Friday, May 23, 2008

Double Nickels!

Guess what?! It's my birthday. Yes, I get one around this time every year. I know what you're saying, "Wait, wasn't the last post about this?" Well, yes and no. Hey, it's MY blog, get yer own if the topics aren't to your liking. Shall I go back to Amy Winehouse posts again?

Age-wise I've outlived my father & my two best friends. And other than aches & pains, thinning hair, unflattering silhouettes, ear hair, chin/neck melding and contempt for youthkind it's like I'm still 21.

What is age? Ice, Bronze, Stone? Aqaurius? Well mine has reached twin-digits. That's n0t the same as double digits, which I've been since I was 10. But now let's see if you can guess my age:

22? (oh my and-uh a-boo hoo)

66? (getting my kicks)

77? (stripping at sunset)

That's right, I'm ageless! Actually, on the day I was born Sir Edmund Hillary became the first man to scale Mount Everest! (look it up) No wonder I'm tired!

Some other things of import: the first Coca Cola ad in the Atlanta Journal; Stravinsky's The Rites Of Spring premieres in Paris; Einstein tests the theory of relativity; White Christmas is recorded.

Fellow birthers: Bob Hope; JFK; Stacy Keach; Blair from Fats Of Life; Rupert Everett; LaToya Jackson; Rebbie Jackson; John Hinckley Jr; Annette Benning; Noel Gallagher; Danny Elfman; Pelle Almqvist (The Hives); Gary Brooker (Procol harum); Melissa Etheridge.

Deathers: Mary Pickford; Romy Schneider; John Cipollina (guitar wizard from Quicksilver Messenger Service); Jeff Buckley; Barry Goldwater; Fanny Brice; John Barrymore.

Regrets, I've had a few - million. Have a seat and I'll recite every last one of 'em if you like. At least those I can remember.
I've had some memorable gifts. The year I turned 11 I got a brand new 3-speed bike. It was electric blue. In 1966 (the year garage broke) I got the debut album by The Shadows Of Knight. And you already know about the microphone & the 1st Ramones album. When I was 18 my brother-in-law gave me his old Ford Fairlane, it was boss but I didn't know how to take care of it. The year I turned 21 I got Bowie's Diamond Dogs & a surprise birthday-cum-engagement party. I still have the album. But the banquet hall has long been torn down. And on my 30th birthday my best friend Tom gave me a Numark mixing console that I used for years of DJ work. I actually just hooked it up again to my home setup. Swingin' Time!

In recent years my daughter (who has a hee-larious blog here ) has been taking me to our local concert venues for a night of boozin' & boppin'. We've seen Coldplay while they were still on the upswing, Manic Street Preachers in their 5 minutes of credibility, and last year she got me a brand spankin' new PC, so I can download all the illegal music imaginable!

Nowadays when people ask me what I want for my birthday, I honestly don't want anything. Yeah, I used to think that was bullshit, but nowadays I just buy whatever I want. It gets like that when you're older. What I really want is to play some cards, have a few drinks, a few smokes, and a few laughs. That would be the best birthday gift. Well, that, and maybe have Kim Cattrall sit naked on my lap.

And for those of you out there who I haven't acknowledged, accept my apologies. I'm old and forgetful and my diaper needs changing.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Summer Means Fun

Memorial Day weekend is always special to me for a number of reasons. First, it signifies the kick-off for goofing-off: the end of school, the beginning of summer (regardless of what the thermometer sez), the official opening of the beaches. Second, and maybe more important to me, it always lands within a few days of my birthday. Oh yeah, also my youngest daughter's wedding anniversary hits at the same time now.

But let's get back to the birthday thing. On my 17th birthday my mother's birthday present to me was a microphone. Not MR Microphone, but a real honest-to-goodness microphone that you could scream words of teenage angst into, set to the ear-splitting feedback of a garage band's blues-based wail. It was sleek and gun-metal grey, just like my mind.

