Television in San Francisco was just background noise. Comedy Central in the evenings while I was doing something in the other room. Not consciously, but I assume to make the place feel less lonely. Didn’t Palahniuk have something clever about that in Lullaby, about how we’re all scared of silence?
I thought that my lack of attention to television in those years while everyone else was fawning over “Lost” and “Orange Is The New Black” made me a better person. I was a musician. A creative. I didn’t have time for such pedestrian pursuits. But without a drive to keep going, I succumbed, and these days, television is the new band practice.
Oddly, it started in Hawaii. You can only spend so much time at the beach. And without much else to do there, I got turned onto Netflix, Amazon Prime, and later Hulu. And like all of you, I’ve now got lengthy queues in each that I’ll never get through. Shows have gotten better, but not enough that the ol’ boob tube doesn’t still feel like a pathetic recreation. I can’t shake the feeling I should be reading more and creating more. People used to say they had too many books to read or things to do or friends to catch up with. Now it’s they have too much in their queue and aren’t currently accepting any more recommendations.
And now Disney, NBC, CBS, and others are fleeing the big three and trying to start their own thing? Who wants the cost of more separate services and the hassle of maintaining more logins? I predict the upstart services will ultimately still get aggregated under a larger umbrella service for exactly that reason, which essentially amounts to the à la carte cable pricing people have wanted forever. Didn’t they used to say that model leaves less-popular content producers (e.g. educational programming) out in the cold?
I’m now reminded of something else from Lullaby, about how our constant attention to distracting screens withers our imagination. Johnny Marr said something similar on his book tour a couple years ago, about how he’s glad smart phones weren’t around when he was young. All that idle time waiting for a bus left his mind free to try to entertain itself, to create, to come up with the ideas that would become the music of The Smiths. That’s worth considering.
Anyway, on to the other kind of “show.” Live music, that is. I attended a couple of them recently that got me thinking. Giuda has a huge following and must be among the best on the planet at what they do. Jail Weddings is incredible live — as good as any band I’ve seen in a club setting. But here’s the thing… both were killer shows, but they were also relative ghost towns. Maybe I’ve been out of it too long. I’m trying to remember that things happen. Poor promotion, competing shows, bad luck. Could have just been flukes that I caught these shows back-to-back. But it left me uneasy with a harsh reality: being in a band these days ain’t gonna be like it was.
Maybe people have gotten more “virtual” even in just these last few years. I’ve heard my promoter friends complain that no one comes out anymore. They’d rather stay home and watch Netflix in their jammies (a pastime I’ve grown accustomed to myself, if I’m being honest). It’s just harder to get people out of their houses and away from their screens, I guess. I feel it, too.
And then consider that This Charming Band had a built-in tribute/80s/Moz audience. The Rumble Strippers had the built-in rockabilly scene. Not to at all minimize the hustling we did in both cases to get good shows and big crowds, but we had some clear advantages. People had reasons to attend beyond just us. So with all that in mind, not having a leg up like that but instead just forging your own path and doing your own thing? Well, good luck. I’d want my next music project to be more like that and free from the trappings of catty scenes, but that seems like assurance that it’ll be playing empty rooms on weeknights. That might be OK, but it’s not what I’m used to and certainly not something to look forward to. I’m not sure I have the same energy for it anymore, though I suppose my motivations are different now. Back then, I think I was more interested in impressing people. As I mentioned a while back, I feel like these days I have less to say and less interest in who hears it. Maybe that means I should get into the recording side of things rather than hustling to fill venues? More rumination needed.
On a side note, I failed to follow my own recent advice about watching openers, and I missed the chance to see Hammered Satin with Giuda. Next time, for sure! At least I got out of the house and showed up for these bands, though. It was good for them and good for me. But more of a feat than it used to be.
“What did we do before we made facial expressions with punctuation? Oh yeah, we played in the sun.”
I’m not sure what happened, but I think I suddenly like 70s-era Rolling Stones. Early 80s, too.
I never really responded to them in the past, other than the hits. They were just too “loose” sounding. Lots of good hooks, and every song was rooted in a good idea, but the execution was rough. It left me feeling like the songs were half-baked, whereas I gravitated more towards recordings that sounded pristine and ultra-polished. And I guess that summary of them hasn’t changed for me. But for some reason, these last couple months, that same loose sound is speaking to me. Friends have joked this is because I’m getting old, but I don’t think that’s far off the mark. Something about those recordings sound exhausted and almost desperate. That’s not exactly how I feel, but there is something relatable there vis-à-vis aging.
And if that weren’t enough, I took on Bob Dylan’s whole catalog as well. Another artist I’d been hits-only fan of. It wasn’t as revelatory as my Stones kick, but there were lots of gems, and it’s been fascinating to hear the songs I was familiar with in the context of their respective albums. Listening as his sound changed over the years, through his born-again period (what!?), and the on-and-off-boarding of collaborators like Mark Knopfler. Somewhere on the East Coast, my old friend (and Dylan enthusiast) Jen must be feeling vindicated.
So yeah, EXTRA! EXTRA! READ ALL ABOUT IT! Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones are actually pretty good. You heard it here first.
In the past, when tackling bands like The Beatles for the first time, I’d keep tabs on which songs stood out as my favorites, what surprises I found, etc. I wish I’d done that for Dylan and the Stones. C’est la vie. (Though I will call out “Sway” as one I’d never heard and has stuck with me for weeks now.)
It’s harder to find new music these days (or perhaps at this age). New bands don’t speak to me as often as they did say ten years ago. I suppose that’s natural. In response to the usual groans and complaints from the older crowd about the Coachella lineup, Aaron Axelsen (who would know) pointed out that if he kept booking the nostalgia acts that we all want to see, 1) no new bands would get a chance to break through and 2) it’d be harder to attract new, young fans. Makes sense of course. The times, they are a-changin’, after all. Popscene isn’t for me anymore, at least not primarily.
