Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Gas Nazi returns!

Back at work for two weeks and am due for another vacation already. Some nights have been a breeze, a couple have sucked. Thursday night was the worst in months. And I don't think it was just me having a Bad Night.
It's summer, and it's been krayzee-busy. Unhappy families hanging out barking at each other, parents buying beer but angrily refusing to buy cheap snacks for their kids, guys on bicycles circling around the parking lot aimlessly at midnight with no headlights, meth freaks wandering around like zombies. Some of them LOOK like zombies.
One obnoxious Regular who played scratch-tickets down to his last dime last winter came in all sad to tell me that his girlfriend had slept with his brother AND his best friend. "But NOT at the same time," he felt compelled to add. Meanwhile, his anorexic 18-year-old girlfriend stood right outside the store's front door, looking more lost than he did.
What did this guy want from me? He's not my friend, he's not even a friendly acquaintance. He'd already blown any chance of getting a supportive or compassionate response from me when he treated me like an idiot months ago. I didn't need to be told this stuff. And now I'm supposed to feel sorry for him?
My favorite drunk came in at two minutes to midnight to cash-in $35 worth of scratch-tickets, and I about came unglued. Because we've talked repeatedly about this before, about how I'm trying to close, scratch tickets are locked up, she's causing me more work and overtime I won't get paid for, etc. Made no difference.
"Why won't you take my tickets? You've still got three minutes," etc. So I cashed her out. But next time I'll send her somewhere else. The state shuts off scratch-ticket cash-outs at midnight. We'll see how she feels about that.
This is on top of all the usual work, all the stuff I get no help with, all the stocking and cleaning nobody else does that I can't keep up with, etc. And it wasn't THAT busy a night. We barely made $1,000. There've been many much-busier nights. But something about it really set me off. And I was lost by the time I got home. What if it's ME?
Despite this, despite the demands, despite the constant WANT-WANT-WANT and the crabiness when we didn't HAVE, I wasn't mean to anybody all night, I didn't yell at anyone, I didn't say any mean things. I held it together. Even with the drunk at midnight, though she wondered aloud why I was having such a hard time. That was because I wanted to wring her neck. By then I was Done.
My girlfriend says if I ever want to feel settled about my job, all I can do is change my mind and learn to live with it, because the situation's never gonna change. You'd think after 12 years on the job I'd KNOW that, but....
In light of this, I have come up with a list of goals to help me succeed and be happier at my job. Because of all the bitching I've done here about work, I know you'll appreciate me sharing them:
1. Don't WORRY.
2. Get through my shift and get home safely.
3. Don't upset customers.
4. Be nice to people.
5. Get all my side-work done.
6. No more negative talking to myself or customers.
7. Don't give my co-workers a hard time.
8. Stop judging people.
9. Be positive.
10. Enjoy myself, have fun, play!
11. Save money, win the Lottery, RETIRE!
My girlfriend says these are all do-able goals. Maybe not realistic, but do-able. I'll keep you posted....
When's my break?

MOVING: It's in the works. I'm already forwarding my mail here, to the girlfriend's house, where it's quiet and secure and Not Weird and I have some peace and time to think. Still haven't told the old Roommate yet, but he seems to know it's coming -- since I haven't slept under his roof in 2 months. Nor has he given me an update on the idiots who stole $800 from him. So far, all my stuff is secure, no weirdness with my bank account or any more attempts to mess with my credit. I may have dodged one. And I hope those jokers get sent up the creek. Meanwhile, all of my CD's and most of my clothes are here, books are being brought over a box or two at a time, and the girlfriend and I have found domestic bliss like I never thought I'd feel again. At least one part of my life is wonderful.

INVASION: It's the Russians! Over the last few weeks, this blog has set new records for viewership, with 75 percent of those visits coming from Russia. What are they looking for? There's nothing here. I'm not getting 400 views from Russia each day just because they're such big Nektar fans, I know that. And they're "reading" stuff I posted five years ago. Are these the same hackers who got into Hillary Clinton's e-mails and hacked the Democratic National Committee? Good Luck, guys. But there's nothing useful to you here....

THE ELECTION FROM HELL: I don't believe a word Hillary Clinton says. And some of Donald Trump's statements at the Republican Convention sounded like Hitler. Or at least Barry Goldwater back in 1964. Neither of these idiots really seem to believe they can rescue this country -- they just say what their audience wants to hear. They have NO SOLID PLANS for the future. If Bernie Sanders came out today as a third-party candidate millions would vote for him. The system is so fucked-up I doubt it matters WHO is President. Don't know what to do, but I've got my tickets to New Zealand reserved. Is this the best this country can do? Once again I suggest we JUST VOTE NO.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

40 rotten Beatles songs

Awhile back, inspired by a silly book on the same topic, I posted a list of my 100 favorite Beatles songs.
It was exhausting. It took too much thought.
Last night, thanks to my girlfriend, I started wondering about my LEAST favorite Beatles songs -- and surprisingly it took no time at all to come up with 40 Fab Four songs I pretty-much hate.
If you ask my girlfriend which are her least-favorite Beatles songs, she'll say "ALL of them." I still hope to convert her thinking on this. But instead, how about if we hand her some ammunition...?
Let's face it -- it's easy to see now, 50 years later, that The Beatles were a HUGE hype. It's OK now to come out of the closet and admit that you hated them all along. We're not here to judge you. And you can confess your sins in the COMMENTS section below. (Oh, wait, there's a line....)
Here's my Fab Four Bottom 40. Join me?

1. Revolution 9. No surprise. Technically this isn't a song, it's a "sound collage." Doesn't matter. Goes nowhere, does nothing. For eight minutes. Far Out, man. Art, did you say? I'll get my gun....
2. Mr. Moonlight. This is more like it. Or rather, LESS. Ghastly, sung with overweening unctuousness by John. And WHO is responsible for that horrible organ noise in the middle?! Lotsa laffs.
3. Sexy Sadie. This is a mean, ugly, hypocritical song. Very unlike John to censor himself, but maybe if he'd called it "Maharishi" (which was the original title) I'd like it more. At least it'd all be out-front that way.
4. From Me to You. Is this the most boring Beatles song ever? Well, not when there's....
5. Blue Jay Way. Foggy, dull, endless. Don't be long, George.
6. Love Me Do. Wow, what a way to start out. Surprised they even HAD a career, after this. The B-side, "P.S. I Love You," is actually pretty charming....
7. Michelle. Using a foreign language as a mood-change or a "surprise" in a song never works. Never. And this is SO sugary-sweet. McCartney's worst.
8. Girl. John at his most sexist. Ugly. But then there's....
9. Run for Your Life. I actually sort of like the tune. But the emotions expressed are repellent. John admitted he could be a pretty ugly, jealous lover.
10. All You Need is Love. Other than the French national anthem, what has this hippy mishmash got going for it? Besides, they were wrong.
11. Savoy Truffle. George warbles about Eric Clapton's developing dental problems. Gruesome.
12. Wild Honey Pie. And the point is...?
13. Honey Pie. McCartney's '20s-music obsession must be stopped.
14. Any Indian-influenced song sung by George. 'Nuff said.
15. Drive My Car. This stupid song originally had a much-different set of lyrics that made the title metaphor droolingly obvious. But stuffy old producer George Martin refused to have anything to do with the original, and ordered the boys to rewrite it. Only one line in the released version survived from the original: "Working for penis is all very fine...." It's still stupid. And the melody's wretched. (You don't want me to post the original lyrics. Or maybe you DO, you nasty thing.)
16. Here, There and Everywhere. So sweet, so sunshiny, so sugary, it's always a downer.
17. Good Day Sunshine. And here's its stable-mate, also from REVOLVER. Drop these two and that album would have been way better....
18. Day Tripper. I can almost enjoy the sly lyrics. But except for that repeating guitar riff, the tune is bottom of the barrel.
19. I Should Have Known Better. Always stodgy and boring. And it means nothing. Even John hated it. And he wrote it.
20./21. Act Naturally, Honey Don't, and any other country-influenced song sung by Ringo. Buck Owens and Carl Perkins were not scared by Mr. Starkey's attempts to become a country crooner. Ringo does have one good song, though. One. "Don't Pass Me By" isn't too bad.
22. Good Morning Good Morning. All the worst to you each morning!
23. Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite! Brilliant fairgrounds production. But a flimsy excuse for a filler track on SGT. PEPPER.
24. She's Leaving Home. I've always hated this gloppy, over-orchestrated piece of dreck. Might have been a little less gloppy if George Martin had done the string arrangement. And the lyrics can't save it.
25. Strawberry Fields Forever. Sure, this was a brave experiment. But experiments fail all the time. This isn't a pleasant piece of music, and the universe it takes us to is grey and dull and boring, no matter how much it meant to John. I'm sure I'm among the vast minority here.
26. Get Back. I admit this is a big blank-spot with me. But it's dull and shuffly and sloppy. Who cares?
27. Flying. First heard this dull almost-instrumental two weeks ago, and I've already forgotten about it. So did they.
28. Fixing A Hole. McCartney's mind wanders. Next!
29. Your Mother Should Know. This might have been better if Paul had bothered to finish WRITING it. A verse and a chorus aren't quite enough. And the period charm doesn't rescue it.
30. The Fool on the Hill. Always hated this middle-of-the-road mood-music "classic." Stupid. Wow, the Fool's so DEEP, man....
31. Across the Universe (original version with birdies and kiddie choir). If Phil Spector did anything right, at least he beefed up this fragile classic from John. The version we all know better from LET IT BE is superior in every way.
32. Octopus's Garden. A feeble rewrite of "Yellow Submarine."
33. Why Don't We Do it in the Road? Now here's a blues for ya, not too far away from John's "Yer Blues." John was reportedly hurt that he wasn't asked to join in. But Abbey Road studio was like a revolving door back in those days....
34. Another Girl. Kinda standard, kinda dull.
35. Hey Jude. Other than that endless na-na-na refrain, what has this got going for it? And it's sloppy.
36. Don't Let Me Down. This is just sloppy, no matter how much it meant to John. And it's always a downer.
37. Lady Madonna. Another leering barrelhouse rocker from Paul. The lyrics are kinda creepy, and the charm wore off damn quick.
38. You're Going to Lose That Girl. Another wretched filler for HELP!
39. Long Long Long. Dull, long-winded George. Next....
40. Good Night. Wow, John could be sentimental and syrupy, yes? Good thing he had Ringo's fog-horn voice to cut through all that....
Have I forgotten any? Please submit your nominees in the space below....
(Written while half-asleep, so there'd be no regrets....)

