Monday, April 30, 2007
Maybe I watched too much of The Brady Bunch growing up, but I love the word groovy. I still use it much to the consternation of people with their feet firmly planted in the 21st century. I especially liked to use it during the 80's when it was far out of style I considered it in. This led to a goofy poem called 3 Groovy Chix that later became the lyrics to an original tune by my first band The Dislocated. I chronicled The Dislocated's history in 5 parts which you can read if you like.
But the real point of this post is to share with the world the boombox recording of The Dislocated's first practice performance of 3 Groovy Chix back in 1989. It's raw and full of potential. I wish we could have recorded it in a studio.
Friday, April 27, 2007
Disregard that I had Los Lobos albums on vinyl back in the 80's. Disregard that they were considered cool by the punkers. They eventually came to be thought of as adult alternative rock to me. Adult alternative was the place where old punk rockers went to lick their wounds and then die. Which isn't fair to Los Lobos. They've not only stuck to their initial artistic vision; they've expanded upon it as they've aged. It's just that the people I would into who were nuts for Los Lobos didn't want to have anything to do with acts that sounded like Black Flag anymore. The comfortable slide into middle age had mellowed them.
It wasn't going to happen to me. I was going to be an anti-authoritarian punk forever. So today the thought crossed my mind that I didn't have any Los Lobos on compact disc and that wouldn't it be cool to go hit the used bins at Amazon and see how much it would cost to acquire the entire Los Lobos catalog. Cue the ominous music; hit the sirens of alarm - I'd ventured into middle aged hipster territory with one simple thought. The next thing you know I'll be jonesing for John Hiatt, John Prine, and John Denver perhaps all at the same time. And like the anti-authoritarian punk I said I would always be I'll do whatever I like anyways.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
From the learn something new every day department by way of Arts & Letters Daily; Commentary has a short piece about Kurt Vonnegut whose great-grandfather invented the emergency exit door.
I like Lily's. The flowers are nice, Lily Munster was cool, but most of all I like the band Lilys. And I'm not the only one. More Lilys.
Heavy metal and hippies usually don't mix even though they're kissing cousins. As Bitter Andrew says, "It’s not that long a road from the peace sign to the mark of the beast, if you think about it." He's broke out Savatage, Deep Purple, and Dio for My Spells Cannot Be Broken.
Nashville punk rock legends Cloverbottom finally have their own website so go visit the Godfathers of Nashville punk.
Cloverbottom - Nuclear War
Some days I'm just a corndog.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Faulkner calls to me periodically and I go to his books in a hypnotic trance. This week I'm wading through the cleansing prose of The Sound And The Fury letting the immensity of Faulkner's achievement in chronicling the Compson's dissolution just sift through my mind like red clay. I find myself caught up in the storytelling every time. It's a combination of artistry and phantom homesickness for me. I can hear the North Mississippi pine trees whispering to me through Faulkner's words so vivid and real.
I lived in Mississippi for only a year right before I began school. That's why we moved back to Tennessee. Because the schools were better. And perhaps because my father didn't get along too well with all of the alcoholic uncle's on my mother's Mississippi side of the family. That year spent in Ripley, Mississippi is impressed into my memories like no other with events piled upon events. Many of them are actually miserable having to do with feelings of abandonment and helplessness as my parents fought, separated, and reunited while I was shuffled off to relatives and babysitters nameless and faceless to me now. Once we moved back to Tennessee I would still go to Mississippi at least once a year for several weeks in the summer until I was grown.
Each year back reminded of the one I had spent there as a small child. They built upon the legends of that year until the events are as mythic to me as Greek legends. Did I really get up in front of all of the customers in Raney's Cafe and dance to "Dueling Banjos", and did I throw rocks from a railroad overpass onto cars streaming below. Did I sit in a car with one of those faceless babysitters under that overpass as a violent thunder storm blew threw; worried that my father would come to get me and I wouldn't be there. Did I hear my first electric guitar in that babysitter's trailer.
There are no question marks on those rhetorical questions since I know they're true. It's just a small sampling of thoughts crowding my head hoping to get acknowledged and maybe some day I'll get it all down. There's a kind of phantom homesickness that nags and inspires me. It's all so interior it's sometimes frustrating. Maybe I need to get back down to Ripley for a spell. When I get some time maybe I’ll do just that. Until then, I’ll be reading Faulkner.