In the last several years, there haven’t been many “new” bands that have really rocked my socks. I think my favorite discoveries of the past decade were probably Parenthetical Girls, The National, and The Drums. Speaking of The National, that reminds me… good advice that we should both take: watch opening bands. If you’re like me, you typically try to time it so you show up just in time for the headliner. I’ve been burned by this before, such as when I skipped a little opener called The National at an R.E.M. show back in 2008. Little did I know that five or six years later, they’d become one of my favorite bands. More recently, I’ve caught some openers in SoCal that moved me to buy a lot of their music. Some even eclipse the headliner. Jail Weddings blew me away… sort of Talking Heads meets girl group. (Their new album release party is tomorrow night, and I’ll be there!) Ed Schrader’s Music Beat was another unexpected winner. It would’ve been a shame if I’d missed these bands as I might never have run across them again.
So yeah, try to see opening bands. Just another of a million things older people have told me as I was coming up, which I did not believe, and which turned out to be 100% true.
That’s new bands… as for old bands, I’m in the process of going through and selling and donating even more books and CDs. I can’t remember if I did most of that after I stopped blogging before, but in any event, I’m cutting even deeper this time around. I find myself putting a lot of old Smiths and Morrissey books in the donate pile. These tomes I used to hoard and pore over for This Charming Band. Not that I don’t still love The Smiths and all, but I don’t feel the need to maintain an expertise there anymore. The other night at an Alain Whyte show, I saw some fans (among them a certain old rival tribute singer) flailing around and miming the words to the few Morrissey covers Alain did. I can remember a time when that felt like my community, but years on and from the outside now, that fanaticism struck me as sorta silly. In fairness, I am inordinately gruff as of late. Nonetheless, these changing tastes, I wish I could say it’s a categorical evolution or maturation, but I think it’s just different. Not better or worse. Just different.
“The things you love are as stupid as the things you hate and are easily interchangeable.”
I’ve been giving a lot of thought to life lately. Asking myself if I’m really making the most of my time on earth, or if I’m mindlessly going with the flow because it’s easy or because I assume I have no other choice. I was reading the April 2012 issue of Guitar Player magazine a while back — bear with me — and the editor (Michael Molenda) offered up a gem, just the latest great quote encouraging us to be present and mindful and take the time to sit down and savor life’s great moments. As he put it, “‘Live every day as if it were your last’ often gets rewritten as ‘Make sure every day is crammed with meaningless, self-important crap that allows you to feel busier and more valuable than the person next to you.’” And that pretty much sums up how I’ve been feeling about a lot of the things that I spend my time and energy on. I have this increasing sense that it’s time for some big changes. Some once-every-ten-years kinda changes. That could mean a pretty big shake up. Maui might be one part of it, and just think of all the consequences that might have.
Before I get too deep, how about some more lighthearted updates? I’ve seen some great shows lately. Most astonishing was The Darkness at The Fillmore. That show was jaw-dropping. The ease with which Justin Hawkins seemed to set the stage on fire with his soaring falsetto, acrobatics, and guitar mastery… I mean it was stunning. I saw him drop a plectrum, kick it back up sideways hacky sack style, catch it, and start his solo, all while looking not at all surprised it worked. It is a contender for the best live show I’ve ever seen. Other highlights include Devo (looking very old but not caring… oh, and also sounding amazing), The Buzzcocks, Pulp (another fantastic show), and a one-time reuniting of our old friends Dead Souls. After dragging my feet about it, I finally broke down today and got tickets for Morrissey in Stockton this weekend. Happy birthday, you old diva. You get my money again.
My own music has been good, too. The Rumble Strippers have had a few successful shows and seem to be climbing the ladder a bit. Our name is getting out there. We’re working on new songs. We recorded four songs in an actual studio (which was new to me), including one I wrote. It’s all very promising. And then TCB has an incredible new singer (Michael) who is possibly the best I’ve ever heard outside of Mozzer himself when it comes to those songs. He’s got the moves, the voice, and is a terribly nice person to boot. We’ve got a ton of shows coming up this summer, including trips to Portland, Seattle, and SoCal, and even a date opening for The Polecats. Not to mention the great shows last weekend at Slim’s and The Catalyst! Slim’s had some epic moments like walking on to “Imperfect List,” playing the “Subway Train” intro to “Everyday Is Like Sunday” as well as having David’s help on keys. He also joined us for “Jack The Ripper,” and Nick took on an acoustic guitar for “King Leer” and “Seasick, Yet Still Docked.” We closed with “Now My Heart Is Full,” which Michael ingeniously medley’ed with “I Won’t Share You” and then bowed and walked off while we continued playing. It was perfect. But come to think of it, the last couple months were brutal in terms of shows. I think at one point I had six or seven straight weekends of shows, alternating between TCB and The Rumble Strippers. But I guess that’s a Cadillac worry, as they say.
