened to haul all her belongings to the dump. He wants her to go back to school, get her GED, go to college.
She'd rather stay home, get drunk, and stare at the TV.
My roommate drinks too, and when they're both drunk, it's something to see. She'll call his name every few minutes about something, and he'll snap at her. When he's REALLY hammered he calls her every name in the book. They can sit on the couch for hours sniping at each other.
She's never around on weekends, because she's out partying with someone else, people we don't know about and have never met.
She's young enough to be his daughter.
What I want to know is What does he get from this "relationship."
When he's drunk, my roommate can talk for HOURS about all the people in his life who have screwed him -- from his parents and his family to his co-workers to his roommates. EVERYBODY'S out to screw him over.
And he must have a real martyr complex, because he's setting himself up to be screwed again.
When I ask what he gets from her, all he says is "It's better than being alone."
No. There are lots of things that are worse than being alone. One of them is being stuck with someone who doesn't love you, doesn't care about you, doesn't respect you.
I've told my roommate he's being used, and he just blows it off. He's in denial. Unless he's really drunk, and then it comes out in the ugliest possible ways. He knows what's going on....
When they get after each other, I usually go hide in my room and try to ignore them. Sometimes it's like they want me there to play referee. I won't do it. They argue anyway, and sometimes I don't get much sleep.
But there's been no violence, so far. Lots of yelling and abuse, but no violence.
Everybody has issues, but Jesus. After seeing these two go at it, I'm surprised anyone ever gets close to anybody, anymore. Do they think this crap is "Normal"?
What do women want? What do men want?
It's hard enough trying to figure out what I want.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Writing musical history

If you've ever blogged about music, if you've ever dreamed about writing music criticism AND GETTING PAID FOR IT, you might want to check out Paul Gorman's IN THEIR OWN WRITE: ADVENTURES IN THE MUSIC PRESS (2001). It's an "oral history" about what it was like to be a rock critic back in the "golden age" of rock critics -- say mid-'60s to early '90s. It's a compulsive 300-page read -- I gulped it all down in three days and wished there was twice as much.
But then, I was a sucker for rock criticism early -- since reading THE ROLLING STONE RECORD REVIEW VOLUME TWO in the fall of '76 and getting sucked into the wild, vivid way these men and women could write, and the freedom they seemed to have.
Some of the freedom and good times comes across in IN THEIR OWN WRITE. What could possibly be wrong with being a rock journalist?: You got to get high and write about music all day and night, go see gigs, hang out with the bands -- maybe even go with them on tour!
What mainly comes across is how much WORK it turned out to be, and how many people burned out in a couple of years or so. The book quotes most of the rock-crit greats, from Lester Bangs to Nick Tosches. You hear from the Noise Boys and the Deep Thinkers. And from some of the women who ventured into this seemingly all-male clubhouse.
From about halfway through, the book turns from describing working at the U.S. mags (ROLLING STONE, CREEM, etc.) and moves to the British music weeklies -- NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS, MELODY MAKER, SOUNDS, etc. This makes sense -- there were more British music papers, and the competition was a lot heavier. I'd like to have heard more about working at the American rags, but if you've already read Robert Draper's ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE: THE UNCENSORED HISTORY and Jim DeRogatis's biography of Lester Bangs, LET IT BLURT, you already know more than this book will tell you.
It's still a vivid trip, and there are many laugh-out-loud moments. There are also some stories that are pretty embarrassing. A lot of these writers still hold grudges and continue to grind their axes in these pages.
I was surprised there wasn't MORE back-stabbing. As is, there's a lot of Who wrecked who's story and Who ruined who's career and Who got somebody else fired so they could take over their job.The only punches thrown are when Tony Parsons punches out Mick Farren over the attentions of fellow NME critic Julie Burchill.
The Brit stories are pretty great -- that's where most of the musical action was happening, after all. But it seems like Gorman could still pull together another book going more in-depth with the Americans.
The only downer here is the high number of rock critics and writers who are no longer with us. Fully 10 percent of the folks interviewed in this book are now dead.
This is only the third "oral history" I've read that actually works, that makes you feel a little like you were there. If this old scene appeals to you at all, if you ever gobbled up the British weeklies, or RS, CREEM, TROUSER PRESS, MUSICIAN, CRAWDADDY -- you'll probably love this book.
But you'll also wish there was more....
P.S. -- I would LOVE to write about music 24/7, so if anybody out there's hiring....