No Sense Of Measure

I’ve never been a huge fan of 60s-80s prog-rock band “Yes”, really.

But I am a huge fan of artistic excess.

Actual “Yes” fans dunk on me pretty hard for being much more into their eighties incarnation, with Trever Rabin replacing Steve Howe on guitar – the edition of the band that did Owner of a Lonely Heart almost forty years ago…

…and, its followup single, this weird, elliptical, “prog”-rock meets new wave detour “Leave It”, with one of the weirder videos in the early history of MTV:

Did I say “one?”

I recall a brief blurp of controversy in the eighties about the video – or videos – to this song, but I never retained many of the details.

But details, there were – a total of 18 videos, produced by Kevin Godley and Lol Creme, the art-rock polymaths behind the band “10cc”, who went on to write the figurative book on “groundbreaking”, disconcerting and, now, oddly archaic video production.

And the story just gets better and better:

I’m almost sorry I missed this the first time around.

It’s from the brief period where I could actually enjoy “Yes”, apropos not much.

The Pop-Culture Hereafter

For every singer who manages to keep a career going for decades, there are hundreds of flashes in the pan – people who get a one-hit-wonder in their teens or twenties, have a brief spurt of stardom, and then…

…well, nothing.

What happens to them?

Nick Duerden at the Guardian wondered the same thing, enough to write a book about it. The article abridged from it zooms past an array of “where are they now” artists in a dizzying variety of genres, including one I’d been wondering about myself for a while, now:

In 1987, seemingly overnight, Terence Trent D’Arby became the most arresting new pop star of his generation. To hear him sing songs such as If You Let Me Stay and Sign Your Name was to bear witness to the art of aural seduction; the knees buckled. He became terribly famous, terribly quickly. He was 25.

Of course you remember Terence Trent D’Arby.

Er, Sananda Maitreya.

“I wanted adulation and got it,” D’Arby tells me almost 35 years later, by now working under the name Sananda Maitreya, “but I had to die to survive it.”

If his ascendancy had the stuff of legend about it, then so did his demise. Like Prince before him, he began to feel himself capable of anything, each new song he composed a masterpiece. His record company felt differently – it wanted hits, not ornate rock operas – but D’Arby was not someone easily restrained. And so, in pursuit of his muse, he spent the early 90s reportedly living the life of a tormented recluse in a Los Angeles mansion. When I speak to him – which takes six months to arrange – he suggests he was grateful to move on “from such excess and artifice. I didn’t give a fuck about it then, and even less about it now that memory has been kind enough to allow me to forget most of it.”

Prince had died, Michael Jackson, too. D’Arby was still here, albeit with a name change – prompted by a dream he had in 1995 – to help him better bury the past. Today, Maitreya lives in Milan, is happily married with young children, and writes, records and produces his own music, which he releases on his own label, behaving as he damn well pleases.

And Trent D’Arby…er, Maitreya – hints at something that dogged me and my mental state through my early thirties:

The question of whether anyone is listening any more doesn’t seem to trouble him unduly. When I ask what, if anything, he misses from the old days, he replies: “I miss the unbridled, bold, naked stupidity of youth’s vibrant electric hubris.”

As someone who oozed vibrant electric hubris himself? Even though I never had a hit (or came much closer than this single glorious evening), I do miss feeling that way pretty badly, sometimes.

Not all the side-effects, of course. I’m one of those guys who wants four metaphorical Old Fashioneds, but no hangover.

As the article shows, it doesn’t work that way, literally or figuratively.

The fickle girls of rock

The Beach Boys sang “Wendy, Wendy what went wrong oh, so wrong/We went together for so long/I never thought a guy could cry/Til you made it with another guy”
Who did she run off with? Apparently Bruce Springsteen in Born to Run, “I wanna die with you, Wendy, on the streets tonight/In an everlasting kiss”

Jefferson Starship sang “Sarah, Sarah/storms are brewing in your eyes/Sarah, Sarah/no time is a good time for goodbyes”
Why is Sarah leaving? Apparently she ran off with Thin Lizzy… “When you came in my life/You changed my world/My Sarah”

