Wednesday, December 25, 2013

in which my sister impresses me with her improvisational skills

With the Christmas holiday upon us, I was thinking of the song, "Winter Wonderland."Humming it, I started changing lyrics in my head. Bored, I texted a line to my sister:

In the oven you can melt a snowman.

I wasn't sure if she'd recognize where this was from. But she texted back:

His carrot nose will turn mushy and brown.

Not to be outdone, I came back with:

Ask him if he's Jewish, he'll say "No, man."

My sister completed the verse with:

"Don't let such meshugaas get you you down."

Saturday, November 30, 2013

a weekend, two shows and some inspiration

I saw two shows this weekend.

Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby performed at a place in New Jersey called the Art Garage. At this point, having seen and blogged about a bunch of Eric'n'Amy shows, there's not a whole lot else to say. The set list was a variation on what I've seen before, though this time they did include "Someone Must Have Nailed Us Together" and "Young, Upwardly Mobile and Stupid" from Eric's days in The Len Bright Combo. I chatted with them before and after the show as well as during the brief intermission. We talked a bit about the experience recording with them. I really need to post a followup since I got the final recording of "Do You Think of Me (Now and Again)" about two and a half months ago. I also bought one of Eric's small paintings. "Guitar Player #9," which is apparently part of a series. See the picture accompanying this post. Something about it caught me. Eric told me not to frame it. He said that it's supposed to have a wire loop attached, and if I bring it to their house concert in January he'll attache the loop. Meanwhile I kind of like the idea of setting it on a small easel.

Yesterday ecvening I went to see the Wicked Messengers play at Hill Country, which is a barbecue restaurant in Manhattan. Alan Lee Backer, who is the leader of the Wicked Messengers (I hope I'm not getting in trouble for saying that. I don't know their internal band politics, and for all I know they never declared him the leader, but he appears to be the leader) is a favorite of mine. He was the author of The Twanglers' "Two Hearts (Tender, Lovin' and True)," which was a single on Diesel Only Records in the 1980s. And their drummer, Charlie Shaw (formerly of The Five Chinese Brothers) is my daughter's guitar teacher. That wasn't a show I had planned on going to. Or even known about long in advance. In the afternoon I texted Charlie about scheduling my daughter's next guitar lesson. Then, in the evening he texted something along the lines of "I should have told you earlier, but we're playing at Hill Country from 9:30 to midnight tonight. My wife, knowing I really wanted to go, encouraged me to. So we finished our errands, and I took the subway in. I was late -- I got  there at ten But they played until 1 AM. So I got in a three hour show (as well as some barbecue and nearly half a dozen Mexican Cokes). I keep wanting to think of the Messengers as a Country band, and certainly there's a lot of country in their repertoire, but they're also a damn good rock and roll bar band.

What I find interesting is that I often have songwriting inspirations while watching shows. And at both of these shows I had some. A couple ideas for song titles -- which may or may not turn into songs. And some good thoughts about how to work through some blocks I've hit on songs I'm in the process of writing. There's one in particular. Without going into detail, I've been trying for several years to write a psychobilly song called "Bleed Me a River." There have been some places I've gotten stuck, but I think I may have gotten unstuck. In the morning I'll try to think it through.

And, yes, I did say that I've been working on it for years. That's the way it always is for my songwriting. From first inspiration to finished song is always a matter of years. Partly because I lack training and partly because I don't really have a lot of time to devote to it. Between my day job (which does require more than 40 hours in a typical week) and having a family with three kids, I just can't be a full-time songwriter. So I get ideas. And I may jot down a title or a line. And I ruminate. I may be on the subway doing number puzzles. Or I may be driving. Or shopping. Or sitting at the dentist's office. But I'm thinking about a song. And sometimes I'll have an epiphany that leads to progress. And sometimes something will emerge finished.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

500 years in the making: a new musical instrument designed by leonardo

Something I find amazingly cool. Full article is here.

Apparently Leonardo Da Vinci conceived of and drew plans for a keyboard instrument that was never built during his lifetime. Or for nearly 500 years after his death. But now the plans have been found and dusted off, and the thing's been built. And so the world now has the "viola organista"

My take on it based on the sound in the video below and the description in the link above -- though I'm hardly an expert -- is that it is similar to a piano. But whereas playing the keys on a piano causes hammers to strike the strings, on the viola organista the strings are pushed against a wheel that is wrapped in horse tail hairs, similar to the bow. In addition, the player has to push a pedal to keep the bow-wheel moving. The effect sounds oddly like a string ensemble.

The video below shows the world premiere of the thing. It's the same video as in the article that I linked to.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

i guess i won't be supporting that kickstarter campaign

Last week I talked about Kickstarter, and the projects I've supported on it. One of the campaigns that caught my interest was that of Sonia Leigh, a country singer who is trying to raise money for her next album. For a $250 pledge she'll record a cover version of the song of your choice.

I had never heard of Leigh before this, so I'm not exactly a fan. But I found some of her stuff on Youtube and it's not bad. I contacted her through Kickstarter to find out if that "song of my choice" can be an unpublished song I wrote, so that I can use her recording as a demo. That was a week or so ago, and I haven't heard back. With her Kickstarter campaign ending less than 24 hours from now, I'm assuming that I won;t hear back. Which means that I won't be supporting her album.


Friday, November 1, 2013

my newest stuff from amazon

Four CDs came yesterday from Amazon. I figure I'll talk about them. As the gentle reader will realize, these are not reviews. They are what comes to mind. Some discussion of the music. Some reminiscence. Some other. Each is followed by a video of a song from the album. Enjoy.

In no particular order:

Nick Lowe: Quality Street
A disc of Christmas songs by the man formerly known as the Basher. This is similar in feel to Nick's last few albums, though it's not as catchy as the others. The arrangements are sparse, and the vocals are mixed far forward. His voice is as silky as its been. And there are nice guitars and all. But there's just not a whole lot to hold my interest. One thing I note, is that "I Was Born in Bethlehem" (video below) sounds sort of like a slow version of "If I Only Had a Brain (from The Wizard of Oz. The melody, that is. Not the words.

What I find most interesting about this album is the creepy cover. Nick standing with an aloof look, surrounded by nine grumpy people, one grump dog and one adoring woman in a Santa suit (is that the same woman who was on the cover of his prior album, The Old Magic?). I'd heard the whole album already since the label, Yep Roc made it available for streaming a few months ago. My opinion hasn't changed in the interim. The disc will probably grow on me, though. That's the way Nick Lowe albums are.



Candy: Whatever Happened to Fun...
When this first came out in 1985 I reviewed it for The Island-Ear, a Long Island based music and entertainment weekly (or was it bi-weekly?) tabloid. I wrote the following:
Despite their simplicity and sugar flavor, all of Candy's songs are upbeat, teenage anthems. For this reason, they may very well be the next Bay City Rollers—with all the positive and negative implications that go with such a label. Chances are that, if they get noticed at all, Candy will be looked down on by elitist fans of "serious" rock. If they're lucky, they'll enjoy a couple years as chart toppers before fading into obscurity.
God, I hate that review. I was right about that whole Bay City Rollers thing, though I missed the whole thing about them being "glam," which is largely how they're remembered today. It's hard to judge my assessment of "if they're lucky." They weren't lucky as a group.More on that in a minute. What's missing from the review was how much I just enjoyed the album. The anthemic songs stuck with me, and I still love them today -- though rethinking them, they're a bit darker than I remembered.

