Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Rock School

Gene Simmons's Rock School is my favorite show of the year after just two episodes. Sure, it's a reality based knockoff of the School Of Rock film, but I liked it too. The kids from Christ Hospital school are very endearing and all very talented. Does the fact that rock and roll is being taught like this in many schools (although they don't all have famous rock stars teaching them) mean that rock and roll is a completely marginalized genre these days, perhaps considered dead by most youths meaning as much to them as classical did to me when I was growing up. Discuss among yourselves. As for me, rock and roll will never die.

And The Waves

The blogfather has a post with plenty of links for Katrina relief efforts. Get those charitable hearts pumping.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

College Football Predictions

Welcome to what will be a weekly post from now until the end of college football season. I am going to attempt to predict the winner (outright and versus the spread) of ten college games every week. Keep in mind, this is just for fun and if you're interested in gambling, please don't take my advice. I really don't know much about the game. I like the pageantry, the blood, the quest for academic and on the field excellence, but ultimately I'm a lightweight fan. I might watch all of a UT game, but rarely any others. I'm quite far removed from the football crazed protagonist of Frederick Exley's A Fan's Notes, nor do I resemble the goofy family from the New York Giants game elaborated on in the book. They cheered for both sides which was a sin to the main character, a thinly disguised version of Exley. I'm doing this for the heck of it. Plus I'd like to see just how good a barely informed and little knowledgeable person could do in picking games.

The home team is capitalized. There are not many surprises since this is the first week. I played it very tight. I picked Wake over Vandy since Vandy forever stinks. I picked uab with the spread against the Vols since Fulmer doesn't run the score up much. The only real upset I picked was Rutgers over Illinois and that wasn't much of one. I used the Sheridan's odds if you really want to know. If you're a music fan who's a little bummed out over athletics intruding, just ignore this. Rest assured there will be music aplenty to write about.

This weeks picks:

WAKE FOREST by 9 over Vanderbilt
winner Wake Forest
spread Wake Forest

Oregon by 8 1/2 over HOUSTON
winner Oregon
spread Oregon

TENNESSEE by 23 over uab
winner Tennessee
spread uab

ILLINOIS by 1 1/2 over Rutgers
winner Rutgers
spread Rutgers

PITTSBURGH by 3 over Notre Dame
winner Pittsburgh
spread Pittsburgh

GEORGIA by 7 over Boise State
winner Georgia
spread Georgia

Washington by 3 over AIR FORCE
winner Air Force
spread Air Force

AUBURN by 7 over Georgia Tech
winner Auburn
spread Auburn

Miami (Fla) by 3 over FLORIDA STATE
winner Florida State
spread Florida State

MEMPHIS by 2 1/2 over Mississippi
winner Memphis
spread Memphis

Anyone care to set odds on how I'll do?


I've tried to shy away from hurricane posts. I posted once about it and that was probably one post too many. There's plenty of news and blog posts about it all over the web for starters and also I like to think Soulfish Stew can be a small diversion from bad news. But after reading that hundreds are feared dead and that the death toll may rise above Camille's I had to wonder how little humans have learned in 36 years. The Gulf is more urban now which would mean more people. I can buy that. But there's much more coverage of approaching hurricanes. Many more chances for people to escape to safety. Yet they don't. I assume poverty is one reason. It's sort of hard to leave without wheels. There's also pride of ownership or protecting property at work - the "I'm not leaving...this house and land have been in my family for over a hundred years" sort of thing, and there is also the false hubris of "I've survived bad storms before" at play. So there's a myriad of reasons out there, but it still doesn't make sense to me. If I was warned a fortnight that a tornado was going to blast my home off its foundations I would be gone to seek shelter. I wouldn't stick around. When thoughts like this go through my mind I feel very callous and mean and even though I'll pray about it and for the victims of Katrina I don't think I'll ever be able to completely understand the why of choosing to stay.

King Of Rock

I was overjoyed to find the first 4 RUN-DMC albums in my mailbox yesterday, reissued with bonus material. I've got the first 3 on vinyl and cassette, but I had never owned Tougher Than Leather. I almost bought it at a store in Memphis, but I passed on it. Which is a small little story in itself. I was visiting Memphis with my mother and she decided to see if a little strip mall she used to like to visit was still around. So we drove down to Fraser. I noticed a little record store so naturally I told my mother I'd see her later. I walked in and the owner told me he had a few rock and roll records over in the corner. The store dealt primarily in hip-hop. I thanked him even though it was hip hop I was after. Raising Hell had been a huge favorite the year before and I was all set to get Run-DMC's latest. But the store also had Public Enemy's It Takes A Nation Of Millions... so the choice was hard. Eventually I settled on Public Enemy since I had heard more tracks off it. It became the tape of the summer when I got home. We'd blast that as we cruised around town with punks, nerds, and metalheads alike loving it. When I left the store that day in Memphis a teenage girl sitting on the curb of the sidewalk asked me what I bought in her daddy's store. When I told her Public Enemy, her eyes lit up and she said that was dope. Even so, I've always wondered what I missed out on by not buying Tougher Than Leather. A cursory listen last night tells me I still made the right choice even if the liner notes written by Chuck D. extoll Run-DMC's album over his own. With that said, I wish now I had had the money to buy both.

The King Of North Mississippi

No, this post is not about R.L. Burnside. This post actually concerns one of my many cousins that reside in North Mississippi.

