Monday, July 9, 2012

"He Went to Paris" Jimmy Buffett-You Had To Be There

There was a time when I listened to Jimmy Buffett almost constantly,  this was before Land Shark Beer, Margaritaville chains and the popularization of Gulf Coast Rock/Country.  I don't want to sound like a hipster but rather the takeaway is that I also used to think there was nothing better than games of manhunt in the park and a box of Everlasting Gobstoppers from Carlson's Corner when my grandfather would give me a dollar after a shower and a day at the beach.  Some things you grow out of, maybe with some things it is impossible to grasp that innocence years later.  I think it happened to JB as well.  From the very late 70's on his albums took a rather nasty turn towards more bullshit pop, away from the craftsmanship of songwriting and honest times.  He became a caricature of himself, a money making one at that which will surely leave his family well off for generations but leave fans like myself hollow and in poverty with only memories of a illustrious past.

And there was a time when my life could have very well ended up being a story in one of his old songs.  I had a beard, sailed a lot, drank a lot more, was always tan and even with a college education and good prospects in life lined up decided that I would rather wander around the world as an expat somehow finding my way.  The plan was to take my knowledge of the ocean, fishing and most thing nautical, find work on a sportfishing boat and live the life of a captain.  I'd listen to his first three albums, dress mostly like he did on the cover of A1A with the same bottle of beer constantly in my hand and while high on red wine dream about the lands, people and events that would unfold before me, in the end it all somehow working out.

That innocence bled away quite quickly when my captain friends who worked 70' Vikings and other fine steeds would sit at the bar, they were in their forties or fifties, usually divorced and for the most part seemed unhappy.  Around that time I started thinking about how much better it could be to be the owner of said Vikings and have the economic freedom to jaunt away at will while still retaining a normal life, possibly a wife and a home and not drinking at a bar with a wide eyed 17 year old every other night, picking up barmaids and using the boat as a hourly motel.  By chance the men who owned those boats and I became friendly and I was given offers in their line of work forty miles north and up the Hudson River, close to the battery in rooms with elevated floors, swirling fans and intensity that would drive most people mad.  It did for one of the owners who had a 61' Buddy Davis (if you don't know boats, well, know that a BD is a Saville Row bespoke suit of a boat) and who also had a massive heart attack at 37.

It was still a good option though and one I was close to pursuing.  Instead, a part of me still wanted to be a bit more free and I played a simple Hedge and joined the Navy, more stable but not as stable as a desk job.

In the very twilight of my career now I look back at that decision and realize that just like Gobstoppers, realize how good it was at one point and how over them or it I am right now.  Because I am.  Totally.  But I know that if I spent the same eleven years at the desk, if I made it that long, I would have been terribly wealthy but never have the experiences I had, the ones people write songs about.

That isn't to say that the song is over, merely a coda at this point and just like the song mentioned here I will be heading to Paris in a short few months, a man who still has a lot of questions, still rather impressive, aggressive and yes, still pretty young.  For me the wars took place in the east, both the middle with trips to the far, I never saved the world and a decade slipped away.  I come back to this song, a song that Bob Dylan actually claims as a favorite and am reminded how great it was, how good it still is and how even when you think the time has passed that piece of candy can still satisfy even with now a more sophisticated palate.

-The history of the song as described by JB (so he says) corresponds with the title photo and is a story worth reading.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Ever try to draw a circle, a perfectly round, equal circumference circle? It is pretty goddamn difficult, actually quite impossible. Sometimes the most simple things are the most difficult to craft, whether it is surfing, dancing or a fluid golf swing. It takes years of practice to reach that level of effortless proficiency.

People have always commented on my ability to hold drink, rarely sloppy, saying the wrong thing or even seeming as though I was intoxicated. Practice makes perfect. So when I put on Dwight Yoakam’s Acoustic Album, which for some reason is actually titled I naturally wanted to be at a bar, by myself, perfecting my craft. In this pure acoustic, almost single track album it sounds as though while sitting at the bar Dwight is sitting in the back corner, barely visible through the smoke; cowboy boots on the bottom rung of a stool with a Miller Light sign behind him, white cowboy hat and an ashtray sitting on the rail behind his picking hand. Twenty Five songs all which sound the same and still unique. There isn’t one song on this album that can’t stand alone however they are much more preferable to listen to in full as an album. 

Each one, nothing but a simple six string full body with medium strings (or at least that is what I hear) and a lonely voice shaped by long nights of loneliness and whiskey. Funny enough it makes me miss the days that I used to do the same, usually alone, sitting at a bar smoking second handily just wishing that the pain would go away. Hopeless is sometimes a nice position to be in for a while and self loathing and pity can be fantastic friends who always have your side. They tell you it isn’t your fault, tell you the thing you really need is another drink and maybe that old beat up looking girl at the end of the bar, they tell you she is a better catch than she appears. “Hey buddy, you are here doing the same and look at what a great person you are? She is probably just the female version of you right now.” Of course you always believe them, I mean how can you not, he’s they are last people who stuck by your side.

Around twenty years ago Eric Clapton performed a gig on a little known and watched show called "MTV Unplugged".  With it, a whole generation found out who he was while the older generation who had grown tired of his name realized, “Holy Hell this guy is insanely talented.” The rest is history and the show itself became a massive success which influenced future shows on other music channels that are successful to this day. This album is exactly the same. Maybe one day you’ll walk into a bar in Bakersfield and hear it, maybe I’ll be sitting there at the bar and you’ll witness two masters practicing their craft effortlessly for just as though Dwight usually stays electric in large venues and I have stepped back on the wagon there are times when it is always fun to go back to your roots.

Friday, June 15, 2012

"In California" Neko Case-Live in Austin Texas

I never wanted to move to California, or even wanted to visit when I was a young man.  As luck would have it I was forced to do so because of my work so I headed off to dreary old Southern Cali.  I must say I was entranced.  The Pacific somehow looked far larger than the Atlantic, the eastern deserts, the weather which is always cited....all of this was quite an intoxicating brew and when I was forced to pick up and move I was heartbroken.  With Billy Brag and Wilco's version of "California Stars" this song always reminds me of my days out west.  Actually the former was half of my days and "In California" was the other.  A melancholy rendition of a typical LA tale that his been told so many times.

There were lonely times walking along the road by the ocean looking out at the Pacific and the mountains that fell into its arms humming this song, then nights by the fire with the windows open playing this fantastically fun chord progression, wondering if it was better to sing in somewhat of a falsetto or a craggy-Johnny Cash slur.  It of course helped that Neko was not only attractive but had an Emmylou Harris voice, maybe a half octave lower, and I wished she was there with me so she can sing and I could play her chords instead of her being another fool playing songs that don't matter to people who chatter endlessly. 

It was just different being out there and the people, while nice, were different themselves, cut from a substantially different cloth than the aggressive Northeasterners I had grown up with.  The voice in this song has a similar problem and I have always felt it was straight from experience and from the heart.  Little things that only someone who has spent time out there would know, the mention not of route 405 but rather "the 405", a mannerism of speaking I picked up while there and still cannot erase, missing snow, missing someone, making a big break which many were skeptical all resonated.  

Usually I am not at a loss for words but here I am, possibly because it is so close to me, probably because all that needs to be said has been said in this beautifully crafted song that always breaks my heart happily when I put it on.  I think I will, and dust off the guitar and provide backup.    

Elizabeth Short (pictured) is mentioned in the last verse and became a Hollywood legend though not in the way she pictured.  Found dead with her body cut in half at the waist, a smile carved into her face, her killer was never found.  

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

"Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay" Otis Redding-Various

At times life can be better than a movie, as someone who writes, if I was to write the following scene I would throw it straight in the trash and laugh at the amount of cheese involved.  But everyone has those times, when life is perfect or far from perfect when you feel as though the camera is on you.  This morning I got off of work here in Kabul and went downstairs to the gym.  I worked out already but there is a room off of the gym that has a big screen and when hockey is on I sit on an old metal chair with my feet up on the pool table and watch the games.  Tonight it was the first game of the Stanley Cup.  During the dreadful military commercials I pick up my iPad and sort through a collection of pictures that I have amassed over the years.  Shots I either took, involve me or just love, I have about five thousand to the ever growing collection.