I had a minor surgery which was new for me as well. No stitches, but dealing with caring for it led me to have my first panic attack in ages. It happened at the hospital. Good times. But at the end of the ordeal, I was left with a better sense of my own resilience and confidence in what I can deal with, and that’s the ultimate antidote for anxiety. Let’s see, what else? Had a fun time at the pinball museum in Alameda thanks to Eden’s surprise party for Margaret. Damn, there was a ton of stuff in past months I never got around to mentioning, including my brief attempts at ice skating and Bikram yoga, as well as ongoing vocal lessons. Then there were two big trips. One was Europe (yes, Europe!), but more on that next time. The other was Viva Las Vegas, which after all these years I finally attended, along with my expert C-Po. I’d intended to write about it last month, but preparing for Europe kept me swamped. I’ll do my best to recall it now…
I’d been waiting to go to Viva since around 2004, but the right situation just never presented itself. C-Po calls it “rockabilly summer camp.” And specifically for vintage-lovin’ girls, it’s the “Fashion Olympics.” Both descriptions are totally accurate, it turns out. We spent most of the time within the Orleans Hotel, as that’s where all the events were anyway. We perused the many, many booths of clothes, jewelry, pomades (where I picked up some Layrite swag), stickers, etc. There was a vegan custom shoe maker from the U.K. that I plan to work with in the future. We gambled and won and then broke even. (Penny slots, dude. It’s the only way to go.) We didn’t stick around for the whole of Elvira’s show, but we caught most of one of Charles Phoenix’s hilariously-narrated slideshows. We took advantage of several free dance lessons, and though I’ve forgotten many of the steps already, I was a damn decent jiver and bopper for a few days there. We skipped the car show due to time constraints, and limited our time at the pool party to a quick walk around it just to get the feel. We took a walk through a fancy mall full of only the highest-end designers’ storefronts. We saw tons of friends and spent a good amount of time with the drummer from Quarter Mile Combo. I heard there were something like 8,500 paid attendees this year. Then there was that damn wristband, pretty and detailed as it was… I did not appreciate having to keep it on 24 hours a day for four days. The “rockabilly summer camp” vibe was really all about all these scene people under one roof, staying in the same hotel as if it were a giant dorm or a sleepover party. And of course everything is open 24 hours a day. Everyone getting all dressed up to be seen each night. It was fun, I can’t deny. And as for that “Fashion Olympics” aspect, I don’t doubt it now. There were countless unique and wonderful outfits. Obviously I don’t know what I’m looking at, but C-Po and her friends all know and recognize who’s bringing it and who’s a poseur. I actually held my own, poseur-wise. You know, part of me was staying away from VLV just to avoid being anonymous in a sea of people who look just like me, and that’s valid. But if I’m being honest with myself, I suppose there was also the fear that I would feel like an imposter among people who are rockabillier than thou. But there was none of that. If anything, I saw more neophytes than veterans, and I felt totally confident and comfortable in my own skin there. It probably helps that I’m old now. In fact, from what I saw, there were lots of badly dressed people, and I looked comparatively great. It was interesting to see all the different directions the neophytes and the veterans alike have taken a relatively small amount of cultural reference and tried to make it look flattering and authentic. What I saw ran the gamut from cherry print everything, to just a flower in the hair, to totally immaculate vintage from head to toe. I saw full-on cat suits, incredible dresses, and even overalls. For the record, I lost track of how many compliments C-Po got on her outfits, from friends and strangers alike. It was an embarrassing amount though, so apparently she really brought it. In terms of this scenester posturing that we’re all guilty of, my favorite moment was in an elevator when a wannabe queen bee — who didn’t know who she was talking to — responded to a casual compliment from C-Po with, “Yeah I don’t know if you know this, but my purse is like super rare. It’s worth like $1300.”
Over the course of the weekend, the dining was hit or miss. Right there in the Orleans, there’s a T.G.I. Friday’s, which disappointed us twice. However, there was a decent Denny’s-esque diner and great Asian place there too. The in-house food court had a Subway and Baskin Robbins, neither of which I took advantage of, but I got the obligatory veggie burger at the Fuddruckers there. Their facade was decorated with jukebox record streamers, a cardboard cut-out of James Dean, and a cringe-worthy banner that read, “Fuddruckers loves rock-a-billy’s. Welcome back!!” There are so many things wrong with that, I don’t even know where to start. We ventured away from the Orleans twice, and it resulted in the best and worst meals of the trip. I’m fairly certain that food poisoning from Garduño’s is what led us to have to stay in sick one night. But then brunch at the Mon Ami Gabi bistro at the Paris was one of the best meals I’ve had all year! Warm brie with black pepper, honey, hazelnuts, and croutons? Crisscut fries with blue cheese dip? Some kind of amazing salad that I can’t remember now? Yes, ma’am. I even did my share of drinking over the weekend, mainly to collect the commemorative mugs, including a boot, a skull, and a bowling pin. I vaguely remember some delicious Sailor Jerry punch.
Music was the main attraction for me, of course. I got to see most everything I intended to. Seeing Duane Eddy and The Ventures in person was definitely something I’m glad to say I did. The “legends” show featuring older stars on the verge of senility was interesting. J.D. McPherson was alright. Saw our friend Irving play in The 454’s. I forget who else now. The highlight was The Polecats, who were just full of energy and sounded great. Awesome to see Boz cutting loose and really playing! We even got to meet him and Tim Polecat after the show! Now with all that went on during the weekend, it’s just impossible to see it all. The bands that — in hindsight — I wish I’d seen include: Si Cranstoun (who is apparently Jackie Wilson-esque and amazing), Voola & The Jayhawks (which are all but a Screamin’ Jay Hawkins tribute), Jinx Jones (whom Paul has seen locally and has raved about), and Blind Rage & Violence (a Link Wray tribute). There were tons of other bands too that might have been nice. C-Po knew many of them, but I did not. Seeing the massive list of events for VLV meant seeing a lot of rockabilly band names alongside each other. And that led to some observations, and ultimately to us creating this:
So that was Viva. I’ll definitely be doing it again next year. Which I guess brings us back to the bigger “life” stuff… I didn’t do a “New Year’s” blog this year the way I’ve done in the past, but that’s not because I haven’t been reflecting. As I mentioned, I’m considering some big changes. And I mean big. Virtually no sacred cow is safe. This public forum isn’t really the place for me to get into it, but I’m pondering things. They’re not quite formed into specific resolutions, but instead loosely arranged into areas of my life that are due for an overhaul. A while back at work, it was suggested that each of us take a shot at creating a personal “mission statement” to succinctly sum up what we’re all about. At first, I thought it was kind of a silly exercise, but I admit that when I sat down and really gave it some thought, the end result was pretty valuable. This is what I settled on. My “mission” is:
To search for meaning and understanding, strive for absolute integrity, actively recognize and experience as much joy as possible in every moment of my limited time on earth, and do what I can to protect the right of all living things to do the same.