Katrina pounding into Mississippi got me to thinking back about the days I spent in the state as a youth, which inevitably led me to remembering stories about "The King Of North Mississippi"; my cousin Fat Sammy. When I was a child I didn't think of him as a king. He was just Fat Sammy, an older cousin that I didn't care too much for. Sometimes a person will get the nickname "Fat" because they are skinny. This sort of irony doesn't happen in Ripley, Mississippi. Sammy was and still is overweight. In those non politically correct days of the Seventies if you were obese, there's a good chance you got called fat by your closest relatives. There was no malice involved that I could detect. It just was what it was.

He used to pick on me when I was younger, but I got taller and bigger when I hit the age of fifteen and the antagonizing stopped. Sammy had already taken steps toward being the king. He had quit working for a local utility. One day he was riding around with some co-workers when he told them to stop the truck. He jumped out, walked home, and never went back to work. He devoted himself to just a few things. Raising fighting cocks, a banana tree, heavy metal music, and "taking care" of his mother. All he really did for his mother was be her chauffeur and that was probably just so he could control the car. It was a luxurious Oldsmobile 98 that would be filled with the sounds of Van Halen or Black Sabbath once he dropped his mother off at the little cafe she owned.

He had to give up the roosters, so he spent most of his daylight hours tending to the banana tree and hanging out a little country store at the bottom of the hill behind his house. It was around this time that I started actually hanging out with my older cousin. He discovered that I liked heavy metal plus I got a kick out of the wrestling originating from Memphis, Tennessee which he watched religiously every week. I took to riding around with him in his mother's car with the stereo blasting. He'd cackle with glee, Vantage cigarette dangling from his lips, at the beginning of "Running With The Devil"; the siren sound doing something to his mental stability. He was also obsessed with Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne. He'd play Master Of Reality and Diary Of A Madman back to back on the phonograph in the house and pontificate about the devil worship inherent in the lyrics.

We'd cruise the strip in the late afternoon riding from Coleman's BBQ out to the Sonic and back again. But as the sun went down he would take me back to his place where I'd spend the rest of the evening with my aunt. After a few nights of this I asked him why I couldn't hang out with him. I was informed that I was just too young to go on "moose patrol". When I asked just what in the hell "moose patrol" was he would just laugh maniacally and tell me that when I became a man I would find out someday.

Well if I knew Sammy at all I figured he would eventually tell me before I had to go back home to Middle Tennessee. A few days went by and he decided I could be told about "moose patrol". It seems there were a couple of large boned young women in Ripley that liked to chase after men in their car. They would run you off the road and then have their way with you. Sammy and a bunch of his cohorts liked to run from them for sport. I had no way to validate such a story. I never got to go out on "moose patrol" and Sammy did indeed stay out late on many nights. There's not much to do in Ripley even to this day so there is some plausibility to the story, but I never met any of Sammy's friends so I suspect the whole thing was just made up to entertain me. He probably spent his evening's playing cards at the country store.

There was a brief window when I actually thought Sammy was pretty cool. He didn't have to work and he didn't seem to have a care in the world. There was a matter of fact pragmatism about him. His older brother was a black belt in karate who used to win tournaments all over the Southeast. I once asked Sammy what he would do if his brother decided to use karate on him. He glanced over at the corner of the living room where a double barrel shotgun was propped. "That right there ought to take care of him." I had to admit that karate wouldn't have done much good against it.

A few more years passed and the next time I visited Ripley I was listening to punk rock. I was wearing a hammer and sickle t-shirt I had bought from Raven Records in Knoxville when I saw Sammy again. He took one look at me and said I better stay inside because the rednecks would surely kick my ass. I did get called a fag as I rode a skateboard around the courthouse square, but that was the worst of it. Times were changing even there. Sammy had cooled on heavy metal, but there was nothing there to replace it. I tried to get him to listen to The Replacements and Black Flag tapes I had brought, but the only new thing he had bought was Prince's Purple Rain. His girth had also shrunk. He should have been called Chubby Sammy instead of Fat.

I started to think of Sammy in less complimentary ways. Living at home without a job or some future purpose suddenly seemed lazy and lame. It would be a good long time before I visited Ripley again. And then one day my friend Jay wondered if I wanted to go to some obscure Civil War battlefield just outside of Tupelo. I said sure as long as we could take a side trip into Ripley.

Off we went on a hot summer day, down through Shiloh, and past Tupelo toward Ripley which we would visit first. I was disappointed when I got there. My aunt's cafe, where you can get the finest slugburgers in Ripley, wasn't open and none of my relatives seemed to be around. We went and had a lousy lunch at McDonalds and decided to try aunt's house one more time before we left.

This time we found Sammy sitting outside in a lawn chair. My aunt had air conditioning, but she never let it be turned on. We pulled up and asked Sammy what he'd been up to and he replied, "Oh you know, just running things." We left shortly afterward with Jay in hysterics about the line "running things". There was a royal bearing in the way Sammy had said it, an unquestionable authority over everything and nothing. Jay jokingly said he wished he had a life where all he had to do was sit in a lawn chair and run things.

This led to me telling Jay the same things I wrote about earlier here. "Man, what a character," murmured Jay. You can say that again I thought to myself. Some might see Fat Sammy as a slacker, a goof, lazy, eccentric, or selfish. I now always think of him as being "The King Of North Mississippi". Benevolent, amusing, and always "running things."

Monday, August 29, 2005

CD Review: The Get Quick - How The Story Goes

You might call it laziness on my part, but I prefer to call it ripping the veil off the inner machinations of rock and roll marketing. What I'm referring to is that this review is going to consist primarily of the promotional literature that came with the CD. I know it may come as a surprise that persons reviewing a disc get the material free, but it can't be much of a shock in this post-modern topsy turvy world. You often get a publicity kit with the release containing information about the band, the new album, and possibly a photo. Sometime the hyperbole is ridiculous and sometimes the data is helpful. Writers will often steal a line here or there (at least I do) and surely that is to be expected. But to copy an entire promo sheet has always been out of the question for me, at least until now. Why? Because whoever wrote it got it right concerning The Get Quick's Rainbow Quartz debut: How The Story Goes. My comments will be in the brackets and the promo info in bold, but overall I could not possibly do the band any more justice than the story that follows:

The Get Quick are a rock and roll outfit from Philadelphia, PA.