Monday, April 23, 2007
Friday, April 20, 2007
Thursday, April 19, 2007
1. Big Green House – B. Markey is one of the best rock and roll critics in America with a wry wit and probing mind. He also writes about his adventures with Science Girl.
2. The Emerson Street Tavern – Ryan writes mainly about his young son Emerson’s adventures as he grows up. Ryan’s love of Heminway style prose shines through as he never lapses into mere sentimentality.
3. Geek Press – If it’s geeky and interesting you can find it here.
4. Armagideon Time – A combo pack of the personal mixed with comics mixed with mp3’s; Armagideon Time by bitterandrew is an excellent way to spend part of each day.
5. Michael Ruhlman’s blog – Michael Ruhlman is perhaps best known for his books The Making Of A Chef and The Soul Of A Chef. His blog is entertaining if you are a foodie or if you’re like me and aren’t. Plus Anthony Bourdain makes guest posts.
Monday, April 16, 2007
My dream job in 1986 was rock critic. You'd get in free to all of the rock and roll shows. You'd get a mailbox full of promo material every day. You'd get to praise what you liked and slag what you hated. Consider yourselves warned: the following is an attempt at rock and roll criticism from 1986. I thought I'd shop this review of R.E.M.'s Nashvile stop, of their Lifes Rich Pageant tour, to the local newspapers, but I never did. There's a shelf life to concert reviews. They need to be either consumed right then and there or left to ferment in a shoebox. I'd say this review is ripe enough; plus it continues the R.E.M. trajectory from last week.
9-10-86 R.E.M. at the Grand Old Opry
I thought damn this is gonna be a good night. It better be...I paid $15 for a shirt.
Dayglo windowpanes shined as a gesture of "hope despite the times." The black hush was on everybody's lips; anticipation mixed within. It seemded the house lights had been off for weeks. Reverence mixed with pageantry in this church that R.E.M. would build. The lights shimmered and then the stage became an emblazoned altar as R.E.M. took the stage.
Rapidly I moved as bodies overturned with the seating now an afterthought; just a contrivance to slow the audience down. The fans jumped and somersaulted toward the stage to worship at the feet of the club crawlers turned messiahs of the new American music. Flashbulbs popped like late season fireflies to the strain of "These Days" while our ears and hearts got rearranged. The floor was shaking and pitching. The dancing was contagious. The dancing was ritual.
Michael Stipe looked like a chimney sweep with his frock coat and top hat. He shadow boxed the microphone stand. He stood between songs with his arms flailing. He twitched and swayed - an advert for the amphetamine industry of America. He barked into the mike (Michael at the mike) and jumped into the drunken crowd. He was the perfect showman alive with electric eccentricity and good time fun.
His wonderful voice was in superior form. Especially touching was "The Flowers Of Guatemala" - a song he introduced as "a nice quiet tune about genocide." He exhorted us to worship Popeye and just generally cut up. He was the preacher for the evening while his bandmates played the role of church deacons whose role was to rock.
The whirling dervish stage left was Peter Buck who played and jumped, kicked, and danced all night. The pictures in the magazines don't lie; his hair is now down to his shoulders and he dresses like a rock star in a long, flowing, frilly white shirt and black jeans. Hell, he is a rock star so he can dress the part as long as he plays that Rickenbacker. He's the guitar hero of the American underground and he sounded great even if he did need the help of another guitarist, Buren Fowler, for many of the new songs.
What about the normal one; shy Mike Mills. He looked like he was having a blast. I'd heard that he was the best partier of the band and he made more trips to his beverage container than anybody else to theirs. It didn't hurt his voice as he provided beautiful harmonies throughout the night that sounded better than the records. One of the highlights of the night was when he moved to center stage to sing lead on The Clique's "Superman" at the urging of Michael Stipe, "Shut up and do the song!" Arms pointed to the sky in the classic Superman flying pose; we were all Superman as Mike Mills smiled at us.
There was a running comedic debate between Mills and Stipe about the piece of the Ryman stage included on the stage of the Grand Old Opry. Mills waxed rhapsodic about Patsy Cline having stood upon it, while Stipe snorted and retorted that Barbara Mandrell had also stood there and Conway Twitty had sweated there. Mills grew tired of the jibes and he went and stood triumphantly on it. Stipe later stuck one foot on it with a swift swipe.
