When Making Weekend Plans

So – if you’re out and about and need to warm up and work up a sweat tonight or tomorrow, stop on by the Eagle in Stillwater. My band Elephant in the Room will be playing from 8 ’til Midnight, Friday and Saturday.

It’s in the old Famous Dave’s, on Highway 36 at Greeley.

We’ve got some music for the holidays, too! [1]

Good food, not-too-expensive drinks, great location, pool tables just around the corner, fast service – and EITR. What a perfect way to decompress from the holidays?

(And don’t forget – we’ll be at the Outpost in Ramsey on Friday, January 11. Two weeks from tonight!)

[1] OK – to be accurate, it’s two songs. But hey, you’re not gonna get that from a dance club DJ, are you?

Fakes Like Us

Springsteen on Broadway – the Broadway hit just released on Netflix – is, as Kyle Smith describes it in National Review,

…a luminous performance, an unexpected new late-career peak. His persona may be fake but his artistry is sublime.

Let’s back up a moment and talk about that “fake persona” bit. It stems from the show’s big opening admission – in Bruce’s words:

“I made it all up,” he tells the audience in his new Netflix special Springsteen on Broadway. “Bruce Springsteen” the persona — all gritty working-class authenticity — is a creation. “I’ve never held an honest job in my entire life!” he says. “I’ve never done any hard labor. I’ve never worked 9 to 5. I’ve never worked five days a week. Until right now.”

To be fair, this surprises nobody who’s followed Bruuuuuce this past, um (counts quickly) 40 years or so – as Dave Marsh showed in his classic bio “Born to Run” back in the early ’80s, he pretty much eschewed everything but playing in bands and building a following.

News flash – to succeed at something, you gotta live it every day, as someone once said.

And that’s one of the lines about the whole evening that resonated with me the most – because there are times I feel like I “made it all up” too; I’ve never had any formal training for any of the careers I’ve had – or even for any of the things I do for fun. My UX career? Tech writing before it? Music? Blogging and talk radio (OK, I had some OJT when I was a kid, but beyond being a DJ, nothing)? I decided I was gonna do them, and started doing them. After 20 years as a UXer, I still feel like someone’s going to bust me as a fraud someday.

Anyway – it’s a great show, and I hope you get a chance to see it on Netflix.

(And for those whose response is “I won’t listen to Bruce, since he’s teh liberal” – well, yeah, but in his prime he was also America’s best *conservative* songwriter, which makes some peoples’ heads melt, but I’m right and they’re wrong)

When You’re Making Your Weekend Plans

My band, “Elephant in the Room”, is playing Friday and Saturday nights at the Eagles in Stillwater.

We’ll be playing from 8 ’til midnight.   We’re a classic rock band that does stuff from the ’50s through the ’90s.   And it features our “new” lead singer, former NARN producer Tommy, who can do Led Zeppelin ,Guns and Roses and the Offspring with style.   Seriously – this isn’t your grandpa’s Elephant in the Room.

It’s a fun room, excellent food, drinks aren’t too expensive, and we have a lot of fun playing the joint!

The Bolt From The Blue

It’s gone through every musician’s mind.

You’re at a show – from a club gig to an area show – and you watch the musicians doing their thing, and the thought crosses your mind; “What if (fill in a member of the band) were to keel over in a faint right now, and the band called for someone in the audience who knew the material, and I jumped on stage and totrally rocked it“?

Yeah, I’ve had that.  At a Springsteen or Asbury Jukes or Richard Thompson or Warren Zevon or Gear Daddies or Los Lobos gig, thinking “If Nils or Gary Thompson or Pete Zorn or David Landau or Cesar or whoever the guitar player is gets the flu and faints away, I could jump up there and totally take over!”

It remains a fantasy for almost everyone.  1

Almost.

It was 45 years ago tonight, every musician’s fantasy came true, for one Scot Halpin, of Muscatine Iowa, who’d been living in the Bay Area for about a year.

He was at a Who show at the Cow Palace in San Francisco.

After playing an hour and a half, Keith Moon – the Who’s manic drummer – passed out behind the drum kit.  Roadies revived him after another song or two, before he passed out again.

The rest of the band – singer Roger Daltrey, bass player John Entwistle and guitar player Pete Townsend, continued for another song (“See Me, Feel Me”) without a drummer.