How The Story Goes is their first album for Rainbow Quartz.

Instead of using their budget to cozy down in a local studio for a few weeks, they elected to go to New York and drop the wad on three days at Sear Sound, a premiere studio with impeccably maintained vintage gear where such arbiters of sonic excellence as Phil Ramone, Steve Lillywhite, Sir Paul McCartney, and Monster Magnet
[what the hey...Monster Magnet?] have worked. The boys were eager to utilize the Fairchild limiters from Abby Road and the same Neumann microphones that had captured some of the greatest recorded tones of all time. With producer Michael Musmanno (Lilys, Icarus Line) riding the faders on the Neve 8038 Custom Console, they managed to create an album that Urge Overkill and ELO would be proud of.

Rock-solid tracks that pop with Magical Mystery Tour-style overdubs. Great vocals and big beat drums are underpinned by throbbing spot-on bass and blown apart by supercharged buzzsaw guitar. There are saxophones and strings, harpsichords and squealing moogs [the squealing moogs made my youngest daughter think about monsters which caused her to give the album a thumbs down], but most important are the songs themselves.

These are melodies discovered in the soft underbelly of consciousness
[this sentence makes me think about Blue Oyster Cult]. These are songs composed and arranged with the skill of a master carpenter [this sentence evokes Jesus]. These are performances executed with the quick flashes of inspiration that breed innovation. [This sentence confuses me a little - does it mean the quick flashes inspired the band to innovate or will the performances on the album cause others to innovate?]

This is How The Story Goes.

That's as succinct and accurate promo sheet as I've ever seen. How The Story Goes is a fast paced delight full of fun rock and roll echoing the past filtered through the post modern audio speakers of today. My own favorite track is "New Plimsoles", but there are plenty of plums to be plucked to satisfy most everybody's idea of pudding. So believe the record company's blurb about The Get Quick. Rainbow Quartz will rarely lead you astray.

You Say Hurra-kin In DeKalb County

I've been watching the Katrina coverage as much as anybody else. It's only human to get fixated by disaster. We're preparing for possible floods here in DeKalb County where hurricane is pronunced hurra-kin. It's definitely better to be living "over the hill" instead of "under the hill". The "hill" is Snow's Hill which divides the county quite neatly between Middle Tennessee and the beginning of the Cumberland Plateau. For those unfamiliar with the county: Liberty, Dowelltown, and Alexandria are under the hill. Smithville is not. I'm betting school will be out here tomorrow, which will be a minor inconvenience to the parents and heaven for the kids.

Knoxville Girl

I was home pretty much by myself on Saturday - the wife had taken the two youngest kids to her mother's and the oldest was playing down the street. So I decided to throw on a CD that I wouldn't play with them around; The Lemonheads Car Button Cloth. It's not the strongest of albums, but I always dug Evan Dando's slacker pose and I got the album for just a few dollars used. It usually sits all forlorn on the shelf just begging to be played, but I tend to ignore it if I'm in a Lemonheads mood...which is not very often; sorry Mr. Dando. But this past weekend seemed as good a time as any to hear it all the way through. The wife got home before it was finished just in time to hear the classic murder ballad "Knoxville Girl" that was popularized by The Louvin Brothers years ago. The Lemonheads version is fairly rote (probably done just to be cool), but the wife had never heard of the song. She was quite shocked at the lyrics and proclaimed that it was not suitable for children. Of course, that's why I was playing the album when the kids weren't around. I just thought it was neat that the song could still inspire revulsion due to its words. Gangsta rap definitely has nothing on it.

Tooting My Own Horn

My review of The Quags is a Blogcritics Pick Of The Week. I think that's the third time I've received that honor. I must be doing something right.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Jones Violet Will Learn The Guitar

After all, she's going to have one of the best teachers. Gabba gabba hey!!

The Old States Visited Gambit

create your own personalized map of the USA

When you're in need of an easy blog post how about falling back on this tried and true one. I've never been to New England or out West, but I've sure got a good chunk of states under my belt. I've probably been to Arkansas since I was born in Memphis. Odds are my parents dragged me over the river at least once before we moved to Middle Tennessee. I hope to eventually get to every state. It's something to do, ya know.

Southern Zodiac

I discovered this through Halfbakered's site - Southern Zodiac Signs. I'm an armadillo, what's yours?

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Quags - Devil's Music

Accolades are always great to receive and The Quags's album Out In The Community received glowing reviews from coast to coast. Exalted rock potentates of the past figured prominently in the reviews. Names like The Small Faces, Big Star, The Kinks, The Jam, The Rolling Stones, and some lesser deities like Sloan, Tommy Keene, and The Posies dripped from rock critics' pens filling blotter pages with reference and reverence points galore. So even though I didn't have a copy of Out In The Community I had read enough about it that when I came across The Quags new album Devil's Music I was compelled by literature to get it. I know it wasn't on purpose, but I was set up.

My expectations were set sky high. I was expecting some powerhouse power pop bonanza that would draw on classical rock and roll elements while still sounding like something living and breathing today. Where others have heard echoes of rock stars past I merely heard shades of early Afghan Whigs mixed with The Posies. So previous reports were only very slightly right to my ears. "Bittersweet Plum" is the most obvious Posies flavored cut bearing a Frosting On The Beater big guitar buzz that threatens to become a full blown memorable moment. I did like the title track quite a bit and "Don't Lose Your Hair" possesses a certain swagger and throwback jersey charm to it. But I never could get over my over inflated hopes that had been sown in me by the very group I pretend to be a part of: rock critics.