I wrestled with the precise phrasing of that statement, considering alternatives for nearly every word, and making sure the connotation and message was exactly what I meant to say. Now that was written sometime back in 2011, and though I didn’t intend it, it really fits well as a kind of framework for me to work with as I do some life overhauling to get more aligned with my real goals.
So to search for meaning and understanding makes me think of Spirit Rock, the Buddhist retreat. I’ve been thinking about doing a week out there for almost a year now, and I just know it would be helpful, but I may have to put it off (depending on my vacation time situation what with Europe burning up two weeks). Spirituality is something that I had a real awakening with while I dealt with anxiety a few years ago, and I know that there would be a tremendous benefit to pursuing it further. I really have to make this happen.
Then to strive for absolute integrity, that comes naturally to me. It may not surprise you to hear that “Responsibility” was my #1 strength according to StrengthsFinder. It isn’t always a good thing though, as I hold myself to an unrealistic standard sometimes. That’s where the word “strive” comes in. That’s to remind myself that I should shoot for perfection but remember that I am human too. Another big thing for me here is to continue to get comfortable with anger — allowing myself to experience it, express it, and let it go, rather than tamp it down like I’ve done for years. My progress and small victories there have been kind of amazing. To see how fast you can let something go after you express it. It’s still so foreign to me as I’m used to holding it in until it hardens into resentment. There are many great quotes on that subject. Anyhow, I feel like I’m still making slow progress in this area.
And then to actively recognize and experience as much joy as possible in every moment of my limited time on earth, that’s a loaded one. A lot of key words there. “Actively” because it takes attention and effort to see (or “recognize”) the value in everything you experience. You can’t control everything that happens to you, but you can control how you view it. Easier said than done, but that is the ultimate power to have in your own life. That’s the ultimate goal. Originally, instead of “recognize,” I was playing with variations of “pursue.” I’m at least putting some of this into action this year by travelling. Already VLV and Europe are behind me. With my remaining vacation time, I still would like to try to pull off Cuba later this year, maybe combined with a Florida manatee stopover. New Orleans is off the table for a number of reasons, but I’ll see it and the G.I. Joe convention eventually, even if they’re not at the same place in the future. I’d like to make time to relax and rest and ponder and redistribute my time based on true enjoyment rather than just trying to use it to efficiently complete and endless list of tasks. I want to feed ducks more. I want to finally get an Ocean Beach bonfire going with friends, and throw more events like that to expand the circle of friends. I want to finish my massive house clean and purge of all non-essential material things. I want to purge non-essential commitments and usages of my free time. I want to do something for a living that excites my passions and feels real. I want to live somewhere (Maui?) that helps me “be here now” rather than silently prods me to work on a to do list. That “be here now,” that idea of mindfulness is the really the key. Pursuing happiness through vacations and simplifying my schedule, it’s certainly a valuable use of my time, but it’s too limiting as an overall goal. It’s not enough just to try to improve what happens to you, because you can’t really control everything that happens to you. Vacations are nice, but no amount of vacations or material things is going to guarantee your happiness. The happiness comes from your mindset. It’s easy to be happy on vacation with your friends, but that’s not where you spend the majority of your life. It’s more important to find how to be happy the rest of the time.
And finally, to do what I can to protect the right of all living things to do the same. For this one, I struggle. I need to find something meaningful to do here, and if it doesn’t come in the form of a new career in that field, it might at least be some volunteer time. Ideally though, I would do for a living something that leverages my talents towards a noble cause that matters to me and to the world and makes a real difference, rather than just the accumulation of wealth.
So those are the big plans, somewhat mapped to more actionable items. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed by day-to-day life and commitments while your big plans… your important plans… your life plans… all stay on the back burner. In some ways, that’s the biggest obstacle. Some of these goals have been on my mind for months with no progress or answers yet, but hell if I’m not trying.
The quote of the week is just a question for you to ponder:
“If your life had its own board of directors, who’d be on it?”
If it isn’t already, wouldn’t that title be just a dynamite name for a record store? Yet more wasted genius.
By the way, did you know that you can just like… buy a “dictaphone?” Then you could record whatever you want to wax blanks. I’m sincerely surprised that hasn’t taken off among the hipster crowd.
I’m not so young that I missed vinyl completely, but it was on its way out by the time I hit my teens. The first music I ever bought for myself was a 45rpm of Run-D.M.C. doing “Walk This Way.” They were my first favorite band. True story. I may have had a few other records near that same time, but most of my vinyl memories are tied up with periodically examining the cover art in my parents’ collection. Specifically, I remember the ridiculous pictures in “The Who Sell Out,” the interactive folding art of The Mamas & The Papas reversed “The Papas & The Mamas,” and the mystery of the Thunderball soundtrack. And of course Tom T. Hall’s “Songs Of Fox Hollow.” Sneaky Snake, anyone?
That actually reminds me that I did have some records when I was real little, too. Mostly Disney books with accompanying records (including the very politically incorrect “Brer Rabbit And The Tar Baby“). I also have a vague memory of some record that came on the back of a cereal box. The record itself was blue and square! When you listened to it, it was just some spooky guy telling a story with some sound effects. “On an old dark road, there was a old dark house, and inside the old dark house was an old dark…” and so on, until eventually there’s a chest and inside the chest… “there was… a… THING!!!” And as he screamed that, my childhood buddy Jonah and I would run screaming out of the room! I’d die to track that down and hear it again, but even my considerable web-searching abilities have always come up short. And it’s highly unlikely that record is still among those that my parents kept with theirs. But a girl can dream.