One new observation is that the sound is tinnier than I remembered. I'm not sure if that's a function of the recording or the remastering that went into the CD reissue. Another interesting fact, which I didn't know at the time -- though I couln't possibly have been expected to -- is that the guitarist, Gilby Clarke, would go on to be a member of Guns 'N Roses. Not that I am at all intrested in G'N'R. I just figured I'd mention it. Oh, and if this kind of thing interests you, I believe the infamous GG Allin did a cover of "Kids in the City, reinventing it as "Sluts in the City."


Trout Fishing in America: Rubber Baby Buggy Bumpers
This is the only one of these four albums that I hadn't heard in advance (when you count hearing the vinyl version). I have to say I'm disappointed here. TFIA generally does really good kids music -- they seem to be the only one out there who do fun kids' tunes without letting the lesson get in the way of the fun. But their last several albums, this included haven't been up to their peak matrerial, which came, in my humble opinion, shortly after I first heard of them. The album, It's A Puzzle, with the sublime "Alien in My Nose," was great. After that? meh. My wife theorizes that it's because their kids are grown, and that when they have grandchilderen the creative juices will get better again. I certainly hope so. The one high point on the album is "Creepy Dead Bug," which isn't even theirs. Oh well.


Nervus Rex: Nervus Rex
I originally got this album on vinyl during one of my trips to St. Marks Sounds when I was in high school.  By way of background, my high school was in Manhattan, on 14th Street, between First and Second Avenues. St. Marls Sounds was a wonderful used record store on St. Mark's Place (the equivalent of 8th Street) between Third and Fourth Avenues.I never knew their exact system, but I did know that Sounds would reduce the prices on records that didn't sell. Their pricetags were circles, about two inches in diameter, with black and pink ink. But when they slapped on a big black and white rectangle with "25¢" on it, you knew the price had hit bottom. This was one of those albums that I decided to risk a quarter on, without really having any reference point. I guess I also liked the fact that the design screamed "New Wave" at the top of its lungs. It was OK. Not great. But I loved their cover of the Shocking Blue Classic, "Venus."

Some years later, after I was into The Washington Squares (a New York-based neo beatnick group), I noticed an uncanny resemblance between the women on the album covers and realized that New Waver Lauren Agnelli of Nervus Rex had become beatnik Lauren Agnelli of The Washington Squares. I alwauys find it interesting when someone whose music I've liked in one context shows up in a new one. By now, of course, Agnelli has moved on in other directions. I think I have an album of her and Dave Rave, but I can't recall what it sounds like. If memory serves she has had at least one solo outing. I wonder what they sound like?

Anyway, even though this album never did knock my socks off, I found it for like $2 on Amazon (which, adjusting for inflation, is probably not that far off a quarter at Sounds). So I bought it largely to re-experience that cover of "Venus." Lo, it's better than I remembered. Lots of catchy quirky new wave hooks. They really deserved better than the ignominy they got.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

music, kickstarter and me

My wife has been a fan of Kickstarter for a while now. For the uninitiated, Kickstarter is a crowdfunding website. We've supported a variety of projects, including a solar oven, glow in the dark roses, and a 3-D pen. But, of course, what I want to write about is the music projects.

As I've mentioned, I supported the most recent album by Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby.. It was trhough that that I got their recording of "Do You Think of Me (Now and Again)" to use as a demo.They sent mke the recording a month and a half ago, and I still have to post about the finished product.Long story short, I love it.

More recntly, I signed up to support a project in which someone is trying to put together a 6-CD box set of Graham Parker and the Rumour live performances through the year. I was of slightly mixed minds. I like a lot of Graham Parker's music. But he's not quite up there with Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds and Wreckless Eric. But he did a bunch of great albums early in his career -- Squeezing Out Sparks, Heat Treatment, Howlin Wind. Then he got kind of boring, but more recently he seems to have regained that acidic bite that I liked. Songs of No Consequence, which he recorded with The Figgs, was as good as anything from his younger days. Three Chords Good, which was a reunion album with the Rumour, wasn't quite as good, but it still had some serious high points. And a recently released live album of him with the Rumour (see image of the cover) is scorching. The video also gives a good flavor. After due consideration, I decided to go with the $125 funding level, which rewards me with the six-disc box set, two additional live CDs and an 8×10 autographed photo of the band. Oh, yeah -- I also get my name in the liner notes of the box set. Woohoo!

In other Kickstarter music project news, I noticed someone is trying to fund a three--stringed guitar. They call it the Loog Guitar for reasons I don't know. Apparentky they already did an acoustic version, and now they're working on an electric one. Their plea video follows this paragraph. When I first saw it, I was thinking that I really wanted it. It looks simple and interesting. But some thought later I've changed my mind. The sound is a bit tinny and I realize that, while you can make a major chord with only three strings, you can't make a full minor or seventh chord, since those require four notes. And let's not even get started on suspendeds and whatnot. My daughter (who just started guitar lessons) had some interest, and I was thinking that if it helps her learn then it may be worthwhile. But no one whom I skaed seemed to think it was worthwhile. Oh well.

Getting back to Graham Parker, when I did a search on Kickstarter for "Graham Parker," I found two projects that I would have supported had I known about them at the time -- a documentary about Graham Parker -- and an album by Bob Andrews. Oh well. C'est la vie.

One other thing. I think I've found another use for Kickstarter. There are lots of musicians trying to fund albums, and some of them will, for the right support level, record a cover version of your choice. The question is, are they willing to record a demo of an unknown song? I contacted Sonia Leigh about that. One of the songs I am working on writing would be good for her style. There are some other musicians who I gave a look, but I don't think any of them would be right for the songs I'm writing. But there will be others...

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

scott turow's airline preference

A couple weeks ago I was at a book signing. Scott Turow just released a new novel (Identical). Anyway, he started off by taking about his experiences on book tours, including noting his two rules for air travel:
  • Never let go of your luggage
  • Never fly United

I don't know what experience caused him to feel that way about United -- I haven't had any experiences with them that stood out in my mind. Certainly nothing egregious. But when he said that, I was reminded of the following:

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

guitar lessons for my daughter

So, my daughter has started taking guitar lessons. So far she's had three lessons. Some time ago she expressed interest in taking guitar. But we hemmed and hawed about it for a bit. A big part of that was that we wanted to find someone who would be a good teacher.

This past summer, I hit on the idea of Charlie Shaw. Now's the point where I should talk about how Charlie and I are old buddies who go way back to our childhood years, playing freeezetag in the front yards. That would be great, but inaccurate. I have known of Charlie through his music for two and a half decades now. When I was in college, Charlie was the drummer for a New York alt-country band called Five Chinese Brothers. Years later, I saw him drumming as a backup for Ken Waldman (Alaska's fiddlin' poet) at the Long Island Children's Museum.