Then, Townsend asked the crowd if anyone could play the drums.  Halpin’s friend ignored the fact that Halpin hadn’t touched a drum kit in the year since he’s left Iowa, and got the attention of a roadie, who got the attention of promoter Bill Graham.   And one thing led to another.

As Halpin told the story to the San Francisco Examiner  years later:

When Townshend called out, “Can anyone play the drums?” Halpin and Danese were already at theedge of the stage.

“And my friend starts saying to the security guard, `He can play,’ ” Halpin says. In truth, he hadn’tplayed in a year, but that didn’t slow the braggart Danese, who made such a commotion thatpromoter Bill Graham appeared. “He just looked at me and said, `Can you do it?’ ” Halpin doesn’trecall his answer, but Danese assured Graham that he could.

“The story was that I stepped out from in front of the stage, but that’s not what happened,” Halpinsays. “Townshend and Daltrey look around and they’re as surprised as I am,” he says, “becauseGraham put me up there.”

With a shot of brandy for his nerves, Halpin shook hands with Townshend, then sat down at his firstdrum set since he left Iowa, in front of 13,500 critics. “I get onto the stool. Was it still warm? Whoknows. I’m in complete shock,” Halpin says. “Then I got really focused, and Townshend said tome, `I’m going to lead you. I’m going to cue you.’

“I’m laying down the beat. They’re doing all their `Live at Leeds’ kind of stuff, and then I don’tremember what happened. I guess I played a couple more songs. It was such a weird experience.”

The bootleg reveals that Halpin drummed through the traditional “Smokestack Lightning” and”Naked Eye,” from “Odds and Sods,” closing with the anthem “My Generation.” He wasonstage for about 15 minutes. “I played long enough with them that no one booed and no one threwanything at the stage,” he says.

After the show, Halpin got to party with the band backstage; Daltrey gave Halpin kudos in the press later – and bootleg tapes showed that he did a decent job.   And he won a special, one-time-only “Best Pickup Player Of The Year” award in Rolling Stone‘s critics’ poll at the end of the year.

And until his death ten years ago of an inoperable brain tumor, he was probably the luckiest pickup drummer in history.

1 As it largely has for me.  Although last summer, I went to a show at the Seventh Street Entry making the 40th Anniversary of Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of Town, with a Springsteen tribute band, “Tramps Like Us”.   They do a good show, by the way.   But they were doing “Something In The Night”, one of the more obscure deep cuts on the record, and the lead singer was flloundering for the words.  And I was singing along at the foot of the stage, so rather incredibly, he handed me the mic and I finished out the last verse for him.  Not exactly pinch-hitting for David Hidalgo on “Will The Wolf Survive”, but it was fun, and I thank that lead singer, whoever he was…

Just Take My Money

Roger Daltrey has a new autobiography,  Thank You Mr. Kibblewhite.  It sounds like…

…well, exactly what one would expect of a Daltrey autobio.

Excerpt:

The band that would become The Who began in 1961 as the Detours, when Roger Daltrey, then age 17, talked bassist John Entwistle into joining his group. A few months later, guitarist Pete Townshend would join. During that period, Doug Sandom, a decade older than the rest of the members of the Detours, served as their drummer. He would leave the band in 1964, and be replaced by the now legendary Keith Moon, then age 18.

All during this time, Daltrey was driven by a statement from his headmaster at Acton County Grammar School, Mr. Kibblewhite, who told him on his 15th birthday that “you’ll never make anything of your life, Daltrey,” after expelling him for truancy. Determined to escape his lower-middle class existence in the west London district of Acton, Daltrey was driven to be the lead singer of a rock and roll group. What he couldn’t know is that he had stumbled into the rock and roll group, one of the most influential bands of the 1960s and 1970s.

And it’s off to B&N for me.

“We’re A Little Bit Older, But That Doesn’t Mean There’s Nothing New Left To Say…”

I think I may have mentioned it last week – I saw “Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul” at the Ames Center last Friday.

First – a word about the Ames Center, a place I’d only been to for a company meeting before.  For a room that’s clearly designed for community theater and high school music productions, it’s a wonderful venue for a rock and roll show for people who don’t want to go do the club thing anymore.

So here’s my TL:DR review.

On the one hand, Steve Van Zandt’s first album, “Men Without Women”, is one of my five favorite records of the rock and roll era. I’ve written about it before. You can even find it online, these days. It’s worth it.

