Thursday, March 19, 2015

Progress reports

Here's a quick look at some fairly current rock&roll books -- I may have a longer write-up on some of these eventually....
* REMEMBERED FOR A WHILE (2014) -- An authorized companion to the music of Nick Drake, compiled and edited by Cally Collomon and Gabrielle Drake. This is a huge (400 large pages), gorgeously produced book that includes memoirs about Nick by his friends, relatives, and fellow musicians, complete lyrics to all his songs, in-depth discussions about how he recorded each of his albums, a detailed three-year diary by Nick's father Rodney Drake covering the period when Nick's mental illness was at its worst, and MUCH more. Also included is critic Ian MacDonald's long article on Nick, "Exiled from Heaven," which makes the case that Nick's PINK MOON isn't about Depression, it's about coming back from the darkness. Only question I have is a mention about supposed "problems" with the great BRYTER LAYTER album -- the only "problem" I can find mentioned in the text was that Island Records couldn't come up with a good cover photo, and that delayed the album's release by four months. This is a beautiful book, but I still think hearing any of Nick's albums will tell you all you need to know. Warning: It's EXPENSIVE.
* GOING INTO THE CITY (2015) -- A memoir by rock critic Robert Christgau. This gets Really Good around Page 100, when Bob starts talking about going to college, listening to music, and getting laid regularly. Not sure about those first 100 pages -- but Bob is still his usual opinionated, know-it-all self. I'll be making a list of the new big words he uses here. So far, after Page 100, gripping.
* SOUND MAN (2014) -- Memoir by record producer and engineer Glyn Johns. I've skimmed most of this, and I'm sorry to report that Johns doesn't come across as anywhere NEAR as cranky and funny as he did in an '80s interview he did with Bill Flanagan for MUSICIAN magazine. And I think that's too bad. Still, lots of great stories about working with the Stones, Beatles, Who, Clash, Small Faces and Faces, Joan Armatrading, Fairport Convention, etc. Pretty compulsive.
* THE JOHN LENNON LETTERS (2011) -- Well, I said "fairly" current. Some of these are not letters. Some are postcards with six words on the back. Some are shopping lists or laundry lists or barely coherent scribbled notes apparently stolen from Lennon's apartment in the Dakota. That said, the actual LETTERS are mostly pretty great, and Lennon in anger was something else. Beatles biographer Hunter Davies edited and is his usual charming self. Lots of great photos. Worth a look.
I'll be back soon, with MORE....

Monday, March 16, 2015

Return of the Moondog

Along with all the usual stuff, here's what I've been playing for customers at work lately, including tapes from KPLU's "All Blues" program....
Dumpsta Funk -- *Blues Wave.
Tedeschi Trucks Band -- *Come See About Me.
Geneva Magness -- *You Were Never Mine.
Aron Jones -- *My Love Remains.
Dixie Cups -- *Iko Iko.
Allman Brothers -- *One Way Out, Don't Keep Me Wondering.
Shamekia Copeland -- *Never Goin' Back, *Lemon Pie (for the poor).
Ray Charles -- *Mess Around.
Jeff Beck with Imelda May -- (Remember) Walking in the Sand.
Maria Muldaur -- I'll Be Glad.
Sonny Landreth -- *Zydeco Shuffle.
Screamin' Jay Hawkins -- *I Put a Spell On You.
Beth Hart and Joe Bonnamassa -- *I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know.
Wild Magnolias -- *Party, *Coochie Molly, *Pocket Change.
Irma Thomas -- *River is Waiting.
Irma Thomas, Tracy Nelson and another woman who's name I can't remember -- *Sing It.
Johnny "Guitar" Watson -- *Gangster of Love.
J.J. Cale -- *Lies, Call Me the Breeze.
Slim Harpo -- *Tina-Neena-Nu.
John Mayall -- *Room to Move.
Johnny Rivers -- *Memphis. a few more new songs by women, one doing a joyous new version of "Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair," another with a great rocker called "You Only Need Me When You're Down," and a third with an angry rocker called "Can't Do Nothing Right" -- I'll try to get names on these....
NOTES: "Gangster of Love" has got to be the silliest "blues" ever. "I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know" is dramatic and stunning -- the best thing I've heard in awhile. "I Put a Spell on You" is a little primitive (mid-'50s, right?), but I love that one great line: "I don't CARE if you don't want ME -- I'M YOURS!" "My Love Remains" is by a Seattle artist -- a little "Purple Rain"-ish, a little Hendrix-ish, but good. "You Were Never Mine" is sad -- a bit reminiscent of Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me," but good stuff. "Come See About Me" is more good stuff from Tedeschi-Trucks, with nice guitar -- wish they'd included it on MADE UP MIND.... "Never Goin' Back" is a nice spooky crime tale; "Lemon Pie" is a hilarious political protest song. "I'll Be Glad" might be the first blues song by Maria Muldaur that I've ever liked. The other stuff with a * listed above is recommended.