Wow, this is not at all what I intended to write about tonight. My project of cleaning out my old storage unit, started way back in the summer of 2010, has been more or less done for some time now. I plan on writing some kind of wrap up to that in the future, telling what all I found as well as what I discovered about myself, etc. But for right now, I’m going through one of the last straggler boxes and feeling the need to share my findings. In the early 1990’s, as I was suffering through middle school, cassette singles were all the rage. I don’t have to tell you. You were there. But for me, that was a very discrete period of just a couple years before I had money of my own and started buying CDs. So to see my cassette single collection (which I found in storage and am about to lay bare for you) is to have a very candid view into my somewhat embarrassing music taste in those days. Here it is, complete (as far as I know)and unedited, the music I bought in the early 90’s:
2 Pac – I Get Around
A Tribe Called Quest – Award Tour
AC/DC – Money Talks
Ace Of Base – All That She Wants
Ace Of Base – The Sign
All-4-One – So Much In Love
Beck – Loser
Black Sheep – The Choice Is Yours
Body Count – The Winner Loses
C&C Music Factory – Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)
Crash Test Dummies – Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm
Sheryl Crow – All I Wanna Do
Cypress Hill – Insane In The Brain
Das EFX – They Want EFX
Digable Planets – Rebirth Of Slick (Cool Like Dat)
Dr. Dre – Let Me Ride
Dr. Dre – Nuthin’ But A “G” Thang
DRS – Gangsta Lean
Duice – Dazzey Duks
En Vogue – Free Your Mind
Enya – Book Of Days
Faith No More – Epic
Funkdoobiest – Bow Wow Wow
Gin Blossoms – Hey Jealousy
Green Jellö – Three Little Pigs
House Of Pain – Jump Around
Whitney Houston – I Will Always Love You
Ice-T – Gotta Lotta Love
Ice Cube – Check Yo Self
Ice Cube – It Was A Good Day
Ice Cube – You Know How We Do It
Janet Jackson – Again
Masta Ace Incorporated – Born To Roll
MC Nas-D & DJ Freaky Fred – Gold Diggin’ Girls
MC Serch – Here It Comes
Meatloaf – I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)
Megadeth – Symphony Of Destruction
Morrissey – The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get*
Naughty By Nature – Everything’s Gonna Be Alright
Naughty By Nature – Hip Hop Hooray
Naughty By Nature – O.P.P.
Nirvana – Lithium
Paperboy – Ditty
Positive K – I Got A Man
The Proclaimers – I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Soul To Squeeze
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Under The Bridge
Shai – Together Forever
Sir Mix-a-Lot – Baby Got Back
Snow – Informer
Spin Doctors – Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong
Tag Team – Whoomp! There It Is
Tony Toni Tone – If I Had No Loot
Ugly Kid Joe – Everything About You
Warren G. & Nate Dogg – Regulate
Wreckx-N-Effect – Rump Shaker
* This was in fact my first exposure to anything Morrissey or Smiths, and it remains my favorite Moz solo song. I have a distinct memory of seeing this video and being conflicted about it. Being so afraid of how much it moved me that I almost needed to deny it even to myself. I had this single and listened to it a lot. But I never told my friends I had it or liked it. It wasn’t until after high school when I heard The Smiths and fell in love with them that I made the connection back to 1994.
And for completeness’ sake, here are the full albums I had (some of which I must have lifted from my parents and/or sister):
AC/DC – Back In Black
AC/DC – Let There Be Rock
AC/DC – Who Made Who
Beastie Boys – License To Ill
Body Count – Cop Killer
Eazy-E – Eazy-Duz-It
Janet Jackson – Rhythm Nation
Jimi Hendrix – Are You Experienced?
LL Cool J – Mama Said Knock You Out
Mystic Music Presents: Instrumental Magic(See, I’ve always been way into instrumentals!)
N.W.A. – Straight Outta Compton
Public Enemy – Apocalypse 91… The Enemy Strikes Black
Public Enemy – Greatest Misses
Run-D.M.C. – Run-D.M.C.
Run-D.M.C. – King Of Rock
Run-D.M.C. – Raising Hell
Run-D.M.C. – Tougher Than Leather
Tom Tom Club – Boom Boom Chi Boom Boom
Urban Dance Squad – Mental Floss For The Globe
The Who – Tommy
Some 70’s funk compilation with Gap Band and the like.
Various mixtapes, mostly from my sister, including Garth Brooks, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin, The Scorpions, Sir Mix-a-Lot, Too Short, and ZZ Top.
Funny to see all this stuff again. And now that it’s all documented and catalogued, I can get rid of it. (Well, except the Morrissey one.) Now the question is: what on earth to do with it? Does anyone even take donated cassette singles anymore? Or is this all destined for landfill?