All those years later it's not like I saw him and said "Hey! That's Charlie Shaw from Five Chinese Brothers!" But I did see him and say that guy looks familiar. The whole show I was sure I'd seen hime before. Then Ken introduced him to the audience by name ("And I'd like to thank my drummer..."). I knew the name was familiar even though I couldn't place it. So after the show I asked him igf he had been in any bands I may have known. When he mentioned the Brothers that was it.

We chatted about music. The New York country music scene, Ken Waldman, what he's up to... At that point he was playing in a Band called the Wicked Messengers. See my posts about Alan Backer for details. I've seen him playing with the Messengers a couple times, and I also saw him playing guitar with Ken Waldman at least once. One of the things I noticed was that he was very patient answering kids' questions. I was also under the impression thathe worked in childcare.

So when I started thinking about potential guitar teachers for my daughter, I thought of Charlie and the fact that his combination of skills and interests may be good.

I should write more, but I won't for now. I'll leave other stuff for later days.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Monday, September 2, 2013

two trashcan tunes

So now I know of two pop songs with the word "trashcan" in the title. The second, which I heard on the radio today, is "Love in a Trashcan" by the Raveonettes.


The first one, of course, is "Standing in a Trashcan, Thinking About You" by The Legendary Stardust Cowboy.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

nitpicking about geography if i may

I was in the car, listening to "Cotton Fields" as done by the Highwaymen. There are plenty of other versions, if you prefer. Creedence Clearwater Revival's version comes to mind. Anyway I was struck by the line "It was down in Louisiana / Just about a mile from Texarkana."



I've been to Texarkana. Both Texarkana, TX and Texarkana, AR. They are close to Louisiana, but not close enough that any patrt of Louisiana could be described as being "just about a mile from Texarkana." If it were up to me, that line would be rewritten as "Just a few miles from Texarkana" or something vague like that.

Monday, August 26, 2013

recording with eric and amy

The short of it is that I had a great time recording with Eric and Amy last Saturday.

The long of it is, well, longer. All in all, I spent about 14 hours with them. That included not just recording, but lunch, dinner, conversation. When I left at 2:00 AM Sunday, the recording was not finished. Eric was still working on adding some mellotron tracks. At that moment, I think, it was trumpets. He still wanted to add some more touchups, some handclaps, and adjust the volumes. Perhaps I should ghave volunteered to leave earlier?

First, I should note that Eric and Amy were extremely gracious. They're extremely nice people, and weren't at all stuck up. There was no "We're the professional rock musicians and you're just a fanboy" attitude.

One thing I noticed is that they approached this very differently than County Q studios did when I paid them to make a demo of  "Jackpot." County Q was acting as a demo service. Not as critics or partners. Their job was to produce as good-sounding a record as they could of the song I sent them. It didn't matter if they liked it or not. I could have sent them a recording of someone singing "A blind man's penis is erect because he's blind" over and over. And that's what they would have turned into a record. Oh, they would have fancied up the arrangement to make it sound as radio-ready as they could. But the lyrics would have been the same. The melody would have been the same. The chord progression would have been the same.

Amy and Eric didn't view it that way. They made some modifications to the song. More on the specifics later. I am not sure what their exact motivation was. Perhaps it was personal pride, that if they were making a record of a song they wanted it to be as good as it could be. Or it could be that they felt a sort of paternalistic desire to help me w1hen there were obvious ways to improve the song. Or it could have been something else. Or a combination of considerations. I don't know what would have happened if I had stomped my feet and said "No! I want a recording of the song Scott and I wrote. The way we wrote it. Don't change a word or a note or a chord." But I wasn't about to.

The changes? Well, they sped it up and changed the key. But those aren't major changes -- though upspeeding it certainly changed the feel. They also made some changes to the lyrics. Not major changes -- meaning there's no place where lyrics were removed or added, or replaced with something that makes you say "Where the hell did that come from?" But these were real changes. One example that comes to mind is in the second verse. The original lyric was "I remember that it ended in a great big fight / I can't remember and I don't care who was wrong or right." They rewrote that as "It didn't end in a great big fight / No one was wrong and no one was right." This works better with the following line which talks about never actually breaking up, but just fading away.

The changes were substantial enough that I asked if I should give them songwriting credit (on the off chance that I find someone interested in publishing). They said yes. So I have the thrill of sharing a songwriting credit with someone I've been a fan of for this long. For the time being I am assuming I don't have to register another copyright. This is similar enough to the original that I doubt the few new elements will be stolen. And I know that if there's money to be made I'll not cheat Eric and Amy. Which leaves the question of what percentages everyone would get. I'm inclined to avoid quibbling and just say 25% apiece (for me, Eric, Amy and Scott). Hopefully no one will feel cheated and complain. If anything, I'm erring on the generous side, since the majority of the song is me -- both melodically and lyrically. But I guess it's easy to be generous with zero.

I'll note that I also learned a bit of songwriting from the experience. I've always had trouble writing bridges -- mine almost always sound too similar to the rest of the song. Amy and Eric sure fixed that. Amy explained it thusly: The bridge is where you can go crazy. So maybe the problem is that I've always played it safe with bridges, when I should have been going bold. I'll try to remember that in future songwriting endeavors.

I am hoping that, in the future, Eric and Amy will work with me on other projects. The fee, my Kickstarter pledge, was well worth it.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

i have failed as a father

It was a small group of people -- my son, me, and a few other adults. Referring to a videotape, I said "Oh, this has Ringo Starr."

My son asked who Ringo Starr is.

When I told him that he was the drummer for the Beatles, he asked "was that the pothead band that made bad music?"

Friday, August 16, 2013

pre-date jitters

Tomorrow I have a date upstate to record with Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby. This is the session that is my pledge gift for supporting their latest album, A Working Museum. And I'm nervous. And giddy. Maybe gervous is the best description. In a weird way, I feel like a schoolkid looking forward to his first date with a girl he's long had a crush on.

Remember, I've been a fan or Eric's music for several decades. There was a time I would have called him an idol of mine, though I now prefer to use that word more reservedly. But if we're considering it in the sense that a kid idolizes a baseball star or a rock star, then Eric is an idol of mine.

The plan is to record a demo of "Do You Think of Me (Now and Again)," I song I cowrote with Scott Milner (of the Montana Milners). Before continuing, I present the lyrics in their entirety:

Do You Think of Me (Now and Again)

Goin' through papers. An old photograph.
First it makes me smile, then I start to laugh.
We'd been together forever, but it's been many years since then.
Just a funky mood or time of day.
Like wantin' a smoke I try to put it away.
We'd been together forever, but it's been many years since then.

Do you think of me now and again?
Do the feelings come flooding back when
Something frees your memories?
Do you think of me now and again?

I remember that it ended in a great big fight.
I can't remember and I don't care who was wrong or right.
We'd been together forever, but it's been many years since then.
We never broke up. Just faded away
'Til beyond "Hello" there was nothing to say.
We'd been together forever, but it's been many years since then.

Do you think of me now and again?
Do the feelings come flooding back when
Something frees your memories?
Do you think of me now and again?

I'm not saying that I'll call you up.
Water over the dam.
But when I think of you
I like to think that you
Sometimes wonder 'bout how I am.