Weather here has gone from sunny and near 60 to pouring rain and in the low 40s. I told everybody it was too early for Spring, but....
I'm tired and my feet hurt. However, I wrote a new short story that suddenly popped into my head on Tuesday morning -- Ghod knows what I'm going to do with it -- and I'm looking at another big writing project....
More soon....

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Moondog's Friday night dance party!

The playlist:
Pat Boone -- Isn't That a Shame, Blue Suede Shoes.
Perry Como -- Dream On Little Dreamer.
The Lettermen -- Worlds.
B.J. Thomas -- Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head, I Just Can't Help Believin', Hooked on a Feeling, Mighty Clouds of Joy, Suspicious Minds.
John Denver -- Back Home Again, Annie's Song, My Sweet Lady.
Abba -- Fernando, Chiquitita.
Air Supply -- Lost in Love, All Out of Love, Every Woman in the World, Sweet Dream....

...So did you think I was JOKING about Getting Good With God in my last post?
Well, ... I WAS joking. Here's the REAL playlist....
Wild Magnolias -- *Party, *Coochie Molly, *Pocket Change.
Three Dog Night -- *Out in the Country, *Celebrate, *My Impersonal Life, *I Will Serenade You.
Badfinger -- *No Matter What, *Baby Blue.
Elvis -- *Promised Land.
Journey -- *Lights, *Feeling That Way/*Anytime, *Somethin' to Hide.
Elton John -- *Teacher I Need You, *Have Mercy on the Criminal..
Todd Rundgren -- *Couldn't I Just Tell You?
Chicago -- *Questions 67 and 68, *Feeling Stronger Every Day.
The Cars -- *Dangerous Type.
Rush -- *Time Stand Still, *Force Ten.
Fleetwood Mac -- *Oh Well, *The Green Manalishi, *Why?, *Sisters of the Moon, *World Turning.
Kansas -- *Miracles Out of Nowhere, *Questions of My Childhood.
Five Man Electrical Band -- *Absolutely Right, We Play Rock and Roll, Money Back Guarantee.
Steely Dan -- *My Old School, *Dirty Work.
Motorhead -- Killed by Death (live).
Manfred Mann's Earth Band -- Living Without You.
Rolling Stones -- *Happy, *Tumbling Dice.
Heart -- *Mistral Wind.
Moody Blues -- *The Story in Your Eyes, *Question, *It's Up to You.
Nick Drake -- *Pink Moon, *Things Behind the Sun, *From the Morning, *Northern Sky.

Also tossed in a few tracks taped from KPLU's "All Blues":
Los Lobos -- I Walk Alone.
Johnny Rivers -- *Memphis.
John Mayall -- *Room to Move.
Buddy Holly -- Not Fade Away.
Slim Harpo -- *Tina-Nee-Ni-Nu.
John Hiatt -- Riding With the King.
J.J. Cale -- Lies.

Coming Eventually: Reviews of REMEMBERED FOR A WHILE, a huge official companion to the music of Nick Drake -- this will probably be the Book Of The Year for me ... and THE JOHN LENNON LETTERS.

PS -- That last post about supposedly satanic rock stars got more looks than anything I've written here in MONTHS. So, I see what the drift is here and will be acting accordingly....