I was scrolling through them and came across a black and white shot taken about four years ago.  It is of me, nomex jacket, sunglasses with messed up hair and a smirk standing in front of my jet that I just signed to be left in the desert for all eternity as part of AMARC.  It was one of my last flights in the hoove and within a second of flicking my finger across the screen a song came on.  

A song that we actually all know, that baseline waltzing through my mind which is a part of my favorite scene in any movie of all time.  Tom Cruise in a crisp white T shirt, Charlie laying on a couch outside in the San Diego sun, him talking about his old man.  Cowboy boots are visible, white wine and a young man's lament of never really knowing his father nor what happened to him.  As somewhat laughable as the movie itself can be I'll stack that scene up against all others.

And who would not want to be either one of them?  Two people about to fall in love, that part when things are new and playful, when you worry about the date as you walk away from it, going over everything you said to ensure you didn't mess it up..."The stink of it was, he screwed up, no way, my old man was a great fighter pilot".   Just as that epic bridge is playing in the background.  

Life takes you a lot of places, when I first saw that movie at nine years old in the theatre I thought two things, planes were cool and how nervous would I be to kiss a girl on a big screen like that.  Years later I ended up in flight school before I even really thought about it,  there were old school Top Gun Tomcat guys, not the fags there now and they were everything I thought they would be, doing pops on cars on the highway coming off a low level, shit hot breaks at the numbers.  BFM in the hot Pensacola sun would fade until I found myself in San Diego a few hundred feet off the beach in my home listening to the surf, thin and tan; young and alive.  

I never thought they would be but those days are over and on a daily basis I try to get back to that weight and mindset.  At times I win and do.  But tonight watching a game I played with hopes of being there one day only to come so damn close, close enough to know a decent amount who did, looking at a picture from the second chapter of my life that has closed I felt no regret nor want to go back, I'm just happy I fucking did it, did it right and laid it all on the line and happy now looking at the first few pages of a new chapter which I am sure will not read as I plan it to.  I'll find myself somewhere, just like in Bruins camp, just like in Flight school without realizing it.  Life is funny like that, life is great like that.

"All of My Love" Led Zeppelin-In Through the Out Door

I remember listening to Howard Stern one morning, he was using “Ramble On” as bumper music all day
for some reason, between the lesbians, anal porn stars and Hank the Drunk Plant’s vocals blasted out from 92.3 FM in NY. Howard made the statement, something to the effect of “This is the tune you are rocking to with your chick in the front right seat with the windows down in a muscle car, both sets of long hair flowing in the breeze.” And he was right, that stereotype of Led’s music conjures up a similar vision in most people’s minds I would imagine.

For me I was entranced by Led Zeppelin my late Sophomore and full Junior year of High School. I was hanging out with the Senior boys, drinking Molson XXX in the woods or the basement of a buddy’s house, bundling up to burn splifs behind the hedges outside so the neighbors wouldn’t see. I would then be driven home in a Jeep CJ7 with the top off in mid northeast winter trying to sober up and clear out the eyes. Like everyone’s high school stories, they get better with age and feel a hell of a lot more innocent than they did at the time.

A few months ago I was in a studio in North Hollywood listening to some 21 year old from The Berkeley School of Music lay down some tracks with a group of people who know a whole hell of a lot more about music , music composition and editing than I could ever imagine. The studio is big and open, has a fantastic feel, handles all types of music; while we were listening to heavier rock in the next room was a mom-ish looking forty year old writing pop tracks for 17 year olds to molest each other on the dance floor to.

The main man in the studio has been around and in music for some time, including a stint back in the day baking tapes for a major studio. The process itself was fascinating which is about the only details I  remember. But after chatting up the Berkeley boy he brought up that he has original tracks from Zeppelin’s studio days, right here now in his studio.

He broke them out and we listened to song tracks separately, back then 20 tracks was a lot of music to cram into a song using seemingly archaic methods to generate sound. It reminds me of instagram and the fad of trying to make pictures appear 70s style. The same holds true with music today, what people forget is that in the 70s those people were trying to make the most precise and advanced music and photography around, they just didn’t have the ability to match what we have now.

All of which is academic. Because when it comes down to it, music and especially Zeppelin is for exactly what we did on the ride home from the studio. Put it on and blast it. In that ride back I remembered why I dug them back in the day. Reeking of sex, defiance and pure coolness they were everything I or anyone wanted to be when we were sixteen.

“All of My Love” is somewhat of a departure from heavy Zeppelin. It has always been a favorite of mine. Not a lot of people know that it is one of the two songs Jimmy Page had no hand in writing, the only song they ever made to have a classical guitar in and most importantly the fact that it was written by Robert Plant for his son who died during their ’77 tour.

More importantly not a lot of people know about a hot August day when driving down 95 in my Porsche with the Targa top off this song came on the radio. With my hair flapping in the breeze and the mechanical nature of the ’69 engine clanging at 6000 PRMs as I watched the tach behind a pair of very dark Vuarnets. Driving south to see a chick, tan with all of the encompassed for a night at the shore, money in my pocket produced by the worries of a job that I left up north hours ago I was utterly confident that my 16 year old self pulled up next to me while driving and remarked to his friends “That guy looks like he pulls a ton of chicks” while it may or not be true, when said by a 16 year old it is about the best compliment imaginable.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

"If Not For You" Bob Dylan-New Morning

By being here in Afghanistan you miss a lot of things and I hope this doesn't offend people I left behind but one of the things I left behind that draws much sadness in my heart was Dylanfest.  Yes that is right a concert at one of my favorite venues of all time, the Bowery Ballroom.  It doesn't say little for the people I left behind but rather just what an amazing experience it is to walk down those stairs into the bar waiting to go back up to the stage and hear some truly great music.

The funny thing is I didn't even know about it until a friend I met though a very good friend told me about it.  Bon Vivant of NYC, attorney, agent to actors and actress, the only man I have seen drive everywhere in NY, including going out at night, one night in particular when opening a beer in his old 5 series he rear ended a brand new M3 way past midnight (and yes, the guy had personalized plates) and talked his way out of it.  A man who runs 24/7 and still finds a way to be successful, a man who is probably the closest I've seen in person to Jack Keuroic's Dean Moriarty.  Honestly.

And that night, before we rammed that M3 we were driving around Manhattan with my scared ex in the back seat BLASTING Van Morrison screaming down sixth avenue.  I've met a few people in my life that feel the way I do about music but very few who have connected to the music I like in that very same way.  And a casual remark about Dylan led to my introduction of Dylanfest.

Held on Bob's birthday down in the Bowery it is an event that draws a lot of small names that should be big, or would have been if rock and roll was still #1 on the charts.  Lots of hipster bands and names I barely knew would crowd the stage and the the vibes were amazing.  

One year they opened with this song.  A song that I always bypassed while listening to his albums.  And that was the best part of the show.  It wasn't the intimate venue, the people or listening to Norah Jones sing backup with no one even mentioning her name or that she was there.  The great thing was Dylan has been heard so many times, been proclaimed the best by so many that eventually you stop listening, it becomes boring.  BUT that night with all these new, young faces singing their hearts out to Bob's tunes, it all makes you fall in love with Dylan again.  

About a seven months later I was at the Union Club outside the humidor smoking a cig and drinking whiskey and who should show up but my version of Dean himself.  We caught up, talked about that night I missed this or missed that (he was also a good luck charm, it seemed as every night I had planned to go out with him I would grab a drink somewhere and meet someone, obviously to push him aside which he always understood).  Out there on the balcony overlooking 69th street I told him how Dylanfest made me rediscover Dylan and fall in love all over again to which we locked eyes and he over joyously agreed.  Again, right on point.  

We stayed out that night until five after getting locked out on the balcony and having to break a window to get back in only to come in and get a full two hour tour of the club and its history by a very old but nice member and then off to Bar and Books on 73rd until the sun came up.  A great night, but not even close to Dylanfest.  