It leads to perplexing questions for me. If I'm led astray by the writing of critics I trust where does the fault lie? If I say Devil's Music is ultimately disappointing; can my own writing be entirely suspect on the issue? The possible truth is perhaps a combination of all the scenarios. There are multiple mind melds occurring: music and listener, writer and reader, and it all creates an interesting friction of ideas and tones. What if I had never read a word about The Quags? Would the music be more satisfying to me? It's entirely possible, but maybe not by much. If I had maybe just caught a fleeting glimpse of a song during some emotionally rewarding event before I got Devil's Music I might have enjoyed the album more. Maybe if I had read about the band being terrible instead of their singer Dennis Mitchell resembling a youthful Elvis Costello I would be writing here about how truly incredible The Quags are.

But I'm not doing that. I will bet that the band is probably great live. The power pop genre translates well to immediate experience. But Devil's Music doesn't growl with power laced with sweet harmonies. The mix of the album is actually quite dim. The song "Not Just Another Dream Song" also has one of the worst lyrics I ever heard with "in between your legs I'm feeling so enamored" that is either dumb on purpose or dumb as in stupid. Every rock band around has seen This Is Spinal Tap so one can never be entirely sure of a band's intent these days. But I wouldn't pan a record for one dumb lyric line so don't take what I'm scribing that way. There are glimmers on the edges of what those who sang the praises of The Quags wrote about. At least with me an age old cliche` says it: all that glitters is not gold.

If It's Not Scottish, It's Crap!

What if the Sex Pistols had gotten their cues from Scottish folk legend Robbie Burns instead of from the French Situationist movement? Maybe it would sound something a little bit like Scottish punk rockers The Real McKenzies who happen to hail from Vancouver, British Columbia. Yes, that is Canada I'm writing about. Now I was always under the impression that most Scots immigrated to the Southeast of the United States many years ago. It's only natural that I should think so being a descendant of Scottish hell raisers who first came to North Carolina before heading out over the Great Smoky Mountains and landing in what became known as Tennessee. According to The Real McKenzies's frontman, Paul McKenzie, maybe I've got my history wrong. When asked about the oddity of a Canadian group playing Scottish music he replied, "A great many Scots immigrated to Canada. Ya see, the Scottish went north and the Irish went they often do." And there I thought all of the Irish ended up as New York City policemen! Enough with the lame stereotyping jokes; let's agree that Paul McKenzie and this scribe are both correct. After all I have heard of Nova Scotia. After hearing the band's new album 10,000 Shots a person should be able to find some bit of Scottish in them somewhere, be it by blood or by drink.

Now that we've established the blatantly plausible connection between Canada and a Scottish heritage; break out some kilts and bagpipes, but please don't forget to bring the drinks. Scotch anyone? Members of The Real McKenzies include the aforementioned Paul, Matthew McNasty on bagpipes, Sean plays the war drums, bass guitar gets handled by Little Joe, and there are the dueling guitars of Bone and Dirty Kurt. How could you ever go wrong with a swell gang like them? Paul McKenzie was made to dress in a kilt as a young lad to sing traditional Scottish music with his parents and grandparents and it's this that paved the way for his sweet revenge of The Real McKenzies who've been going strong since 1994.

What's really sweet is how freaking good they are. The Pogues proved that mixing a traditional folk music with rock and roll works when it's done right. The Real McKenzies have done much the same thing, but swaggeringly louder. Maybe it comes down to the whole Irish versus Scots debate again. 10,000 Shots features galloping punk rock of what could now be termed the classical Tommy Ramone construct albeit with Scottish brogue accents. There are plenty of drinking songs and real bagpipes; not the phony baloney bagpipe sounding guitar tricks employed by Big Country back in the Eighties. The real treat is a couple of songs where the band provided music to Robbie Burns's poems. Album opening "Smokin' Bowl" is such choice Burns material I had to hit repeat on my player. Consequently it took me several hours and many drafts of ale before I played the disc all the way through.

The Real McKenzies may not provoke the same kind of mystic trance like repetitions it did in me, but there's rowdy good fun for those who want to partake in something Scottish other than Macbeth or "Amazing Grace" done on bagpipes. Their live shows are highly recommended. They play in full Highland regalia with kilts, high stockings, and sporrans. If you know what sporrans are, you definitely need to get this album. So, all ye drunken punks unite and take 10,000 Shots together. You'll feel great while you're listening and you won't even have a hangover the next day. The record is available from those fine purveyors of punk; Fat Wreck Chords. Sporrans? It's the Scottish version of the fanny pack that men wear in front of their kilt.

Monday, August 22, 2005

August Makes Me Sick

Literally, it does. It used to be the second worst month of the year. Since Liam was born in February, August now takes the top spot of the month I hate the most. 90 plus degrees days just take it out of me. I always get sick in August. Last year I had viral bronchitis which wiped me out for a week and this year I'm battling a stomach ailment of some sort. Hence the few posts lately. There's just not much desire to blog when one feels sick. Soon I will feel better and I'll start inundating this site with music reviews. Just watch and see. It will happen. In the meantime, give me another coke and aspirin.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Legend

You could say I grew up in a household that had an affinity for Johnny Cash. The musical trinity of worship for my parents was Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, and Johnny. There wasn't much good music that came after these gentlemen although my father did like Bob Dylan, Charlie Rich, and Merle Haggard. I didn't learn about The Beatles until the mid-Seventies, and once I heard them I knew where they were coming from. Fifties rock and roll and country were what I was raised on and for good reason.