This was my first mic, but my 2nd garage band, which was first called Haldog, then Zip, then Flash. The man standing slightly behind me and a bit to my left, strumming the shit out of his blonde faux-Fender was my best friend Tom. Two years earlier he supplied the mic for my first gig as vocalist with The West Central Eggzit (It was my idea to spell it like that - I was 15, whaddaya want?). The mic was boxy and quite retro looking which would've been cool in time but by 1968 standards just seemed old fashioned. BUT it was a mic, and it worked, and I would've used tin cans with string if I had to. I was on stage & I was smeared with day-glo paint. Action painting!! Take that, Jackson Pollack!

Tom was in some ways the polar opposite of me. He didn't care how high the heels of my boots were or really any ephemeral shit. He just wanted to play, and in the end, yes, that's all that matters (but high-heeled boots to a 17 year old wannabe rock star are fantastic).

Throughout life he was like that. He cut through my bullshit all the time, and that's what I miss most about him . He's been gone for two years now, and sometimes it seems like I crawl up my own ass without him there to normalize whatever crap I'm blathering on about. When you've known someone for 40 years like I did Tom, and that person has merged with the universe, you really have no time or patience to "break in" someone new, someone who "gets" you. By that time, I'll be surfing my own cosmic wave.

So as another school year winds down and the summer sun brings vacation season into full bloom, I hoist a Guinness and a microphone high into the air and salute Tom, still my best friend and closest rock'n'roll outlaw in the whole cosmos.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Peaceful Easy Feeling = Boring Blog

I have not been inspired of late which is why it has been awhile since my last post. Yet in the past I've been somewhat critical of other bloggers who's pages I frequent where their latest entries start with "prohibition repealed!" or "Z. Cavaricci is for me!" And now look at me! Nothing to say! Not even the usual crap that is of interest to only me & my inner child!

This may be a good thing. The usual fare for this blog is rant fodder. I have nothing worth typing to you about that is rantable. Don't get me wrong, I'd still like to throw a huge brick at most people out there, but who wouldn't? For me to write about that stuff would be like me saying "One thing I don't like is high gas prices". Maybe I just need to get out more often. It's pitiful: Here's some examples of what has come my way in the past couple weeks:

David Caruso: can he get any weirder?

Ellen's getting married: congrats!

It's about time the fat girl got voted off Dancing With The Stars.

Gas prices: sheesh!

Low carb flatbreads when sprayed with pam, sprinkled with celery salt & baked are a good way to get low fat tortilla chips for salsa.

Finally Elvis Costello went & made a decent album, because if I had to endure another grownup album from him, I'd have to point a gun. (warming up...)

Oh good: new movies from Adam Sandler AND Mike Myers. Now when I come across young people I'll have something to talk about other than their cell phones. (getting close)

Ashleee Simp-son got married to Pete "steinway mouth" Wentz. I didn't even know they made hoodie tuxedos! (I'm starting to twitch)

Ted Kennedy has a brain tumor: at least he didn't get shot!

I'm baaaaack!

Thursday, May 8, 2008


I can't help it. I actually laughed out loud when I saw this cover. Five dads - including BARACK OBAMA??? Doesn't she mean BARAK THE CARTOON CHARACTER?? And doesn't she really mean seven? How could she forget the ones she resembles the most: David Bowie & Ed Grimley?

I don't care how hip she's supposed to be nowadays, what with her impromptu gigs with, who is it, Portishead or Spiritualized (it's one of those heads-up-their-own-arsehole bands, I just forget which one), or her newly released album (!!???!!) of Tom Waits covers - yeah I bet THOSE songs rule!

I never thought too badly of her - but now I think she's a rip-roaring asshole!
Which one of her dads is gonna beat me up?

Monday, May 5, 2008

Are You Ready To Testify?

Over at the Drowned In Sound website (check it if you like - it's average, really) there's a list of issues available for comment. I like that sort of thing, if only to see peoples' responses so I can raise my blood pressure. One of the topics is "what album defined your mid-teen years?". Hoo-boy, that's a good one. My answer is always the same:

"Kick Out The Jams" by MC5.