I looked forward to the show for months – missing the original Disciples was one of my great regrets 35 years ago.

But I won’t say there wasn’t a little trepidation.

Reviews I heard from friends who saw earlier incarnations of the band said I may have done well waiting; back then, Van Zandt had a penchant for PLAYING REALLY REALLY LOUD, as in “Husker Du called and said turn it down please” loud, to the point where it was unenjoyable even for unreconstructed rockers like me.

And of course, back then he was very strident about his politics. He was the guy who wrote “Sun City”, the all-star rock-hop protest song about South Africa, and by far the biggest hit of his musical career…

…and let’s just say he started at the peak. His musical activism went downhill from there. How far downhill? The Alarm called and said “Hey, maybe dial it back a skosh?”

Point being, I don’t mind a little cognitive dissonance in my art – if I did, I’d be listening to country and Ted Nugent and little else. But getting browbeaten over politics when you’ve dropped a stack of money on a night out gets old fast.

But a few months back, I read that after a couple of election cycles of being very politically active, Bruce Springsteen had noted (around the time he got his Tony for his Broadway show) that he was dialing it back; he was starting to realize half his audience was getting tired of being browbeaten (even those of us conservatives for whom his music resonated for reasons utterly connected to our beliefs). I think Steve (Bruce’s longtime bandmate) got the message, mostly; at one point, he noted from the stage “…this is gonna be a *refuge* from politics”, to all kinds of cheering. And he largely did. More later.

And the volume was, well, perfect. Not too loud to feel like we were at an old-folks concert (although there were people at the show in walkers and wheelchairs, which would be just too clever for a writer to come up with if the night had been fiction). Not too quiet, so I could feel just a *little* rock and roll-y.

The band? Well, for starters, it was yuge. Fifteen people. Five piece horn section (including sax player Ed Manion, who in addition to being a longtime member of the Asbury Jukes and the Max Weinberg Seven, was the only other person onstage who’d played on Men Without Women), guitar, bass, drums, two keyboards (including Lowell Levinger, who was the guitar player in “The Youngbloods” fifty years ago, and doubled on mandolin and some middle-eastern bowed instrument that I couldn’t quite place), a percussionist with more gear than the drummer, Van Zandt on guitar, and three backup singers that didn’t stop dancing for two hours and occasionally almost stole the show.

And they were really, really good.  What’s more to say?

The music? Well, unless you’re a Jersey shore music trivia buff, you probably don’t know most of it; if you are, most of it has been in your DNA since you were in your teens and twenties.

They opened with a raveup of “Sweet Soul Music”, the Arthur Conley one-hit wonder from fifty years back, and followed up with:

  • Soul Fire (title from their current album).
  • Lying in a Bed of Fire (opener from “Men Without Women).
  • Inside of Me
  • Blues Is My Business (the Chicago blues classic)
  • Love On The Wrong Side Of Town – which Van Zandt changed up from the Asbury Jukes’ single version by rearranging it as more of a Phil Spector-meets-British Invasion sound, with a couple of jangling Rickenbacker guitars to complete the effect. I hope I can find this version out there somewhere – it was a welcome update to a classic warhorse).
  • Til The Good Is Gone (complete with audience singalong over the out ramp – and yes, I had been looking forward to that).
  • Angel Eyes – my favorite song off of Men Without Women. Almost a spiritual experience for me. You get it or you don’t.
  • I Am A Patriot – a reggae song off of “Voice of America”, and after Sun City maybe his best-known song – it gets played at stadiums constantly. You’ve probably heard it and don’t know it.
  • Under The Gun – with a long, extended percusson intro, oboe solo, and quarter-tone departure that was, musically, one of the highlights of the night.
  • Some Things Just Don’t Change – a song Van Zandt wrote for the Jukes a long time ago- .
  • Saint Valentine’s Day – the big single off the current album. Pretty sure he wrote and released it to prove he could still do retro soul. And he certainly can.
  • Standing In The Line Of Fire – a song Van Zandt wrote for Gary US Bonds during Bonds’ comeback in the eighties.
  • I Saw The LIght – Another one off of Soulfire
  • Salvation – the lone cut from 1999’s, “Born Again Savage”, Van Zandt’s fifth and last solo album before last year.
  • The City Weeps Tonight – an attempt at a doo-wop number with a not-very-subtle political undertone – two things that just don’t mix. The evening’s low point.
  • Down and Out In New York City – an early-70’s James Brown cover featuring solos by the entire horn section (and they were very, very good) – another musical highlight.
  • Princess of Little Italy – featuring Lowell Levinger on Mandolin and keyboard player Andy Burton filling Danny Federici’s shoes on accordion
  • Ride The Night Away – a huge raveup of the Jimmy Barnes classic.
  • Bitter Fruit – a song from “Freedom No Compromise”, Van Zandt’s 1987 worldbeat excursion and extended Anti-Reagan screed, an album that prompted my drummer at the time – a self-described socialist – to ask “Has Steve completely run out of ideas”? That being said, “Bitter Fruit” turned into a huge party raveup, with the entire band out downstage all but dancing in the crowd. Easily the most-improved song of the evening.
  • Forever – Van Zandt can’t *not* play Forever. That’d be like Paul McCartney not doing “Yesterday”, or the who eschewing “Won’t Get Fooled Again”.Heck – can’t not include “Forever”, and it’s not my show!

