Saturday, February 28, 2015

Friday night playlist 5

Mostly '70's Album Rock Night! --
Three Dog Night -- *Out in the Country, *Celebrate, *Let Me Serenade You.
Kansas -- *Miracles Out of Nowhere, *Questions of My Childhood.
Fleetwood Mac -- *Oh Well, *The Green Manalishi.
Journey -- *Feeling That Way/*Anytime, *Something to Hide, *Lights.
Deep Purple -- *Hush, *Kentucky Woman, Black Night, Speed King, Demon's Eye, *Highway Star, *Space Truckin' ((for Leonard Nimoy)).
Five Man Electrical Band -- *Absolutely Right, We Play Rock and Roll, Money Back Guarantee, Julianna, *Signs.
Rush -- *Time Stand Still, *Force Ten, *Marathon, *Distant Early Warning, *Manhattan Project.
The Who -- *Slip Kid, *Music Must Change, *I Can See for Miles, *Let's See Action, *Join Together, *The Relay, *5:15, *I'm the Face, *Disguises.
Pretenders -- *Message of Love, *Don't Get Me Wrong.
Go-Go's -- *You Thought.
Bangles -- *Let it Go, *September Gurls, *Not Like You.
...What can I say? I was starting to wear-out the old Soul/R&B hits, I had to give them a night off. Have been listening to Joe Tex's best-of, though -- "Show Me," "Skinny Legs and All" and "I Gotcha" are all pretty great -- I hadn't heard "I Gotcha" since about 1973....
Saturday night it'll be all KPLU's "All Blues" -- have also been making more tapes from their shows, hitting customers with Taj Mahal's "Fishing Blues" and "Swat That Rabbit," Ry Cooder's "Get Rhythm," Duke Roubillard's hilarious "Alimony Blues," Betty Wright's "Clean-Up Woman," Sam and Dave's "Soul Man," Ann Peebles' "I Can't Stand the Rain," Staples Singers' "Respect Yourself," Robin McKell's "Bound to be Your Baby," Shamekia Copeland's "Can't Let Go," and some others I can't remember right now.
Have also been reading, of course. Non-fiction now, after that glut of novels I downed last month. Lots of Joyce Carol Oates essays in her collections WHERE I'VE BEEN AND WHERE I'M GOING, UNCENSORED, THE PROFANE ART, and CONTRARIES. Oates is pretty interesting on writers I'll probably never read, like Hemingway and James Joyce and D.H. Lawrence, Joseph Conrad, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Herman Melville. UNCENSORED has a funny piece on memoirs -- JCO had a pretty dim view of them at one time, even though she ended up writing a good one, A WIDOW'S STORY.
Am currently reading Bee Lavender's LESSONS IN TAXIDERMY, a memoir by a woman from my area in Washington who was diagnosed with cancer at age 12 and went through a series of operations, then contracted lupus. It is somewhere beyond scary -- horrifying, harrowing, jaw-dropping, horrible, riveting ... and starkly, beautifully written. And I'm only halfway through.
More soon.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Friday night playlist 4

...Along with the usual recent stuff, lately it's been Philly Soul hits of the early '70s!
I was already listening to and loving Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, but thanks to Sony/Legacy's cheap Philly Soul best-of, I'm hearing again for the first time in awhile O'Jays hits like "Love Train" and "Back Stabbers" -- both of which sound REALLY good in the digital format. The singing, the playing, it's all great.
About the O'Jays' "For the Love of Money" I'm less sure -- I tend to have trouble with Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff's more "messagey" songs -- but I quote from it almost every time someone brings a stack of winning Scratch tickets into the store....
I've already raved about Teddy Pendergrass's GREAT singing on The Blue Notes' "The Love I Lost" and "Bad Luck," two old favorites. One of the bonuses of this Philly Soul best-of is that you get the LONG versions of the hits ... but sometimes less is more, in this case.
Also gave me a chance to hear for probably the first time in 30 years MFSB's "TSOP" and The Three Degrees' "When Will I See You Again" -- which sounds like heaven, like a latter-day Diana Ross and the Supremes hit, just gorgeous.
I thought in a best-of like this, Sony might actually list who the members of MFSB WERE, might give the studio musicians some credit, for a change. But there are no credits here, so if you want to know who's PLAYING this stuff, you're out of luck. They sure sound great, though.
My only other complaint is -- why isn't the O'Jays' "992 Arguments" on here?
...My Ghod, what's next for the white kid from Idaho? Barry White??