Steely Dan sang “It’s like a dream come true/So won’t you smile for the camera/I know they’re gonna love it, Peg”
Who did Peg leave to chase fame in the spotlight? Apparently Buddy Holly… “If you knew Peggy Sue/Then you’d know why I feel blue/Without Peggy, my Peggy Sue”
And the Beatles might’ve secretly expressed their love for her with their song P.S. I Love You

Billy Joel sang “Laura/Calls me In the middle of the night/Passes on her Painful information”
What was the painful information? Apparently she told Christopher Cross she didn’t have long to live… “Think of Laura but laugh don’t cry/I know she’d want it that way”

Bruce Springsteen eventually ditched Wendy for Terry on the Backstreets… “One soft infested summer Me and Terry became friends/ Trying in vain to breathe the fire we was born in” Apparently Terry left the Everly Brothers to run off with Bruce… “Goodbye to Helen Heartbreak, Rosa Rain/ Susie Sorrow, Paula Pain/Terry Teardrops, Betty Blue”

Speaking of a Terry, both Bob Geldof (Love Like a Rocket) and Jackson Browne (Waterloo Sunset) were stalking a couple named Terry and Julie… Geldof: “Terry still meets Julie every Friday night Down at waterloo underground/Nothing much has changed Except now they’re both afraid” Browne: “Terry meets Julie, Waterloo Station Every Friday night/I am so lazy, don’t want to wander I stay at home at night”

Carry On Wayward Renegade, All Along The Watchtower

It’s not something I think about that much, but I do from time to time — why do Classic Rock stations sound the same, year after year? I wrote about this on my moribund blog a number of years ago and, based on recent listening to market-dominant KQRS, this list of faves hasn’t changed a bit:

In thinking about this list, a few things are worth noting:

  • The majority of the songs on this list are written in a minor key. If rock and roll is supposed to be uplifting, this group of songs isn’t it.
  • Of the bands listed here, the happiest band appears to be ZZ Top, who made their name initially as a bare-bones Texas blues trio, until they made their fortune hawking classic cars and leggy models. Make of that what you will.
  • Think back to any of the years listed here. Would you have had any interest in listening to songs that were recorded as long ago from that moment as these songs are from today? I didn’t hear much of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys or the Andrews Sisters in 1983, for example, nor do I recall seeking such things out. In fact, I’m more likely to seek out Bob Wills today than most of the songs listed here, right or wrong.
  • In my youth I was reliably informed that rock and roll was supposed to be about rebellious youth and revolution. While their politics were dodgy at best, the Clash was right about this much — you grow up and you calm down; you start wearing blue and brown. And so has the music of our youth.

Gil Scott-Heron, who doesn’t get much airplay these days, argued back then that the revolution will not be televised. But rest assured it will be monetized.

Roll out the gun barrel

At the battle of the Alamo in 1836, there were at least two Germans among the defenders, Henry Courtman and Henry Thomas. Why in the world, you may ask, were Germans at a battle in south Texas fighting Mexicans? Beginning just a few years before, and continuing over the next several decades, German immigrants came to Texas in increasingly large numbers, drawn by the prospects of farming and agriculture. Eventually Germans became one of the largest ethnic groups in Texas.

They brought with them their language and customs as well as the music they had listened to back home. One of the types of music they brought to Texas with them was a new sound, the polka.

There are various stories about the origin of the polka, but it seems to have originated as a Czech dance around 1830, and probably came out of the folk music of the region. The polka quickly spread in Europe, particularly in German-speaking lands, and especially in Poland, which all but made the polka its own. Polka even found a niche in Ukrainian folk music. The polka faded in popularity in the latter part of the 19th century, but the immigrants who went to North America brought it with them where it thrived. (It is the official state dance of Wisconsin, next door to SitD.)

The classic polka is in 2/4 time, and that contributes to the popularity of the dance. It is simple and fun. The 1-2-1-2-1-2 beat is easy to keep up with, and the typical oom-PAH oom-PAH in the bass line compels your feet to move. The accordion was probably invented in Germany in the 1820s, and it became a polka staple which the Germans brought with them to Texas.