    Why would he not finish with it?   For half the crowd there, it would have been one of the night’s highlights, even if he’d just phoned it in. It’s of the most wonderful singles in rock history, one of the best songs of the early ’80s by any rational measure.   And they stuck the landing. Simply glorious.

That was the last song – although the band didn’t even bother putting their instruments down before the encore, the Van Zandt-penned Asbury Jukes classic “I Don’t Wanna Go Home”. And like every Asbury Jukes show, that’s where it ended.

Well, so I’d hoped. But no.

Van Zandt followed it up with “Out Of The Darkness”, Van Zandt’s biggest solo single (in terms of chart position, anyway), from 1985, his attempt at an eighties stye anthem.

And this was the most dissonant part, for me – because as dominated as as the evening was by old soul, R&B and blues covers and over two hours of painstakingly reconstructed Stax/Volt style retro-soul, “Darkness” was by far the most dated sounding song of the night.

But the crowd loved it

And I loved the show. But you probably caught that.

The Things Men Without Women Do

I’m doing something tonight I should have done 35 years ago – going to see Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul at the Ames in Burnsville.

“Who?”

He’s better known as Steve Van Zandt – aka “Miami Steve” from the E Street Band, or Silvio Dante from The Sopranos.  And as I wrote in this space six years ago, the band’s debut album Men Without Women is one of my three favorite albums.  Ever.

Ever!

Men Without Women was a horn-driven “white soul” record reminiscent of Stax/Volt, that reminded some critics of the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street.   It was recorded with an all-star cast of New York / New Jersey artists – Dino Danelli and Max Weinberg on drums, Felix Cavaliere and Roy Bittan on keys, Jean Bouvoir on bass, and the horn section from the Asbury Jukes (and, later, the Max Weinberg Seven and, today, the E Street Band).

And it was glorious. This was from two years ago:

This? Probably more like thirty years back, with the Asbury Jukes:

And from Mw/oW, for my money my favorite:

Van Zandt didn’t follow up with retro soul; his next album, Voice of America, was garage rock delivered with all the subtlety of an Angie Craig ad.  His nest three records all descended into worldbeat and a concomitant shrill far-left politics.  His sales reacted accordingly.

He was able to fall back on The Sopranos, his gig in the E Street Band, and Little Steven’s Underground Garage, one of the best syndicated music radio shows in the business.   But somewhere along the way he got the message; people liked the original Disciples.

And so that’s what he’s put together for this tour – not quite the original, but close:

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So my phone’ll be off from 7PM til further notice tonight…

 

When Out And About Tomorrow Night

My band, “Elephant in the Room”, will be playing at the Outpost in Ramsey Saturday night at 9PM.

It came up pretty suddenly – so our leather-lunged lead singer Tommy “The H Bomb” Huynh won’t be interrupting his family vacation for it.     It’ll be the old, four-piece version of EITR.

Anyway – come on out to the Outpost Saturday night.  You never know what’ll happen!

Krokodile Tearz For The Kidz

My kids were a little older – probably 9 and 7, which was not long before I started this blog, now that I think about it – when I first encountered “Kidz Bop”, an endless series of current pop songs, sung by a rotating but always identical-sounding group of pre-teens, bowdlerized for a pre-teen audience.

It always annoyed me – and made sure I never got any for the kids.  I figured that’d come early enough.