Monday, July 25, 2016

Lots more short-takes

Here's what I played between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. --
* Cowboy Junkies -- Sweet Jane. Wow, this is so low-key and murmuring and sweet. Margo Timmins' voice is very lulling. And that la-la-la finish is chillingly pretty. And it's a Lou Reed song. Is my ignorance showing? Well then.
* Sinead O'Connor -- Nothing Compares 2 U. I was in Turkey when Sinead was A Big Deal, and I really Didn't Get It. But this morning it's really working for me. This is pretty heartbreaking, and there's enough emotion here for anyone. And what a voice. And of course Prince wrote it. If anything, it's over with too fast.
* Fleetwood Mac -- I Know I'm Not Wrong (cd remix). Well, they remixed the SHIT out of this for CD, and I don't know WHY. The choruses were perfect just the way they were. Thank Ghod they left the harmonica/organ instrumental hooks after the choruses. But they've rushed it. And they've fucked it up. One of Lindsey Buckingham's best rockers, now messed with. Hang onto the vinyl version, it's better. Very disappointing.
* Cat Power -- He War. All thanks to Rastro at La Historia de la Musica Rock, I've always loved this hypnotic, bitty, bad-love anthem. The tiny keyboard and guitar riffs, the drumming, the singing -- it's like an angry mantra. And all the parts fit. Glorious.
* Steely Dan -- Bodhisattva. Recent convert to this, from back in the day when Steely Dan was trying to be a rock band rather than a sophisticated jazz combo. I don't care what it means, but I love the flashy, slippery, slithery tune and playing. And Donald Fagen does some of his most relaxed singing.
* Gordon Lightfoot -- Ribbon of Darkness. (Avoiding "Canadian Railroad Trilogy" because I know it too well.) Wow, this sure sounds different from Marty Robbins's version. And Gordy sounds so Canadian -- like he's fresh out of the North Woods just to sing you a song.
* Gordon Lightfoot -- The Way I Feel (version one). This is moody and pretty, but it has none of the drive and mystery of Sandy Denny and Fotheringay's later version (included on Fairport Convention's great vinyl FAIRPORT CHRONICLES best-of).
* Gordon Lightfoot -- The Way I Feel (version two). The electric version. This is a little closer to it, there's a little more mystery, but the guitars are a little weedy. Should have been heavier.
* Gordon Lightfoot -- The Circle is Small. I loved the late-'70s version of this cheatin'-love ballad. This is so fresh vocally and in the playing, a much different mood from the later version -- more heartbroken than bitter. Very nice.
* Paul Revere and the Raiders -- Just Seventeen. Naughty, slobbery rocker. Great freakin' stuff! How could anyone think Mark Lindsay was harmless with that leering, drooling voice?! Hilarious! And great guitar!
* Paul Revere and the Raiders -- Do Unto Others. "Louie Louie" meets Social Protest. Hypnotic. Great lost B-side.
* Paul Revere and the Raiders -- Country Wine. Played on radio about 4 times back in '72. Cute, catchy, lighter than air. Shoulda caught on.
* Paul Revere and the Raiders -- Song Seller. Played about THREE times on radio back in '72. I think it's funny. Millions apparently disagreed. Pretty gutsy Mark Lindsay vocal for something this silly.
* Carly Simon -- Legend in Your Own Time. My Ghod, this guy will play ANYTHING! Moody portrait of a lover. Nice, could have been a hit, though not much in the way of commercial hooks. From Carly's REFLECTIONS best-of, which unfortunately doesn't include the great ironic "We're So Close."
* Carly Simon -- Anticipation. This is an Olde Favorite, worth hearing again even if it's just for Andy Newmark's great drumming. This should NEVER have been used in a ketchup commercial....
* Jefferson Airplane -- Lather. That Grace Slick, what a joker. Great vocal. And great sound effects.
* Jefferson Airplane -- Crown of Creation. Always have loved the Airplane's (and Starship's) science-fiction-chorale pieces, and this is one of their best. Angry, amazing vocals, great guitar.
* Jefferson Airplane -- Greasy Heart. More jokes from Grace. Maybe. Amazingly angry vocal.
* Jefferson Airplane -- Martha. Is this about a cat? OK, maybe not. But too many drugs, man.
* Jefferson Airplane -- Mexico. Charming little ditty about some early '70s business problems involving ... uh ... importing goods from South Of The Border. Boy, these guys were pissed off. Pretty rushed, should have been longer, with more details.
* Jefferson Airplane -- Have You Seen the Saucers? Love the line about "American garbage dumped in space." Otherwise, this is NOT one of the Plane's better science-fiction chorales. Some OK freakout guitar.
* Carole King -- Corazon. Some nice Latin percussion and horns, and OK piano, but as a tune this is no "Been to Canaan."
* Spirit -- Aren't You Glad? This Jay Ferguson meditation on the Summer Of Love never goes much of anywhere, but there's some nice Randy California guitar, and it all builds nicely in intensity.
* Bob Dylan -- Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again. More comedy from Uncle Bahb. Nice organ from Al Kooper. Yeezus, who taught Bob how to sing? A little long, but funny.
* Frank Zappa -- Cheap Thrills. What's with the munchkin vocals? And this doesn't go much of anywhere.
* Frank Zappa -- How Could I be Such a Fool? I'm OK with the doo-wop sort-of satire, but this is just sort of average.
* Frank Zappa -- Deseri, Jelly Roll Gumdrop, You Didn't Try to Call Me. Frank, are you kidding?
* Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention -- Wowie Zowie. Gosh, this isn't funny. What happened to my sense of humor? This could be a problem.
* Yes -- Ritual. OK, now THIS is funny. Or maybe I'm in bad trouble. Always did think Yes were a pretty good comedy band at times (like on TORMATO). Nice wordless group vocals and good country-western-ish guitar in the opening section. Livelier than I expected. Nice group chanting on words Jon Anderson probably scribbled down during a smoke break. Nice bass-and-drums duel between Chris Squire and Alan White, with Steve Howe joining later on guitar, building in intensity. Then it all drops out for a long percussion-and-spoons interlude. Then a tranquil, relaxed vocal section. Howe picks up the intensity on guitar. And then ... it fades out. Where's the rest of it? Better than I expected, to be honest.
* Yes -- Sound Chaser. Ornate keyboard leads into a jumpy guitar underpinning frenzied vocals. Faster! These guys are on uppers or something. Odd lyrics recited over more jittery guitar. (At this point the CD player became jumpy and incoherent and could not continue with this track. Our apologies.)
* Neil Young -- The Loner. Pleasant music, mildly disturbing lyrics. Why wasn't this a hit? I predict a big future.
* Neil Young -- Tonight's the Night (Part One). A little whiny, a little morbid, but not bad. Nowhere near as harrowing as I expected.
* Neil Young -- Like a Hurricane. Rather nice mellow love song with lots of good guitar. Surprised it wasn't a complete blow-out. There's quiet in your eyes....
* Neil Young -- Cortez the Killer. I LOVE the version of this on Neil's LIVE RUST. It's epic. Not sure I've ever heard this studio original. But like the live version, it's grand and stately, and Neil's in no hurry. And the lyrics are pretty amazing. But it fades out instead of closing with a long guitar freak-out at the end.
* Billie Holiday -- These Foolish Things, Summertime. Probably too old-school for me to be able to hear. But Billie sounds happy on "These Foolish Things." And I've still never heard a version of "Summertime" that I've liked much. OK, maybe John Coltrane's version, but he got through it by ignoring the tune.
* John Coltrane -- Alabama. The opening is anguished, the rest smolders. Reportedly inspired by a church fire-bombing in Alabama in which four young African-American girls were killed. Coltrane felt it.
* King Crimson -- Requiem. If everything else fails, Crimson can always wake me up. But this is really noisy. Sounds like guitars throwing up. Sorry, Bob.
* Aimee Mann -- I Should've Known. The former voice of 'Til Tuesday, sounding more like Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders here on the lead track of her 1993 album WHATEVER. Strong vocal, excellent screechy guitars. An ear-opener.
* Aimee Mann -- Say Anything. Sorry to say this is the only other thing that grabbed me off of WHATEVER, and it took awhile to get started. OK choruses, bitter lyrics. Worth hearing, but they put the best song up front.
* Ramones -- The KKK Took My Baby Away. Just the kind of moving, sensitive, gloppy love ballad you'd expect from everybody's favorite heart-on-their-sleeve hometown boys. Glad to see they're keeping their standards high.
* Ramones -- Bonzo Goes to Bitburg. As political commentators, Ramone, Ramone, Ramone and Ramone are not quite tough enough. This is OK, and I love the keyboard/glockenspiel touches, but it should have hit harder, shouldn't have been smoothed-out with backing vocals. This is an angry song. It should SOUND angry. Instead, it sounds like it was produced by Phil Ramone (Billy Joel, Paul Simon, etc.). In light of this, it would come as a small surprise to learn he was part of the Family.
* Susan Tedeschi -- Mama He Treats Your Daughter Mean. Love her with the Tedeschi Trucks Band. Here she's covering an old blues number I first heard done by Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett. And she starts out belting it. It smooths out a little later. Not bad.
* Susan Tedeschi -- Angel From Montgomery. This heartbreaking John Prine classic already has one perfect version -- done live by Bonnie Raitt and Prine. (It's on Raitt's Warner Brothers best-of.) That's a hard performance to top. But Susan keeps her vocal reined in, and the guitar, piano and fiddle are solid. Good work, and a nice finish. If you haven't heard Raitt and Prine's version, this cover might knock you right over.
* Uriah Heep -- Sweet Lorraine. I remember the screaming woo-woo synthesizers from this, a very annoying hook for your memory. I also have some other reservations....
* Uriah Heep -- The Wizard. This is certainly CALMER and less woo-woo than "Sweet Lorraine." The cosmic lyrics better suit this band, somehow. Nicely majestic without getting stuffy or silly about it. And it's short.
* Peter Gabriel -- Here Comes the Flood. The one song of Gabriel's I can't do without is "Family Snapshot," but I don't play it much. This is hushed and dramatic, just Gabriel and a piano. Is this about the end of the world?
* Peter Gabriel -- Mercy Street. Quiet, ghostly, hypnotic. Pretty, but no hit-single potential here.
* Beach Boys -- Susie Cincinnati. Cute perennial B-side by the Boys. Al Jardine wrote it and sings lead. Punchy, bouncy, nice vocals. Too cute to be embarrassing.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