Well friends… I see that it’s been about two months since my last post. You might be wondering what gives. I could tell you that I’ve been super busy with work and two bands and shows happening and more coming. And all the while, my house is a mess and has needed to be cleaned for weeks. And that’s all true. But you’d think I could have found some time to sit for an hour and write this in a span of two whole months. And yet, I didn’t. Have I lost my zest for blogging? It could very well be. Whatever it was that used to drive me to want to document my current events and be clever… somehow it’s not driving me anymore. I could have filled a dozen blogs with all that’s happened lately. Instead, you’ll get the short, short version. And I will have forgotten some things by now. I feel like I should be sad that this thing might be winding down. Maybe temporarily, maybe forever. But it’s just not sustainable. Should I expect to have time to blog every week the rest of my life? And if I don’t, will my memories fade away because I didn’t record them? And will my progeny someday read this and be disappointed that the blog starts to fall apart here? I don’t know. But I guess I ought to just go with my instincts, and right now my instincts are telling me to hit the high points but not spend too much time on it. Let’s see how that approach works out for us…
So last time, I mentioned that I was about to embark on digitizing my music collection. Well I’m off and running, and it’s going even better than I hoped. Sure, it’s taking a lot of time and will probably take several more months. And sure, this pursuit has put a halt on my MySpace archiving project. But it’s what I’m motivated to do at the moment, so I’m going with it. Apparently the legality/morality of keeping a digital copy and selling the original is up for debate, so with that in mind, of course I’m only selling the things I’m not keeping a digital copy of. And I keep an eye out on Amazon to see what’s out of print and going for a high price, and I’m keeping that stuff for now. But hypothetically if everything else were to go to Amoeba, an estimated 30% of my collection I’ve gone through so far would have hypothetically netted about $750 in store credit! Using what credit I actually have gotten, I’ve picked up (often used) CDs and artists I’d been waiting on. My OCD about CD collecting often kept me from buying collections that were not definitive on their own, but with my new digital approach, I have no problem what collection(s) the songs came from, as for all my purposes, they all live in the same digital bucket. And having it all digital and organized and at my fingertips is bringing me way more in touch with my collection. I’m listening to stuff I forgot I had. This whole thing is a win/win… win/win/win/win…
Despite my busy schedule lately, I have managed to squeeze in some time with friends. Back to the Haight with Shel like the good old days. There’s a Dr. Marten’s store there now that sells all manner of Docs… gold, white, powder blue. If they were something non-leather, I’d be broke from all the shoes I’d have bought there. Even caught some movies (Insidious scared the piss out of me for days!). And I’ve managed to hit a few Smiths nights, a Haight Street Hop, and Booze, Broads, & Hotrods. That’s actually not a bad list. Now mellow out, watch this, and realize the we’re really all just clinging to a speck of dust floating through the cosmos…
I’ve been to a couple of great shows lately. OMD with a bunch of good friends, and then Paul Simon at The Fillmore with mom. The latter was a pretty special show as you might imagine. I got the tix at face value the day they went on sale (thanks to Sus), but they were fetching upwards of $500 each on Craig’s List. It was nice to be able to go to a show with mom. Reminded me of doing that when I was little. I think my first concert ever was Don Henley with her on the “End Of The Innocence” tour. Coming up soon is Bootsy Collins at The Fillmore, and Reverend Horton Heat at The Independent. 2011 has been good for shows so far.
And it hasn’t been bad for TCB lately either. There was a wild night playing that Smiths night at Milk Bar in San Francisco. Though it’s a smaller place and the rain was pouring, we got a nice big crowd of die-hards who helped make the night one of our best in recent memory. Some good greenroom stories, too. Sacramento was fun as usual, and our Petaluma debut was interesting. That night, I heard about how Tenacious D once opened for Super Diamond, and a young Jack Black was all over the band talking about his Neil Diamond obsession. Not long after, Saving Silverman came out, which prominently features a fictional Neil Diamond tribute band. Gee, I wonder where that idea came from… Then this last weekend was a Modesto debut (the highlight of which had to be the DJ starting a song through the PA during one of our songs; not between songs, and not our first or last song… but right in the middle of a song right in the middle of our set). Then it was Fresnope, and though the show was rocking, the next day brought me a double whammy of 1) Claim Jumper being closed permanently and 2) my car getting hit by a U-Haul just before leaving town. But hell, I’m alive, aren’t I? Guess things aren’t that bad.
Speaking of music, a random bitch I’ve had on my mind lately. Anyone know what’s up with the trend of musicians naming themselves with numbers? I don’t know who the first one to do it was, but that was probably clever at the time. But everyone who came after… I mean, how lame is that? After the first guy, it totally loses its cleverness and instead looks like an unoriginal gimmick. John 5, Adam 12, Nick 13. At least come up with a clever one like “Claude 9.” You’re welcome.
The quote of the week comes from Virgil, as we watched Davy Jones on Pirates Of The Caribbean in a Fresno hotel last weekend:
This week’s all about music. And a little about pasta.
So as I mentioned before, after more years if frustration than I care to remember, I finally have an original project off the ground. My new rockabilly band The Rumble Strippers has now played two shows! The debut was at Grant & Green in North Beach. I’d never been there, but it was an ideal place for a first show. A small room, low pressure, but still nice. The DIY sound situation was refreshing too. (We’re not in Kansas anymore!) We got a lot of great feedback, and I immediately felt the difference. There seem to be different standards (and of course expectations) for an original band versus a tribute band. I loved the feeling that there were no wrong answers. TCB is like a math class, where there are right and wrong answers. Every note of every song is predetermined, and there is a correct way to play it. Crowds won’t like it if you deviate too much. But this new band is more like a creative writing class. Sure there’s a craft to it, but there’s also a lot of leeway in terms of content. With covers, we can take any artistic license we want, and with originals… well whatever note I play is the right note.
This last weekend we played our second show at El Rio, this time to a much bigger crowd. Again it went over well, and my own private victory was that for the first time ever, a song I wrote was performed in public! It’s called “Let’s Drink Alone Together” and damned if people weren’t dancing to it. A new experience for me to be sure, and one I’ve spent many years considering. So all in all, this thing is shaping up to be pretty exciting. It’s not exactly Madison Square Garden, but it’s fun to be in and play to a different crowd. They’re more forgiving and encouraging than I’m used to. But that must partially be ‘cos they don’t know what to expect. It’s interesting to not be 100% confident my every note is knocking socks off… which is how I usually feel (courtesy of Mr. Marr, of course).
Of course TCB is still doing its thing. We’ve had a lot of shows lately, but it’s been mostly “all killer, no filler” shows where we more or less have to play the hits. But it got us into Bimbo’s 365 again and hopefully got us on a few new radars. It’s all been smooth sailing of course, minus a rare capo flub on “Stop Me” causing us to have to restart the song. (Whoa, double intro… what does it mean?) Needless to say I’m looking forward to the upcoming shows where we can play some of the deeper cuts. This Saturday is the new “Queen Is Dead” Smiths night in the Haight, where we’ll be playing a set. Then April and May will see some new places and some familiar ones. Might even get “Golden Lights” in there somewhere. And then there’s Moz’s birthday to look forward to…
Last night I went out to Du Nord to see rival tribute “The Smiths Indeed” from the U.K. I’m sure they’re very nice guys, but let’s just say they’re not much of a threat to what we do. Their fake Morrissey is far and away the best I’ve ever seen in terms of dress and dance and charisma. If you want someone who does the whole impersonator thing, you’ll do no better than this guy. But as for the rest of the band… well, no contest. I understand they play several dates a week every week and have for years. It was not evident. The surprise of the night came when I snuck over to the Castro Safeway to stock up on Ovaltine ($20 worth; my local Safeway has stopped carrying it during their construction!). In line right in front of me at midnight? Danny Glover.