Now that my kids are in their twenties, it’s really not .an issue for me; the loathsome nature of modern pop music became one of the lesser problems, although the laothsome pop music of the day was the soundtrack to the worst of the teenage years.

But others did buy them – enough to put several of the compilations on the Billboard Hot 100 Albums over the past decade and a half.

This piece in Vox (motto:  “The WaPo Libsplains America!) has issues with the series – for similar reasons to mine, but not at all the same.

A 2017 study on the effects of censorship in Kidz Bop found that replacing phrases does not actually wipe lyrical recognition from children’s minds if they have already heard the original song.

I’m trying to imagine anyone who thought it might.  Given the way kids – and kidz – pass on information they;re not supposed to know about the grownup world, it’s pretty inevitable, at least among people who have, or have been, actual kids.

Even if it did, what Kidz Bop is enforcing is also not kid-appropriate: The study says the music perpetuates the sociological phenomenon of “kids getting older younger” (KGOY), which claims that marketing is pushing kids out of their childhood earlier and earlier. The study says that repackaging adult music as kids’ music doesn’t eliminate the adult messages, even though some words and phrases are changed.

One source quoted in the study is Christopher Bell, an associate professor of media studies at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs who is an expert on how race, class, and gender intersect with children’s media.

Of courses he is.   Else, he wouldn’t have been in Vox.

He has hosted a TED talk on female superheroes, is currently consulting on an upcoming Pixar movie (which he cannot talk about because of a very long NDA), and is an avowed Kidz Bop hater.

He sees the product as both lazy and emblematic of our mistaken views on what censorship accomplishes. Kids’ media may take out “bad words,” but it doesn’t fix the problem of violence and oversexualization of women in media and pop culture.

They – the author and Mr. Belll – come periliously close to an insight in the rest of the article (which is worth a read, sort of);

Censorship doesn’t fix the problem of “over-sexualization of women in media” – because children themselves are over-sexualized.    Eight is the new thirteen…

…thanks, largely, to the popular culture that Vox (and the WaPo, which holds Vox’s leash) have been promoting and profiting off of.

See You On The Dark Side Of The Moon

People have told me I march to the beat of a different drummer.  I’ve usually responded “Yes, I do.  He was Keith Moon”.

The right people get the joke.

It was forty years ago today that Keith Moon died – too  young, but also probably later than he should have.

I had just barely discovered The Who at the time.  Pete Townsend was a self-obsessed overdramatic post-adolescent with a flair for the dramatic.  And I was a self-obsessed overdramatic adolescent.  It was a match made in heaven.  Ask anyone I knew in high school – I was a Who fanatic.

And I don’t think I’m overstating it – The Who died forty years ago today.  Townsend’s pompous mini-operas needed the raw, unpredictable, “what’s gonna happen next?” power of Moon’s inimitable style to seem like anything but the caterwauling of a guy griping about getting old without dying first.

Moon had been declining for a while, as his legendarily-dissipate lifestyle had been

Even close to his soggy, saggy, alcohol sotted, drug-sodden end, though, Moon still had distilled blasts of pure brilliance:

And the band onstage desperately needed the comic relief Moon provided.

Townsend, Roger Daltrey and (for another 25 years or so) John Entwistle played on, and even made the occasional good/great song.  And Townsend made a couple of essential solo albums in the next decade and change – but those were written around the styles of different drummers.  Great different drummers – Mark Brzeziczki, Simon Baker, Jason Bonham and a who’s who of other great British sidemen played on Townsend’s solo records, all of them superb in their own way.

But without Moon, The Who always felt like a nostalgia band.

The Kenny Jones edition of the band was the first big-time rock concert I ever attended, in October of  ’82 at the old Saint Paul Civic Center (29th row tickets on the floor, $15).   I loved the show – I loved the event, really – but for The Who, there really was no going back.

 

The Musical Christmas Truce In September

The nation is truly polarized.

And I’ll cop to it; one small part of it is because I’m pretty revolted by what the “other side” in our national debate wants.  It’s not gonna be easy to resolve.  Maybe we can’t.  Who knows?

But if you dig long and hard enough, you can usually find some common ground.

So with me and former Minneapolis mayor Betsy Hodges:

And what the heck – why not celebrate the little things.

So yeah, it ain’t no sin to be glad to talk about something other than politics once in a while:

OK. Back to business.