Bill Berry let the others provide the thrills while he gave us the groovy beats which drive an R.E.M. show. His attire reflected his workmanlike skills - a simple green t-shirt and jeans. The show would have fallen apart; degenerated into cacophony without his foundation. He was the rampart to watch when you needed a break from all the action up front.
The audience jumped, bounded, danced, pumped, and threatened to tear up the Grand Ole Opry. The band had to request the happy throngs to tone it down. Eventually, the security goons gained a little control and the show continued without any more interruptions, The party atmosphere could not be diminished. This was a church revival with people speaking in tongues in the aisles. R.E.M. delivered twenty-five great songs including some from each LP. They didn't touch Chronic Town and of the albums it was Fables and Lifes represented the most.
Disappointments: No "Radio Free Europe" or "(Don't Go Back To) Rockville"
No cameos from any of the Jason and the Scorchers boys
Highpointments: "Second Guessing", "Sitting Still", "Hyena", "Can't Get There From Here", and "Pretty Persuasion"
They closed the show with "Little America" with Stipe adding the lyrics "Ronald Reagan son of a bitch" and some bomb noises at the end. The Republicans in the audience weren't offended as they chanted for R.E.M. to give us more, more, more. We were treated to two encores with four songs apiece. Sadly, the concert had to eventually end and end it did with a tremendous revered up "Life And How To Live It" and a wonderful evening was had by all. The buzz from my Foster Lager was long gone, but the one from this concert will last forever. Go see R.E.M. if you get the chance. You'll forget about all of your problems and you'll come away from the show liking the band even more than you did before.
What I can remember of the set list:
Green Grow The Rushes
West Of The Fields
Fall On Me
The Flowers Of Guatemala
The One I Love
Swan Swan H
Can't Get There From Here
Old Man Kensey
Who Made The Bed?
Auctioneer (Another Engine)
Begin The Begin
Just A Touch
Life And How To Live It
Doggerel written in 1986 by 19 year old Wally
I cringe a little reading it now, but it wasn't too bad. I managed to get an oblique R.E.M. pun into the piece - the "rapidly I moved" line and the part about the old Ryman stage were transcribed well. I just wonder why I couldn't come up with better descriptive phrase. How many times can one use great and good. I wonder why I was so obsessed with what R.E.M. were wearing too. It's not as if they were fashion plates. I guess it was their standard bearer mystique. They were the one band that united the American underground music scene whether people liked their music or not.
Friday, April 13, 2007
The cold, windy weather is keeping me inside this week, but Boing Boing has a link to a British documentary on skateboarding to remind me of sun & fun.
L.J.W.'s comments this week sent me scrambling to my old Lance & Shield's to see if she was in them. I struck paydirt with my 1984 edition and with that mystery solved I leafed through the annual. There toward the back was a picture of the frontman for a rock band called Freedom Jam that had played RHS in the spring of '84. My hazy memory is that they were students from some post-high performing arts school in Florida that toured the country learning how to be rock stars while soliciting more students and promoting a positive image. I googled Freedom Jam and BAM up pops this site called Young American Showcase maintained by former students. They played workmanlike covers of hard rock hits of the day and after doing a mini-set in front of the entire student body they let us know they'd be playing a full concert that night. Even though I thought they were kind of goofy I went to the show and had a blast. My friends and I pogoed to "Tom Sawyer" and I thought to myself: Man these guys would be even better if they'd just change their name.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
More Lucy's links.
A Dog's Life - The Times Of Lucy's Record Shop by Jim Ridley
Lucy's @ My Space
The excellent post about Paul Westerberg clones over at Armagideon Time reminded me of perhaps one of the stupidest things I've done. I had gone to see The Replacements at the National Guard Armory in Nashville. I rode up with a gang of punkers who spent most of their time on the way up to the show and while waiting in line to get in huffing various inhalers. No straight edge for them. I kept my nose to myself and split from them when I saw some other people I knew. Athens, GA band Dreams So Real opened and they were so boring I almost fell asleep. I split for the bathroom as soon as they were done so I wouldn't miss a second of the Place Mats show. Creem magazine had been raving about the Pleased To Meet Me tour and I was up for some "Hello Dolly" and "What's Your Name" alongside the band's own great catalog of hits.