Interaction among people across borders is part of the human condition. Languages typically influence each other across borders, but cultures also intermingle and music is a part of that. The polka music the Germans planted in Texas eventually made its way south across the border to northern Mexico, and from that Mexico’s Norteño music developed. This regional music retains the influence of the accordion and the polka beat. Here’s an example, a unique blending of Central European folk music and Mexican folk music.

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Delp and Goudreau

This is a CD I’ve been meaning to get around to for a long time, and finally checked off that box. It features two members of Boston, Brad Delp and Barry Goudreau. It was recorded in Goudreau’s home studio and released in 2003. The cover and reverse photos were taken on the beach near Goudreau’s home.


Delp was the clear, high, strong voice of Boston, and while Goudreau (on guitar) was sometimes overshadowed by Tom Scholz, he was part of the founding of Boston and, pun intended, instrumental in the sound of the first two Boston albums that together have sold over 30 million copies.

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I Wanna Make Some History

Last week’s kerfuffle between Spotify (and their contract employee, Joe Rogan) and Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Barry Manilow and (reportedly) Dave Grohl and Foo Fighters, may not mark the point where the iconoclasm and “rebellion” of popular music fromthe 1950s through the 2000s finally died.

But it’s certainly a waypoint on populist conservatism’s path to being the real iconoclasts.

Kid Rock wraps himself, crudely and profanely, in the Constitution in a new song aimed at the President, “woke” culture and the cancelers.

Armond White reviews it:

The strongest lyric on Kid Rock’s new single “We the People” is 235 years old: “In order to form a more perfect union / Do ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States of America.”…On the day Kid Rock released his song, rock-music veteran Neil Young publicly threatened Spotify with an ultimatum: Either remove its broadcast of the political commentator and comedian Joe Rogan, or he’d remove his music from its streaming service. It’s enough to make a true rock and roller revolt…In this sudden ideological skirmish, Kid Rock wants to reclaim populism and protest against Young’s imperious assertion of authority and limited expression.

As with most things Kid Rock has done in the past three decades (but by no means all), light leaving “safe for work” right now won’t reach us for centuries. A radio edit bleeping out the profanity would sound like Morse Code.

You’ve been warned. Here goes.

Very NSFW. Probably not for family consumption, either.

Happy New Year!

2022 will mark this blog‘s 20th anniversary.

I’m kind of excited!

But first let’s talk about the weekend.

Tonight – New Year’s Eve – my band “Elephant in the Room” is playing at the American Legion in Fridley. We will be starting at 8:30 PM, and ringing in the new year. The Legion has those cool edge of the metro food and drink prices, without actually being outside the metro, which is kind of cool. Hope you can make it out there.

Tomorrow on the show? I will be talking with Rebecca Brannon about her run in with the Hennepin county machine over her reporting on Sheriff Hutchinson‘s DUI.

And tomorrow night, we will be playing at Neisen‘s Sports Bar and Grill, in Savage. I love our bars, but Nissans has a stage that makes you feel kind of like a rockstar, and a sound system that makes us sound like one. No cover.

I hope we run into each other, literally or figuratively, during any or all of the above!

The Long And Winding Road

While the New Yorker’s politics just keep getting more blinkered and puerile, their arts and entertainment coverage remains frequently excellent.

With that in mind, I commend to all of you this fascinating piece by Lee Remnick on Paul McCartney, on the near-eve of the release of a Peter Jackson documentary on the last days of the Beatles that is almost enough to make me consider subscribing to Disney+.

It’s long, but it’s worth it.

Peak Minnesota

During the Twin Cities marathon yesterday, former Viking and former Minnesota supreme court justice Allen Page…

Photo courtesy John Welbes (@jwelbes on Twitter)

…cheering on the runners by playing the sousaphone.

Got to say, Page is looking pretty good for a 76-year-old guy, especially for a former NFL lineman from back in the “concussion? We don’t care about no stinking concussion“ stage of the game.

I Get My Back Into My Living

It was my 15th birthday. We were having dinner at my grandma’s house.

That was our family tradition – Grandma Bea lived four blocks away, so we spent a lot of time there. I knew it was a blessing at the time, and that’s only grown moreso over time.