More musical ?'s

Here's what I played from 1 to 4 p.m. --
* Can -- Soup. Now THIS will wake you up. It's a good thing Can's ANTHOLOGY  best-of opens with the relatively "normal" "Father Cannot Yell," because this really does sound like Michael Karoli cutting into his guitar with a chainsaw. I'd forgotten about the vocals, which are muttered nonsense. Not music, but it's over with quick.
* Can -- Spoon. Pleasant, light and bouncy, with nice murmuring chanted vocals. Is this even the same band?
* Can -- Halleluwah. Nice propulsive drumming from Jaki Liebezeit -- he's always pretty freaking awesome. Hmmm, how'd that noisy mosquito get in here? Too bad about the ... uh ... shrieking. Not sure what the vocals are on about, but it all kinda works with the rippling keyboards and the drumming. Not bad.
* Can -- Aumgn. Played this once after I bought ANTHOLOGY, and thought it was a tuneless waste of seven minutes. Now I notice: Screechy violin(?), eerie bass, yawning vocals(?). Haunted house music. Singer(s) clearing their throats, gargling. Echoey drumming, a deep chasm of noise. Nimble, bouncy bass riff. Evil laughter. That gargling's back. Deep, echoey, evil sounds. OK, that's enough.
* Gong -- The Pot Head Pixies, Zero the Hero and the Witch's Spell. Compared to Can, "Pot Head Pixies" sounds almost normal. Cute, and pretty catchy. "Witch's Spell" opens with Gong's atmospheric orientalisms, which I've always liked (listen to their SHAMAL, half pretty-great). Then it gets heavier. And sillier. Then great sax (as usual) from Didier Mahlerbe over nice light percussion from Pierre Moerlen. Always amazing playing from these guys. Then more silliness. They seem to have an almost mystical cosmic view of sex -- which is OK with me. That whole feminine "space whisper" vibe. It's nice, but they use it a LOT. Then it gets heavier again, with more great sax. Pretty big musical orgasm at the end ... which should have built just a little bit higher before being cut off. Not bad. I might even play it again sometime....
* Caravan -- And I Wish I Were Stoned/Don't Worry. Hated this at first when I got Caravan's CANTERBURY TALES best-of a few years back -- I'm not the "stoned" type. But the singing's pretty emotional, and Dave Sinclair's keyboards are amazing. "Don't Worry"'s pleasant enough, though not stunning.
* Jan Dukes DeGrey -- Mice and Rats in the Loft. Ghod knows who these people were. Fiendish noise. Slide whistles followed by crazed guitar and an equally crazed vocal. The lyrics are ugly. Like a prog-rock-opera. Who knew so much early prog was so repellent?
* Beach Boys -- Mrs. O'Leary's Cow. It was the slide whistles that set me off. Charging fire engines and sirens, and the "wooooh" backing vocals are straight out of the Boys' "W. Woodpecker Symphony" (see SMILEY SMILE). Dramatic, but it's over with fast.
* Beach Boys -- I Love to Say Dada. The opening airy group-vocal part ended up as the centerpiece of "Cool, Cool Water" (see SUNFLOWER). The rest seems almost familiar now, like we've always had it, it's always been around. Light and friendly. With a tag from the wordless-vocal "Our Prayer" at the end.
* Beach Boys -- Brian Falls into a Piano. Too many drugs, man.... The tag is WAY funnier -- a record-store promo in which Capitol Records predicts they'll sell a million copies of SMILE in January '67 alone. But then Reality got in the way....
* Van der Graaf Generator -- Darkness 11/11. Man, what a band! Heavy gothic drama, with amazing sax from David Jackson, great organ from Hugh Banton. And Peter Hammill doesn't screech too much. And it doesn't go on too long.
* Magna Carta -- Lord of Ages. This is silly. A fable set to medieval folk music. Somber group choral vocals. What's this doing on a progressive-rock sampler? That's what I get for listening to them just because one of their album covers was painted by Roger Dean.
* Gentle Giant -- In a Glass House. This is WAY more like it, at least until Derek Shulman's vocals kick in. Complex but melodic. Nice playing, sorta jagged. Jumpy, but in a pleasing way. Wonder why this album never got released in America, back in the day...?
* Clannad -- Harry's Game. In Gaelic, released on half a dozen of their '80s/'90s albums. Something about Gaelic makes it sound so ghostly and somber, even if they're only singing their shopping list. Ghostly, pretty. What's it mean?
* Clannad -- Why Worry? This sounds absolutely NORMAL. Could be anybody. Fleetwood Mac could sing it. Better. With more emotion. Background music. Very nice sax by Mel Collins.
* Hawkwind -- Sonic Attack. Fucking hilarious. One of a kind. Robert Calvert was a great dramatic reader. Do not panic....
* Hawkwind -- Urban Guerrilla. Course we have our own urban guerrillas now, but back in the day I'll bet this was a lot of fun. Besides, Robert Calvert sounds like he couldn't hurt your poodle. No worries here.
* Yes -- Soon. This is the quiet middle section of Yes's epic "The Gates of Delirium," which I've never made it all the way through. That's probably a failing in me. Very sweet and spacey, and probably a nice break in the furious "Gates" ... which I can hardly remember, to be honest.
* Renaissance -- Kings and Queens. Or Illusion, if you prefer. Only difference here is ex-Yardbird Keith Relf on guitar rather than the later John Knightsbridge. This starts as a show-offy prog-keyboard piece, then lightens up a little. Sounds more like the Strawbs, which keybsman John Hawken was also a member of. LOTS of heavy piano, kind of melodramatic. Jane Relf's limited to background vocals. Later Renaissance and Illusion works are all better.
* Nektar -- Questions and Answers. A slice of REMEMBER THE FUTURE, which I never got through even half of. Pleasant, nice song construction, good vocals and guitar. OK, not a stomper. Nektar's better when they rock.
* King Crimson -- The Sailor's Tale. Not sure why Bob Fripp's guitar sounds kinda like a banjo, but whatever he wants. The mellotron backing sounds like the later LARK'S TONGUES version of KC. This could almost be off of GREAT DECEIVER/LIVE. Which means I've overlooked it for years. A warm-up for "Fracture," why not?
* Partridge Family -- One Night Stand. WHAT? How the heck did THIS get in here? Oh well, sounds great! That Keith Partridge could sure sing. And what great group backing vocals!

Friday, July 22, 2016

More live blogging!