Do you think of me now and again?
Do the feelings come flooding back when
Something frees your memories?
Do you think of me now and again?

Goin' through papers. An old photograph...

The song isn't the best I have. But I decided to go with it for a couple reasons:
  • It's complete. There are a couple other songs that I'm working on that are near completion, or (arguably) complete. But  I want to avoid rushing something and saying it's done when it's not.
  • Of the complete songs I have, I think it's the one that can benefit most from a new demo.
  • I realized that this song lends itself nicely to being a duet. The first verse sounds like two distinct voices -- largely because I wrote half of it and Scott wrote half. He and I have different styles and sensibilities. While I appreciate his lyrics, I know that I never would have written them. Add to that, the second verse sounds like two distinct memories of one breakup. That is easily explained in the context of it actually being two people having different recollections. Anyway, with both Eric and Amy able to provide vocals, I have the opportunity to make this a duet. I may as well atke advantage of the resource.
But because this isn't my best, I am kind of nervouse. What if they don't like it? Oh, they'll be polite and record with me. But how will I know that they're not secretly hating the song. I remember these feelings from when I was dating.

I don't know if what I end up with will be commercially viable (i.e., something I can use as a demo to sell the song), but I am reasonably sure I'll love it. And I will have a recording of Wreckless Eric singing a song I wrote. Duetting on a song I co-wrote, actually -- but close enough.

Amy and I exchanged emails to discuss logistics. She said that if I have a favorite instrument, I should bring it, but they have plenty of equipment. I'll bring my guitar. It's an old dreadnought style accoustic by Yamaha. I forget the model number. It's trustworthy, though I'll probably want to give it new strings before I go. Though part of me wonders, why bother? They have plenty of instruments, and the plan is to have them play all the instruments. That was a misunderstanding -- they created this pledge gift with an eye toward performers who want demos of themselves performing. I, being a songwriter and not a performer, saw it from the perspective of someone who needs demos that showcase the song. Fortunately, Amy and Eric have been gracious despite the misunderstanding. At any rate, I will bring the guitar. I'll explain that I hope there's a way of fitting me in to play some part on the recording -- as long as it doesn't jeopardize the quality of the product. But that way I'll be able to listen to it and point out a guitar part, or something, and say "That's me! Like an adult coming back from baseball fantasy camp with a DVD of himself playing baseball on a field with some a former major leaguer he used to root for at the ballpark.

I have listened to several tracks from A Singing Museum. That is the instrumental version of A Working Museum, which I mentioned above. I don't know if Eric and Amy made it widely available, but they sold (at some of their shows if nowhere else) copies. It's actually been helpful in getting an idea of some of the things that can make a recording work. Even if the melody is the same in each verse, changing the arrangement can be a big help -- either to build up the tension, or to reflect a changing mood. Maybe the first time there's a simple drum track and guitar. But then the second time there's two guitars and a bass, as well as a more insistent drum. Or maybe there's an organ replacing one of the guitars... Also, I am seeing how changing tempos can keep the sound interesting. I, myself, am not good at changing tempo, but they can do that. And with several moods reflected -- bitterness, nostalgia, sadness and regret -- reflected in the song (in differing mixes at different points), there is plenty of opportunity for tempo changes. I can especially see the second verse change between the angry memory of a fight and the more wistful memory of a relationship drifting into indifference. I also like the idea of having the whole thing build, and then have a sudden drop in energy before the final tag, which would be sung by both voices, either a capella or with minimal instrumentation.

If I can figure out how to add audio files as clickable features in a blogpost, or how to make a Youtube video out of an audio file (using a photo or blank screen instead of actual, you know, video footage), then I'll be able to share the finished product.

Monday, August 12, 2013

breaking bad

In honor of the final eight episodes of Breaking Bad:

The theme from BB, played (mostly) with things you'd find in a meth lab.

Friday, August 9, 2013

mystery solved. or not.

I loved the movie, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Absolutely loved it. I thought some of the casting was a bit off. Michael Cera didn't seem right as the title character. He was too wimpy. And Ellen Wong was wrong as Knives Chau. She seemed way too old for the role. But I loved the movie anyway, due in no small part to the music.

For the unfmailiar, here's the theatrical trailer:
SPvtW is the story of a 20-something slacker who meets the girl of his dreams, but has to fight her seven evil exes in order to date her. The musical angle is that Scott plays bass for a band called Sex Bob-omb. Based on a series of graphic novels, the movie is presented in surreal fashion, with many nods to video-game aesthetics. What I really love about it is the music. Here are two examples:


Since I loved the music so much, I went to Amazon (shortly after seeing the movie) to buy the soundtrack. Before checking out, I decided to give a listen to some of the short samples that Amazon has up with the album. And the thrill was gone.Hearing the samples just didn't feel the same. So I took the soundtrack out of my cart and moved on. I'd occasionally come back to it -- I love the clips on Youtube. and sometimes I'd go back to Amazon to see if the samples hit me any better than before.But they never did.

Fast forward to today. I was browsing Reddit and found a comment about the movie. According to the comment, Beck wrote the songs, and the actors playing Sex Bob-omb perform them in the movie, but the soundtrack features Beck. Well, that would explain it. I guess I just don't like the less-rough sound of Beck.

Mystery solved.

Or is it?

I went to Amazon, but it clearly indicates that a bunch of tracks are performed by Sex Bob-omb, and they sound like what's in the movie. So I'm all confused. If anyone actually reads this and knows what's the story, please enlighten me.

Monday, July 29, 2013

til...

TIL that Neil Sedaka's name is derived from "Tzedaka," the Hebrew word for charity.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

old top of the pops covers

I've always found these interesting -- cover versions of hit songs that are packaged in such a way as to let the consumer believe he or she is buying the hit recording.:

What I find really impressive is that the no--name singers they recruited to sing were versatile enough to do passable impressions of a wide variety of artists.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

the next nick lowe album

Nick Lowe has a new album coming out this fall. I found that out about it a little bit (a week? two?) ago when I was kind of browsing through Amazon and saw the title. At that point, AMazon didn't have the artwork up, and the title appeared as Quality Street: A Seasonal Selection for, I was a bit confused.

Now I'm not confused anymore. Amazon still lists the title the same, but they have the cover art, so you can see that it's Quality Street: A Seasonal Selection for All the Family.And it's a Christmas album. Generally speaking I'm not big on Christmas albums, but if the music's good then I'm game.I was able to hear the entire album a couple of days ago when Yep Roc (his label in the US) hosed streaming of the full album for 24 hours. As of now you can still hear samples of each song, but not the whole things.

The album sounds pretty much like his last two albums (At My Age and The Old Magic). Mellow, vocals forward in the mix. It's the crooner Nick. Some numbers are kind of bouncy. Not a bad effort.
I have fun, though, thinking about what the late-1970s era Nick would have said had he been told that he'd eventually be doing a Christmas album -- and not songs like the Kinks' "Father Christmas" or Chuck Berry's "Run Rudolph Run."