Things I Largely Don’t Care For, But Am Chagrinned To Find I Don’t Madly Dislike

I never cared much for late’80s-early ’90s Hair Metal.

If I were a rock historian, I’d say Hair Metal was a snapshot of a particular era – the cha-cha days of the late Reagan / George HW Bush years – and a particular place, a very prosperous and dissolute Los Angeles.   You’ll note that was a time of my life I was neither especially cha-cha nor prosperous, nor, I hasten to add, a the angry teenager I’d been 5-7 years earlier who’d marinated his brain in the Clash, the Kinks, the Who and the like.

So the whole genre sort of left me cold.

Poison?   A lite-metal boy band.

Motley Crue?  A bunch of yobs trying and failing to ape Alice Cooper. And that’s if you leave out Vince Neil’s role in the death of “Razzle” (more below).

Cinderella?  Please.  Waterboard me.

But as with all episodes of this “Love and Hate” series (click the tag below for some history), I’m writing this not to bury hair metal, but to praise it.

Well, some of it.

And I know what you’re gonna say.  “Everyone likes Guns ‘n Roses.  That’s a gimme”.

And indeed you’re right:

Beyond that, though?

When I was at KDWB in ’90-92, listening to the night shift, it occurred to me “Slaughter doesn’t totally suck”:

I mean, if you’re in the mood for some Robert Plant lite. And I was.

Skid Row? Not sure why I didn’t hate them; more relatable to me? Less contrived? More interesting? I have no idea anymore.

But hate them, I did not:

And why not Hanoi Rocks – Finland’s greatest band, and the band that is to hair metal what Creedence Clearwater was to the sixties; a solid rock and roll band with a way with a hook and a single:

Of course, the band took a solid shot in the, well, hairdo when drummer “Razzle” was killed in a car crash with Motley Crue’s Vince Neil; Crue went on, while Hanoi Rocks slowly fizzled, in one of rock history’s greatest injustices.

So yeah – can’t stand LA Hair metal.  Except when I can.

Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin passed away yesterday.  She was 78.

This Detroit Free Press obit is uncommonly excellent.

The first real exposure to Franklin I ever got, growing up in the middle of country-western country, was working at my first radio job.  Where I heard “Respect” for the first time – and felt a chill that the human voice could do…that.

My favorite is still “I Never Loved A Man (The Way That I Loved You).

But perhaps my ultimate testimonial?  When my oldest was born, “Aretha” was on the short list of names.

Is This The MPLA, I Thought It Was The USA…

Johnny Rotten – lead singer of the Sex Pistols – joins the Velvet Underground’s Mo Tucker among punk icons supporting Trump:

“What I dislike is the left-wing media in America are trying to smear the bloke as a racist, and that’s completely not true,” the 61-year-old said. “There’s many, many problems with him as a human being, but he’s not that, and there just might be a chance something good will come out of that situation, because he terrifies politicians.”

Mr. Lydon said Mr. Trump is like a “political Sex Pistol” whose purpose is to rattle the status quo. After co-host Piers Morgan described Mr. Trump as “the archetypal anti-establishment character,” Mr. Lydon added: “Dare I say, a possible friend.”

Back in the glory days of blogging, one of our sayings was “conservative is the new punk”.  In our society, the way it is today, standing for a fairly timeless establishment against an utterly temporal one certainly qualifies

Life Is Almost Never A Museum

Prince’s Paisley Park has almost literally become a Prince museum – and it should, most likely; it’s a fascinating product of a fascinating guy.

But at least commercially, Flyte Tyme Studio (which became Runway Studio after Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis moved to LA fifteen years ago) may actually have been the Twin Cities’ biggest musical export.

And it‘s closing down in October, to make room for the Twin Cities’ current biggest import, “affordable housing”:

“It’s bittersweet because this was a dream for us to purchase part of music history of not only Minneapolis, but the world,” said Richard McCalley, the owner of Runway Studios.For 15 years, the building was the base for Jam and Lewis, where they produced songs for everyone from Janet Jackson to Mariah Carey to the Sounds of Blackness.

Janet and her brother Michael Jackson recorded their duet “Scream” inside these walls and it’s where Janet gave her iconic shout out to Minneapolis in her hit “Escapade.”

It’s just one more bit of the Twin Cities I moved to in 1985 slowly fading away.