"Would You Lay With Me" David Allan Coe-David Allan Coe Live-If That Ain't County

The first time I heard David Allan Coe was my freshman year of college.  Striking that I had never heard of him before since a lot of my music at the time was the Outlaw Country genre, but nonetheless I hadn't.  There was this kid across the hall, Tim.  Tim was a New Hampshire hippie who smelled bad, had Sideshow Bob nappy hair, wore ripped clothes and huffed Glade on a constant basis.  The entire hallway, every room was robbed of Glade so Tim could get his fix.  

I am pretty sure he never went to class, I know this because I never did and always saw him.  He liked the Dead, I liked the Dead, he lived across the hall....and of course he was always in my room.  But the first time I ever heard David Allan Coe was the day after he fixed his tape deck up so he could sing karaoke and on that day he faced the speakers out into the quad so everyone could hear him croon while baked on vanilla Glade.  

"Trying like the Devil to find the Lord, working like a nigger for my room and board....
.....coal burning stove no natural gas, if that ain't country I'll kiss you ass." 

Lyrics, yea offensive to people I guess but I must say that there was something in that song (which if you take the time to listen to will find it is a fantastically written song) that made me want to hear more.  I hiked upstairs and asked him for the album, his dirty hands with pieces of stems and resin handed it to me.  On the cover was this man with a bandanna, tatts all over his hands and a rhinestone white leather jack.  "For The Record David Allan Coe".

I memorized that entire album in about two night before I gave it back, at the time there being no iTunes and the nearest music store was miles away, I was sans car.  Eventually the whole floor caught on, even our black RA and the one other black dude on campus (this was a New England Liberal Arts College) would belt out lines when we were drinking on Thursday, Friday,...well many nights.  Which was a polarizing event, it made me realize that good music transcends a lot of things, even some redneck mouthing words that would get a man killed in most urban areas and here I was singing them with a black guy.

There are too many stories about DAC to recall for this post.  That spring when three roommates came back home to Jersey with me to see the Coe man and ended up passed out: In my hallway outside my parents room, on the toilet and in the kitchen.  My house being a small three bedroom abode in which we never closed our bedroom doors.  DAC at a rodeo in Virginia, at the Flora-Bama in Pensacola....I have seen him too many times to recall and like the man himself, all colorful events.  

However I chose this song, though this version is only just over a minute long, because it is only his voice and what a powerful voice it is.  It breaks through the stereotypes of the man, the implied racism of a past age, the murder charge and prison time, the totally off color album he put out with songs such as "Itty Bitty Titties" ...compared to this voice the rest is just, well, conversation.  

It is beautiful and pure, it is the exact opposite of the image he portrays and, I think, is one of the reasons why those with more of a household name (Willie, Waylon, Johnny, Kris) call him a friend and a great musician.  

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Long Time

It has been a long time since I posted something, the biggest reason is that I am in Afghanistan fighting for freedom, defending the sovereignty of our great land and not taking prisoners.  Well, I am in Afghanistan.... and since the military doesn't feel my blog is worth their computer's time I find it hard to post things.  So I write them out and when I have a chance head down to a place that will let me access this site and throw the posts down.  I have a lot actually but not enough time to even put them here.

For some reason they think that my blog about the military is acceptable and that can be found at this link:

"Rich Girls" The Virgins-The Virgins

I used to spend a decent amount of time in Miami for various reasons, living in North Florida, the real south, I could always find a few reasons to escape the calm and sometimes repressive culture embodied there.  Miami was a breath of fresh air.  Most of the times I was down there it was alone, I used to work in Key West all week then take the rental car up A1A to south beach, or I was with a woman.  The latter was always a problem.  I was never the type of man to stray while in a relationship but with all that eye candy around, at times it was difficult to keep your attention focused on your own personal version of sweets.  So one weekend, at this point totally single with zero prospects, my best friend and I, he being totally single and recently divorced, ventured down to do Miami right.  He had never set foot inside the city limits and was anxious from my stories of South American hotties, booze filled nights and smoking days on the beach and around the pool.

It didn't start out as planned.  It was raining and not in the usual south Florida, late afternoon way; it was torrential and all day.  So we drove out to the shops at Bal Harbor which may sound like some typeof suburban hell, and to Carpaccio for lunch.  Eating in a Mall is not usually my idea of fine cuisine and great atmosphere but here, it is.  The shops there are basically Madison Avenue and Caarpaccio is Nello, actually a recently closed down Madison Avenue establishment La Goulue has an outpost next door.  There's a lot of money, a lot of fashion and where those two reside there is always beautiful (while maybeshallow) looking women.  Within minutes of sitting down my friend's apprehensions were put to rest when we were seated to a table of South American women drinking Bellinis and dressed for Saturday night at one in the afternoon.

After we drove back to The Delano, a place that we for some reason couldn't pronounce and resorted to calling it Del-More as in the character who Rambo goes to visit and finds dead in the first Rambo First Blood, we went for a swim in the ocean even in the rain, until it was time to get ready for the night and head out.  The Delano at the time was the place to be and for good reason.  The lobby has thirty foot high ceilings, flowing curtains and applies the original Art Decco  architecture with a more modern style.  There's a few bars, couches and the like which in a few hours would be filled with beautiful people or at least those trying to be.  Coming down after changing "Rich Girls" was the first song I heard.  It was the year that it was released and probably all over the radio (do they play songs on the radio anymore?) but walking down and into the lobby, scoping the scene with the bass thumping in the background while Donald Cummings muttered "We walk around, pretending..." people started moving in slow motion, glamour was multiplied by an exponent of ten, in my mind I was ten pounds lighter and a thousand times richer.  Years later Heineken would bottle that feeling in their commercial with The Asteroids Galaxy Tour.

That was the first of many times and as Miami is, you either feel very cool or very uncool in that town, usually it depends on the amount of cash you have on you or the woman on your arm.  But that weekend we didn't have either.  We had a beat up old Range Rover and two boys that have been kinda beat up themselves over the years but when The Virgins came on, that bass, static guitar and I don't give a fuck what you think voice came on we were in the right and we were in the now.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

"The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" The Band-The Last Waltz

We used to sit down in the basement at sixteen, surrounded by Notre Dame jerseys, Copenhagen tins and signs on the wall; there was a pool table in the middle of the room and a bar with a few bottles of Old Grand-Dad on the top of the tiles.  There was a record player in the corner and we used to wear the needle thin on bad ass old albums, Hendrix, Joplin, as well as some Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem.  It was our place to go, it was myself, Clancy (it was his house), Bobby and at times Michael John.  Mostly though it was Clancy and me getting blitzed out of our minds and laughing until out stomachs hurt.

We had this delivery guy from Dominos who used to bring us pizza, we'd give him a few extra for dip and booze and he'd show up with a few large pies, a few tins and a case of some random beer that we were all to anxious to drink  I remember one night we had no cash and we gave him a few dime bags and a blow up doll as payment, for some reason we called him Rambo and he never objected, an older Haitian guy blacker than night who didn't give a rat's ass, but a wonderful person nonetheless.

One of the albums we would play was The Band.  Many people don't know that they were the band for Bob Dylan when he went electric.  Many people don't know that Eric Clapton came to America to ask to join The Band but lost his nerve thinking he wasn't good enough.  Many people don't know just how amazing, how ahead of their time this group of musicians actually were.

As I sit here writing this way south of the Mason Dixon line I am reminded of not only those old drinking days when I first found the temptation of spirits but also that war of northern aggression, that war that split of country in two.  I've lived most of my adult life in the south after being raised in the north and I have to tell you, down here it is still going on.  Down here there are ole' boys who I would never tell my birth place to just as Robbie would never give away his licks and Levon keeps his kit to himself.