In a bit of crass commercialism, Nick is also selling a Nick Lowe snow globe, and Christmas cards that say "'Tis the Season for Peace, Love and Understanding." That last item seems all the more cynical given that the song "What's So Funny 'bout Peace Love and Understanding" was really meant sarcastically, and it's only in the past decade or two (especially since 9/11) that he's reinvented that as a serious plea.

Whatever, I can ponder the crassness all I want. The bottom line is that I'll be pre-ordering it. It is, afterall, a Nick Lowe album.

Oh yeah, the 7th track keeps sounding to me like "If I Only Had a Brain" from The Wizard of Oz.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

the violent femmes owe bobtown for this one

A few postys ago, I talked about a Bobtown concert in Southold (which is a town about 140 bajillion miles East of me on Long Island. One of the things I mentioned was their performance of the Violent Femmes' song, "Jesus Walking on the Water," and how I am likely to buy the VF's CD with the song.

That's the background to mentioning that I bouight Hallowed Ground, the Violent Femmes' CD with the song. I just finished my first listen, and it'sw an enthusiastic thumbs up. The album is kind of an alt-country effort -- though it dates back to 1984, before the term "alt-country" had been coined. At the time it probably would have been described as cowpunk -- though it's slower than most of what I think of as cowpunk (bands like The Beat Farmers, Rank & File and E*I*E*I*O). It has a kind of haunting sound that I probably wouldn't have liked when it came out, but which I really appreciate now. But "Jesus..." is by far the best track on thealbum -- It would have easily been at home on a Beat Farmers album (especially one of their later ones where they were venturing more into sacrilege (remember "Are You Drinking with Me, Jesus?"?) or one by Mojo Nixon (though it's not up to his raunchiest efforts like "Tie My Pecker to My Leg").

What's funny about all this is that, in the last few months I've had a kind of awakening regarding the Violent Femmes. Their existence has been one of these things that I've known of for years, but I have been completely unaware of -- perhaps "mistaken about" is a better phrase -- their style. I kind of assumed that they were something like, Everything But the Girl or 'Til Tuesday. Post-New Wave bands that don't interest me. But I've had to rethink this. One of the big Freecycle hauls I got last year included Viva Wisconsin, a live album of theirs. I particularly liked "Blister in the Sun." There were opther tracks I liked, but "Blister..." was the standout. Now there's this. My conceptions have been blown.

That said, I still like Bobtown's live version better.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

parodies of my past

I've been on a mini-jag about parodies recently, so -- what the-hey-- let me mention a couple parodies that schoolmates wrote years ago.

The first mention goes to Matt Ruff -- I am not changinmg the name since he is a public figure. Matt is a novelist whom I knew in high school. Maybe that's too strong. Matt and I were mutually aware of each other's existence. We were in at least one class together -- a creative writing class taught by Frank McCourt (who would go on to win a Pulitzer prize for his memoir, Angela's Ashes. I doubt that Matt would remember me.

Anyway, many of the school's clubs published annual or semi-annual magazines (I was on the staff of The Straphanger, which was published by the school's subway club). One of the magazines -- I think it only published one issue -- was a creative writing compilation called The Mag Bag because it was distributed as loose sheets of paper in a plastic bag. What I mean is, if you bought a copy, you got a clear plastic bag with a stack of paper in it.

That one issue contained a few (song parodies that Matt wrote. All of the parodies were of Billy Joel songs. I remember one of them, a parody of "Don't Ask Me Why," was titled "Don't Ask Me Why." I remember nothing alse about it. There was at least one that I recall nothing about. The one that I have some real memory of was "Only The Smart Die Young," which was a parody of "Only The Good Die Young." By way of background, this was Stuyvesant High School, and the conceit at the school was that we were the smartest kids out there. Admission was granted via exam, and we, the students, were told from day one that we were the best. I wish I could remember all of the words to "Only the Smart..." but -- 30-plus years later, some elude me. I do remember the following:

Come out Virginia, don't let me wait.
You Stuyvesant girls start much too late
Ah, but sooner or later it comes down to fate.
I might as well be the one.


Well, they showed you a classroom and told you to learn
[something something] or you're gonna burn


You might have heard that I run with a neanderthal crowd.
We ain't too pretty, we ain't too proud.
We might be cheating a bit too loud.

She never cared for me
But did she ever fix a grade for me?


They say there's a college for those who will wait.
Some say it's better but I say it ain't

You got a nice black gown and a party on your graduation.
You have a brand new school, and a golden rule.
But Virginia they didn't give you quite enough education.
You didn't count on me.
You were counting on your SAT.

You get the picture. It was really a well-done parody.

I'm not quite sure what would be an appropriate video to accompany the post above, since Matt never did record this song (to the mest of my knowledge). So, what the heck, here's a video of Frank McCourt (mentioned above), sharing his memories of me.


The second song parody I want to mention was from my college years. Every year the Student Association would have a talent show. I had a friend, Steve, whom I had known since high school, who liked to put together a song-and-dance routine centerred on a song parody. During our sophomore year he (and the two others he got to perform with him) won first prize. But they had some kind of dispute over how to divvy up the cash prize. One of his coperformers thought it should be split evenly. He, having written and choreographed the routine, felt that he should get the lion's share. I have no idea how it all turned out in the end.

At any rate, during our junior or senior year (I forget which), Steve asked me to be part of his act. It was three of us in costumes (I was the milk carton), singing  a medley of "You Give Lunch a Bad Name" and "Living on Bayer." These were parodies of the Bon Jovi songs "You Give Lunch a Bad Name" and "Living on a Prayer." These parodies were about the food in the cafeteria. The parodies were very well-written, though I can't remember any lines. Unfortunately the sound system wasn't loud enough, so wehen we went on I couldn't hear the background music, and that threw us off. We recovered, but that false start cost us points and we didn't win.

At least there was no prize money to fight over.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

trout fishing in heckscher park

This past Wednesday was another free concert -- this time Trout Fishing in America at Heckscher Park in Huntington. It was part of the 48th Annual Huntington Arts Festival. Every year Huntington puts on a series of free concerts in the park. I've seen TFiA there a couple times before. Others I've seen there include Carlene Carter (country music royalty), and Mallory Lewis (daughter of Shari Lewis).

One thing I noticed was that it was an unusually short set. I don't know if that was because of the heat, or their exhaustion (they had driven down during the day from Mohonk Mountain House). Yet they hung around afterwards to sign autographs and take pictures. They were playing with some of the kids in attendance. Ezra marvelled at the bullfrog that my daughter (or was it the younger of my sons?) had caught in the pond. In a way I'm glad he was off doing something else when the kids came back fifteen minutes later with the duck they had caught.

Most of the set consisted of the songs one might expect from TFiA. "My Hair Had a Party Last Night," "18 Wheels on a Big Rig," "Pico De Gallo." It was great when they played "Simon Says," since we were at the show with a HelpXer named Simon. I was surprised that they didn't play "100 Little Ducks." Keith seems to really hate that song -- I honestly don't know if that's real or an affectation for the act. I do have two comments (one positive and one negative) about the set list.