Here's what I played between 1:30 and 4 p.m. Sorry you missed it....
* Roxy Music -- More Than This, Take a Chance With Me. I generally like the later, smoother Roxy better than the sometimes-jarring earlier stuff. While the later stuff doesn't match the thrills of "The Thrill of it All," "More Than This" is SMOOTH, with tasty sax from Andy Mackay and nice Phil Manzanera guitar. "Take a Chance" has a LONG instrumental intro ... but when Bryan Ferry FINALLY gets to the choruses, it's worth it. Very sweet and sentimental. Why wasn't this a hit? But I admit they could be ANYONE....
* Roxy Music -- Do the Strand. Who IS this little Nazi? Some nice atonal sax, and an OK joke near the end, but man, this is REALLY annoying.
* The Jam -- That's Entertainment. I think this coulda been a huge hit in America if someone with less of a British accent than Paul Weller had sang it. Brilliant and bitter. Great stuff!
* The Jam -- Funeral Pyre. Speaking of bitter....
* Mannheim Steamroller -- Toccata. Threw together a quick sandwich while this was playing. I really don't know what to do with these guys. This is smooth and pretty, and beautifully produced, but it's not distinctive. Gryphon (or Camel, Gentle Giant, lots of other English prog bands) were SO much better at this kind of pretty-recorder-or-flute-over-complex-keyboard-backup. And they spoiled me early.
* Mannheim Steamroller -- Small Wooden Bach'ses. OK, that's enough of this stuff right now.
* Van Morrison -- Sweet Thing. About the only song on Van's ASTRAL WEEKS that I can stand. And it's freaking glorious.
* Rickie Lee Jones -- A Lucky Guy. Yeezus, I haven't heard this in YEARS. Nice jazzy swing, and she's so yearning....
* Talking Heads -- Take Me to the River. Not sure if I prefer this version or Al Green's. This hits really hard. And the organ! Maybe if I could mash-up the two....
* XTC -- Grass, Dear God. Always liked XTC's "Senses Working Overtime." "Grass" is pleasant, but not as amazing as I'd expected. "Dear God" is certainly distinctive. Complaint about modern life delivered politely at first, building steadily, excellent production. Powerful finish. Let's play it again. Pretty great.
* XTC -- Earn Enough for Us. Nice ringing guitars, funny lyrics.
* Mannhein Steamroller -- Fantasy, Interlude V, The Third Door. ...And back down again. "Fantasy"'s a fragment. "Interlude V" is light classical mood music. "Third Door" is a little more like it, but not very forceful. And too formal. Gryphon, Rick Wakeman, Strawbs, Camel, Gentle Giant -- your past is calling.
* Mannheim Steamroller -- The Fourth Door. Now this IS pretty....
* Pogues -- If I Should Fall From Grace With God. Loved these guys back in the day. Haven't heard this since 1983. Still sounds great. Plus it's waking my ass back up.
* Pogues -- Turkish Song of the Damned. Uh, well....
* Kinks -- Where Have All the Good Times Gone? Ray Davies was listening to way too much Bob Dylan during this period....
* Kinks -- Sittin' on My Sofa. Ray's version of Brian Wilson's "Busy Doin' Nothin'." But with better guitar.
* Kinks -- A Well Respected Man, Dedicated Follower of Fashion. "Follower" sure had some huge guitars to frame it. Too bad there weren't more. These are both pretty cute. Donald Trump might be able to relate to "Well Respected Man." But probably not.
* Nilsson -- Remember (Christmas). Gorgeous sentimental nostalgia. And it doesn't mention Christmas once.
* Sex Pistols -- Pretty Vacant. OK, WAKE UP! Great guitars, great screeching, great noise. AND WE DON'T CARE!!!
* Sex Pistols -- EMI. My Ghod, Johnny Rotten really WAS the Antichrist! That leering, eerie voice. Urgh. But great guitars.
* 10 cc. -- Silly Love. Silly verses, great choruses, lotsa loud guitar. These guys were really good once.
* Clannad -- Second Nature. I love these guys, but so much of their stuff is All One Somber Mood. This has actual signs of life and excitement. Great vocals, nice sax. Pretty. Roll the credits.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends

First day back at work was pretty great. Especially for a Monday. There was plenty to do, but I handled it, even had a good time. Was still in a good mood when I went home.
There were some Regulars who'd noticed I'd been gone and welcomed me back. That's always nice. And I didn't growl at or chew on anybody all night.
I'd like to keep this good mood going at work. We'll see how long it lasts.
And all thanks to the Girlfriend for helping re-adjust my mindset. She's the best.

Remember my Roommate and that Theft issue I wrote about awhile back? None of that's been resolved. And the people who apparently committed the thefts -- $800 worth of bounced checks, trying to open accounts on-line, etc. -- those folks are LIVING UNDER HIS ROOF RIGHT NOW. RENT-FREE. My rent money is helping to FEED them.
Not the first time this has happened.
The suspects are a jobless, homeless couple who Roommate invited into the house as a favor to a friend. The friend has not offered any help since the thefts were noticed. What kind of friend is he?
The couple argue constantly, worry about anyone who comes to the door, act sketchy, do nothing. The woman has FIVE kids -- who she doesn't have custody of. This should have told Roommate something.
But Roommate is willing to let ANYONE into the house. Especially if he's been drinking. And especially if Anyone is a woman he thinks he can Get Something from.
And then he whines afterward when someone steals from him.
Roommate has told me who I CAN'T bring to the house to quietly entertain in the room I rent from him. But he loves the whole world when he's drinking. And when he's had enough to drink he is oblivious to what happens around him.
Prying an update from him about the Thefts has been like pulling teeth. He says TWO law-enforcement agencies are involved. He says the couple will be going away to jail for a long time. He says his bank has covered the $800 in bad checks, so he's all happy. He says he's got it all wired. He's just waiting until the arrests are made. He knows where the culprits are.
And he's feeding them, allowing them to use his bathroom and laundry, watch his TV, sleep together in the bed he bought for someone else. While they do nothing, pay for nothing. We're all great friends around here. And this has happened before.
Why the hell hasn't he thrown them out? What is he thinking? He won't tell me.
Meanwhile, I have bank statements that are missing. I have bills that have seemingly never arrived in the mail. I've had to start checking my bank-account balance every day. Nobody's stolen anything from me yet, but I sure don't feel secure. Things have been moved and messed with in my room. Several times.
There's a whole lot more, but I'll spare you.
I started moving out piece-by-piece over a week ago. That slow-motion move will continue. Roommate hasn't noticed. But I'm sick of all the drama. And now it's affecting ME.
Roommate seems to think this is all a game -- that it's LOTS of fun when he knows things I don't. Roommate bitches at me over the smallest things, but he's being real nice to the couple who stole $800 from him.
It's been damn hard not to tell him off. I still have to tell him he needs to look for a new roommate. But I'm waiting for the right time -- like maybe when all my stuff is out of the house. I'd like to end this with no arguments, but I don't see how that's gonna happen.
Roommate may be getting big yuks out of this, but I'm going to have the last laugh. Because I'm not going to be there much longer. And then Roommate's gonna have to find a new sucker to help pay for his mortgage and pay for his beer and feed his "friends."
I should have been out of there two years ago, the last time he picked a fight with me for no reason, just because he wanted someone to argue with. Everything since then has been a downhill slide. And he just gets weirder.
I know this post has nothing to do with Strange Music or books, and I apologize. But when you read here, you get whatever's on my mind. And this has been on my mind a lot.
Any advice? Other than to try and lighten up, I mean...?

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Live blogging without a clue!