Something inside me likes it thought.  Hell I am not for slavery, but I am for a group of people holding their own sovereignty close to their hearts and giving all they had to keep it.  I am for a group of badass musicians laying down insane tracks that make you scream out the chorus whenever it hits.  I am for being in a basement of a great friend playing nine ball, dipping Cope, drinking cheap ice cold beer and laughing you ass off because that is what freedom is all about.  It is what being young and not giving a shit is all about and it is something I think about at random times, it brings a smile to my face and I smile whenever I hear this great ballad born of the American tradition.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

"Apartment #9" Bobby Austin, Johnny Paycheck & Tammy Wynette-You're Good Girl's Gone Bad

I try so very hard to stay away from country on this blog, but like all music it comes back to country or blues.  There simply isn't anything else.  Dylan took from it, Springsteen, Elvis, Stones, present day hipster tunes; hell I'd even venture to bet there is a Daft Punk song out there that claimed inspiration from country.  In turn I won't make excuses for writing about it and simply get on with the smooth pedal steel and trickling piano that encompasses this song.  I've never met a man I've called a friend who didn't enjoy country and I intend on keeping it that way.  The reason being, if you don't get country then you haven't lived and while ships are safer in port they belong on the sea.  You have to get dirty in life.

And I use that metaphor both as such and quite literally.

Listen to that steel intro and try to help not being brought to a place where coal miners drink the evening away or roughnecks massage their aching muscles into bearable pain.  Picture "Urban Cowboy" without the Hollywood bullshit and if you can't then live it and know what I am talking about.  Move out into that land where the man who plays pedal steel is working on his fourth divorce and somehow the bud heavies he is drinking bear labels from 1973.  Walk out into the parking lot and make a call on the payphone with the neon of the honkytonk casting a shadow on the patina of the pickup trucks corralled and waiting for their riders, the kind of trucks that have the transmission on the steering column and only one mirror on the driver's side.  Look at the blond at the end of the bar who has shunned sancerre for a tumbler of watered down whiskey in a white tank top showing a rose tattoo on the top edges of her chest wearing a pair of hip-high waisted jeans with black cowboy boots as she tries to get lubed up enough to take anyone home.  Smell the worn leather of the stools of which thousands of lonely people have rested their souls and gave into the piano and transitory nature of life without hope or foresight of what tomorrow will bring.

Many of friend who has found their lives not working out as they thought I've recommended heading to that place.  In its misery there is a beauty.  A beauty I can't quite capture in words but feel every time I've been a part of it.  At times I long to go back there when I hear the siren's call of hard booze and women who are a shell of their former cotton queen selves and the music is anything but over produced and honestly pure.  When the swinging doors close I'll meander down the block leaving my car in that dusty parking lot and fall asleep in front of a TV that is locked to the dresser and put my keys down next to an ashtray that has actually been used.  Is this an over romanticized view of a white trash world?  It is.  But just listen to that piano solo and you'll give up your box seats at the Met any day of the week, shun Yo Yo Ma and call blasphemy on Miles.

One night on the road I recall driving into such a town and parking at such a place only to retire to said motel room sans woman and taking care of myself on the 50 thread count sheets watching infomercials of Girls Gone Wild on a tube TV with a whiskey buzz, then the next morning taking an hour long shower to wash the filth away.  If you are pensive and find it hard to contemplate a song such as this, put yourself there and know what it is all about.

Photograph by Ken Rockwell at 

Monday, January 23, 2012

"Good Ole Boys Like Me" Don Williams-Portrait

I spent seven years of my life living in the south in various locations.  There's a lot of reasons to like the country down there and some glaring things to not like.  Last weekend I had a buddy in from Boston, born and raised in New England, I lived there for five years myself, a place that has its own glaring things to not like such as the bitter cold, darkness at four in the afternoon and of course the obnoxious sports fans and terrible accents and slang. I guess all places have their drawbacks.

It was a real pleasure to see him however and we had a chill weekend in the city, a weekend spent with drinks and a lot of conversation.  He has been down south a few times for business and various trips, somewhere in the course of the conversation I made the statement that at one point in a man's life he should live in the south for some time, at least a year or two.

The last time I resided in the south I was pretty alone for a while.  I had the mates from the squadron but at the time most were married and could never be counted on to head out every night.  By chance I met a civilian, born in the south, mother from Kentucky, grew up in Savannah, college in Virginia and law school in Birmingham...he touched all the bases.  On a nightly basis he could be counted on to head out and like clockwork around eight every night I'd receive a text or a phone call and we'd be on our way.  At times we'd start at the country club situated on the St. John's River with low handing trees covered with moss and old time black staff who'd place "Mr." before your given name in historically southern class.

There were a lot of friends with Mossy Oak hats, khaki pants, women with pearls, everyone smoked, shot birds, obsessed with ACC and SEC times it was pretty annoying to be honest but then at other times it was fantastic and just felt "right".  This was a group of people who simply lived the way they have been for years and years without second guessing their plight or position in life.  There'd be fall afternoons eating oysters off of the grill drinking cold beers in Barbour jackets with the game on in the background, oppressive summer heat and full white linen pants and shirts.  I'd make trips up to Charleston and eat shrimp grits, drink gin and tonics at the bar out of one shot bottles (as was the law at the time) and watch cadets from The Citadel walk through the square with their dates under the Stars and Bars, head out to Kiawah, Sea Isle and Amelia and watch the sun come up over the marshy low country and the blue herons wading for their breakfast.

But the first time I heard this song I was shotgun in an old E class Mercedes driving down a particularly beautiful road in my town, moss trees creating a canopy over the road, century old homes with single pane lead windows and large sitting porches passing by slowly.  I had a roadie G&T in my hand and my friend threw this on saying it reminded him of his childhood and then jokingly looked at me and asked what was gonna happen to good ole boys such as himself.  I laughed because I never thought of him as such, he was more of the southern gentlemen type versus the good ole boy and I think he himself knew that.

However last night I was driving back to Manhattan and this song came on, afterwards I threw it on repeat over and over and again back in my apartment.  I started thinking about my friend and those days and gave him a call since it has been some time.  He answered and we chatted as this song played in the background. It warmed me and I felt the humidity even as it was 20 out and my radiators where clanking.  When I hung up I looked out my window and realized something I have always known but usually forget: It's always the people who make wherever you reside home.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

"Holland Tunnel" John Phillips-John, The Wolfking of L.A.

There's a decent amount of bullshit in the late 60's, 70's singer songwriter movement.  This song is not a part of it however.  As someone who has traversed this country on the blue and red roads over the years, there is not a more liberating experience, a panacea for the doldrums of a life of consumerism played out within the confines of a cubicle with only a mild reprieve on the weekends fueled by booze to the extended family and a trip to Whole Foods before you turn in Sunday night to slave at it all over again.

And maybe there is some nobility in working towards a cause and the responsibilities of a family, extended or the nuclear kind, but like I'm calling Gordon Lightfoot out on his bullshit I am officially laying down my treaty on a way to live.  To embrace the Deus Ex Machina of that convertible Eldorado and then lose yourself within its confines and see the world that has slipped your consciousness while trapped under fluorescent lights and subways with fellow slaves in some sick Dostoevsky-Dantian hell of which there is no escape.

But that is what they want you to think, conjure up that spirit of the 60's, fuck the man and release yourself from their oppressive grasps.  All it takes is to make that first step, it is always the hardest think you would have learned that when you were fifteen months, stop shitting your pants and grow.  Grow, let the blue skies of this grand land be your intoxication, the black tar of the highway your only sustenance, and the feeling in the pit of your stomach be your navigational guide through the badlands, the prairie fields, staccato Rockies, across the Continental Divide (take a piss on it and feel your excretions touch both oceans) and out to the glorious land laying on the Pacific.  The desert as lush and green as Eden itself kissed each morning by the mist of the cold currents that move south from Alaska.

Meet someone new and drink on the beach near a campfire until you discover who he truly is, flirt with that blond you were eyeing in the store while picking up a soft pack of Lucky's and a bottle of screw cap wine until you've tasted her and then smoked them afterwards while breaking off that cap under the stars, waking up after a night of spooning with sand in between each others' toes, watching her face in the morning light and brushing the sleep from her eyes.