I actually remember two presents: the Avalon Hill game “Gettysburg”, which was actually three games in one (introductory, intermediate and incredibly mind-warpingly complex – and you can probably guess the one I went straight to) from my parents…

…and, from my little sister, this album:

…which fairly scandalized Dad, gave Mom a chuckle, and drew a “kids these days” roll of the eyes from my Grandma.

Hard to beliieve Who’s Next turns fifty today.

Of course, I played that album nearly white over the next few years. In its day, it was the perfect album for channeling adolescent angst into a fury of…well, activity, anyway. Rolling Stone, in one of its periodic “Best Albums” lists that came out in the magazines tween years, referred to it as “a mature. punk’s War and Peace“, which is the sort of wannabe-Hemingway dross that passed for rock critiicism then as now…

…but it wasn’t wrong.

More than a few of my high school classmates remember me as “the kid who was always dropping Pete Townsend references” – sometimes literally (I could slip a lyric into nearly any situation) or physically (when I played in garage bands, I scissor kicked and duck-walked and windmilled away, and in one gig, when I cut my thumb on an exposed thread on a toggle switch on my guitar, just like Pete, it was the most joyous injury of my life.

I mean, has there ever been a more perfect explosion of adolescent energy?

And yes, of course they were caricaturing themselves – but then, what explosion of adolescent energy, angst and unfocused emotion isn’t, really?

Townsend has spent going on six decades exploring the world of the angry, angsty adolescent – he may be the world’s oldest t twenty-year-old art student, even today; even as The Who turned into a disappointment (after the death of Keith Moon) and then a nostalgia act after John Entwistle’s passing, he kept mining that same vein – often brilliantly. But I can’t say The Who grew with me.

But then there are days that there is no substitute for putting on Who’s Next and smiling at the sky.

The Big Beat

Charlie Watts, one of the most estimable drummers and reluctant superstars in rock and roll history, dead at age 80:

A jazz aficionado at heart, Watts helped them become, with The Beatles, one of the bands who took rock ‘n’ roll to the masses in the 60s with classics like (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Get Off My Cloud and Sympathy for the Devil.

Other tributes came from The Sex Pistols’ Glen Matlock, who said he “kept the beat to the soundtrack of our lives”, while Nile Rodgers wrote: “Thanks for all the great music.”

To me, Watts was always the prototype for the likes of Max Weinberg – the guy who keeps the insanity of a kinetic stage show firmly anchored.  Even during my years of ambivalence about the Stones (I was a Who and Kinks guy), Watts mastery of his craft stood out.  

Several crafts, really:

Jagger and Richards could only envy his indifference to stardom and relative contentment in his private life, when he was as happy tending to the horses on his estate in rural Devon, England, as he ever was on stage at a sold-out stadium.

Watts did on occasion have an impact beyond drumming. He worked with Jagger on the ever more spectacular stage designs for the group’s tours. He also provided illustrations for the back cover of the acclaimed 1967 album “Between the Buttons” and inadvertently gave the record its title. When he asked Stones manager Andrew Oldham what the album would be called, Oldham responded “Between the buttons,” meaning undecided. Watts thought that “Between the Buttons” was the actual name and included it in his artwork.

To the world, he was a rock star. But Watts often said that the actual experience was draining and unpleasant, and even frightening. “Girls chasing you down the street, screaming…horrible!… I hated it,” he told The Guardian newspaper in an interview. In another interview, he described the drumming life as a “cross between being an athlete and a total nervous wreck.”

And it occurs to me that as that entire generation of rock stars – McCartney, Starr, Jagger, Richard, Ian Hunter, Ron Wood, and on and on – slide into their eighties, the carnage is going to get pretty intense, one of these days.

I Try My Best To Make Everything Complete

Not many people ask me what my dream job is. But if they did, my response might be to spend half my day as a network talk show host, and the other half as a music producer.

And by “producer”, I mean, “fly by the seat of the pants creative type” – sort of like Jon Landau, moreso than the “frequency-chasing audio engineer” type, your Jimmy Iovines or Steve Lillywhites or Brendan O’Briens.

But nobody’s hiring.

Still, I enjoy the bejeebers out of this sort of tale – the day by day, take by take, track by track recaps of how a classic album, in this case George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, was produced.