The negative: They played "Don't Touch My Stuff." This is a recent song that Keith and Ezra wrote in response to their van being broken into (and many of their musical instruments being stolen). It's an angry song -- and I certainly understand that -- and it just doesn't fit properly in their show. Their songs are happy and playful. Or wistful. But not angry. That angry chorus and that loud driving bass line sound jarring in one of their concerts. I realize that it's cathartic, but I'll be happy when they retire it from their regular set list. That said, I would like to hear a studio version of the song. Just not on one of their albums, where it will sound similarly out of place. Maybe they can release it as a non-album single?

The positive: "Lullaby" was the penultimate song. That is one of those Trout songs that I love. When I hear it I just close my eyes and think "This is my favorite song of theirs." Of course, there are quite a few songs that I react that way to -- "King of My Mountain" and "No Matter What Goes Right" come to mind -- so the word favorite kind of loses its meaning. But still. That's just one of those perfect songs that I wish I'd written.

Following are live videos of "Don't Touch My Stuff" and "Lullaby." Neither is from the show we were at, but enjoy them anyway.


Three more notes regarding Trout:
Fred Bogert doesn't tour with Trout anymore, which is a shame. I still like the music, but they had more freedom with a third person on stage. On the piano, Fred made "We weary Deer" something special. Of course, they don't do that song anymore, so I guess that's not an issue. I also really appreciated Fred. After one of their shows (more than five years ago) I spoke to Fred about music, songwriting and making demos. He was wonderfully gracious, and even gave me his email address. After a few emails he recommended a studio in Nashville that he said could produce good demos. County Q Studios produced my demo of "Jackpot," and that is by far the best-quality demo I have. But I believe Fred stopped touring in order to devote more time to his wife. I could be wrong about that, but I have a vague recollection of Keith or Ezra telling me that. At any rate, I wish him well, even if I miss seeing him perform with the others.

They are now working on their next album, Rubber Baby Buggy Bumpers, which is slated for release later this year. It can be preordered from their website, www.troutmusic.com

Keith and Ezra definitely seem to recognize my family at their New York area shows. I'm not narcissistic enough to think they know our names or anything, but still... Actually, I have mixed feelings about their apparent recognition. As a fan, I am gratified by a connection that I feel as if I have with the musician. On the other hand, I wish they would get more of the recognition they deserve. It would be great if so many New Yorkers would realize how great these musicians are that they would never recognize us within the huge crowds that are swarming to see them.

Monday, July 15, 2013

on the difficulty of writing parodies

In a recent post I presented the lyrics (as best as I remember them, anyway) of the one parody song I ever wrote.

I was talking about parodies with a co-worker (whom I will call Aryeh because I feel like it) who thinks writing a song parody is easier than writing an original song. I disagree. Aryeh says that writing a parody provides structure. I think it's more accurate to say that it imposes structure.

A good parody is more than just a song written to the tune of another song. For a parody to be any good, there have to be other elements elements that evoke the original, be they parallel structures or words that sound similar to words in the original -- particularly in the title. Part of what makes Allan Sherman's "Harvey and Sheila," "Won't You Come Home, Disraeli" and "My Zelda" work is that the titles sound similar to "Hava Nagila," "Won't You Come Home, Bill Bailey" and "Matilda." And I think the parts that work best in my "Game of Pac Man" parody are the ones that clearly remind the listener of the original song. For example, "And the sign said the score that is highest is written on the Pac Man screen" which is similar to "And the sign said the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls."

But while a good parody should be similar to and evocative of the original, it can't be too similar. If a parody has too few words changed, then there's not enough payoff. I remember once hearing some performer in a comedy club doing what she introduced as a parody of Cyndi Lauper's ""Girls Just Wanna Have Fun." But it just consisted of replacing the word "fun" everytime that title line appeared. The first time it was "Girls just want to have sex." Then "Girls just want to have cock." Then...well, you get the idea. There just asn't enough to make it funny. I suppose if she had ended it with "Girls just want to have a chance to be taken seriously and paid the same as a man would be paid for doing the same job in the same circumstances and with the same experience," then it may have been funny in a kind of anti-funny way.

So it's a tight rope to walk. And it's never been my thing. I much prefer the freedom of writing something original. I can vary the melody as needed, or put in just the right number of verses. And if one verse is shorter, then I have the freedom to be clever with it and just make that part of the song.

But my hat is off to Allan Sherman and Weird Al Yankovic who could write damn good parodies.

I sign off with one video of each.





Thursday, July 11, 2013

in the church of bobtown

Another Bobtown concert, though this one was on the east end of Long Island -- about 85 miles away in Southold.

It was supposed to be one of those free outdoor concerts -- part of the town's summer series of shows, so it seemed like good venue for the whole family. The kids could wabnder around and alleviate their boredom in a way that wouldn't be possible at a conventional indoor venue. And I was looking forward to enjoying the music with my wife. After the last show, when I eagerly played the Bobtown CDs I had just purchased, she was impressed by the quality and originality of the music.

But we got a late start -- the HelpXer staying with us wanted to come, but we had to meet him at the subway. His train was delayed, so he didn't get in the car until almost 6:00. So we set off, hoping to get to a concert set to start at 7:00 while the GPS estimated a trip of over an hour and a half, and we knew we'd run into heavy rush hour traffic.

So we're driving there, and I'm going nutsoid with frustration -- after I missed their last performance in the area (due to my own brainfart), I was annoyed at the prospect of missing this. Especially knowing that it would be months before my next chance to see them. Ihen we're getting closer. It looks like we'll get there at around 7:30. So I'm thinking maybe if they started late I'll get to see the end of the show. And damn. The road is closed. Detour. Fuck! This is going to add another ten minutes to the trip.

We get to the park, and it's deserted. Empty. But there's a small sign. Due to the potential for rain, they've moved the concert to the First Presbyterian Church of Southold (a few blocks away), and it's at 7:30. Whew! The long drive has not been in vain. We get to the church, and decide that the kids at this venue would likely be disastrous. So I go in alone. My wife and kids (and the HelpXer) go the beach. The show's already underway, but it doesn't look like it's winding down. Maybe I missed a few songs, but there's still more show to see.

First (or is it too late for "first"  given that this is like the sixth paragraph?) a word about the venue and the audience. Bobtown were clearly not doing a hometown show. I wasn't the only one there familiar with them, but it appeared that most of the people hadn't heard of them. As I was going into the church, a family walking up asked if this was where the concert was. I said "I hope so. It's Bobtown, right?" They seemed puzzled, and said that it's Southold, and that they didn't know where Bobtown is. I shrugged and went in.

Between songs I heard lots of comments along the lines of "how interesting" and "they have such great harmonies." It was an older crowd, and I gathered that it was mostly locals who worked the weekly concert series into their schedule, without knowing who was performing.But they went over very well. People were into it -- including the old guy in the row behind me who was keeping the beat on the back of my seat. Not that I'm complaining about that -- I had too good a time for something small like that to bother me.

The venue, an old church (it was established in like 1640), actually seemed somewhat appropriate for the band (notwithstanding the few songs that have a sacrilegious tone). Gospel is a strong influence on the Bobtown sound, so the music didn't seem out of place. And the stagey area (I don't know what you call it) served to frame them very nicely.