And let this song start the adventure off, let it be the coaxing whisper in your ear and let it never forget that the chances you haven't taken are the ones that you lose, the ones that resign yourself to your Sisyphean existence under those cold, shitty lights and the nightmare of what laid out there if only you made your way through that tunnel.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Happy Birthday Elvis

I just did a post about Elvis a few weeks ago however I just wanted to say happy birthday to The King of Rock and Roll.  I've always thought that there are only a few performers out there who truly elevated music to the level of a religious experience.  He was one of them.  Watch the video below and the trance like state he, as well as the others on stage enter.  It reminds me about how the monks in the Gregorian chant days used to sing long, complex chants with no written structure because they syncopated their heartbeats and acted as one, in a mantra like way (this has been deduced by viewing old carvings of monks singing and they had their hands on each other's neck arteries thereby picturing using heartbeats as a metronome).

Rock, Country, matter what he threw down The King nailed it every time.  Happy birthday E, still taking care of business beyond the grave.

Friday, December 30, 2011

"Black Water" Timbre Timbre-Creep On Creepin' On

An ethereal almost unclassifiable tune from an equally genre bending band summoning up some heavy back bone sax from the J.B.'s, the creepiness of the Tindersticks and a stolen organ from the closet of Ray Manzarek; it came on the other night and within the first five seconds I knew I dug this song.  I'd say they were hipsters from their clothes but soon found out they are from Canada which is where people actually wear flannel and Red Wings because they have to.  I'd say the fact they recorded it in an old church was a publicity stunt until I heard it and I'd say while I haven't yet, it could very well be a song for when the lights are low, clothes are shed and slow is the name of the game.

This song is listening to a Helmut Newton photograph.  Nothing in it is supposed to fit but it does, there's a juxtaposition difficult to explain but when viewed it clicks and registers with a part of you brain impossible to access without the proper kinky stimulation.  Maybe it is the old brain, possibly it is the perverted hemisphere not yet discovered that Freud was obsessed with discovering.  In black and white there's a stupidly thin woman, impossibly tall with a dark beauty mark on her upper right arm, mermaid wavy brunette hair to match the color evidenced by a lack of waxing below.  Laying on a Louis XVI bed with gold leaf piping and stained sheets, there's a nightstand with a glass of water sweating, standing in a small puddle that magnifies old ringed water stains next to a .357 King Cobra with a six inch barrel and a pair of tortoise Persols, the left temple missing.  The bed sits on six inch black and white checkerboard tile with ambient sunlight peeking through white curtains, the shadows of the balcony loom and project contortedly across the room.  She's not biting her lip, smiling or possessing any other come hither countenance, but is looking through you and breathes slowly, visibly through the expansion and contraction of her rib cage.  You just walked into the room and this song is on.  

And maybe I have no idea what I am talking about, maybe it is better to check it out yourself and let it melt, let it melt like a black candle and permeate the cotton of whatever hemisphere feels the connection.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

"Swing Down, Sweet Chariot" Parliament-Parliament Live

"Dude George Clinton is down at the NEX signing autographs man, check it out!" PLGR came into the Ready Room with a bunch of photographs and a CD.  PLGR being his callsign, Ready Room being the place in the squadron where we'd sit around and brief flights, bullshit, and just hang out, the NEX being the store on base which is basically a big mall.  "No shit dude? I'll have to check that out." I said, logged off of my computer and hopped into the car with a few of the boys and headed down.

When we arrived there was George, looking like George with a few of his band sitting at a table signing autographs, such a strange sight for a military base and the man and his band have consumed more than their fair share of illicit drugs over the years.  There wasn't much of a line and I was just standing there with the CD I purchased in my hand when one of the band looked at me and said:

"Man I dig that suit that yo wearing."
"This? Flight suit?"
"Yea man, they must be hard to get your hands on brother."
"Nah dude I have tons of them."
"I wanna wear one of them on staaage man."
"Well I can get you one."

And then their manager stepped in, a light skinned black woman with long straight hair dressed in a business suit that looked professional but you can just tell it wasn't her particular choice of attire.  She asked for my number and information, saying that they would be here for another hour and if I couldn't get back in time to let her know.  I left, grabbed a flight suit, ripped my name tag off of mine and stuck it on, took a squadron patch and slapped it on the other side of the chest and drove back to the NEX and passed it off to the sexy disciple of soul and funk.  She told me that they were playing tonight and said there would be eight tickets at Will Call waiting for me.  I went back to the squadron and asked the boys who wanted to go.  PLGR was in, Dingo too and a few other randoms.

After work and later in the evening I went down to "Freebird" in Jacksonville Beach named after Lynyrd Skynyrd who called Jacksonville their home.  I waited in a decent line by myself with a group of five old school black boys in front of me, they were feeling high, slapping each other and being loud.  When the Will Call window opened up I stepped forward and they were in ear shot.

"I'm on George's list"...(and said my last name)
"Man look at this white boy saying he on George's list and shit" as well as other miscellaneous ramblings I heard behind my head.
When the person behind the counter presented me with the eight tickets the boys' attitude changed.
"Niggah, he was on that list, check that shit out."
I turned around and slapped the one closest to me five.

And that was how probably the greatest concert of my life began.  There were thirty people on stage playing various brass and other instruments, everyone was dancing and singing to the depths of their soul.  It had one of the best Mr. Goodvibes feel I have ever experienced.  Dressed in strange costumes with wigs, plastic was all too much.  Then off to the side of the stage was the bassist with a doo rag on his head and a green flight suit on his body with the name tag "Malibu" on his chest.

To this day I throw on Parliament in the safety of my own home and just dig it down deep and low and connect with the mothership in their quest to bring down from heaven the holy Funk with a capital F.  It is a ceremony I recommend to all.

The history and story behind Parliament P Funk mythology is quite interesting, check out the wiki page at:

"Young Blood" The Naked and the Famous-From a single

After "The Endless Summer" there have been many surf and ski films that attempt to replicate the magic captured by Bruce Brown decades ago, most fail miserably.  Warren Miller has a few good ones but most grow tired after a while, even Brown himself couldn't get the magic back in subsequent films.  It is a tough formula to put together, the right shots with the right tunes but when it does come together it is magic.

Two weeks ago I had a friend in town staying with me, born and raised in Colorado, lived in various places in the world including the wild of Alaska, he's no stranger to white powder.  Sitting around killing time and just catching up, telling him of what the next few months have in store for me a trip to Jackson Hole came up which digressed into the film "The Art of Flight".  Him having not seen it I threw it up on the screen and we sat (me for the hundredth time) amazed at what an insanely good film this is.  Somehow, someway they found the formula mentioned earlier and I never tire from watching this film that traverses the globe (Alaska, Jackson, Patagonia, Aspen, Whistler...) with a group of snowboarders comprised of incredible footage from their travels.  

One night after probably too many drinks we came home and I had "Young Blood" stuck in my head, bought it on iTunes and we listened to it over and over, however something was lacking.  The song was great and hit most of the right parts of the soul but the missing was the footage.  For some reason (although more than likely it was the drink) my friend deemed it impossible to find the part of the film in which the song was played, possibly because I was more sober I couldn't understand why this dragon could not be slayed and grabbed the controller.  It was found, the maiden was saved, the dragon slayed and we watched a couple of guys pulling massive airs through trees, fatuous jumps on rabid slopes, off of logs and landing them all in kosher powder while the synth-pop blasted over the HD.  

It was laughable, it motivated one to be careless, reckless and forget all the fuck filth scum swine bullshit of the world.  With so many concerns, cares and other distractions of the world we forget to ask the important questions: "Why not?" "Who Cares?" and the imperative declarative "Fuck it." 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

"Tears For Affairs" Camera Obscura-Let's Get Out of This County

I don't care who the person is in this picture, her transgressions or whatever other knives people want to throw at her because this picture isn't about her as much as it is about a feeling.  And the feeling encompassed within this picture is this song.  Hell, this song conjures up the best of Beach Boys harmonization, Ronnie Spector smooth grooves, Mexican brass, Billy Bragg and Wilco, the accordion...just the good times spent on the beach in Southern California.

And is that not what this picture is supposed to represent?  Not wearing anything but a bathing suit 24 hours a day in a climate that lends itself to such, doing what you want even if it is randomly playing back gammon in the late afternoon.  But look closer and dig the amber light off of the old lamp, the shells on the shelf, the 70's painting (which may just be knitted and not painted), the ceder doors of the closet and haphazard way the colors and textures of the bed linens are thrown together.