My mother was born in North Mississippi and then moved to Memphis, the same trajectory one Elvis Presley took. My mother didn't sing so she ended up as a waitress at a barbecue joint where she ending up serving food to the pantheon of rockabilly heroes: Elvis, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, and Johnny Cash. It was a long way away from the sharecropping she had done as a child having to tote around 9 pound cotton sacks. Elvis was the one whose music she was mad for, but she liked them all and I can sometimes cajole her into telling stories about those days when Sun Records and Memphis was the epicenter of a nationwide youth explosion.

My father was the country music side of the family. Hank Williams was his idol along with Johnny Cash even if he did admit once that the single best live performance he'd ever seen was by Charlie Rich playing some bar in Memphis long before he'd become famous. These men were not just entertainers to my parents, but fellow country folk who had made the big time. They understood what the common dirt farmer endured because they were of the land themselves. I was never given the option to like or dislike their music. It was always in the air at my house - listening and breathing were one and the same. So I loved it all indiscriminately the same as I loved life and still do.

I was captivated by Elvis Presley the most, but when it came to country music Johnny Cash was its king. Hank Williams was long gone, but Johnny was all over the television when I was a kid singing songs with June Carter plus I knew Johnny lived just about an hour away. He was larger than life with his black suits and deep booming voice yet still down to earth. He possessed gravity while still being humorous. He was an iconoclast yet filled with a deep respect for the past. Those contradictory elements in the man combined to produce one of the greatest song catalogs of the 20th Century. The new Legend set is one of the best overviews of Cash's recorded career available containing some of his best music recorded for Sun, Columbia, and Mercury omitting only his last material recorded for American.

Minus that one tiny quibble, there is plenty to please over the course of Legend's 4 discs. You get the big hits, the folk songs, gospel hymns, and collaborations along with a handful of never before released cuts. It's all stellar timeless material and well chosen. A compilation of material can never please everybody, but I can't see too many Cash fans not liking what's included. Cash may have had his bouts with drug addiction, but his music is remarkably consistent. Legend shows why he will always will be one.

Which was another reason for his enshrinement by my parents. People are often amazed when they learn how many houses and trailers I lived in during my childhood. There was always uncertainty menacing in the corner. Times were't horrible, but they could sometimes be tough. My father was often changing jobs and I know my parents struggled just to feed me at times. Our moves usually coincided with a change in job or cheaper rent. It was a bit of a drag, but we were in it together. Johnny Cash and others helped us along. We took solace and joy in the music. We might not have been able to count on much; the car would break down, there would be job layoffs, inflation was rampant, gas prices were going through the roof but we could count on Johnny Cash delivering the musical goods.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Elvis - The Pop Top Rocker?

Remember the Seventies littering phenomenon, pop-top tabs? How they were everywhere? You'd walk across parking lots filled with them. And I used to go barefoot all of the time. I vividly remember going to Big K once at Memorial Village (such a quaint name!) with my cousin Lisa (we bought play money) and how the asphalt burned our feet.

Darwin's Market (now site of a mission that gives out clothes to the homeless and poor) was a cracker box grocery store that my father always went to with its shelves full of outdated canned food and August 16, 1977 was no different. We took his brother over there to get something, I knew he'd bring me a Coke and some M&M's probably, or maybe even a Reggie bar. We stayed outside in the heat, and it was super hot. A typical Tennessee swelter laid over us. I probably had my Minutemen softball hat on. I was a star outfielder in the Jimmy Carter Softball League sponsored by the Moose Lodge. Pop top tabs baked into the parking lot, leaving little aluminum sparks.

Uncle came out of the store and got into our blue and white Ford Ranger. He had my Coke and M&M's. "But I wanted a Reggie Bar," I whined! Reggie Bars were sub-human Baby Ruth bar rip-offs named after Reggie Jackson that I didn't even eat when I was bought one. Heck, they may not have even been on the market then, but I remember always wanting one. We'll leave it in for dramatic effect since the rest of this is completely as I remember it. "There's a guy on the radio that says that Elvis is dead," my Uncle reported. I thought he was telling a joke, or lying. My father didn't care for Elvis, but the King was "The King" to my mother and me. When Uncle assured us it was not a joke, I did the standard run through of psychological phases, and you know the ones: shock, denial, anger, etc.

When we got home, my mother was sitting in a chair and she was crying while that Ronnie Milsap tune "It Was Almost Like A Song" played on the radio. I knew then that it was all true. There's been a soft spot in my heart for that song ever since.

We witnessed the rest like most of America; from in front of our television screens we saw the circus in Memphis. Boy how I wanted to be there, in my hometown, that's how I felt about Memphis back then. We lived in the Murfreesboro, but I felt like I was just in temporary exile from the big city I was born in. My mother bought the tabloids and a couple of collector magazines, which I looked at constantly. We listened to his last album Moody Blue on eight track so much we probably drove my father insane. He preferred Charlie Rich, who he used to see play in a bar on Getwell Street when he lived in Memphis.

Now it's been 28 years later and RCA's busy promoting Elvis to yet another generation. Millions will be spent and millions will be made and it leaves me ambivalent on the whole parade. I dig Elvis. I play his music to my children and love it, especially "Hound Dog". There is something about that tune that just gives it timeless appeal, I suppose it's the simplicity of it coupled with the canine epithet that does it. So I don't mind new people getting exposed to quality entertainment, but I do wonder about what this says about the promotion of new music. I didn't need the record company promoting Elvis. I did a fine job myself.