So if you’re like me – a Harrison fan and a recording geek – you’ll love this long, minutely detailed read.

But it whets the appetite for more. I want someone to tackle more of these histories.

So in case the writer tunes in for this – let’s get cracking on:

  • Who’s Next
  • Born to Run (although there is an excellent documentary out there on the subject)
  • Exile on Main Street
  • Pretenders
  • Roses in the Snow
  • London Calling
  • Shoot Out The Lights

Let’s see to this. Thanks!

Pop Life

I’ve never much liked the entire “Seventies Midwestern Arena Rock” genre. 

But among the bands in that genre, it’s Styx that’s always gone beneath and below the rest, the one whose impression to me swerves from apathy into active dislike.  

It’s not that they couldn’t play.   They certainly had live game. 

But unlike REO Speedwagon, or Head East or Trooper or April Wine (I know, they’re Canadian, but they fit the genre) or Michael Stanley Band or any of the others that were more or less like them, Styx’s Dennis DeYoung spent most of the late seventies and eighties whining about how awful being a pop star was, how degrading the machinery of the stardom industry was, and what mindless sheeple the fans were. 

To which I eventually responded “OK – then go to work in a meat processing plant and quit your whining”.

We’ll come back to that.

———-

This is the Sinead O’Connor I suspect most of us remember:


This is the response I suspect most of us, even us Protestant goyim that found, nevertheless, much that was admirable about JPII, would have loved to have made:

Thirty years and change along, and it turns out it wasn’t (just) rabid anti-Catholicism. Turns out she really, really, really loathed being a pop star, and she also had some serious mother issues:

In the book, she details how her mother physically abused her throughout her childhood. “I won the prize in kindergarten for being able to curl up into the smallest ball, but my teacher never knew why I could do it so well,” she writes…O’Connor was 18 when her mother died, and on that day, she took down the one photograph on her mom’s bedroom wall: the image of the pope. O’Connor carefully saved the photo, waiting for the right moment to destroy it.

“Child abuse is an identity crisis and fame is an identity crisis, so I went straight from one identity crisis into another,” she said. And when she tried to call attention to child abuse through her fame, she was vilified. “People would say that she’s fragile,” Geldof said. “No, no, no. Many people would have collapsed under the weight of being Sinead O’Connor, had it not been Sinead.”

Of course, being an “artist” (I put the term in scare quotes not because O’Connor isn’t one – she was an exceptional singer – but because the term has been stretched far beyond meaning these days) means being able to pass the abuse on without ever having to adopt any sort of adult coping skills, which is one of the reasons people go into being one in the first place.

The piece is an interesting read, although kind of depressing by the time you get to the end and really digest it.


Oh, yeah – I said I’d come back to Styx and Dennis DeYoung. I have a habit of saying “we’ll come back to that”, and I don’t, always. I should go back through a few years of this blog’s history and finish some of those threads.

Anyway. DeYoung.

Uh…

Actually, for all the whining about the pop star life he had (and still has), and how vocally I dislike most everything he has ever written, in or out of Styx, DeYoung would seem have avoided the most cliched pitfalls of stardom; he’s abstemious and rigorously healthy, as devoutly Catholic as O’Connor is, well, not, and he’s been married to the same woman for 50 years; he used to take his family on the road to avoid, y’know, all the problems that families get when Dad is on the road all the time. And as whiny as most of his music was, in interviews he’s always been one of the funniest, most genial, and seemingly audibly well-adjusted, grateful people in the music business.

That might be worth an article all by itself.

The Case Against Indulging Four Decade Old Curiosities

We didn’t have access to a lot of contemporary popular music in the home I grew up in . It’s not that my parents discouraged it, but they discouraged it; I’m pretty sure my Mom wanted me to be a classical musician.

That started to change, a bit, in sixth or seventh grade. I got a cast-off sixties-vintage Emerson transistor AM radio, and turned into WDAY in Fargo and, eventually, KFYR in Bismarck. Through junior high, I taught myself guitar by learning to play by ear along with the “Torrid Twenty” on Tuesday nights. If you tell me the top couple hundred songs from about 1977 to about 1980, I pretty much know them all. Try me.