Released shortly before I turned Sweet 16, KOTJ defined much of my ensuing years (yet and still!). It also defined my hometown and even my country. The Five were polarizing. For all intents & purposes they were the first punk band (if you exclude Presley, Little Richard, The Stones or even The Velvet Underground, and for the sake of argument I guess I do) and if that's your calling card in 1968, well then, you may as well wear a suit of swastikas to your mother's funeral.

Here's the thing: their leftie manager John Sinclair subscribed to and aggressively employed a cultural/political agenda deemed to make The Five stand out in a crowd. His efforts shot them to the forefront of youth culture (briefly) and arguably brought them worldwide fame (marginally) and notoriety (er...marginally). This anti-war/anti-government agenda coupled with being the progenitors of the absolute highest-energy rock & roll ever - EVER - was quite appealing to a large percentage of Motor City youths. On a national level, however, people didn't really want to know. The 5 made people uncomfortable debunking the peace & love ethic as they did, and while most weren't ready for that right about then, give 'em two years and Kent State, they'd open their eyes. But by that time it was too late. The Five were a footnote by '72 (thankfully the punk explosion of '77 made people aware of them again).

BUT on to the essence of The Five. Most "progressive" musical combos of the day were shoegazers and guitar masturbators, but The Five brought the visual with the cerebral: they DEMANDED both an open mind AND open eyes. When it was time for the Five, people would stand and necks would crane to watch it all unfold. First their rabble-rousing MC, Brother Jesse Crawford would appear to work the crowd like Elmer Gantry on speed, a most sanctified preacher in a church full of sinners. (example: "it takes five seconds! five seconds to move! five seconds to realize your purpose here on the planet! brothers and sisters it's time to move! it's time to get down with it! brothers it's time to testify and I want to know - are you ready to testify? ARE YOU READY? I GIVE YOU A TESTIMONIAL! THE MC5!!!) People would yell, shout, scream, the only thing missing was the old ladies with the fans. Then the MC5 would hit the stage running like they were being chased by the cops, do the splits, Rockette-style high-kicks, James Brown slides, all the while generating the fiercest ear-splitting rock & roll in existence, featuring the twin guitar attack of Brother Wayne Kramer and Fred Sonic Smith. They covered James Brown, The Troggs and Sun Ra (SUN RA!!!). They copped their riffs from The Who and Coltrane (COLTRANE!!!). You didn't get that from Eric Clapton or Grace Slick. They deconstructed the whole hippie lifestyle. It was a new day.

The 5 were always in deep with the law, usually on trumped up obscenity charges or inciting a riot most often related to what would be by today's standards laughable at best: performing their signature tune "Kick Out The Jams", which began:


Not only did that get them in trouble with the law, it got me in trouble with my mother. She actually took away my MC5 album like a teacher confiscating a slingshot.

The 5 had to get their message to the people, so they released a radio-friendly edit of that song replacing the objectionable word with "brothers & sisters". No matter, we all knew what was going down.

The album I started out discussing before I got carried away was recorded live on Halloween 1968 at Detroit's premiere rock dive The Grande Ballroom, which was across the street from the original Hockeytown, Olympia Stadium. There is no way you could come close to understanding the sound and power of The Five from this album, but at the time it was the only artifact available in the privacy of a teenage bedroom. Everyone complains about the sound of this album but I wonder if today's recording equipment could even retained the scruffy dirty feedback-laden sound The Five produced. There was absolutely nothing like them. Many have tried, but The Five are still The Best.

So this album certainly epitomized my early teens, even more than my all-time favorite album, Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited, because it came from my streets, from my town, and it was (for its time) so damn bad & nasty and against every f@%king thing one's parents ever wanted for their children. It was part of a cache of records that came at just the right time for me, alongside Highway 61, The Velvet Underground, The Stooges ... I was damn lucky.

What was I saying? Oh yeah, Kick Out The Jams, Motherf@%cker!