Have also been playing at work ... I'm sort of embarrassed to admit ... TAPES of the best stuff from KPLU-FM's "All Blues" program, tapes of the stuff that's impossible to find, or that a guy on a tight budget like me can't afford.
So far, that includes Johnny Guitar Watson's silly "Gangster of Love," Dr. John's hilarious "Why Come it is?", Eric Bibb's moody "Follow the Drinking Gourd," guitarist Sonny Landreth's great "Zydeco Shuffle," Ry Cooder's silly "Crow Black Chicken," and guitarist Johnny A's gorgeous "Wichita Lineman" -- yes, the old Glen Campbell hit. This veers kind of close to muzak in places, but it's really an amazing piece of work. If you're a fan of the original, you should try to track this down. Or check out "All Blues," streaming on between 6 p.m. and midnight Pacific Time, Saturdays and Sundays.

My newest e-book memoir, WHAT HE MEANT, a tribute to my old writer buddy Don Vincent, is now available for $2.99 at's Kindle Store.
The book's an attempt to make sense out of my best friend's sudden death a couple of years ago, and to figure out why he apparently gave up writing in his later years and went silent -- despite his many big plans for huge fantasy-novel writing projects.
The book recaps some of the experiences we went through together. We shared an apartment twice -- he let me sleep on his couch for free for six months once when I had nowhere else to go. Once we were in love with the same woman. We both went into shock at the death of his fiancee in a car wreck. I was later the best man at his wedding, and he was the best man at mine. And he encouraged me to join the Air Force and make a skill out of the one talent I had.
He was always a better, funnier, more vivid, more imaginative, more disciplined writer than I was. And I told him so. I wouldn't be writing this without him as a role model.
This may be another book that hardly anyone will be interested in, but I had to write it. I had to get it out of my system.
What will I write next? Well, I've been thinking about that old rock-group novel....

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Death duties

In her JOURNAL 1973-1982 (2007), Joyce Carol Oates painted an idyllic portrait of her long marriage to her husband Raymond Smith. They were very happily married for 47 years.
In her vivid, painful memoir A WIDOW'S STORY (2011), Oates tells how she lost her husband.
Ray contracts pneumonia, and Oates rushes him to the emergency room. He spends a week in the hospital, seems to be recovering -- and then a hospital-borne infection invades one of his lungs and he's gone within 24 hours.
Oates feels like she's been slammed in the head with a hammer, and she sleepwalks through the next six months, performing a seemingly endless series of "death duties" she'd never imagined could be so empty and meaningless.
The grief eats her up. She can't sleep, she can't write, she has trouble functioning in public. About the only place where she gets a break is at the oasis of her teaching job at Princeton University.
In this long, dark, soul-searching memoir, some of the best moments are actually FUNNY. Oates' neurotic cats shun her, because they think she's taken Ray away from them. Oates gets practically buried in sympathy gift baskets, and almost begs the mail and UPS to stop delivering items to her home.
Her friends help get her through it, even if she can't answer the phone when they call. Dozens of cards and letters pour in too, some of which it takes her months to read. Her main method of communication after Ray's death is e-mail.
This book doesn't make hospitals look good. Oates can't sue the hospital because she had her husband cremated -- she couldn't stand the idea of anyone cutting into him during an autopsy. You won't trust doctors and hospitals much, either -- every doctor in this book is worthless. They say the wrong things, do the wrong things, take the wrong actions, misdiagnose diseases.
Later in the book, when Oates develops shingles, her own doc misses it and she suffers in pain for another two days until the doc sees his mistake -- and by then the medication she's given doesn't have half the effectiveness it would have if the doc hadn't messed up.
The docs keep prescribing sleeping pills and anti-depressants -- Oates has more than enough pills to kill herself if she wants, but she's scared of becoming addicted to sleeping pills.
There are lighter spots. Oates also shows more about what her marriage was like. There are flashbacks to her and Ray's married days including a horrifying year in Beaumont, Texas; in Detroit, and in Canada. Going through Ray's papers, Oates finds a draft of a novel Ray tried to write before he met her. She includes parts of it in the memoir, and briefly considers completing it. The book sounds good to me -- but Oates points out she doesn't know where Ray was headed, or what he intended to fill the gaps.
This may not sound like light reading, but read with her earlier JOURNAL, WIDOW'S STORY makes for a warm, loving portrait of a long marriage, and a harrowing recap of the steps Oates had to take before she could say without fear "This is what my life is now."

My book about my old writer buddy Don Vincent is just about done. I have a few dozen "Strange Music" song-titles I want to plug-in as chapter titles, but the rest of it's finished.
This is probably another book that almost no one will be interested in. But I had to write it.