But I was a reader. So I took a little time off from reading history at the high school library (which I went to when I couldn’t get away to go to the city library), and read whatever I could find.

There wasn’t much.

I remember one book from the early seventies – I couldn’t begin to remember the name of the author or the book but it was some pop critic and cultural academic who bemoaned the vapid excesses of glam rock – he didn’t much care for Elton John, as I recall…

…and in the last chapter, made his case for the future of popular music.

And that future was…

Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield.

Truth be told, I got put off the song so hard by that particular book, I have somehow managed to go, lo, these past four or so decades without hearing it so much as once.

But it popped up on Youtube last weekend. And curiosity overcame me.

On the one hand, now I can see where “punk” came from.

On the other hand, that’s (checks video)…

twenty five freaking minutes I won’t be getting back.

The 2020 Bad News Just Keeps Coming

I wasn’t even aware of this last December – but longtime saxophone player in Bob Seger’s Silver Bullet Band, Alto Reed (born Thomas Cartmell) passed away last December 30. He was 72.

His most famous song with Seger was one of his first – the iconic sax part from 1972’s “Turn the Page”:

But for my money, I’ll go with this reworking of what had been Muscle Shoals guitar player Allan Carr’s ephemeral guitar part on “Mainstreet” – probably my favorite Seger song:

Birthday Greetings

Eric Clapton turns 76 today.

And it’s good to see Clapton’s whole career getting the long look it deserves from the Long Look industry.

Because he’s been one of the essentials for nearly six decades – a career getting up there into BB King or Les Paul level duration. He started out as a blues legend in his late teens, did some of the best music of any kind in the late sixties and early seventies, became a poster guy for the dissipation of stardom in the seventies and early eighties…

…and then it got intense.

For my money, here are a few of his best. my fave from the “Cream” years (from Cream’s 2005 reunion:

Has anyone ever written about trying to steal someone else’s wife as Clapton did about trying to heist Patti Boyd from George Harrison?

From his relatively fallow, drunk-all-the-time period (in this case, with original backup singer Marcy Levy back from forty years ago)?

And for my money, my favorite Clapton song ever. Most people go straight to “Layla”, but I keep going down the track list from that same album, and arrive here:

Keyboard player and co-lead singer Bobby Whitlock said about the recording of Keep on Growing:

The sessions started out with the four of us. Eric, Carl, Jim and me. Derek and the three Dominos.

When we started the recording process we treated it the same way that we treated our live performances. No different. We always started out where ever we were with a jam or two. No matter if it was Royal Albert Hall or the Speakeasy. In the studio nothing changed in that department. We jammed before “I Looked Away”, then into the song. Then we jammed before and into “Bell Bottom Blues”.

The third song was about to go down, so we did our usual jam and it was astounding! It had a groove like never before. Then suddenly Eric said, “Let me put another guitar on it!”

He did as I was standing in the doorway of the control room and looking at him through the glass about eight feet away from me. The song ended and he said again, “Let me put another one on.” He played the second over-dub without listening to the first one. When that was finished he said, “Let’s do another.” He put the third guitar part on without listening to the other two over-dubs while he was recording. When that one was finished he said, “Just one more.” Eric heard only the original guitar while he was doing the over-dubs. He could hear what he had already done in his head. When he was finished he got up and walked in and said, “Let’s hear what they all sound like together.”

It was amazing what we heard back. All of the guitars blended together as if they had been worked out long before the session. It was incredible standing there watching and listening to Eric the master at work.

I felt like a fly on the wall. I thought that was akin to watching Rembrandt at work. What a very special moment for me. And now you all! When we had finished listening to it Tom said that it was going to the can because we didn’t have room on this record for an instrumental. I said to them, “Give me twenty minutes!” I took a yellow note pad and a pencil out into the foyer of Criteria and my relatively short life fell out of me, words and melody and all, so fast that I could hardly get them down on the paper.

When I was finished I went back into the studio where Eric and Tom had been waiting in the control room for me to finish. The mike was there waiting for me, so I walked up to it and started to sing the song. I got half way through the first verse when I stopped it and said to Eric, “Hey man come on out here and let’s do our Sam and Dave thing to it.” Eric came out and we did it first run through.