Of course, the music was very similar to what I saw the first time I saw them play (back in April), but this time I had heard the songs before, so I could follow along (even if I couldn't sing along). There were too many highlights to list them all, but a few follow:

Mama's Got the Backbeat: Jen McDearman has an incredible set of pipes. This is one song I didn't really like when I first heard it -- after learning that Alan Lee Backer was in this band, I found them on the web to give a listen and this was the first song I tried out. It has grown on me since then, though I will say it's better in concert than on CD.

Magilla Lee: This is my favorite from their two albums. It's just such a catchy melody. For some reason I think of Carlene Carter when I hear it. Not sure why.

Jesus Walking on the Water: This is a fun little number that sounds like something Mojo Nixon would have recorded. After running through this, they offered a free CD to whoever could identify the band that did that originally. Without thinking I called out "The Violent Femmes" in what was sort of a cross between puzzlement and triumph. It seemed like they kind of heard me say something, but didn't know what I said. I then realized that the reason I knew it was a Violent Femmes song was that they did the same thing back in April. Since it doesn't seem cricket to get a free album that way (using the knowledge of the answer that I gained by hearing the same question last time), I clammed up. They announced that it was the Violent Femmes and moved on. I'll note that the Violent Femmes will get one extra sale on Amazon because I heard Bobtown's version of their song.

Rattle Them Bones: Or some similar title. This is sort of a playful variant of Jim Carroll's "People Who Died." Fred Stesney's Fred Schneider-like vocals are perfect for this. It's too fast for me to pick up on all the lyrics. I was happy to hear that this is likely to be on their next album.

And that is one difference between this show and the one back in April. They specifically talked about working on songs for the next album. I asked Katherine Etzel afterwards if they are looking for material. Sadly, they're not. I understand even if I'm disappointed. It wasn't really professional of me to ask her that, but, well, nothing ventured nothing gained. I did suggest that "Poor Ellen Smith" would be a good song for them to cover. But looking on Youtube, I can't find any renditions as good as the Milner Brothers' on their album Haven't Lost a Thing (which, coincidentally, has my composition, "Music No One Else Can Hear." And now we have come full circle. Katherine confirmed that they'll be back on Kickstarter, so I'll be able to pledge and get them to record one of my songs. Presumably I can then use that recording as a demo to shop the song around.

The band was selling CDs, but they decided to let the customers pay what they felt was appropriate. I already have copies of both discs, but I did buy another copy of each, which I plan to give to my friend, Tall Judy. She plays in a contra-dance band, and I think she'll like these albums.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

a band name i'd like to see

Cold-Blooded Animals with Limbic Brains

That was a phrase my daughter uttered when she was asking me about biology.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

the one parody i wrote

Listening to Simon and Garfunkel's "The Sounds of Silence," I had a vague memory from 30-plus years ago. I was in high school, writing songs. That was my most prolific period as a songwriter, if you don't consider quality. Translated: I wrote crappy songs, but I wrote a lot of them. Anyway, I recall one of the songs I wrote was titled "The Game of Pac Man." It was a parody of "The Sounds of Silence." As best as I recall, it was the only full song parody I ever wrote. Oh, I wrote isolated lines or phrases of parody here or there. And I have written a few verses of parody here and there. Not that I committed them to paper. But I wrote them in my head. An example is John Hiatt's "She Don't Love Nobody." It was, however, obscene, so I'll not recount the lyrics here and now.

I wish I could recall the exact lyrics to "The Game of Pac Man." Following is the best I can recall:

Hello Pac Man my, old friend.
I've come to play with you again
Because a gremlin slowly creeping
Ate me up while I was sleeping.
And the gremlin that is driving me insane
Still remain
Within the game of Pac Man.

In the arcade I walked alone.
In the aisles I still roam
Beneath the bright glow of a Pac Man screen
I turn around and let out a scream.
When my eyes were stabbed by the pills of enourmous size
That energize
Within the game of Pac Man.

And in the naked light I saw
10,000 Pac Men, maybe more
Pac Men chasing without catching
Pac Men eating without retching
Pac Men eating dots that gremlins never shared
No one dared
Disturb the game of Pac Man

"Fools" said I, "you do not know
Obsessions like a cancer grow.
Give me the stick I beseach you.
Watch my play that I might I teach you."
But my words, like silent Pac Man fell
And echoed in the well of Pac Man.

And the people stayed and played.
And the little pills they ate.
And the screen flashed out its warning
'Cause many points they were scoring
And the sign said the score that is highest
Is written on the Pac Man screen
And that would mean
You've beaten the game of Pac Man.
Whether it was a good parody or not is up for debate. Certainly there were good elements.

But I'm not really into writing song parodies. More about that in a nother post if I ever get around to it.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

no justice in the world

Today I learned that, while Tommy James' "I Think We're Alone Now" peaked at #4 on the charts, the cover version by Tiffany went all the way to number 1. There is no justice in the world.


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

latest order from amazon

Today saw the arrival of a couple of albums that I ordered on Amazon. I hjaven't been able to listen to either one yet, so I can't comment on the music.

The Album After the Last One by the Toy Dolls is (to my knowledge) the band's most recent release. The one before it was called Our Last Album. Looks like their sense of humor is holding up. The song titles are classic Toy Dolls: "Credit Crunch Christmas," "Dirty Doreen" and "Don't Drive Yer Car Up Draycott Avenue." None of them matches my favorites, but they're pretty good. Also, the booklet insert includes lyrics and some great crisp clear concert photos.

Life on the Line by Eddie and the Hot Rods is a CD-reissue of the second-generation pub rock band. It has most of what is the band's strongest material -- "Quit This Town," "Telephone Girl" and their best-known track, "Do Anything You Wanna Do." As with other reissues on the Captain Oi! label, there are plenty of bonus tracks. A couple of them are listed as being "with Robin Tyner," so I'll have to look up who Robin Tyner is. Also typical of Captain Oi! rereleases, this has liner notes that are at once interesting and annoying. I'm surprised that I hadn't bought this reissue before now -- especially since I have a couple of compilations on CD that are really just inferior to this album. FWIW, their first album Teenage Depression, was also a great disc.

Here's a video from the Toy Dolls album:

And one from Eddie:

And, for the record, my favorite song titles from The Toy Dolls are "The Ashbrooke Launderette (You'll Stink, Yer Clothes'll Shrink, Yer Whites'll Be as Black as Ink)" "If You're in a Pop Group You'll End Up Paying a Fortune Practicing at Peter Practice's Practice Place" and "Queen Alexandra Road is Where She Said She'd Be, But Was She There to Meet Me…No Chance"

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

music for the chief actuary

My employer recently hired a new Chief Actuary. For the purposes of this post I will refer to her by the initials IL because that's the abbreviation for Illinois, which is one of my fifty most favorite states.

Anyway, IL has been having a series of one-on-one meetings with the actuaries. During her meeting with me, I mentioned that I write songs as a hobby. It came up because we were discussing some of the regularly scheduled actuarial-wide meetings, and I mentioned that I spoke at the last one. My topic was a song that an employee wrote (and recorded on a 78-rpm record) some 65 years ago. My presentation was the light portion of the afternoon's program. Anyway, I explained to IL that it was natural for me to present that topic since I write songs. That led to some obvious questions. "Anything published?" I was able to proudly note that I wrote a song that was recorded on a dozen-selling CD. "What style?" I explained that I generally write country music of one sort or another.