This stubborn adherence to selling what has always sold gets to me. Elvis had a smash hit just in the past few years with "A Little Less Conversation", but even so, the appeal of Elvis is dying out as his original fans die, their kids age.... that would be the group I'm in...the last group able to remember him alive, which leaves the adults who grew up in our wake that were sold on Elvis in a post death marketing binge by Tom Parker and RCA. I know I left out the hippies, but they spurned the King since they had no taste. Time might eventually make of Elvis what it did to all of the pop-tops littered in parking lots all across America. It never seemed to me that pop-tops could disappear. Sure they were replaced, but the sheer volume of them lying in parking lots made it seem like their aluminum sparks would exist perpetually.

Elvis is an American icon and he'll never completely vanish from the landscape, but some day when we're dead and long gone he may become as little heard as the Paul Bunyan myth is in today's world. No amount of RCA's money will stop that.

And in some garage, there's a band with a dragging beat bashing out something that will never be heard because of such endless promotion of an aging product. I love Elvis Presley, the music, the movies, the image, the town he lived in. He was the King of Rock and Roll!! But there will come a day when he should join the out of date cans. Then only the true believers and seekers will listen

Monday, August 15, 2005

Adolescents - O.C. Confidential

It's out of "...The Black Hole" and into the gray as middle-aged punk Adolescents have released their first album of new material in almost two decades called O.C. Confidential. That's a savvy move. It reminds me of those days years ago when the Pickwick record label would try to bamboozle the consumer by advertising an album full of hits and it wouldn't be until you got home that you realized the hits were not done by the original artists. Not that I'm putting the Adolescents down. I think it's very smart of them to slap those initials O.C. on the album. Maybe some bubblegum popping adolescent fan of The O.C. will think the disc has something to do with the television show. It's a reverse Pickwick maneuver that the Adolescents have every right to exploit since they are one of the original Orange County punk rock bands.

Their self-titled debut album (often referred to as the blue album) exploded from stereo speakers back in 1981 featuring classics like "Kids Of The Black Hole", "I Hate Children", and "Amoeba". They released a couple more great records in the Eighties even though they always seemed to be breaking up. So now we get the pleasure of new material from punks named the Adolescents who are well beyond that age group. It could have been comical. It could have been a disaster. It's okay to still be pissed off past 40, but there's a big difference in teenagers flipping off authority and those who are old enough to be those kids parents. Do we really want the Adolescents coming off just like cool uncles?

We need the fire of their youth combined with the wisdom of their age. They recognize this too. "Pointless Teenage Anthem" addresses the expectations of the fans that still only want to slam with music that is highly slammable. The opening two songs, "Hawks And Doves" and "Lockdown America" display vitriol without sounding childish while the music is standard one foot in the gutter rock and roll that may be just this side of formulaic, but formula's aren't always bad. "Where The Children Play" is either a paean to childhood innocence, "a world of sunshine each and every day", or sort of creepy depending on how cynical you want to be.

"Death On Friday" is one of the catchiest songs I've heard in awhile with death in the title. "Guns Of September" makes me think of The Clash even though the song doesn't sound that much like them. "California Son" is so poppy it almost made me cringe. The title rock also rocks mightily. The rest of the album is about as fleeting as a black eye lasts received from a mosh pit. It was fun but it all sounded about the same.

The Adolescents can still crank out some decent tunes even after becoming grown up and respectable. They were even on NPR the other day. Its interesting watching as punk rock enters what would be termed its mid-life if we are just judging it by years. A century from now and this era of punk might be seen as mere infancy. Come to think of it, cool uncles make infancy a lot of fun. O.C. Confidential is two thirds great. Grab a beer out of the fridge during the parts that are just okay.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Another Blog Anniversary

It's the 3rd Anniversary for today. I started contributing material to the site last November. I've got a link to my posts on the sidebar. In the meantime, expect some changes to Soulfish Stew template wise soon. I'm tinkering with it in my spare time and eventually I'll hit upon something I like.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Soulfish Stew Turns One Year Old Today!

Soulfish Stew turns one year old today! To honor this momentous occasion I've decided that we'd take a trip through the archives today starting from the very beginning. If you've ever wondered why this blog is named Soulfish Stew, this very first post, Soulfish Stew Is Born, will fill you in. The Sportsman's Paradise - Smithville, TN gives you some detail on what it's like to live in such a small town. I also predicted John Kerry would win DeKalb County since it's full of yellow dog Democrats. I was proved wrong after Bush was the first Republican since Nixon defeated McGovern to carry the county.

I bid goodbye to my guitar teacher in Godspeed Johnny Ramone during September of 2004. He didn't know he was my teacher, but I learned to play by listening to The Ramones debut. I tune my guitar to the opening A chord of "Blitzkrieg Bop" to this day. I used to have a weekly feature called Band Of The Week and I might revive it one day. The E-1's were the Band Of The Week once during October, but more important was my birthday wishes to my daughter Harper Lee in the post; Band Of The Week: E-1's.

My birthday is in November. It's always near and sometimes on Thanksgiving which made me lament the fact that I never got any Planet Of The Apes toys in Thanksgiving Thoughts And Planet Of The Apes. If it sometimes seems like I'm just a nostalgia machine, it's because I do tend to write about the past often. December of 2004 found me writing about being a Tippah County Boy. It wouldn't be the only time I've written about the time I spent in North Mississippi as a child.

Rick Champion Opened A Hot Dog Stand - Nashville Rock Post 1978 was the first in my 4 part series on Nashville rock and roll. It's posted over at Blogcritics too and I still get email on the series periodically. February was a big month in the Wally household. My son Liam was born on the 4th. I trumpeted that in the post Liam Has Arrived. Before he came I had the chutzpah to list my favorite top ten punk albums under the heading Punk Rock Prime.