Block out the lead singer's overtly hipster hair style, their strange Scottish names and listen to that sound that forces you to sing along and harmonize.  Let it flow down to your feet at four in the morning while still in those trunks and bikinis you've been in all day with now only a sweater thrown over to shut out the coolness of the Pacific and the onshore winds.  Huddle closer to that bonfire in the sand and let the shadows move under the stars in any way you deem necessary.  Do it until your shit job fades away, until the crows feet disappear from your eyes and whatever stresses of the day coagulate your true blood and let it finally flow free.

The next day throw it on in the car with the top down and feel the sun burning your head as you drive down the five into foreign lands where there's .50 beers buried in ice and the freshest seafood imaginable with a little bit of danger and foreign tongues that you swore you'd protect her against.  Lay on the towel and smell each other's skin tanning with a hint of the kelp washed up on the shoreline, kiss with a few grains on your lips and feel them in each other's hair.

Or at least that is what I am thinking about a few days before Christmas in the big old city while this is on as I take off my jacket, sweater, pants; view my pale skin in the mirror and hop under the covers with the radiator crackling off in the background steaming up the single pane windows that refuse to keep out the garbage trucks and taxi horns after spending three figures on a burger and two drinks.  Staring at the three surfboards in my place that make as much sense as snowshoes on the wall in a La Jolla home; I'm warmed by their presence and will probably now open up that case of Imperials in the fridge and finish them as the play count of this song stacks up in my iTunes.......

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"I Just Can't Help Believing" Elvis Presley-That's Just The Way It Is

Written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, members of the Songwriter's Hall of Fame; the song first gained recognition performed by B.J. Thomas who performed such hits as "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" and "Hooked on a Feeling", granted not the most rock and roll worthy tunes but good songs nonetheless.

Like so many tunes that passed by without much notice such as "You Gave Me a Mountain", The King took this song and made it his own. Elvis once said: "I'm never going to sing another song I don't believe in.  I'm never going to make another movie I don't believe in" In usual Elvis style he killed it this song, elevated it to another level wearing a full leather suit with a collar up to the top of his ears and unbuttoned down to his waits, right hand clenching the mic, sideburns down to his jawbone backed by a group of afro'd African beauties and one of the most solid bands ever created in history.

A few days ago I watched an interview with Keith Richards about Elvis, in it he speaks of how people love to mock and shit on him but Elvis truly invented Rock and Roll, he also invented a style of coolness that surpassed Brando, McQueen and Newman and probably will never be surpassed. If I didn't believe it to begin with I would have changed my mind after Keif's words.

With the exception of Mr. S there simply is not a more convincing performer in the history of modern music. It is impossible to watch The King and not believe that every word that comes from his mouth is heartfelt and truly believed. In this particular song the line that always gets me is: "When she slips her hand in my hand and it feels so small and helpless..." As a man small things such as that have always been the redeeming hallmarks of past loves, my mind shoots back to the hands that have been inside of mine, fragile and needy, aching and loving. When The King utters these words I am brought back to those times and I find myself singing badly, but as loud, strong and convincing as he himself.

I was driving home to NY from Memphis after a trip to Graceland, through the rolling hills that make up the beautiful Smokey Mountains, on some blue road (non interstate) I thought about Elvis and his humble background, growing up in a 400 square foot home, such modest beginnings and eventually became the most famous person on the entire planet. In opposition to Kim and Snookie he became this because of his insane talent and persona. Then my mind wandered as I saw the fog set over the foothills to the song playing loudly in the background, this song. I thought about those first few weeks of something new and the utter faith that was always held, the faith that she would be there forever, that hope and optimism in the face of the many that have fallen before.

It was almost too much to bear, Elvis had a lot to be thankful for in his life but like everyone there were hard times, like everyone so many of those hard times had to do with relationships, but listening to him sing this song and truly believing the words coming out of his mouth, well it cofferdamed my thoughts of cynicism much like the streaks of light that broke through the fog and settled on the land.

I say it without regret, if you can't dig Elvis you can't dig life, you can't dig music and it is quite possible you have no soul. If that is the case, don't fret as The King has enough to make up for all your shortcomings.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Springsteen, Springsteen, yea I get it, Springsteen

I'm getting repetitive. However this Friday I am heading out of the city to The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, New Jersey for a concert that I hope will be one for the ages. The cover band "Tramps Like Us" is performing the entire set list from Springsteen's legendary 1978 Darkness on the Edge of Town tour, specifically September 19th 1978 performed at the Capitol Theatre in Passaic New Jersey.

If you don't know about the Stone Pony it was one of the venues where Bruce got his start and has been known to drop in and play some songs with the house band "Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes" who never gained widespread success but started the Jersey Shore sound at the time of the Boss' beginning.

There has been books written about the background to the album "Darkness on the Edge of Town" the biblical scope of the album and legends and mysteries spoken of about the subsequent tour. In short he was personally struggling and on the cusp of losing his career which was just taking off. He was looking for a more toned down sound, more real and sharp. His writing also took on a different form from visualizations of grandeur and hope to a realization that those hopes are usually crushed. Basically the characters in "Born to Run" grew up and realized it wasn't as easy as pulling out of here to win.

However instead of it being an album whining about what could have been it became a cry of self reliance and steadfastness in perfect Thoreauian and Emerson defiance. To me it encapsulates every personal belief I have held my entire life and hence when I listen to it or watch him perform my emotions run the range until at the very end I am left crying. But not in defeat, rather in bliss and total contentment, with security in my faith and a renewed vow to maintain it. In the album "Darkness" Bruce says more than most all classical philosophers and writers in history. Combined.

Songs such as "Promised Land" and the refrain Mister I ain't a boy, no I'm a man, "Factory" ...and you just better believe boy, somebody's gonna get hurt tonight, "Something in the Night"'re born with nothing and better off that way, "Prove it All Night" where in the pre verse jamming he walks up to the mike and says I remember when I was a kid, I used to think, as long as I went to bed and said my prayers everything was gonna be alright but you find out you gotta prove it all night every night. This is Sisyphus relinquishing the rock and telling the gods to fuck off, it is the acceptance of what you've been given and defying all in the face of it.

How could it not tear you up inside to hear verses such as:

from Darkness:
Some folks are born into a good life
Other folks get it anyway anyhow
I lost my money and I lost my wife
Them things don't seem to matter much to me now
Tonight I'll be on that hill 'cause I can't stop
I'll be on that hill with everything I got
Lives on the line where dreams are found and lost
I'll be there on time and I'll pay the cost
For wanting things that can only be found
In the darkness on the edge of town

from Candy's Room:
She says baby if you wanna be wild
you got a lot to learn, close your eyes
Let them melt, let them fire, let them burn
Cause in the darkness there'll be hidden worlds that shine
When I hold Candy close she makes these hidden worlds mine

from Street of Fire:
When the night's quiet and you don't care anymore,
And your eyes are tired and there's
someone at your door
And you realize you wanna let go
And the weak lies and the cold walls you embrace
Eat at your insides and leave you face to face with
Streets of fire

These songs and verses are not only part of the American Canon but part of the American himself. The ideals of freedom and refusal to bow down, to surrender. Simple, terse songs titles with simple, terse, tight lyrics combined with razor sharp guitar chords that don't beg but demand to be heard. In concert, his ramblings, contorted facial expressions and nuclear energy...Combined, they have to be witnessed to be believed.

In every show there was my Daddy and millions of others walking through the factory gates in the rain at four in the morning, the widower shaking off the theft of a loved one, the man pining for someone deemed inaccessible. They bleed out through every chord of the tele, every note of the big man's brass, Max's rim shots and the epic glockenspiel that became a hallmark of his early sound stretching the artistic narrative into the spiritual.

Of course I'm not going to see Bruce and the band themselves. Clarence is dead as is Dan Federici, though even if they were alive...I'm still going to see a cover band. Having said that they are attempting to replicate one of the greatest shows in rock and roll history and I'll stand in front of that hall in Cleveland and shit on anyone who thinks different, starts talking about Kiss, or any of those other bullshit Broadway show bands. If I had a son he'd be going with me, I don't now but when I do the bootleg from the original will be his life long syllabus for all anyone needs to know how to succeed in this world can be found in this three and a half hour show.