I took care of my business and as I headed out in walks Paul Westerberg in a godawful plaid suit with what looked like clown shoes on his feet. He'd obviously had a few. So like a super doofus fanboy I went back in the bathroom and waited for him to finish his own business at a urinal. He turned around to go out only to face me blabbering, hey you're Paul Westerberg. He looked at me with obvious disdain and mumbled something as he stepped around me. Hell, I was creeping myself out so I didn't ask for his autograph or follow him down the hall like a puppy dog. I just went back to the audience and enjoyed an awesome show glad I at least had the decency to let the man take a leak before I gave him the awestruck stupid fan treatment.
I've fallen in love again with R.E.M. and I feel fine. It started with their Rock And Hall Of Fame induction. Stipe was insufferable as usual and I felt the same loathing I'd had for them ever since Green came out. Then they walked over to play a few songs. I was about to change the channel and then they launched into "Gardening At Night" and the powerful effect of music and memory rang through my happy ears and heart. All was forgiven. I let go of the hate. So what if Mike Mills had morphed into a Nudie suit wearing Sammy Hagar hairdo goofball. So what if Pete Buck liked to attack stewardesses. So what if Bill Berry had long retired from the band. So what if Stipe was a politicized whiner...well I don't know if I can ever get around his ideological mis-steps, but ultimately it should be about the music. And I've found a place to dwell where I can forget about the bad and concentrate on the good.
The best R.E.M. music evokes a yearning and wistful mood that always sent me into a bohemian wannabe reverie. Chronic Town, Murmur, & Reckoning were often the soundtrack of a late afternoon; Kerouac novel in my lap or a notebook where I'd scrawl some sophomoric poetry tripe beside me. R.E.M.'s music was often the mellow respite from my constant diet of heavy metal and punk rock; a co-existense that may have seemed like a dichotomy to my friends, but it made perfect sense to me. R.E.M. were the standard bearers of the entire alternative music universe. Their relentless early club tours helped pave the way for countless indie bands. When Peter Buck spoke about the Minutemen in interviews and then brought them out on the road for the Fables tour punk rock was elevated.
The other thing R.E.M. had going for them was they were Southern. I may not be a rebel flag waving redneck and I don't have the quintessential Southern accent, but I was born in Memphis and lived my whole life in the South so I do have quite a bit of regional pride. It felt good to see a Southern group making waves all across the world who weren't named after firearms or high school gym teachers. They didn't run from their Southerness or try to hide it. The kudzu draped cover of Murmur wasn't mysterious to me. All I had to do was drive down the road apiece to find a similar scene. Identification with their home was the same as saying we are one of you; fans and band alike had ownership in R.E.M. and their kudzu like growth into one of the biggest bands in the world.
Which is the point where I originally lost my love. It was their deal with Warner Brothers. It was like they had betrayed I.R.S. Records. It was that over produced slice of "Orange Crush" that hit the airwaves after Green dropped. It was going to skateboard over at Jeff's house and seeing little 13 year old kids wearing their R.E.M. concert t-shirts from their Murphy Center appearance the night before in Murfreesboro. The real deal breaker was Stipe's ascendancy to political warrior via his giddy assaultive slogan t-shirts Mtv Video Awards acceptance speeches. Where their music had often hinted at political ideologies through elliptical abstract lyrics, "Cuyahoga's" environmental message excepted, now it was all out in the open like a cankourous sore.
Musicians can have political opinions. They can base their music around them like The Clash and be great at it. But it's rare for politics and music to mix well. I'm looking for the universal made personal, not rallying cries. There wasn't wholesale politicizing of R.E.M.s music, but Stipe's contant podium thumping distracted and detracted from the band. Just like I didn't want Al and Tipper Gore involved with my music during the P.M.R.C. heyday; I don't need singers becoming politicians. So beyond the occassional track like "What's The Frequency, Kenneth" that I liked despite myself I didn't listen to much of R.E.M.s post Document output. Then, eventually, I couldn't even stand to listen to their ealy material. I had moved on. I had wised up.
So just call me dumb again. I don't think I'll ever embrace their post I.R.S. material, but I'm in love again with the early days. The joy I always felt is back and while I won't be dreaming of a future spent in bohemian languor anytime soon I might have to get out a blank notebook and fill it with gibberish. Or even better; just continue to fill this blog with it.