Here's what I played from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. --
* Nick Drake -- River Man. I always start slow. I love Nick Drake, but this is very laid back and mournful, even more low-key than Nick usually is, and Harry Robinson's strings-and-horns arrangement is a little more intrusive than Drake's usual arranger Robert Kirby. On first listening, not Nick's best. But pleasant enough. From FIVE LEAVES LEFT.
* Happy the Man -- Starborne, Stumpy Meets the Firecracker in Stencil Forest. From their first album. "Starborne" is a nice spacey keyboard-and-sax instrumental with some bubbly synth later. "Stumpy" is heavier and more complex, and has more great, soaring Stan Whittaker guitar and the mechanical sound of their second album, CRAFTY HANDS. They sound like a wind-up-toy band.
* Happy the Man -- Knee Bitten Nymphs in Limbo. With a title like that, who needs a song? Also from their first album. Bouncy, jumpy, hyperactive, this could be the theme song for some current TV cartoon show. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Did you know producer Ken Scott recorded these guys playing at half-speed so they could actually PLAY their complex compositions? Forceful, driving, with plenty of great guitar from Stan Whittaker. The sound they got was worth the price.
* Alan Parsons Project -- A Dream Within a Dream, The Raven. "Dream" is a nice keyboard-driven instrumental with a catchy piano section in the middle. "Raven" is a vocoder-led almost-rocker, spooky and atmospheric. Not as heavy as they would have tried later, but punchy enough. Both from TALES OF MYSTERY AND IMAGINATION/EDGAR ALLEN POE.
* Alan Parsons Project -- What Goes Up. I'm sure I heard this when their album PYRAMID came out in '78 or whenever. It sounds better now. Nice vocals and good guitar. Wow, horns? Pretty smooth, overall.
* Jethro Tull -- Jack-a-Lynn, Pussy Willow. From the Tull best-of with the swirly song titles on the back that I can't read. "Jack-a-Lynn" is a mushy acoustic love ditty. Delicate and sweet enough. Goes on kind of long, though. Is Ian serious? ...Oh, never mind. The heavy beat just kicked in.... OK, but is that all? Decent, but. "Pussy Willow" is gutsier from the start. Like this better already.
* Jethro Tull -- Broadsword, Under Wraps II. "Broadsword" is moody and atmospheric, with horn-like synths and some nice Martin Barre guitar in the middle. Almost sounds like Tull's answer to Zep's "Immigrant Song." About the only thing "Under Wraps" has to boost it is the way Ian Anderson sings it. It's not much.
* Jethro Tull -- Minstrel in the Gallery. Man, sometimes don't you wish Ian would just GET TO THE POINT? There's WAY better stuff than this on Side 2 of MINSTREL IN THE GALLERY. But there's some nice Martin Barre guitar in the middle....
* King Crimson -- Doctor Diamond. From THE GREAT DECEIVER/LIVE 1973-74. OK, I'm cheating on this one, but it's been a few years since I've heard it. Sorta a subway horror story. Nice slurred John Wetton vocal, eerie, jagged Bob Fripp guitar in the middle, and do I have to mention how awesome a drummer Bill Bruford is? Best new track on the whole box-set. Why was a version of this never on any Crimson studio album? Couldn't they have fit it onto STARLESS AND BIBLE BLACK? Maybe in the first half of Side 2...?
* King Crimson -- The Law of Maximum Distress Parts 1 and 2. More from the GREAT DECEIVER box. This is the improv where the tape runs out just as the band gets really cookin'. Thus proving Fripp's maxim that things fall apart at the worst/best possible time.... Wow, pretty noisy, even for KC.
* Pink Floyd -- Sorrow. Lots of very heavy guitar at first, then a heavy beat and Dave Gilmour's tired voice. Oh wait, finally got to the chorus.... OK, kind of a dirge, but the guitar is good....
* Pink Floyd -- See Emily Play. Nice loopy keyboards, great vocals, catchy choruses. Psychedelic! Very nice. I predict a big future for these kids.
* Rush -- 2112 Overture, The Temples of Syrinx. Man, they sound so YOUNG. Overly-heavy, self-consciously melodramatic drumming and guitar in the Overture. Lots of sound and fury signifying nothing. And the "singing"!? No future for you....
* Rush -- The Trees. Sorry, this is just silly. Yeah, man, I know it's a metaphor. Nice keyboards. A little good guitar later on. If you get there.
* Rush -- La Villa Strangiato. OK, this is a little more like it. An instrumental. Let the music do the talkin'. Not too flashy, good guitar runs, moves nice. No silly lyrics to get in the way. These guys could have a future after all.
* Beatles -- Good Morning Good Morning. Wow, sounds like Pink Floyd.... Better than I expected. Lotsa fun if you like John in his Silly mood.
* Beatles -- Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite! Well, this is Different. Great production. Tune's nothing much.
* Beatles -- Fixing a Hole. Nice, pleasant, airy ditty about Paul's mind wandering....
* Who -- Melancholia. This is nice, but I think Pete Townshend's demo of it on SCOOP is better. At least Pete sings it better, more convincingly....
* Pink Floyd -- Pigs on the Wing Parts 1 and 2. This is the nice acoustic-ditty frame for ANIMALS. Very compassionate, not angry. No time in today's format to play "Sheep," which is worth it all just for Dave Gilmour's raging guitar riff at the end.
* Elvis Costello -- Radio Radio. Whiny skinny snot-nosed punk sounding like an English Joey Ramone complaining about how he gets no radio airplay in this country. If I had a voice like THAT I wouldn't expect to get on the radio either. Plus the organ and production are so 1956 that no one's gonna listen 'til the end anyway.
* Led Zeppelin -- Going to California. What IS this hippy shit? Sounds like Neil Young before he went electric. Next!
* Don McLean -- Everyday. Has-been geezer tries to bring back a dated vocal approach from the '50s. Who does he think he is, Buddy Holly? No more yodeling! Next!
* Lynyrd Skynyrd -- Workin' for MCA. Spelling-challenged wild-eyed Southern boys. Great guitars. Hilarious lyrics. Good stuff. Why have I never heard this before?
* Procol Harum -- Whaling Stories. Some good guitar (by Robin Trower?) and good organ, but some of the lyrics are pretty silly. And such melodrama....
* Spirit -- Mechanical World. This was a single? Hopeless dirge. Goes nowhere, slowly. A real downer. Jazzy in spots, but I gave up after 3 minutes.
* Spirit -- Uncle Jack. Better. More upbeat, a little bit of energy. Sounds like 1967.
* Spirit -- Dark-Eyed Woman. Well, they were certainly in touch with their sensual side. Starts promisingly, with a bluesy feel and some driving guitars, but the long instrumental midsection drags.
* Spirit -- Silky Sam. Where they turn into the Firesign Theater. Pretty self-indulgent. Enough.
* Beatles -- Flying, Blue Jay Way, Your Mother Should Know. "Flying" is a brief, gentle surf-tinged instrumental with silly group vocals. The last thing you'd expect from these guys. "Blue Jay Way" is a seemingly endless, foggy George Harrison dirge. George, please don't be long. "Your Mother Should Know" could have been charming, but Paul tries to get too far with just one verse and a chorus. Let's face it, it's finally all clear to me now -- the Beatles were a tremendous hype.
* Led Zeppelin -- The Ocean. Speaking of hypes.... Why did Robert Plant so often sing in that silly squinched-up voice? That has nothing to do with the blues. This isn't bad at all, but the vocals certainly don't help it.
* Led Zeppelin -- The Song Remains the Same. Wow, sounds like Rush!
* Florence + the Machine -- Lover to Lover, Heartlines, All This and Heaven Too. There isn't much on Florence's album CEREMONIALS (2011) that isn't a thundering, booming, high-impact anthem. But it's been a few years since I've heard more than the first three songs on it. So, just to re-confirm -- these are all pretty exhausting. Maybe you could listen to the CD in small doses.
* Poco -- You Better Think Twice, Pickin' Up the Pieces. Light country-rock pickin' and grinnin' from the band without whom the Eagles wouldn't exist. Like a breath of fresh air.
* The Church -- Myrrh, A Month of Sundays. Propulsive guitars, murmuring vocals. Nice stuff. I'm still trying to figure out the name of a guitar-heavy instrumental of theirs that got played on the radio once in Cheyenne, Wyoming back around 1988.... I KNOW it wasn't on their STARFISH album.
* Fairport Convention -- The Hexamshire Lass. Short, fun, bouncy traditional tune with good lively vocal by Dave Swarbrick.
* Rush -- Mission. Pretty smooth. Don't know why you don't hear more of their '80s stuff on the radio. Don't know how anybody could think their earlier work is better. Their later songs are stronger, more smoothly constructed, more memorable. Stuff doesn't stick out so much -- they seem to have a better idea of what they're trying to do. And they never embarrass themselves. Or did they just calm down and get dull? Different views on this, but I prefer the songs from MOVING PICTURES and after to their earlier albums. Might depend on when I first heard them, I guess....
* Genesis -- Unquiet Slumbers for the Sleepers ... In That Quiet Earth. Some nice ghostly Steve Hackett guitar at the start; the rest of the band joins in later. OK 7-minute instrumental, pleasant enough, not stunning.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Live blogging without a net!