Speaking of celebrities, did I ever tell you how much I wish I were Mick Ronson sometimes?
What else is going on? Eh, all boring stuff. I ventured into cooking. Whipped up some whole wheat penne and added pine nuts, crushed garlic, sun dried tomatoes, capers, olive oil, basil, and feta. Wasn’t as good as it sounds, but it’s a start. Also, it’s been freezing in SF the past couple months. I guess they call that “winter,” but it’s seemed especially uncomfortable. I installed my first set of flannel sheets since I was a teenager living at home. What a difference! If that’s not right bitches, I don’t know what is.
I’m about to embark on a serious undertaking. Inspired by Shel, I am taking small steps toward digitizing my music collection to FLAC in an effort to 1) save space, 2) save money, 3) go green, and 4) become more efficient. A lossless digital song file is 99.9% of the value I get out of buying a CD. Why waste all the plastic which will just take up space and degrade over time anyway? And hell, the time when CDs have any value at all is rapidly running out. If I don’t move them soon, they’ll be landfill. A couple of redundant external hard drives and I could have my whole music collection in a space the size of a paperback novel. I’m on the fence, but I’m seeing a lot more pros than cons. The major con is the time and effort to convert it all, but maybe a little at a time over the next year or so?
I realize a lot of what’s in here tonight is Facebook rehash. What can I say? Facebook feels fleeting. Statuses come and go. Disappear forever. This feels more permanent. Even though no one reads it anymore.
New Year’s was quiet, but nice. I hadn’t been to Monterey in a long time, and I forgot all the great little shops and touristy things to do there. We found a great Italian place, ducked into a few storefronts, and bought some candy. Then I got to see my folks New Year’s Day. In fact the only downside at all was the wild turkey prints I found on my car. Sometime during the night, a wild turkey(s) managed to climb or fly up onto my trunk and leave a few prints and talon scratches in the paint (where it apparently slid off the edge). Thanks a bunch, Mother Nature.
If you’ll indulge me getting a little philosophical on you for a paragraph, I had a strange period of wonderment when I was driving out for that short New Year’s vacation the other night. (If you want to know why I never got into drugs, read on. Evidently I am stoney enough while sober.) Maybe I was subconsciously in a reflective year-end mood, but as soon as I hit the freeway, I was struck by the crispness of my vision. The sparkling clear details of the other cars and lights all around me. I mean I really noticed a difference, almost as if I truly were under the influence of something. (This part could all just be due to that brand new windshield.) But then an opera singer was discussing on the radio about how all human voice comes from these most fragile of tiny membranes in our throats. And she sang and I thought of how the sound of opera evokes — at least to my tiny, uncultured brain — images of great white halls and gold and sunlight. All the decadent splendor you see in Greek and Roman period pieces. (Corny, I know, but it is what it is.) And then I arrived at my rural destination and saw how bright the stars shone out there. How much more I could see in the sky when I got away from the city for a bit. You’ve all been camping, you know what I mean. All this was swimming around in my head. The gifts of sight, sound, and speech. The blessing that is being a sensitive creature capable of experiencing all of these wonderful things. And I thought of how easily we could lose any or all of it through accident or illness or age. All of our senses and abilities, and our life itself, we are so fortunate to have them. More fleeting than any of us fully realize until it’s too late.
And we are indeed fragile. I am officially getting wrinkles. Well, the beginning of some creases on my face. Another casualty in my life-long war on lotion. Sure, I wash my hands more than Lady Macbeth, and with the brutally cold weather we’ve been having lately, I would expect (and mourn) my hands to age more rapidly. But my precious face? I guess my good looks are fixin’ to get even more rugged, if you can believe it. For better or worse.
And speaking of aging, I ran across this video the other day. Rosie Hamlin of Rosie & The Originals in 2002. “Angel Baby” was a beautiful enough song as it is, but something about seeing an aged and matronly Rosie singing it as sweetly as ever… it lends a whole new dimension and gravity that make it so much better, but somehow somber too. It moves me in a way that I can’t quite articulate.
NOTE: When I came across this in 2023, the original video I’d embedded here had been deleted off of YouTube. I *think* it was the same as this one on Daily Motion.
Looking forward to a new Smiths night in the Haight, TCB shows at the Blank and Popscene, and Wanda Jackson / Jack White… all within the next couple weeks! And further out are Social Distortion in February and OMD in March. Good times ahead… And the crushing quote of the week was yelled out by a friend between songs at a Swamp Angel show we went to. (Swamp Angel is a new suspiciously Deadbolt-like band from an ex-Deadbolt member.)
Not to start things out on a negative or unnecessarily shocking note but…
I fucking knew it! Those rat bastards! I’ve written before about my hate hate hate of scalpers (like here and here), but I think this news takes the proverbial cake. Turns out that all that time we’ve been grumbling because scalpers always end up with the best tickets to sell… all that time we’ve been gnashing our teeth and cursing that the whole thing must be rigged… well it turns out it was! I’m sure this isn’t the whole story, but these guys were certainly contributing to the systematic fleecing of fans that’s been such a black mark on the concert-going experience lo these many years. To the gallows with you fucking snakes! A pox on all your houses!
OK, I need some good cheer to mellow me out. This Stephen Lynch video cracks me up. I think you need to watch it too. Go on, do it. I’ll wait.