And that's true. I don't try to write C&W. But somehow everything I write sounds country. "Jackpot"? That's modern Nashville. "Five Missing One"? That's old style Western. The idea I have been toying with now (without going into detail, it's a novelty song)? Sounds like something ray Stevens would have penned.

As luck would have it, IL is a country music fan. So we talked a bt about music. She also likes Bruce Springsteen -- which I was able to relate to Dave Edmunds via "From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come)," a song that Bruce wrote for Dave.

By the end of the meeting I had promised to make her a CD of some of my demos. She said she'd bring it into her car and give a listen. I casually suggested three as the number of tracks to put on the disc, making it sound like I was being considerate in not wanting to overwhelm her with dozens of demos. In reality, I only have three demos worthy of getting spread around. Gee, I hope that if she reads this blog she doesn't figure out it's me.

I also hope that, if she likes my songs, she has connections in the country music world.

Monday, July 1, 2013

some videos from wilko's career

The last thing I posted was my goodbye to Wilko Johnson. As a followup, I figure I should link to some videos of him. Here goes:
Wilko as part of Dr. Feelgood (he was the guitarist)

Doing "Cairo Blues," after he left the Feelgoods

Wilko explains his guitar technique, and performs "Goin' Back Home"

Wilko on British television, discussing his diagnosis

Monday, June 24, 2013

goodbye, wilko

I learned from a colleague at work that Wilko Johnson is ill. He has cancer and is not expected to live for very long.

For the uninitiated, Wilko Johnson was a singer, guitarist and sogwriter. He is probably best known as one of the founding members of Dr. Feelgood, though he was also part Ian Dury's backup group, The Blockheads, he was leader of the Solid Senders, and a solo artist. He had a peculiar style of guitar playing that enabled him to sound like two guitarists at once -- playing both rhythm and lead. If memory serves (and I am too lazy right now to check), he nicked that from Mick Green.

I have, in this blog, written about Wilko, so I'll not go into great detail here -- which is not to say that I am swearing off writing longer posts about him.

I'd be overstating things if I were to say that I will mourn Wilko's death. I am a fan of his, but I am not his friend or relative, and I will leave the mouring to those who knew him and will have a real loss in their life. That said, I will feel sad at his passing, and I will think of the hours of pleasure his musicianship has given me. There are the songs he wrote -- "Roxette," "She Does It Right," "You Shouldn't Call The Doctor (If You Can't Afford the Bills)." And there were others, but I'll stop at three. I remember when I first heard his solo album, Ice on the Motorway.

Thank you, Wilko.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

brainfarted out of seeing bobtown

Well, I'm bummed. After seeing Bobtown perform (a couple months back), I was looking forward to seeing them in June at the Beczak (I may be misspelling it) Center in Yonkers. I was really looking forward to it, but somehow it slipped my mind, and I didn't go.Now I'll have to wait until July 10 to see them in Southold.
Damn brainfarts.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

a freecycle load of nothing

Remember how, early in 2012, I got a couple of freecycle batches off CDs in short succession? Those were really successful. Even though they included stuff that I was not interested in and had to pass along, they also had lots of stuff that I was happy to get --especially for free. In fact, truth be told I still haven't finished going through them.

Anyway, I got another batch of CDs. The freecycle entry indicated that many were without the cases. That's OK -- I have extra cases. And in any case, I can buy some. Or take them off the CDs that I'm not interested in from the last batch. This listing also indicated that I'd have to takle everything. That's also no problem. I don't mind going through stuff and picking out what I like.

But this batch was utter garbage. It was mostly homemade CD-Rs without any indication of what was on them. And they were all badly scratched.

You win some, you lose some.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

a great album and my mixed feelings

The other night I went out to meet a friend who's moving away. The venue was a small bar/rerstaurant in Sea Cliff. They had a band -- the Rusty String Band -- playing bluegrass. The band was good enough that I was up for buying some recotrded music. Without going into great detail, I ended up buying a solo CD by the fiddler, Russ Seeger.

What's interesting about this is that it's not a bluegrass album. Live in Peace is a strong blues-flavored album.The songs are generally strong -- although -- interestingly, there are a few places where I, thinking as a songwriter was conscious of how my decisions would have been different. Not necessarilly better. Just different. Seeger sings with an invigorating attention-grabbing snarl. The production is crisp, and the arrangements are generally spot on. My favorites are "California Blues"and the country-flavored "Towne Called Mercy." I hadn't heard about Seeger before Friday's show, but I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the disc. Following is a video of the title track:

This was not my favorite track on the album, but I didn't see any videos for my favorites. So this is what I'm posting.

Now, all that said, my enthusiasm is somewhat diminished by something else I found while I was looking for videos to accompany this post. A video for another song by Seeger that expresses an acidic fantasy of the deaths of Bush administration players and others who supported the war in Iraq. This is accompanied by various images, most notable being one of President Bush as a vampire biting the neck of the statue of liberty. Musically, the track is great. But the imagery is over the top, and the message is one I cannot support. There wasn't anything remotely close to this on the album I bought. Or if there was, then it was during a part of the album that played when I wasn't paying close attention (or it was subtle enough that I missed it). But I'm human and my feelings for the music will be tainted by my associating it with "Heroes." I'll let you judge for yourself:

Saturday, June 1, 2013

wreckless eric collection complete

My Wreckless Eric collection is complete. More or less. I got a used copy of A Roomful of Monkeys, the album he did ion 1985 with The Captains of Industry. I'd been looking for it for a while, and couldn't find it. But there it was on Amazon. Of course, this copy is on vinyl, so I'll have to copy it to CD through my computer. That'll be tricky. I have a USB turntable, but I got it several years ago. Our new computer has the 64-bit version of Windows 7, and I don't know if the software that came with the turntable is compatible. Of course, I don't even know if I still have the disc that came with the turntable. Maybe I'll just download Audacity. That should work.

By way of background, after Wreckless Eric left Stiff records, he became -- how to be diplomatic? -- less prominent. For a good stretch of time, I really wasn't into keeping up with his album releases. Remember, this was before the intertubes really took off. It wasn't quite as easy then to keep up with whether an artist is still recording, or find copies of albums. As that changed, I became better and better able to keep up with news. At some point I learned that Eric had albums that I hadn't known about -- Karaoke, which he realeased under his real name (Eric Goulden), and a few albums that he recorded as a member of bands -- two albums with the Len Bright Combo, one by the Hitsville House band and one with The Captains of Industry.

It was reasonably easy to get the LBC and HHB albums on CD. But the CoI album has eluded me. At one concert, Eric explained to me that there are some legal questions standing in the way of the album being reissued. Something about no one knowing for sure who owns the recordings. But now, after repeated searching (OK -- occaisonal searching) on Amazon, I found a copy. I don't honestly know if the album ever made it to CD. But this copy will. Of course, I haven't even had a chance to listen to it yet.