Sunday, March 1, 2015


I'm aware that my original plan for this blog -- to review what I call "Strange Music" you might have overlooked, or at least off-the-wall books about music -- has drifted a bit in recent months. For this lapse I hope to atone.
In an effort to get this return to the drawing board started, I visited my favorite local used bookstore, Book 'Em here in Port Orchard (free plug), and imagine the delight I felt when I discovered a copy of FROM ROCK TO ROCK -- THE MUSIC OF DARKNESS EXPOSED! (1990), a book that promises to show once and for all how many '60s, '70s and '80s rock stars SOLD THEIR SOULS TO THE DEVIL!
The book was compiled by a former working musician named Eric Barger, who spent 20 years in the biz, in a couple of bands that went nowhere. Eric says in his intro that he took advantage of every illicit attraction the rock and roll lifestyle had to offer, and clearly this book was his effort to atone.
Because clearly Barger felt guilty. And scared, make no mistake. And Lord knows there are so MANY things for a God-loving Christian to fear....
You can probably guess most of the culprits. There was little doubt about some of them -- AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper, Guns 'N' Roses, Motley Crue, Twisted Sister, Van Halen, Def Leppard, The Beastie Boys, Led Zeppelin, Madonna, Michael Jackson ... and of course The Beatles, who started us all down this Highway To Hell way back in 1964.
I was surprised by how many of these satanic rock stars are also conveniently dead -- Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, Brian Jones (Rolling Stones), even Elvis Presley.
But what REALLY shocked me is how many previously-thought-harmless "artists" have sold their souls to the Dark Lord -- Cyndi Lauper, Lionel Richie, Journey, The Cars, The Who, Rod Stewart, Belinda Carlisle, Roxette, Wham!, Bananarama, Huey Lewis and the News, John Cougar Mellencamp, Hall and Oates, The Police ... even Bruce Springsteen!
Of course, it was no surprise to find The Beach Boys listed in this book. And even my heroes The Moody Blues have apparently had their ungodly moments -- anybody who heard their KEYS OF THE KINGDOM album knows that. ... Even Yes!
Shocked! SHOCKED I was! And grateful for the info, so that I may now purge my music collection and begin my long-postponed climb up to godliness. I've got a long way to go....
Which doesn't mean there aren't some minor problems with Barger's book. The writing actually isn't terrible. But he gets names wrong, he mis-attributes songs to the wrong artists, he doesn't know what to do with an apostrophe -- golly, I haven't had so much fun marking the errors in a book since Jerry Lucky's PROGRESSIVE ROCK FILES.
Then there's Barger's lapses in logic, his inability to see that something might be intended as a joke (how can anyone take Motorhead's "Killed by Death" seriously?) or for a dramatic or metaphoric purpose, his inability to grant that there might be any other way to godliness other than The One Way he pushes. Oh, and his book's organized terribly.
Possibly most hilarious of all is a LONG middle section in which 1,500 artists are listed under the guidelines of a 12-step "offensiveness" scale which lets you see with a glance just what's so offensive about all of them. Tons of these acts I've never HEARD of -- I have to assume they are LOUD bands...? And a good portion of these artists get a "12" rating, which means Barger isn't done investigating them yet. I'm sure Camel and Joan Armatrading and The Hollies aren't being kept awake at night by this.
King Crimson isn't even MENTIONED. Too scary?
And this book was written in 1990! Can you imagine what kind of book Barger could write TODAY? I'll bet he'd at least have a LOT of inspiration....
My favorite mistake is where Barger puts the words of The Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the U.K." into the mouth of ... Rod Stewart. Which has got to be a copyright violation. Or some kind of violation, anyway. I'm sure the LAST thing Rod The Mod wanted to be was the Antichrist.
This book is hilarious. LOTS of great cheap laughs.
And yet. And yet....
Looking around at the grim reality of today's world, and at the fates of so many rock stars ... I don't think popular music is ENTIRELY to blame for ALL of our MANY troubles, nor do I think teenage rebellion inevitably leads to drinking, drugs, early pregnancy, voting Republican, and eventual takeover by the Dark One.
But I agree that it's a Good Thing to get Good With God.
So, from now on it's strictly Pat Boone, The Lettermen and The Kingston Trio for me. Starting immediately.
See 'ya in church!

(PS on March 2nd -- I see I forgot to mention Ozzie Osbourne. He's all over Barger's book, I just forgot about him. It's nothing personal, I swear to ... well, you know.)