Friday, December 9, 2011

"Rapid City, South Dakota" Kinky Friedman & The Texas Jewboys-From One Good American to Another

If you think this song sounds like something from one of Jimmy Buffett's first three albums (the only good ones in my mind) or maybe Jerry Jeff Walker, it isn't a coincidence, they all come from the same time period and knew each other well; that time period being the first stage of country-crossover music followed by the pop-rock, country that is popular today. Back then though it seemed as though they didn't take themselves as seriously and the music possessed a spirit of fun written my miscreants, boozers and regular run of the mill people having a good time.

I don't know a lot of people who know who Kinky is which I find strange because for some reason I knew of him since I was a child. I remember hearing his name and picturing the Hasidics walking to Temple on Saturday then trying to piece his sound together with that picture and just being utterly confused, just like trying to think about sex when I was that age. Something was missing and it didn't click. Today I get sex and know Kinky doesn't wear a Bekishe, Gartel or Rekel but I still have little idea how and why he came about.

He was born in Chicago and moved to Texas a few years later, he played chess as a child and at age seven was selected to match up against the US Grandmaster at the time. Eventually he would grow and attend the University of Texas, join the Peace Corps and serve with John Gross the esteemed author and literary critic.

A band formed in college would be his first in a long line of satirical music, at first turning his gaze towards surf music which was in its height at the time. He would eventually form the band you hear here in the days of the Rock-Country movement following such smooth, legendary acts as The Eagles and Gram Parsons, and toured with another Jew: Bob Dylan. While I wasn't even born then I could only imagine that he was quite a foil to Dylan and his deep subtext. He would eventually tour with Dylan again as part of the legendary Rolling Thunder Review tour which also held host to Joan Baez, T-Bone Burnett and Rambin' Jack Elliot. Saturday Night Live, Austin City Limits, his joke inspired music played some very serious places with legendary musicians. In 2006 he ran for Governor of Texas, though with songs such as: "They Don't Make Jews Like Jesus Anymore" and "Asshole From El Paso" I'm sure he wasn't taken very seriously and finished fourth out of six candidates.

However much of his music is quite serious, drawing from a long history of Texas music inspired by the road the state's massive diversity and ideals of freedom. "Rapid City, South Dakota" moves along in between the white lines through those 895 exits of The Lone Star State with a crew of drunk crooners wheezing in trail singing harmony on the refrain. It reminds me of those small bars with an antique Wurlitzer always playing, the guy with his head down smashed perking up to sing along. It isn't deep, nor does it make a statement and probably anyone who has played a guitar for a few months could do his tunes. But they are a lot of fun and adds another character to the Texas music tradition.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"Dry Lightning" Bruce Springsteen-The Ghost of Tom Joad

I always wished I was the strong silent type, Gary Cooper, Lee Marvin, Duke Wayne. But I am not and I'm open about my feelings. I don't know if this is a weakness or the fact that men like the aforementioned don't really exist. I think they don't, they all had an ear that they spoke to and a shoulder to cry on. I have my own in my life, a few people who I bear all to when I need them.

I remember jogging in the hangar bay of the USS George Washington spilling everything, all the fears, concerns and doubts to a particular friend who was good enough to entertain my ramblings. He was the only one I let into that world, at the time if I didn't have that I didn't know what I would have done with myself. At the time I couldn't be alone, I couldn't be the person I was or the person the world knew without him.

So in this post, yet another Springsteen post, I want to write this for another friend who may be going through the same thing I was dealing with at the time aboard that ship, when I thought all was lost and couldn't see life beyond each left and right foot that came down on the hard steel of the hangar bay.

"Dry Lightning" reminds me of those times and the hopelessness that invaded my dreams every night when I set my head down. It is easy to talk about it now but at the time I couldn't face it, for the first time in my life I couldn't face something in my life and I had zero idea how to move forward.

I'd drive down to Alvarado street, where she danced to make ends meet,
I'd spent night over my gin, where she talk to her men,
Well a piss yellow sun comes bringing up the day,
She said ain't nobody gonna give nobody
What they really need anyway...
You get so sick of the fighting, lose your fear in the end.
I can't lose your memory,
The sweet memory of your skin.

It sure does take me back to those days of hopelessness, but like the desert of which the narrator inhabitates, he is resilient. Like the desert it is timeless, worn down by the wind and elements but standing before them in defiance. In the situation I was in, like my good friend, you have to stand before them and let it wear you down.

It wears you down until the only thing that is left is your character, the core of the person you are and always have been with or without the thing you have lost. For the only thing that is worse than the predicament you currently are in is to lose that bedrock of which you've based your whole life upon. And there's a beauty in that ideal. A beauty in the Randian, Emerson, Thoreauian way of living your life, the acceptance of what life has dealt you and your ability to rise above it all.

I remember spending a few days in the eastern California desert, a small town with two bars filled with modern day characters from some Steinbeck, Joadian screenplay shot with John Ford's eye. Playing pool smoking Marlboro Reds, drinking domestic beer with a few shots mixed in until we went to the strip club where our narrator spend nights over his realize that life doesn't work out for a vast many people in this world. Luckily most of those people don't have the knowledge of the outside world to compare their own lives to, sadly I did. In the end it was something to celebrate instead of mourn. Of people venturing through their daily lives with the steadfastness those in more sophisticated worlds could never possibly imagine.

But like my friend this is dedicated to, she called me one day and told me she was engaged. It was right before I was going out, before a work dinner in which I had to show a good face. A friend was driving and I took a full glass of gin in the car ride while I tried to catch my breath for right then and there it was all over. It was over before but I at least had the luxury of pretending that it was not. It was.

After the initial shock it was liberating and it set me free. I sit here now writing this thinking about that day while listening to this song of sorrow, of resigned hopelessness, I sit here now writing this a man with many disappointments and happinesses after her, finding in others what I never thought I would find again even though she still comes to me in the night at times when I least expect it. I write this thinking about another love of mine across an ocean, her brown hair that waits to accept me with open arms and loving skin.

He'll eventually get to that point, he simply needs to know that that point will come to fruition in the future once he lets her go to her new life and accept that he has a new one, to look at it as such and embrace it as a new beginning. I am not a fateist but I do believe that you can make the remainder of your life work, hopefully they'll be another, and certainly there will be, that will break his heart once again.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Hit Lab

Obviously I'm into music and have been for a long time, and into it a lot more than most. However people always love to tell me that I need to broaden my horizons out beyond traditional Rock and Roll, Jazz, and all that standard kinda stuff. Of course I have a lot to say about that. The truth is that I know what I dig because I've been into it all, on top of that out of all of my close friends I'm pretty much the only one who likes what I like musically.

In September I spent the entire month in LA at a very good friends place working on a project in addition to just a basic visit to see a man I see only a few times a year. For him this project is a side one and not in the music realm. My friend's main project, or career rather is music. Back in his NYU days he founded a label and has always had his fingers in the business. The music, as I was alluding to before, is not my bread and butter.

My friend and his partner, a Grammy winner who comes from a traditional music background and is basically a virtuoso of every instrument imaginable are working together and their new creation is "The Hit Lab". From their website:

First and foremost, The Hit Lab are a camp – a group of like-minded people who have devoted their lives to music and art, all working together to make a perfect product each and every time. We are a Los Angeles based production company, which owns and operates a full service studio in North Hollywood. The Hit Lab works with and develops artists in order to achieve their personal and creative dreams while setting in motion a career path with the major and independent labels. The Hit Lab are experts at web development and social networking along with photography, video content, songwriting and production. Our commitment to our artists is total and complete and we don’t succeed unless they do. We only allow professional, courteous, and generous people through our doors and believe we are only as strong as our weakest link – we fight for personal, professional, and creative integrity each and every day.