Gonna Miss Her When She’s Gone

I don’t say this nearly enough – indeed, I may never have said it – but Scott Johnson may be the most overlooked music critic in town.

As we see in his review of Shawn Colviln’s four-night stay at the Dakota.

Speaking of which:  I see the Dakota starts booking acts about six months out.  That means I’ve got about three months before I need to jump on tickets for the next Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes show  at the Dakota, which seems to have become a March tradition at the Minneapolis stop.

I Don’t Want To Go Home

I saw Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes at the Dakota last night

First things first – the Dakota is a great place for an evening out.  They make a mean old fashioned.

A Dakota Old-Fashioned. I drink them so you don’t have to. Although you might want to anyway,

And just to make sure quality of the first one wasn’t a fluke, I had two more.   All of ’em checked out.

The food is pretty righteous, too – although oddly enough, the french fries that came with the  outstanding House Burger were cold and not very tasty.

Can’t win ’em all, I guess.

Anyway – if you’ve been reading this space for a while, you’ve familiar with Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes.  They hit their commercial peak in 1978 with the album Hearts of Stone – sometimes called “the best album Springsteen never recorded”, which is a bit of an overstatement; Springsteen wrote half of it (and a great half it was; I reviewed the album ten years ago in this space).

The Jukes have  been together since the early seventies – although “together” is kind of relative, since over a hundred musicians have been members of the Jukes at one point or another, including Miami Steve Van Zandt, who produced their first two albums and only left to join the E Street Band in 1975.

The Jukes raving it up during the opening song, “Until the Good is Gone”.

Even in their heyday, of course, the Jukes were something of a retro anachronism – a band specializing in horn-driven Stax/Volt soul during the height, respectively, of the singer-songwriter era, Disco, punk, New Wave, synth pop, heartland rock, hair metal, new-jack hip-hop (which dominated the charts when the Jukes had their solitary Top-40 single in 1991, thirteen years after their commercial heyday, with “It’s Been a Long Time”, a musical favor called in with “Southside” Johnny Lyon’s pals, Springsteen, Van Zandt and Jon Bon Jovi) and on  and on; by the time they grazed the top forty, they were a borderline nostalgia act.   Not only is Lyon the only member left from their seventies glory days, he’s the only member left from twenty years ago.

“Make yourself at home”. Keyboard player  Jeff Kazee and a very comfortable fan in the Dakota’s, er, intimate setting.

But don’t let that fool you.  They do a fantastic show.   Lyon, 69, has always been one of rock and roll’s better lead singers, and while his voice has an extra dollop of gravel after fifty years of leading bands, he hasn’t lost a note (of power, anyway; he joked about his range “I’m a little like Tom Waits these days”.

The setlist was thick with old favorites, with a generous helping of R&B museum pieces delivered with a galloping, sloppy affection, and a few of the band’s newer songs thrown in for good measure.

  • The set opened with “Until The Good Is Gone”, a soul-rock opener from Van Zandt’s classic Men Without Women – a group of songs Van Zandt originally wrote for the Jukes, and recorded with the Jukes’ horn section of the day (who went on to be part of the Max Weinberg Seven, and are now touring with Springsteen).  .
  • “This Time Baby’s Gone For Good”, from Hearts of Stone, one of the most glorious heart-on-the-sleeve breakup songs ever.
  • “Sweeter Than Honey” – an R&B classic cover from their first album, which was covered by dozens of R&B artists in the day.
  • “Promises to Keep”, off of one of the Jukes newer albums.
  • “Love on the Wrong Side of Town” a Springsteen penned song from ’76’s debut album that could have  been a Four Seasons song – and that’s a complement.
  • “Cadillac Jack”, a blues-rocker from one of the Jukes’ newer albuums
  • “I Played The Fool”, another one from Hearts of Stone – one of my favorites, actually (link is to a version from the Capitol Theater in Passaic NJ in 1978, on the Hearts of Stone tour with the band’s definitive lineup – Lyon, Kevin Kavanaugh on keyboards, Billy Rush and Joe Gramolini on guitars, the great Al Keller on bass, Kenny “Popeye” Pentifallo on drums, and the original Miami Horns)
  • My Whole World Ended the Moment You Left Me, a David Ruffin deep cut given a raw, horn-driven treatment.
  • Walk away Renee – the version the Jukes did from one of their mid-eighties albums.  It’s a bit jazzier than the Left Banke’s original.
  • Words Fail Me – a slow-burn ballad off of a more recent Jukes record, a duet with keyboard player Jeff Kazee.
  • Trapped Again – another Hearts of Stone classid.
  • Spinning, another newer Jukes song with a powerful Stax/Volt vibe.