First take! That was it! And the song “Keep On Growing” had been born.

I mean, if this song had spawned from weeks worth of “Bohemian Rhapsody” or “Born to Run” or “Be My Baby”-style studiomongering, I wouldn’t have liked it any less. Learning that part of the story after all these years?

Happy birthday, Eric Clapton.

While Making Your Weekend Plans – And Voting Plans

It’s been a while – but my band, “Elephant in the Room”, is back in business.

After a year where we had precisely two, somewhat surreptitious gigs, we’re back in an actual bar, for the first time since February 29, 2020.

After a couple years of playing in the far northwest and far eastern suburbs, onSaturday night, we will be going north, playing at the Back To The SRO Bar and Grill in Oak Grove. It’s about 10 miles north of Anoka:

I’m not sure what the Covid rules are, other than the fact that we are playing from six until 10 rather than our usual nine until one – which isn’t entirely unwelcome.

Anyway – I’ve been there before, the food is pretty good, and the food and beverage prices have that “edge of the metro“ not-so-priciness about them.

By the way – enjoy live music while you can. Because while on the one hand states are slowly reopening, the Biden administration is doing its best to destroy the “gig“ economy. And there is literally nothing giggier than playing in a bar band.

Sic Transit

Stopped at Kwik Trip for a bathroom break on my way up North for the weekend. Store music was Me and Bobby McGee, by Janis Joplin. I looked around at the employees and the customers, and realized the song was older than anybody in the store.

Except me.

Joe Doakes

Worse than that – a few years back, when my kids were at home, one of them was watching a music video. It was some Australian boy band doing a cover of “What I Like About You”, the 1979 hit by The Romantics.

And it occurred to me – a band at that time (2016) covering “What I Like About You” would have been the same as a band in 1979 covering a song from 1942.

Or, today, 1937.

Straight Outta Wonderland

First it was Kanye West – one of rap’s most consistently creative (and yes, unbalancee) figures. [1], endorsing Trump three years ago.

Then it was Ice Cube – formerly of NWA, and more famous as an actor these days – not so much “endorsing Trump” as asking blacks what the Democrats have done for them lately, and getting a lot of “because shut up” from white progressives as an answer.

And now, Fifty Cent- who realized that under the BIden tax plan he’d just be Thirty Cent:

While I remain resolutely apathetic about celebrities’ political opinions, let’s look below the surface. Say what you will about rap [1], but at a time in the election season when celebs are supposed to be threatening to move to France, you’ve got three incredibly successful black men, actively telling their own community that the party that has considered their votes their property for two generations, doesn’t deserve ’em.

So what? Other than a lot of adenoidal progressive white and academic black critics saying Cube, Kanye and Fifty Cent were never all that good anyway, , I mean?

I’m wondering if part of the reason Biden – who, the media polls tell us, has an eleventy-teen digit lead over Trump in Minnesota – is spending to much money in an ostensibly safe state is the Democrats are worried about the black vote slipping away?

Remember – it’s been estimated that if the Dems’ take of the black vote ever drops below 80%, they are sunk nationwide. Not the whole black vote; one in five.

Is that in striking distance?

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Last Chance Power Drive

Bruce Springsteen turns 71 today.

I’ve written about Bruce a bit over the years, including my thesis that Springsteen, notwithstanding his lefty-populist politics, has written some of the best conservative music there is over the course of his fifty-odd year career.

After Western Stars – his album and concert film from last year – I read an interview in which he seemed to be saying the days of the eighteen-month tour of four hour rock and roll revivals were done, and that he was a different place. Ironically, he skipped the tour the year before all communal fun got tanked by the Blue City Flu.

But Bruce did actually plan a tour in support of Letter To You – a very rock and roll album, recorded in five frenzied days with the E Street Band. Until, y’know, Covid:

There may be no bringing together the E Street Band right now, a group almost big enough to constitute a mass gathering in its own right. But Letter to You sounds live enough to make you feel a little guilty listening to it, as if you’re violating quarantine. That makes the album feel all the more precious, and the lack of a tour all the more painful. Letter to You is the first time since Born in the U.S.A. that Springsteen and the E Street Band recorded live in the studio to this extent, and possibly the rawest album they’ve ever made, with close to zero overdubs. “It’s the only album where it’s the entire band playing at one time,” says Springsteen, “with all the vocals and everything completely live.” (A few of Springsteen’s twangy guitar leads, played on a Gretsch, are among the only exceptions.)