I've been out there a few times and seen it go down, my first interaction with his partner was hoping in my buddy's car to "help a friend move" last summer. We showed up at this tiny little room in North Hollywood filled with more gear than I have ever seen in one small place. There was a Grammy on a shelf next to a McDonald's cup, crap everywhere; that's where I met ND. That day we moved him into this gorgeous studio that he built by hand, it was a serious space, a few thousand square feet, hyper professional and no joke. I remember in the 90s I was lucky enough to end up in a studio in NY and watched the Allman Brothers lay down a few tracks, and this place was comparable if not better.

I was surprised by all this to say the least, hell man I thought I was just going to help move a couch and while my buddy spoke of his new project I didn't know it was this big or legit. Since those days they have signed some serious talent that I am confident will become household names in the Pop world.

One thing I also know is that when James starts something, it is done right. Whether is was the vacations we've taken around this world, the road trip we recently finished throughout the Southwest or even our own personal side project, the commitment is always there. Full disclosure on my part, yea man this is pure pop music I'm talking about here, but I will say you can tell these boys are onto something with their tracks.

Right now they are running a promotion, if you are in the first 1000 people to like them on facebook you are entered into a drawing to have your or a friend's music mastered by them professionally. Check out their site at: And check out my buddy's other work from Billboard Magazine:

Sunday, November 6, 2011

"Born Under a Bad Sign" Cream-Wheels of Fire

In an earlier post wrote of Clapton's "Old Love" and then my brother wrote a guest post on a Clapton concert in Seattle, both of these posts fall under later day Clapton works of which, like almost everyone, I adore. However many times people forget that before becoming a solo artist EC played with some of the most epic bands in Rock and Roll history: The Yardbirds, Bluesbreakers, Blind Faith, Derek and the Dominos, Bonnie and Friends, and the epic Psychedelic Rock band: Cream.

While my brother, who is by far the biggest Clapton aficionado in history, digs the later works, I personally engage the rougher, harder sound of these earlier years. Possibly this comes from my experiences with the psychedelic side of things from my college years that I am sure my brother never experienced while in ROTC. I think that's a large part of it, but maybe it just comes down to different flavors of musical palettes and they was we digest such feasts. This song, much like Peter Green's "Seven Stars" brings me back to another time and place, and while I despise most of the social movement in the 60's, it certainly was a time of the most fantastic music ever made. Ever.

The song itself comes from Albert King whom Clapton claimed as his biggest influence in his guitar playing. While the straight blues version is raw, encompassing a timeless sound that today remains new, Cream's version is a time capsule into another era that while dated still sticks to the insides of the brain making passage of other melodies almost impossible without wearing off on the transient sounds.

Often times I am hooked on a mere second or two of a song, those details are what bring it from banality into genius. Here the phrasing of one particular line in multiple verses continually drives a smile on my face, closing of the eyes followed by leaning back in an orgasmic bliss of heightened musical awareness.

A big bad woman gonnacarrymeto my grave.

The tempo and short staccato phrasing that so easily rolls off of his tongue rivals the greatest words uttered in music. Coupled with piercing, moderately fuzzed out guitar (I think he used a Gibson in much of his work back then) and the line leaves one chasing the dragon for the remainder of their listening lives.

It is hard. It is raw and it is the type of music that is simply not made anymore. Possibly one could draw parallels between this sound and The Black Keys but while the Keys are truly fantastic it would be a tragedy to compare the two. Cream, in all their songs are operating on a different level of music genius. I challenge one to listen to Hendrix, Paul Rogers and even the original Albert King and derive the emotions generated in this short three minute song. It is akin to watching Gretzky, Picasso or Pollack paint, or Sophia Loren...simply just be. This is the pinnacle of professional and craftsmanship in their particular field. At times I believe Clapton thanks God he doesn't remember making any of it because if he did, well how could he continue to make new music. He wouldn't, he would have spent the remainder of his life trying to replicate such incredible heights.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

"Neptune" Doc and Lena Selyanina-Cosmic Lullabies

It is possible to listen to the first one hundred and seventy seconds of this seventeen minute song for three weeks and never tire of it.

My knowledge of classical music is thin at best, while my knowledge of modern classical music is even more questionable, however putting ego aside it is truthful to state that I know significantly more than the average person and while I would feel ignorant to speak with full fledged affectionados I see no problem throwing my hat into the ring in this matter. (That was the disclaimer paragraph so I do not have fifty emails tomorrow from people criticizing my observations)

In the end though, fuck them. Music is art and just as in other types of art the creator may have had intentions or cornerstones of which their creations are set upon it is the one taking in their work who can make the final judgement. Do I elevate Springsteen to a higher level because his background mirrors my own, my families? Of course, but does it subjugate my observations and feelings? No.

There is little on the web about Lena except that she began her craft from a very young age. Her work is more of a biography than anything written on the web and her work is a combination of ambient and neoclassical pieces played with strict technical precision. Doc is a Finnish producer of Electronica, Ambient and Experimental music. That exhausts my biographical knowledge of the two.

Their music is far removed from a Philip Glass and Terry Riley, and terribly distant from most of Karlheinz Stockhausen's work as well. It is more banal, though I say that as a compliment much like "Kind of Blue" is more banal to "Sketches of Spain". Both are epic jazz pieces but I have to be engaged to take on Sketches while Blue doesn't require any proactive engagement, rather absorption. If I had to compare this piece and their work to anyone it would be Arvo Pärt, the great Estonian minimalist.

However the above is just a feeble attempt to put this work into context historically. In real life when I hear this piece I am reminded of the possibility of connectivity that exists in the universe. My first real experience with this came five years ago in the middle of the Arabian Gulf. Before this I had touched the realm of possible Brahman, though Hindu philosophers and Upanishad scholars would scoff at my example, while surfing.

When I was 13 there was a storm rolling in out of the east and I was at the peak bowl in Manasquan, long before the dredging broke up the structure of the wave. It began to rain and lightning struck far offshore in the distance. I stayed in as the wind shifted to the west creating perfect five foot hollow sections refracting off of the jetty. I was the only one in the water with all the waves to myself. I could hear each individual drop of water breaking the tension of the surface and when I rode I could hear the slicing-chop-swish-riiiiipwhosh coming off the rails, see individual particles of foam floating in the west wind and feel the wind rustling the hair on my toes. There were dolphins just out of the line up, when I would duck dive a wave I could hear them talk to each other in their high pitched squeaks.

Fifteen years later I resolved to volunteer to go to sea in an attempt to escape my shore based life which was bordering or surpassing the boarder depending on who you ask, of alcoholism and depression. Overweight, my blood pressure had shot up more than thirty points in one year and my breath had turned into wheezing. It seemed like the logical thing to do as so many before me had lost and the found themselves once again in the middle of such savagery.

On a weather deck every night around two in the morning I would commence with an hour of cardio in the 110 degree heat and then cool down and begin a practice of Ashtanga Vinyasa. Though a bastardized version of it which began in the vigorous style of the modern genre, it evolved into the kind mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita and the classic Four Yogas of the late 19 century. In these times, when my breath became one with my movements, when my movements became one with my mind I experienced full connection to the environment while blocking it out at the same time. The typical noises of a large ship passed by, noises which were so loud those on the weather decks were required to wear hearing protection. The heat was relegated to a normal room temperature bearable to the average human and whatever feelings of remorse, dread and regret passed through and out of my veins into the ether.

I returned from that trip with many new experiences, I visited Asia and took in all of the pleasures of the natives, visited the deserts of the Middle East, crossed the Pacific, lost forty pounds, kicked drinking into blackout states and stopped smoking. But in retrospect those nights on the weather decks, fully engaged and connected made me realize that there are levels of consciousness in this life that are rarely touched upon. As a short cut one could take a few tabs and tap into this realm but the dangers are too high and the benefits not as astounding. Acid is Diet Coke to the real thing, the hand to the vagina and the groomed trails to the pure powder. The work involved to reach that realm must be pure and earned.

And with that when I put this song on that is what comes to mind. Total connection out of something that appear chaotic to the uninitiated. It digresses into thoughts of space, String Theory, Rare Earth Hypothesis, Abiogenesis and the Unified Universe. All ideas that make little sense to most, some of which do not to the brightest minds on the planet. But neither does Atonality or Aleatoricism until you hear it.