I talked about wi-fi and Glenn Reynolds on Been To Cincy and the Instapundit blogfather totally ignored me. The post is rather garbled (stupid template!) on my review of the heavy metal band Superheavygoatass titled Beer Drinkings And Hell Raising, but it was a fun trip down memory lane. Its appearance at Blogcritics even garnered comments from Suzanne Vega. And yes, it really was her. My simple little blurb in May 2005 called Bi-Partisan Sting got me the most hits ever in a day. I learned the lesson that if you want traffic, talks scandal and politics. I quickly went back to writing about whatever.

Which meant I concentrated my lens on the past as usual. I compiled a CD of old Dragula material and used the blog to promote it under Dragula CD Now Available - Former Members Retaliate, but as of yet I've sold zero quantities. Potential Soulfish Stew advertisers take note! That brings us up to July where I had similar results with the post Toby Holmes, Where Are You? I haven't heard from him yet. But that's okay. I blog for me and if others happen to stop by and like it, it's just icing on the cake. Still a big THANK YOU to everyone who reads this blog. I promise to get better at this blogging deal if you promise to keep stopping by

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Gas Guy

Yet another excellent post from Nashville's most poetic blogger, the Gas Guy. Be sure to check out the wisdom of this convenience store clerk. If a book ever comes out of a Nashvillian blogging, it oughtta be from him.


I was stumbling my way through some picture files today and I figured I would share some old band posters. I've posted a link to the Geraldo one before, but I figured I'd post it again since I doubt few saw the original post way back when.

First up is an infamous Dislocated poster from back in 1989.

Next on the list is from a show at the long gone Pantheon where my punk group Pipe Bomb opened for the Teen Idols and Letch Patrol.

How about an old Lucy's Record Shop concert calendar? Click on the image and you can read who was playing the month of October, 1994.

Finally, here's a poster from a show Dragula did with Thee Phantom 5ive and Nine Pound Hammer.

Damn, how time flies.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

New Kids On The Sidebar

Please stand up in front of the class and introduce yourselves:

Bubblegum Fink - pop culture nostalgia

Crud Crud - music blog par excellent

Positive Ape Index - apes are cool and so are Shogun Warriors and Rat Fink models

Destroy All Comics - perfect if you're into old comics or new

Easy Dreamer - another music blog delight

Jones Violet - a fellow blogcrititc who writes about great music for great people

Welcome them all to the Soulfish Stew class. No spitballs please.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Miss Wilson Drove A Gremlin

My oldest daughter Emmy has her first full day of 1st grade today. It'll be interesting to hear how her day went later tonight. In the meantime it's got me to thinking about my own first grade days back during the school year of 1973-1974. I attended Mitchell-Neilson Primary in Murfreesboro. My teacher was a young lady named Miss Wilson. I adored her. It's probably why I was a troublemaker. I was always getting into mischief of one kind or another. I liked to antagonize the girls in the class and I was always talking. I'm an only child so it was novel to have other kids around. The punishment for my various offenses was that I had to sit right beside Miss Wilson's desk facing the rest of the class. Where I would promptly make stupid faces at one girl in particular that I liked (her name was Debra Reed in case anyone's wondering). I could continue my mischief and be close to Miss Wilson. It was awesome.

She used to play records during what was our nap time. We had to lay our heads on our desks and be quiet. Her favorite album was some version of Peter And The Wolf and she played that often enough I've never wanted to hear it again. One song she played that I never tired of was the Terry Jacks classic, "Seasons In The Sun". Every now and then we didn't have to be quiet and we could bring our own records from home which meant I could bring my mother's original 45 of "Hound Dog" and my 45 of Chuck Berry's "My Ding-A-Ling" which wasn't too hip, but I was oblivious to that. There were a few other kids that liked Elvis. I remember this one kid who came to school in an Elvis type jumpsuit one day and did his best imitation of The King.

The first friend I made in the 1st grade is a friend to this day. I'm talking about the Gonz whom I've written about often at this little old blog. We were standing next to each other in the line to go into the class on the first day. We would fall in and out of touch over the years, but I think we're destined to sit in rocking chairs on a porch watching our future grandchildren play together one day while we reminisce about Miss Wilson together.

She drove a green Gremlin. I don't know why I would know this, but I do. I bought a toy Hot Wheels Gremlin just because of her. She was just a charming and nice teacher. She helped me get through 1st grade when I suffered from, consecutively, the chicken pox and the mumps. My 1st grade report card shows that I missed a 6 week chunk for the pox and the mumps, plus there were other days I was sick. I still remember when I discovered the first red spot signaling chicken pox. I was in Mrs. Armstrong's math class (the only subject not taught by Miss Wilson) when I noticed the red mark on my arm. It seemed harmless and I felt fine, but one look from my parents and they knew. Soon I was scored with the itchy red marks and I was in for torture for the next three weeks. I didn't mind the mumps as much. I never felt too poorly and I thought my swollen face was funny.

It wasn't quite as funny as the day I came in feeling sick and some kids from another class started making fun of me. "You're not sick," they taunted as we waited in line to go to our classes. "You're just faking," they said right before I threw up all over them. I still felt like crap, but inside I was chuckling as a teacher took me to the nurse's office. I knew I wouldn't have to sit through the terrible lunches served in the cafeteria.

Lunch time was weird. I didn't like any of the food and Miss Wilson would try to get me to eat. After a few months of torture, my parents started packing me a lunch. I didn't like the stupid games other kids played at lunch either. There was the "me Chinese me play joke and put pee pee in your coke" one. There was also the one where they would get kids to say "sh" and then "it" far apart at first and then say them closer and closer together until you'd said a bad word.