Here's what I played from noon to 8 p.m. --
* Rickie Lee Jones -- We Belong Together, Living it Up. When I'm playing stuff for myself I always start out slow. I'm a softie from way back. RLJ does some real heartbreaking stuff, and I don't even know what some of it means, or why it hits me so hard. "We Belong Together" is gorgeous and heartbreaking, clearly about holding a relationship together against all odds. Amazingly, it was released as a single and got no airplay at all. "Living it Up" is MUCH happier, and I haven't heard it in years. Sounds pretty great. But does anyone know what "On Saturday Afternoons in 1963" is about? I don't know, but it's SO SAD.
* Bee Gees -- Spirits Having Flown. Best thing they ever did, shoulda been a huge hit. And I can't stop myself from singing along with the choruses.
* Neil Diamond -- Walk On Water. My girlfriend would love this. Soon after we met, she walked into the store where I work while I was playing Neil's silly "Crunchy Granola Suite," and she said "I've SEEN Neil Diamond. I wasn't impressed." And thus a wild love affair began. But I've always loved Neil's quirkier stuff. However, this is off of a budget-priced 3-disc ND best-of, and they ALWAYS cut off the gorgeous 2-minute piano instrumental "Theme" that closed the original single back in '72! Why? BASTARDS! Onward.
* Left Banke -- She May Call You Up Tonight, Pretty Ballerina, Desiree. My Ghod, this stuff is gorgeous! The great group vocals! The piano! And the sound jumps right out of the CD player! "Desiree" is a bit cluttered, there's a LOT going on there, but if you're a fan of "baroque rock," WOW! I don't understand why two of these weren't big hits. "Desiree" peaked around Number 99.
* Fifth Dimension -- Carpet Man. Hey, I know they're WAY out of style, but wow. This freakin' sounds amazing, and Ghod knows I can relate....
* Lighthouse -- Sunny Days, One Fine Morning. Ghod, this is SO 1972. But it sounds great. I prefer "OFM" in the original edited single version -- the long version shows all the stuff they wisely cut out. But still pretty cool.
* Moody Blues -- You and Me. My favorite MB song ever. And why wasn't THIS a huge hit?
* Can -- Mother Upduff, Uphill. First a gentle little travelogue. Hilarious monologue, squalling noise, and it never lets up. "Uphill" is relentless, grinding noise. And how 'bout Jaki Leibezeit's drumming? Love it. How can you NOT move to those rhythms?
* Gong -- Master Builder, Eat That Phone Book Coda. "Master Builder" opens with spacey synthesizer and airy wordless vocals. Nice tribal drums. And Didier Mahlerbe's sax is freakin' phenomenal. Wow, and Steve Hillage burns up that guitar, too. I thought I'd heard this before, but maybe I was wrong, or wasn't paying attention. Clearly from some other planet. "Phone Book" is the slightly earlier, sillier Gong that I've always gotten annoyed with. I still do.
* Mike Oldfield -- Incantations Part 4 excerpt, Ommadawn excerpt, Tubular Bells opening theme. Wow, a best of Mike Oldfield. Who woulda thunk? It's called ELEMENTS. His INCANTATIONS album has a hypnotic, driving first side that I think is the best thing Mike ever did, but this isn't it. This is pretty, though. And pretty mellow. They picked the wrong part of OMMADAWN to feature here; it's pretty, but the section it LEADS INTO is what they shoulda picked. A REAL anti-climax. Folks who've heard that album KNOW what I mean. "Tubular Bells" sounds just like itself, only clearer than in the olde vinyl days. And THEN they FADE IT OUT before the dramatic closing section from the old hit single! Well, Mike never liked the single anyway.... Frustrating. Oh, and his sweet cover of Abba's "Arrival" ain't on here, either. What do friggin' record companies know?
* Aerosmith -- Big Ten Inch Record. OK, let's clear the air. This is hilarious. It's played great, too. How could I ever have thought it was CRUDE? I was a whole different person way back then. This one's for you, Jeff Mann, wherever you are....
* Aerosmith -- Seasons of Wither. This is the first Aerosmith song that ever really grabbed me. I still love the dark moodiness of it. I thought the band was kind of a hype way back then. Of course, now I think they're great. It just took me 20 years to get there. Jeff, you were right all along.
* Gordon Lightfoot -- Seven Islands Suite, High and Dry. This guy was amazing when at his best. "Seven Islands" is spacey yet laid back, great lyrics, nice atmospheric synth from Nick DeCaro. And how'd Gordy sneak in that line about being "shit out of luck"? Pretty ballsy for 1974. I love all of it, the way it flows together -- guess it was the B-side of "Sundown." Too bad. "High and Dry" is a nice frustrated love ditty.
* Nektar -- Fidgety Queen, Oops (Unidentified Flying Abstract). "Fidgety Queen" is a screaming rocker that should have been a huge hit. Great choruses, great horns, brilliant! "Oops" is a live jam with vocals. Kinda shapeless, but it rocks. Nice keyboards. And I like the way guitarist Roye Albrighton yelps. And he burns up that guitar, too.
* Pink Floyd -- High Hopes. Is this not The Son Of DARK SIDE OF THE MOON? Why do all the late/Dave Gilmour-era Pink Floyd albums get bad-rapped by fans? This is gorgeous and moody, and the choruses are freakin' great!
* Pink Floyd -- Bike. Maybe THIS is why. This is bouncy and silly and disjointed and disturbing and very alive. And it sounds like nothing else. Love those duck calls at the end. Whatta guy, that Syd Barrett....
* Pink Floyd -- Keep Talking. More excellent Gilmour-era stuff, with Stephen Hawking on lead vocals! Is later Floyd considered disappointing just because Dave sounds so TIRED? Listen to the lyrics.
* Pink Floyd -- The Great Gig in the Sky. A PAUSE now for five minutes of friggin' Godlike genius....
* Spirit -- Taurus, Fresh Garbage, 1984. OK, so "Taurus" is a brief guitar-and-orchestra instrumental, pleasant but not earthshaking. Not a miniature "Stairway to Heaven." Defense rests. "Fresh Garbage" is a lot of fun, with nice spacey keyboards from John Locke. "1984" is heavy, riffing, spooky fun, banned as a single in America back in 1969. Now it's all come true.
* Gong -- Tropical Fish: Selene, Flute Salad, Oily Way, Outer Temple, Inner Temple. More crazy stuff from Gong. I'd like to like this. The musicianship is amazing, especially Didier Mahlerbe on sax and flute. "Oily Way" is actually almost good, nice tune on the choruses. My problem's the singing and the lyrics -- it's so druggy-silly. I'm too sober for it. And I like to think I'm open-minded....
* Yes -- Every Little Thing. This is awesome. They're so young, they have such ENERGY, they're all OVER the place. And how 'bout that Peter Banks on guitar? And that sly little riff they throw in from "Day Tripper" at the end of the introduction?
* Yes -- No Opportunity Necessary No Experience Needed. If you survive the wild orchestral opening, you might have a pretty good time. Interesting that one of the least-funky rock bands of all time had the nerve to cover a song written by Richie Havens (of course they covered The Beatles on "Every Little Thing"). The orchestra's pretty awful -- that middle-break is straight out of some schlocky '50s Hollywood western. But there's some kind of soul here -- singer Jon Anderson sounds great through most of this, especially on the "Tell your mama" choruses. Whatta trip.
* Quiet Sun -- Mummy Was An Asteroid Daddy Was a Small Non-Stick Kitchen Utensil. Twisted, fiendish noise. Is Phil Manzanera really on here? And Eno?!
* Hatfield and the North -- Let's Eat (Real Soon). Nice vocals from Richard Sinclair, nice organ from Dave Stewart. Mildly funny. Nice. Pleasant. Not stunning.
* Faust -- It's a Rainy Day Sunshine Girl. This is kinda nice -- very minimalist, constantly-marching drums, little bit of keyboard, some harmonica toward the end, repeated chanting of the title. And some nice gruff sax at the very end. They were from Germany, right? I wouldn't be surprised if they were really Canadian. Very well-behaved.
* Alan Parsons Project -- The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether, You Don't Believe, Days are Numbers (The Traveller), Old and Wise. "Tarr and Fether"'s always been one of my faves, almost a rocker about good times and gettin' what you need. A perfect surface as always, marvelous production, great vocals. Shoulda been a bigger hit. "Believe" is supposedly about the clashes in the Parsons-Woolfson songwriting partnership, and it includes some bitter lines Eric Woolfson must have been happy to get on the record. Dated disco-ish beat, but good stuff. "Days" is pure ear candy -- I think the sound of it was more important than the lyrics. "Old and Wise" is beautifully sung by former Zombie Colin Blunstone, but it's never moved me that much.
* Fairport Convention -- Stranger to Himself. This brief, stark funeral march is Sandy Denny's last great performance with Fairport.
* Fairport Convention -- Mr. Lacey, Book Song, Chelsea Morning, Crazy Man Michael. "Mr. Lacey" is a sly blues, very funny. "Book Song" could be any '60s American West Coast folk group -- very soft and foggy. "Chelsea Morning" could almost be Joni Mitchell's original -- but it's rocked up just enough, and original Fairport singer Judy Dyble punches the lyrics just hard enough to make it stick, better than Joni did. "Crazy Man Michael" is the kind of tragic tale Fairport were so good at, beautifully sung by Sandy Denny.
* Magma -- Ghost Dance. My Ghod! Gremlins have taken over the CD player! It's a Gremlin opera! This shit will rot your brain.
* Argent -- Lothlorien. I haven't heard much by these guys, other than "Hold Your Head Up" and the stuff on their best-of. They were a long-lived second-string Prog Big Deal back in the early '70s. But Rod Argent's keyboards are really lively here, there's a nice light-symphonic sound. Best, most melodic new song I've heard all afternoon.
* Savage Rose -- Dear Little Mother. The piano's OK, but I can't take Annisette's baby-voice. Next!
* Amon Duul II -- Mozambique. No, not the Bob Dylan song. This matches up pretty well with Savage Rose. Why do Europeans think rock somehow descended from opera? Next!
* Comus -- Diana. I've played this before, and thought it was Something Different, and not without charm. But I can't take it in this context. Too much weirdness. Time to clear the air again. Wait -- some nice screechy violin. No, too many elves and gremlins singing here. Onward!
* John Denver -- Rocky Mountain High. Yes, John, exorcise those demons! Flash those whiter-than-white teeth! You can do it! Far out! I feel so much better now....
* Beatles -- I'm Down. Worth it all for that great line about Paul keeping his hands to himself.... And who plays the loopy organ?
* Fleetwood Mac -- Why? Oh Ghod, why wasn't THIS a hit? It's freaking GORGEOUS!
* Bangles -- Manic Monday. Here we go, something kinda mainstream to help me reel things back in. Gorgeous vocal harmonies, great keyboard hooks, terrific song construction, an '80s classic. They deserve a spot in the R&R Hall of Fame. ... Whaddaya mean Prince wrote it?
* Lucinda Williams -- Six Blocks Away, Something About What Happens When We Talk, Which Will. Williams wrote my favorite Mary-Chapin Carpenter song ever, "Passionate Kisses." Williams is a little country, a little rock. "Six Blocks Away" is a charming countryish album-opener. (The album is SWEET OLD WORLD, 1992.) "When We Talk" slows it down, but it's still sweet. "Which Will" is a slow, gentle live cover of a Nick Drake song. Williams has a sweet country voice. I thought she rocked more. And if she did, her songs might hit me harder.
* John Fahey -- The Assassination of Stephan Grossman. Wow, this is the shortest thing on Fahey's BEST OF VOLUME 2. I don't have time tonight to listen to a 13-minute Fahey "Sampler," no matter how good it is. This is nice finger-pickin' stuff. I've been told he's great, hypnotic, good trance music. I'll have to investigate more.
* The Move -- Tonight. Charming not-too-heavy Roy Wood song from the early '70s. I'm sorta reminded of The Kinks. Why wasn't ELO ever this good? And whatever happened to Roy?
* Sandy Denny -- The Quiet Joys of Brotherhood. Amazing, stark, almost a-capella performance of a Richard Farina song. This and "Listen, Listen" are Sandy's best solo works, I think.
* Talking Heads -- Road to Nowhere.