“It was really like the old days,” says drummer Max Weinberg. “Just pure musical energy, with the hard-earned musical and professional wisdom of guys in their 70s, or close to 70.” It also happens to bethe most classically, unabashedly E Street-sounding album since at least The River. It’s a late-period rebirth of sorts, and it started with thoughts of death.

And the piece officially notes something I’d wondered about starting with Tunnel of Love: originally, the band would hash out songs in the rehearsal space or studio, the old fashioned way, arranging the songs on the fly with the input of the entire band. But along about the time of Nebraska, Bruce started recording everything as demos, himself, at home or later on in a home studio, basically giving the band faits accompli that sounded…

…well, not like the E Steet Band anymore.

And with Letter To Youbeen rol, that seems to have rolled way, way back:

Springsteen kept making demos even after he resumed recording with the E Street Band on The Rising (which, somehow, is now 18 years old, a fact Springsteen finds “mind-boggling,” since “that’s one of my new albums!”). But last year, he finally saw a reason to stop. “When I demo, I start putting things on to see if it works,” says Springsteen. “And suddenly, I’m locked into an arrangement. And then the band has to fit themselves into an arrangement. And suddenly, we don’t have an E Street Band album. So I intentionally did not demo anything.” Bypassing his studio, he captured the songs only on his iPhone, in quick solo-acoustic renditions, to make sure he remembered them.

The whole Rolling Stone interview – less, of course, a few puerile paragraphs of progressive palaver – is worth a read.

Anyway – Happy Birthday, Bruce. It ain’t no sin that I’m glad you’re alive – and kicking. Looking forward to the next tour.

For The Record

While I haven’t probably kept up with all of Pete Townsend‘s work since “White City“, I have to say if I were to put together a list of his most overlooked solo/non-Who work, my list would look very much the same as this, and more or less the same order.

“The Sea Refuses No River” is far and away his most underrated song. And “White City Fighting” should have been a hit.

Just A Couple Of Prog-Rock Blokes

I’ve never much cared for the “progressive-rock” band Yes (except for their 1985 reboot, saying which always starts an argument with my Yes-fan friends). And in saying that, I’ll stipulate a lot of that disdain was my own adolescent “too cool for school” arrogance about music.

But “a lot” ain’t everything. “Progressive Rock”, with its orchestral pretensions and acid-fueled subject matter, annoys me almost as much in retrospect as it did then.

But as I noted five years ago with the death of their founding bassist Chris Squire, they could really play.

Of course, they knew it. One of the things that probably got me off on a bad foot with Yes were a series of interviews I read with guitarist Steve Howe; with his academic background and classical guitar training, Howe came off like he was working on a cure for cancer, rather than…songs.

Keyboardist Rick Wakeman – he of the Gregg Allman hair and flowing robes and mad-scientist stacks of keyboards – is inseparable from Yes (although he’s left the band a few times, so Yes is clearly separable from him). In the seventies, Wakeman was practically a synonym for bloated pretension.

And they were right – but as always, there’s more to it.

This is htt a fairly fascinating piece about the Rick Wakeman story, including a lot of things I really never thought I’d want to know but am glad I now do. And I’m actually kind of interested…

…in the guy. Not the seventies Yes albums, or Wakeman’s (not making this up) ice show about the legend of King Arthur – although reading about the guys he produced it all with just gets more and more interesting.

And to circle back to Steve Howe? I saw this a few years ago, before Squire’s death – a “rig rundown” of Howe and Squires instruments, amps and other gear. And Howe comes across as a pretty dang likeable…

…well, not so much a “bloke”. Maybe more of an affable old professor who’s taken to genial chats about his favorite light reading.

There are times I kick myself for having sorted so much of the world out according to cliches I picked out of Rolling Stone.