    I don’t wanna go home.

  • “Broke Down PIece of Man”, a classic duet with Van Zandt from the band’s ’76 debut.
  • “When Rita Leaves, Rita’s Gone”, a Delbert McClinton rave-up.
  • “Talk To Me”, a Sprinsteen cover from Hearts of Stone
  • “Sherry Darling” – an actual Springsteen song, covered from The River, featuring a raucus mariachi turn from the horn section.
  • “The Fever” – the band’s signature song.
  • “Without Love”, the Carolyn Franklin R&B classic from the seventies that’s been covered by more artists than “Happy Birthday”.
  • And finally, “I Don’t Want To Go Home”, the inevitable encore.

The Jukes have been making the Dakota an annual stop – they’ve appeared there the last two years in March.   I bought my tickets for this show in September; I may do it earlier next year.

A friend of mine noted on Facebook “When I hear the Asbury Jukes, I expect to hear the scratch on the vinyl, and an ID for WMMS radio (the Cleveland station that was the greatest rock and roll station ever – the station that broke almost every band that was worth breaking in the seventies). It’s a great description.

Speaking Of Disasters

Gibson – one of America’s iconic guitar makers – is spiraling toward a massive restructuring:

Less than six months out from those crucial deadlines, the prospects for an orderly refinancing — Gibson has hired investment bank Jefferies to help with that — look slim, observers say. And the alternative scenarios look likely to sideline longtime owner and CEO Henry Juszkiewicz.

“At the end of the day, someone will take control of this company — be it the debtors or the bondholders,” Debtwire reporter Reshmi Basu told the Post this week. “This has been a long time coming.”

The culprit would seem to be corporate overextension – going into debt to buy subsidiaries like Baldwin Piano, and an assortment of home and pro audio marques – rather than the guitar business itself, which is still a good home base:

Gibson needs to report by next week its final numbers for its fiscal third quarter to stakeholders. One thing bond owners will be watching for is an improvement in the company’s electronics business, which has been built up in the past few years via debt-fueled acquisitions but has seen sales slump of late.

Still, even a solid turnaround on that front won’t be enough for Juszkiewicz to avoid difficult conversations.

“Some type of restructuring will be necessary,” Cassidy said. “The core business is a very stable business, and a sustainable one. But you have a balance sheet problem and an operational problem.”

If this results in a fire sale of Les Paul Standards, on the other hand, that could improve my fundamentals…

 

A Terrible Year In Music Gets Worse

Pat DiNizio of the Smitherens is dead at 66.

“The who?”

Siddown, kid.

The Smithereens, from Carteret, NJ, need no introduction to anyone who was listening to the radio in the mid-eighties.  Crisp, taut melodic power-pop with just enough garage to make it fun and just enough polish to make it memorable,

And against the stereotype backdrop of eighties music – glossy stylied synth-pop, slick hair metal, and of course the golden age of the Big Arena Rock Anthem, it was defiantly retro, not as a stylistic statement, but for the sheer love of the sound.

“Blood and Roses” was first:

“Only a Memory” was probably my favorite:

“A Girl Like You” was, if memory serves, their biggest hit:

But I’ve learned the hard way; never ask if it could get worse.

Hypothetical Exercise

These days, a lot of the “classic rock” bands that were the stuff we all sang along with at parties in the seventies and eighties – Styx, Journey, REO Speedwagon, Def Leppart, Poison, Motley Crue, Boston, Foreigner, Rush, Head East and the like – are playing the State Fair circuit.  They haven’t put out albums – or at least serious albums – in years, maybe decades.  There’d be no real point to it; do you want to hear anything Boston did after “Don’t Look Back?”.  That Foreigner did after “Jukebox Hero?”  They are playing the nostalgia circuit, slopping the trough with the stuff their fans want to hear.

Now, that can never happen to the first-generation punk rock crowd.  Because we were iconoclasts wouldn’t never, ever..ever…

Oh, who am I kidding.

If the Sex Pistols ever play the Minnesota State Fair, it’ll sound – and look – something like this:

And I’ll probably buy a ticket.