Saturday, July 16, 2016


Having a very nice, restful vacation, thanks for asking.
Spending LOTS of time with the amazing new girlfriend, slowly moving in with her piece-by-piece; saw my wonderful daughter for the first time in six years (lots of excuses on both sides, few real good reasons); still hitting the area Goodwills and finding a few overlooked treasures; discovered a great record store on 6th Avenue in Tacoma, HI-VOLTAGE RECORDS -- tons of vinyl and lots of reasonably-priced CD's ... While we browsed they played Richard Thompson's RUMOR AND SIGH, which I'd never heard before -- "Don't Sit on My Jimmy Shands" is hilarious. Found a few CD's to replace aging vinyl -- Yes, Bowie, Queen, couple Moodies, Fleetwood Mac's TUSK, etc. Somehow kept the bill under $50. We'll be back soon. Too bad half a dozen other used record stores on 6th Ave went under after the economy tanked.
Other than that, have been eating better (not so much junk food and snacks), reading, enjoying doing simple domestic stuff with the girlfriend, chilling out from work, doing a little writing (not much), and not thinking too much. If it weren't for the theft-and-financially-related weirdness at my (former) house -- none of which has been resolved yet -- this would be a perfect break. But I'm not complaining.
Been reading THE HARLAN ELLISON HORNBOOK (1990), a collection of 1970s columns from the LOS ANGELES FREE PRESS, some of which are very personal. Harlan writes about his parents, about his tough early days as a writer, women who done him wrong, writer-heroes he looked up to who let him down, writers who idolized him until HE let THEM down, etc. Some of it's just light, silly fun written to brighten your day, other columns are pretty emotional. Good stuff. If you like Harlan's books of '60s/'70s TV criticism, THE GLASS TEAT and THE OTHER GLASS TEAT, you'll like this.
Couple days back while doing things like the dishes and the vacuuming, took out a pile of CD's and played a ton of old favorites, like:
Beach Boys -- Kiss Me Baby, Let Him Run Wild, Surf's Up.
Bob Dylan -- Tangled Up in Blue, Shelter From the Storm.
Moody Blues -- Meanwhile, The Story in Your Eyes, Question, It's Up to You, Your Wildest Dreams.
Jim Croce -- Workin' at the Car Wash Blues, I Got a Name.
America -- I Need You, Sandman.
Fleet Foxes -- Blue Ridge Mountains.
Jade Warrior -- A Winter's Tale.
Carole King -- Been to Canaan.
Five Man Electrical Band -- Absolutely Right.
Eric Clapton and B.B. King -- Days of Old, Riding With the King, etc.
Fleetwood Mac -- I Know I'm Not Wrong, Brown Eyes, Never Make Me Cry. (The CD remix of "I Know I'm Not Wrong" is disappointing -- they rush the choruses. What the hell happened there?)
Carpenters -- Rainy Days and Mondays, Goodbye to Love.
Paul Stookey -- Wedding Song (There is Love).
Stylistics -- You Are Everything.
Van Morrison -- Into the Mystic, Jackie Wilson Said (I'm in Heaven When You Smile).
Queen -- '39, Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon.
David Bowie -- Changes.
Todd Rundgren -- Saving Grace, A Dream Goes on Forever.
Rickie Lee Jones -- On Saturday Afternoons in 1963.
Norah Jones -- Shoot the Moon, The Long Day is Over.
Janis Ian -- When the Party's Over.
Joni Mitchell -- Raised on Robbery.
Steely Dan -- Gaucho.
Doobie Brothers -- Neal's Fandango.
Pink Floyd -- DARK SIDE OF THE MOON. (Complete! Shocking!)
Jethro Tull -- Skating Away on the Thin Ice of the New Day.
Pete Townshend -- Now and Then.
Love -- Alone Again Or.
Florence + The Machine -- Shake it Out.
Keane -- Somewhere Only We Know, This is the Last Time, Bend and Break, Your Eyes Open.
Gordon Lightfoot -- Seven Islands Suite.
...Have also been giving my face a rest, growing a beard. Which I will be shaving off just as soon as I finish typing this post, because it's driving me CRAZY!
Hoping you are the same....

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Wearing and tearing

OK, this marathon is starting to get old.
Two nights to go until my vacation. Hopefully I can blow everything off for the next two nights and head on into nine days of bliss.
But I've had three Fridays in the last 10 days -- last Friday, last night, and July 4th. And I'm somewhere beyond tired, now.
Last night was a zoo when I got to work. My Manager bailed early to go pick up her Dad from the Hospital. Her daughter could have done it alone, but I guess it took both of them. There was nothing seriously wrong with her Dad, he was just short of breath and they kept him overnight.
I guess all she did during her shift yesterday was worry about him -- because apparently she didn't do much else.
When I arrived, our Weekend Replacement was coping, barely. My roommate had been in, and my Manager was in such a hurry to get out of there that she forgot to charge my roommate for the $20 in gas he bought. Replacement let that mistake sit there for two hours until I came in.
Roommate came in and paid his bill, but I had to call him at home. (Roommate is such a Regular his phone number's on the wall in case the store needs to buy change or needs hit-man services. So why didn't Replacement call him?) I warned Replacement that Roommate might be too drunk to come in and pay his bill -- but he was right there, paid it off in cash, and Replacement could then go home.
Meanwhile, I stocked the beer and sodas cooler, which was a mess. For the past 10 days, no one else has stocked the cooler, no one else has bagged ice, no one else has stocked waters or other drinks in the front of the store, nobody else has cleaned the restroom. Or even offered. Its been a real education. Sometimes they can't be bothered to clean coffee spills off the floor or even wipe off a counter-top.
And my Manager wonders why I get upset. I get upset because I get stuck with all the work nobody else wants to do.
I'd just gotten on the cash register when another Regular told us that it smelled like someone had been cooking heroin in the bathroom, preparing to shoot up. It wouldn't be the first time.
"Not that I KNOW or anything," she said, "but it smells burned in there, and someone would've been in there for awhile."
Replacement hadn't noticed. Nobody else did either. I checked the bathroom -- I hadn't had a chance to clean it yet, too much to do first. It DID smell burned. I sprayed lots of air freshener and checked the toilet and garbage can. No evidence left behind. It took HOURS for that smell to go away.
It was screaming busy for the next two hours, but after that the evening was OK. I didn't start getting grumpy until 11:45 p.m., when everybody and his neighbor came in to cash-in scratch tickets.
Meanwhile, Roommate told me someone had stolen a ton of change and some checks from him, bounced $800 worth of his checks in the last week, and tried to bounce more. He changed the locks on the house, and asked me to make sure none of my stuff was gone. I checked after work -- some of my stuff had been messed with, but I had no small change to steal (I'm broke), and I hid my checks in an even-better spot. Things just get weirder at home. As if work wasn't weird enough.
If it weren't for my girlfriend doing her absolute best to keep me relaxed and happy, some of this stuff would piss me off.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Clear communication