Did I mention a couple weeks ago that I caught Deadbolt in Oakland again? The show — for whatever reason — was much better this time around. There was still police tape lining the stage. Still sparks flying. Went home hoarse from all the smoke. Saw the usual suspects there too of course, and as an added bonus, I was among the first to snag their brand new album “Voodoo Moonshiner” (which features the return of The Mocker). And when I say I was among the first, I mean the band had literally picked up the first discs on the way to that very gig. Hot off the presses!
And actually, on the topic of CDs, I’ve been hearing a lot of good music lately. Notably, The Legendary Shack Shakers have a new album out which is great as usual. I also finally gave in and picked up that Passion Pit album everyone is so nuts over. It was alright. My assessment? Two parts Daft Punk’s second album, one part The Postal Service, and (unexpectedly) a hint of what I think is Peter Gabriel’s influence. Strange!
My ever-growing “to do” list is my neurotic burden to bear. As I work through ways of letting it go and learning to live more in the moment, I am struck by some patterns I see. Someday I may really cut the cord and delete my list altogether, but unless and until that happens, I’m looking for new ways to shorten the list… or at least combat it somehow… as it grows by like 10 lines a day. So anyway, one of these patterns is that several items on this 3,500-line list are snippets of ideas that I know now I will never, ever get around to doing. My options are to do something with them (which as I just said, I will probably never find time to), delete them and forget them (not a tragedy in most cases, but there would be the occasional lost bit of genius), or share them with the world (and thus let me delete them off my list). So I’m starting a new category here of “Ideas I’ll Never Get Around To.” Not because you will always find them interesting to read about, but because I think it will allow me to let them go and move on with my life. Some will be big ideas, some tiny. Some genius, some not so much. So without further ado…
Who among us isn’t familiar with The Who’s “Tommy?” And I know you’ve all seen “Moulin Rouge.” A couple years ago, I myself watched “Across The Universe,” and though at the time I hadn’t yet immersed myself in The Beatles, I was moved by the overall presentation and the way those songs were woven together into a relatively coherent plot.
What I’m getting at is that I think the Smiths/Morrissey catalog is ripe for a similar musical film or rock opera. I realize that compared to The Beatles, our beloved Smiths have a tiny — if devoted — following. But I’m confident the mainstream could learn to love the music too if they were exposed to it in the right way. The Smiths had what, 72 songs in their short five-year career? And Morrissey’s been solo for over 20 years now, amassing another must be around 200 songs, right? Now, I imagine most of you reading this are devout Smiths fans like I am. And I’m sure if you’re on my wavelength right now, you can imagine vigintillions of possibilities. So many songs about longing. So many British and Italian landmarks referenced. Every song is a story in itself, but also broad enough to be applied to nearly anyone. I think this music lends itself extremely well to be meshed into a film. Of plot, I’ve given almost no consideration. And I lost my personal interest in screenwriting long ago. I’ve envisioned much more the production and the presentation than the substance. But someday, I hope someone with the interest and the talent will do a project like this. At the very least, there would be a small army of Smiths cultists rallying for it. And if it were ever performed live, I can think of a few musicians who might volunteer their services.
“Well they’re all playing lead aren’t they, all of them. John Entwistle’s playing lead bass, Keith’s playing lead drums, Townshend’s playing lead guitar, and Roger’s fuckin’ the lead vocalist. It’s insane.”
I tell ya, aches and pains just come too easily these days. My friends tell me “welcome to your 30’s.” It’s really astounding how little physical exertion can cause me to be sore all over for a day or two. It’s pretty much a given the day after playing a show, for instance. Even walking around in a hilly neighborhood. It used to be that I thought well if I’m sore then at least I’m building some muscle. But something tells me that’s not what’s going on here. At least not anymore.
It was a fun weekend! We spent an afternoon at a John Hughes movie marathon at the Castro Theater. It was actually really interesting to watch Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club in a theater and listen to the collective cheers and sighs. Clearly, there was a lot of love in that room. I think it was also settled once and for all that I’m so much more Jake Ryan than Farmer Ted. At some point, we found our way into a sex shop where I finally picked up the bear flag sticker I’ve been looking for for years. Then later in the evening we caught Balls’ Dead Souls show in Menlo Park. Yes, Menlo Park. Also made it out to the Tonga Room for the first time ever, and it was incredible! Reminded me of Don The Beachcomber’s in San Jose, which my dad took me to once when I was little. (That particular location eventually became a gay bar, then burned down, then was paved over for a freeway on-ramp.) Anyhoo, the Tonga Room and the Fairmont in general were pretty spectacular. And of all people, we saw Joe Montana dining and dancing. Go figure!
If you’re around this week, Seattle’s Love Vigilantes will be at Popscene on Thursday night (2/18). Aside from the fact that they currently include TCB‘s Nick and Paul in their ranks, there’s a good chance I’ll be making a brief guest appearance as fake Johnny Marr for a song or two!
One of the first shows I ever went to as an adult was when I went and saw The Knack at Slim’s. They had the number one hit of the year I was born, you know… not to mention one of the biggest hooks of all time. I remember laughing my ass off when someone tried to hand the lead singer (Doug Fieger) a joint, and he flipped out, threw it back, and went into a tirade about how drugs were for losers. Not exactly your typical rock star behavior, but I loved it. R.I.P. Doug!
Speaking of hooks, I’ve had this guitar riff in my head for days. I wish I wrote it, but I’m almost positive it’s from a song… and for the life of me, I can’t remember which song. It’s killing me! For this sort of thing, it’ll usually come to me in a day or two (along with a huge sense of relief), but no luck so far. I’ve been listening to The Black Angels, Rage Against The Machine, The White Stripes, Led Zeppelin, anyone who might be responsible for this crushing riff in my head. In trying to figure out where it came from, as I said, I’ve found myself listening to The Black Angels again. They sound like The Doors and Joy Division got together to cover Led Zeppelin’s “When The Levee Breaks.” And that’s a recipe for success.