Sadly, I don't remember as much as I feel I should of that first year of fulltime school. There are fleeting glimpses: numbers, erasers, crayons, chalkboards, alphabet banners, filmstrips, playground, swings, see-saws, tooth gapped smiles, posters, books, running a race on field day being cheered on by my classmates, exercising in the cafeteria that doubled as the gym, tornado drills, and our principal Mrs. Snowden.

The odds of Miss Wilson ever finding this are slim. She got married a few years later when I was attending school across the street at Mitchell-Neilson Elementary and I don't recall if I ever even knew what her married name was. But even though she'll never see this, I want to thank her for being such a wonderful teacher and helping to ignite a curiosity for learning in me that has never stopped. If I could have just one day back sitting at my desk beside hers it would be grand. Especially if I she would let me get away with making silly faces at Debra Reed again.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Exhaust Pipes = Exhaustion

After getting back from Indiana, I've been just too exhausted to do much. I need to pace myself better on the highways of this great country. Take some time to enjoy the scenery (which in Indiana seems to be corn and more corn), and be sure not to turn off into Seymour just to see what kind of town John Mellencamp came from. If you really want to know the town was fairly atrocious. I'm sure there's some good there, but I just didn't have the time to find it. I did enjoy the towns of Lafayette and West Lafayette even if all of the record and used bookstores were severely overpriced. I did manage to snag a Three Investigators book I didn't have - The Mystery Of The Magic Circle so that was cool. I never got into the Hardy Boys, but Jupiter Jones and company were must reading for me in the early 70's. Who wouldn't want to have their own detective agency with an office buried in their uncle's junkyard? I also ate twice at the Triple XXX Family Restaurant over near Purdue. Most of the dishes are named after ex-Purdue superstars. Who can resist a meal named after Bob Griese? Great steakburgers and incredible root beer (which is where the Triple XXX part of the name comes from).

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Night Of The Thumpasaurus People

I stayed in a Holiday Inn Express last night and I'm not any smarter. If I was I would cancel the room for tonight and go sleep in my car. This place is a dump. There's no air conditioning in the hall or lobby for some reason. The shower pipes started screeching after a minute. The free breakfast featured bagels, but all of the butter was frozen and there was no microwave in site and the toaster was too small for sliced bagels. Am I the only one that likes butter on a bagel? I must be. It could be worse though, a lot worse. Years ago, my pal DD Blank and I visited Tuscaloosa one summer weekend to see the great garage band Girl Trouble play at the Chukker, a legendary club. We decided to stay at the Motel 6 to save some money. We arrived around lunch and got a room. Now the first thing DD and I used to do when we were traveling together was get a phone book and find out where the record stores were. It was no different that day. We soon had a short list to go check out. We should have known we were going to be in for trouble at Motel 6 when we noticed somebody had thrown chicken bones on DD's car. We shrugged it off...surely it was just some careless idiot from the second floor. We hit the stores and inspired by the chicken bone we had supper at Kentucky Fried Chicken. The Girl Trouble show was phenomenal. They were all super cool people and it was great to meet their drummer Bon Von Wheelie who I'd been corresponding with for a long time. We packed it in around 1 or 2 AM and headed back to the motel to get some sleep before heading back to Murfreesboro the next day. The parking lot was packed with people playing very loud stereos. We figured they were about to go home or to sleep, but it wasn't happening. The night of the thumpasaurus people was just beginning. It appears the motel was home to most of the lowlifes in Tuscaloosa. There was screaming, shouting, what sounded like people fighting, and always the constant thump of car radio's playing very bad music. DD and I must have only got an hour or so of shut eye that whole morning. Of course, the thumpasaurus people left once the sun got up high enough to get in their eyes. The parking lot was empty when we trudged out that morning to leave, but the chicken bones still lay scattered on the pavement. So this Holiday Inn Express might be a dump, but at least it is a quiet one.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

6 Hours In A Car

All by myself. I saw dinosaurs, roller coasters, big rivers, and a woman in a Honda Civic flipped me off because she was driving too slowly on the interstate. I may have gotten a wee bit close to her bumper at one know how deceptive the closing rate is when you've got a vehicle in cruise. I was backing off, I swear I was, but the Civic lady had to throw her road rage on me, the person who was actually going the speed limit. I'm sure I ticked her off even more when I didn't bother to look over at her when I finally passed her. I did catch a glimpse out of the corner of my eye. I believe there was gesticulating going on. Such is life on the road.

Monday, August 01, 2005

A song sorta

Bringing self flagellation to new heights - here's a demo tune I did years ago called "Heading For The Smash Up". Yeah, I know Greenberry Woods have a song with the same title. It's a total coincidence. Plus my tunes so bad, I doubt anybody will take notice. Feel free to comment on the tune, good or bad. The tune is up on a geocities site so if it doesn't work, try back in a hour or so and it probably will.

You can also go to a myspace site I put up for the hell of it.

Bumblebees & Allergies

My oldest daughter begins 1st grade this week and of course it's probably a more emotional time for the parents then it is for the kids. You're constanly revisiting memories of the past, but I'm not going to do that here. I'll say just a few things about Emmy. She learned to ride her bike without training wheels a few weeks ago and her scrapes are healing just fine. She's an old pro at it now. She does often act like she knows everything (I dread what she'll be like as a teenager sometimes), but of course she doesn't. We were at the dinner table the other night and somehow the conversation turned to bee stings and allergies. Emmy piped up that she knew her friend down the street wasn't allergic. When asked how she knew this, figuring her friend had just told her that she wasn't allergic to bees, we ended up rolling on the floor with laughter when Emmy replied, "Well I saw her walk right by a bumnblebee and she didn't sneeze or anything."