While surfing the Net this morning I tripped over a three-year-old article from THE PARIS REVIEW about Barry N. Malzberg's many early-'70s science-fiction novels. The author took about 4,000 words to conclude that all those books are crap -- but it took him years to decide that.
He said he read Malzberg's most famous novel, BEYOND APOLLO (1972), SEVEN TIMES while trying to decide if it was crap.
That's devotion above and beyond the call of duty.
SF readers apparently took this as a slam. But here's the thing -- have you tried to READ any of Malzberg's novels?
This PARIS REVIEW write-up struck me as a pretty legit response to some pretty difficult books. It was written with a lot of humor and insight, and the writer had clearly done his homework.
I read BEYOND APOLLO twice and didn't like it much -- that was back in the day when I forced myself to finish EVERYTHING, no matter how bad. I didn't mind the book so much -- but I thought I was missing something. I thought there was something wrong with ME. That's why I read it again. And decided I didn't miss much.
The PR writer's point was that Malzberg's books aren't so much science fiction as they are about THE DIFFICULTY OF WRITING.  They're all pretty distant, many of them are about a character making notes for a story he can hardly tell, etc. Read Malzberg's HEROVIT'S WORLD (1974) -- one of his few novels I finished back in the day -- and you'll get all that in spades.
As I get older, more and more I prefer direct, clear communication that doesn't play games with me. You can still handle Big Subjects while being direct. You don't have to be clever or tricky or murky.
But here's the thing. Some of Malzberg's work is pretty great. I think some of his essays on SF's history and his part in it are pretty freakin' brilliant. His book THE ENGINES OF THE NIGHT (1982) is an angry, despairing look at the history of SF, with some amazing, moving portraits of forgotten writers. His essay "Tripping With the Alchemist" is a very interesting peek behind the literary scene, and very warm and human.
Some of his short stories are pretty great -- especially "La Croix (The Cross)" and "A Galaxy Called Rome." Both these later became novels. GALAXIES has some interesting sections about the brutal reality of the SF world and SF publishing at the time. It's an angry, hilarious book ... in places. But I couldn't finish it. CROSS OF FIRE pads-out a brilliant short story.
If you read ENGINES OF THE NIGHT, you'll learn (in a section called "What I Did on My Summer Vacation") how Malzberg once wrote a novel OVER A WEEKEND for $4,000 -- and once you get over the shock, it's pretty freakin' funny. Of course the novel, TACTICS OF CONQUEST ... well, I couldn't finish it.
Some people think Malzberg's novels are funny. I'll get back to that.
I tried others. GUERNICA NIGHT shows an overcrowded future plagued by suicides. But the best, most painful part of the book has Malzberg writing about a talented fellow SF writer who died -- a guy Malzberg could have helped, but for some reason chose not to. Those sections are great -- couldn't finish the novel.
THE SPREAD is an early-'70s porn novel written just like Malzberg's SF, only using a porno-mag setting. Kinda dull, but not terrible. Odd how much SF and porn have in common.
THE MEN INSIDE is an ugly and depressing attack on cancer. Couldn't finish it.
If a book doesn't work for you, put it down. Don't waste your time. There's plenty of other good stuff out there. Maybe you're not who the book was meant for.
There are lots of great writers I can't read. I haven't been able to finish a Stephen King novel since NEEDFUL THINGS.
I haven't read a single thing ever by acclaimed SF writer Gene Wolfe that I've been able to figure out. Got all the way through SHADOW OF THE TORTURER, but I was confused. I read all those reviews saying "Great, magical writing, epic adventure," and I thought there was something wrong with ME. Thought I'd missed something again. By the time I picked up SOLDIER IN THE MIST (which should have been simpler because the hero only remembers what he writes down), I still couldn't figure out what Wolfe was up to. But I learned my lesson -- I gave up halfway through.
Lotta people think Samuel R. Delany's brilliant. His early novels THE EINSTEIN INTERSECTION and EMPIRE STAR are magic, but by NOVA (possibly by BABEL-17) he was cramming too much into too small a space, and I gave up 200 pages into DHALGREN.
Just because a book gets rave reviews doesn't mean it's good. Does it work for you?
On Malzberg the comedian -- he may be a cranky New Jersey version of Harlan Ellison, but Malzberg likes to joke. Awhile back at the GALAXY'S EDGE website, Malz posted a criticism of '60s anthologist and book-critic Judith Merril, saying her work to publicize the '60s "New Wave" in science fiction "destroyed the field."
If it weren't for the New Wave, Barry's experimental, off-the-wall work would never have been published. And he took the loosening-up in the SF field back then as far as he could, selling something like 70 novels between 1968 and 1975. He wouldn't be able to sell any of those works in the SF field of today.
Barry owes the New Wave whatever career he's had. And he'd admit it.
He has to be joking.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Blurring is a good thing

Only five nights to go!
The marathon continues. Made it through my two 10-hour work-nights and am pretty beat, but I'm still here. The days have already started blurring together. I've been having trouble remembering which day it is in Reality for normal people, and that's probably a good thing.
So: Five more nights of this, and then blessed Vacation.
Had two Fridays this past weekend -- Friday night, and then the 4th. Both were screaming craziness.
And how about the 4th, huh? By 10:30 p.m. I'd had two guys in the store who'd burned their hands and arms messing around with fireworks. One guy was headed to the emergency room. Unbelievable, but it happens every year.
We had fires and ugly car wrecks in the neighborhood. Local news reported more than 80 people ended up at Harborview Hospital in Seattle with serious fireworks-related injuries.
One of my co-workers had three grandkids sent to the hospital after a fireworks-related mishap. Her granddaughter's hair caught on fire. When my co-worker got to the hospital, her granddaughter told her "Look, grandma! I still got burned cardboard in my hair!"
She took it better than the grownups.
That same co-worker got 45 minutes' worth of sleep that night, then came in to pull a 12-hour day on Tuesday.
Yesterday was less busy but more fun. Looked like a normal Monday outside, lots of busy people getting on with their lives now that the reveling's over. Inside the store, pretty quiet. Way not so busy. More time to get my stuff done and occasionally relax these old bones.
The girlfriend has been trying every way she knows to keep me happy -- and it's working. I might have been tired yesterday, but I was definitely relaxed. Hopefully I can stay that way for five more nights. Without falling asleep at the counter.
Getting bored again with most of the music I've been taking to work lately. Did actually listen to ALL of Paul Simon's GRACELAND album yesterday. Only took me 30 years! This just in: Very soothing. And some of the lyrics are pretty great.
Might have an update on musical changes coming soon. Also possible other changes in the works, will keep y'all posted.
Now into my "normal" work week. It's all downhill from here!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Marathon continues

Only nine days to go!
Last night was my busiest night at work since Christmas. Folks ran me ragged. It was SO busy I didn't even play any music. I was too afraid I'd miss something or lose track.
Without hot chocolate I would not have survived the last two hours and made it home.
LOTS of people out for the long weekend. Lots of partyers, though they were almost all in a good mood. Let's hope that continues.
Interesting that there's always a few people who think all rules are suspended because it's summer and a holiday. One drunk guy came and pounded on the front door at 12:30 last night -- half an hour after we closed -- and couldn't understand why all the lights were off and I wouldn't open the door for him. Even after I repeated "We're CLOSED" and made cutting gestures across my throat, he still didn't get it. It's not like the lights are shut off for "mood lighting."
These days, after closing at midnight, I don't unlock the door for people I don't know. It never leads anywhere good. Besides, I'm usually busy counting money.
After he got tired of pounding on the door, the drunk guy did a little dance (surprised that he didn't fall down) and climbed back into the truck he arrived in. Thank Ghod he wasn't driving. But the driver might not have been much better off -- they drove away with no headlights on.
There's a cop out there waiting for you. Don't get into town much, do ya?
Maybe I just don't have enough summer holiday spirit. I don't like your attitude, man.
When I got to work Friday, the place was a wreck. Of course it HAD been busy. But.
Our soda machine leaked all over -- under the cabinet and onto the floor. The rugs were soaked. And none of my co-workers noticed. Or could figure out why.
Because the soda hoses were clogged and the water backed up. Duh. I get so tired of having to be the guy who notices things.
Took my boss half an hour to call the soda company and see if they'd come look at it.
When the service guy came, he pulled lotsa gunk out of the hoses and dumped half a gallon of water down the drain. We coulda had a flood.
That's why I'm here, to notice this stuff. But more and more it seems like I'm here so my co-workers don't have to think, and to do the stuff they don't want to be bothered with. It's time for a raise.
On Thursday night, we had a kid on a bike begging for money in the parking lot. I mean, a kid. Maybe 10 years old. A bossy woman Regular came in asking if the kid -- who I hadn't noticed before -- had "been around all day" begging for money, and lecturing me on how she shouldn't have to be bothered by that.
I've got no trouble telling a kid to go somewhere else, but I told her she's occasionally going to encounter beggars here. I can't control everything. And people have no shame.
Whatever she told the kid, he vanished before she did. But at least she went away, too.
My girlfriend thinks part of my problem about attitude and grumpiness at work is because I don't eat enough of the right foods, and I eat too much junk.
I took a sandwich with me to work last night, indicating that I tend to believe she's right.
And I DID feel better after eating, of course.
But it was so busy that it took me two hours to finish that sandwich.
Don't get me wrong. It's all been pretty smooth so far. And I've been rolling along OK with almost all of it.
But man, the weirdness....
And Monday and Tuesday will be ALL OVERTIME, so I really shouldn't whine.
More updates coming soon. Unless y'all are bored already....

Friday, July 1, 2016

Love rocks!

On the other hand, there's The Good Stuff.
I'm in love with a wonderful woman, and it's awesome. Literally. I'm just stunned at how great it feels. Sometimes I have to step back and take a breath.
She's shocked, too. She says it's like looking in a mirror. We see each other. We GET each other. We're a lot alike. And it's great. It feels like we've known each other for years.
We go hit Goodwills and CD stores and used book stores together. We wander through antique malls and flea markets and look for overlooked great stuff. She loves that I like to "go junkin'." Over the weekend, when we were thinking about making our usual second-hand-store stops, she said "Yeah, let's go play." That summed it up. And we went.
The most boring, normal, everyday stuff is special now because I'm with someone who makes it magic.
It's silly, but the gloppiest, most romantic lovesongs all ring true to me now. They all make sense.
I've got it bad.
She says she's listening to music in a different way now, because of me. We have some common ground -- we agree on how amazingly great Aretha Franklin and Al Green are.
This past weekend, she bought a Three Dog Night best-of, and we were driving through the streets of nearby Bremerton with the music turned up, me screaming along with "One Man Band" (which I hadn't heard in YEARS, sounded GREAT) and "Celebrate" and "Try a Little Tenderness," murmuring along with "Out in the Country" and "Easy to be Hard," and joining in on the choruses while she be-bopped to "Joy to the World" (silliest song to ever sell six million copies, including one to 12-year-old me).
And it was perfect.
I was getting pretty grim awhile back, thinking that Life Sucked and nothing made me happy.
And then along comes this surprise gift from God.
And I am humbled and grateful and I don't know what to say.
Don't give up. This could happen to you.