Thursday, January 29, 2009

It Was 40 Years Ago Today ...

As much as one might argue "so what", including me from time to time, we're celebrating the demise of The Beatles.

This weekend marks 40 years since all four of them played together in a live show configuration., I hesitate to call it a concert, but one could argue that that's exactly what it was, the difference being that most of the audience didn't know they were the audience.

So Jan 30: it had to be freezing, plus they were on the roof of an office building. They set their gear up in performance lineup mode, and played for about 40 minutes, augmented by Billy Preston on keyboards. One can imagine the underlying feelings - McCartney was hated by the other three who saw him as a megalomaniac, but in reality I think he was just trying to keep the brand (not a typo) alive. Lennon was itching to take his place as the uncontested freak king; Harrison was sick of fighting Lennon & McCartney for any bit of recognition - he didn't need this shit, his jamming buddies were Clapton & Winwood & Dylan & other cats with credibility who respected his playing, so obviously he had eyes to go solo. And Ringo may have only been the world's most famous drummer but he would soon surprise everyone by becoming a filmmaker and aligning himself with then #1 Glam Idol Marc Bolan.

So back to this - Harrison didn't want to do it at all. Lennon just wanted to do something, they were all there at 8am. The cops came in & stopped it like they always did when the neighbors complained about the band in the garage. Everyone presumably went home, and stayed home, after that. And then for a short period from July to August they went into a studio and cut their very last ever sides as a group for Abbey Road & called it a day.

So technically in August it'll be 40 years since their demise.

Personally, by this time I was off them. I had heard The San Fransisco Sound, British Blues, Hendrix, The Velvet Underground. "Yeah Yeah Yeah" was just lame.

Yet here we are 40 years later, still gathering every little trivial detail of their professional and private lives. From their first to last album (13 of 'em) it was only seven years. Nowadays it takes that long between two releases. And no one has been able to overshadow them. Many can sound more contemporary, more avant, more polished, more urgent, but forty years later The Fabs ain't going anywhere.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Adios, Motherf#&ker

I'm sick of it all. Yeah, already. And I'm not ashamed to say it.

All this stuff I've been hearing on TV. On radio. Everywhere else. "It's a new day". "Things are gonna change". "Finally!".

Guess who all of that is referring to?

See, what if he's a douche? What if he doesn't fix your favorite problem quick enough, or ever? What if he does nothing at all, because it's just too overwhelming, and keeps his head down for 4 years, just so he can escape with a little bit of sanity & his family? Or what if he makes some really really bad decisions? Because all that's a possibility. Remember that friend or family member who you thought was so right on & then something happened & your opinion of them went all sour & negative? IT CAN HAPPEN.

Don't get me wrong. I don't want it to go bad, not at all. But I'm not gonna get all "oh, yay, praise Jesus, now we can breathe easily". I didn't feel that way back when the campaigns were happening. I just know what I DIDN'T want! I figured "give the brother some". Brother? The term "brother" doesn't exactly apply, and I mean that in the nicest way possible. I mean, he's not exactly the Rocawear and Cokevoisier type, Thank God.

I do have faith in him. But it's almost like giving a guy a toothbrush & telling him to clean every toilet from sea to shining sea, by 5PM. I don't envy him. I empathise with him. I don't want his job.

Once again, one black guy has to be the spokesman for his entire race. (but guess what, he's like Jenny Willis on The Jeffersons, the one George called "The Zebra"). As it turns out, now he speaks for everyone else, including the redneck assholes and the psycho killers too.

Too many f#%king celebrities wetting their pants over this cat. I wouldn't take fashion tips from most of them. People who don't have the slightest idea - blacks voting for him because he's black, not knowing anything else about him (OJ anyone?). Although, in actuality, I guess that's no different than me voting for him because I was not gonna let another Bush cronie run my shit for another 4 years (because that's what McCain became once he got the nod). But that wasn't the only reason I voted for him, and I know it's unfair to assume no one else had that feeling.

So people are happy, and I'm glad. I can't dictate how people should react to all this history making. I thought the coverage of the various balls was a bit too close to watching an awards show. Again, this is me. The media sucks, celebrity sucks, inappropriate casualness sucks (like The Bidens at The Hometown Ball).

So to the new chief I say walk on brother, because obviously you wanted to, and you're smart enough to know that you have the worst job in the house right now, but you stand to gain the most.

Monday, January 12, 2009


I'm a sucker for crazy little things from my early years (not my 1st Izod shirt or my red jazz oxfords, tho). Certain things evoke a vibe, kinda like a cerebral taste or smell, if not a specific moment in time. Such is the case with ... er, Camelot.

Back in the mid 60s my cousin (whose siblings are the subject of a draft I've yet to publish; some things are best left on the cutting room floor) had the original Broadway cast lp, featuring Richard Burton, Julie Andrews & Robert Goulet. (yeah, & I had "Highway 61 Revisited") Anyway, he was painting some rooms in our house and brought this lp with him to play while he worked. I admit it grew on me, and apparently my mother too since she bought a copy. His younger brother, who was my age, used to know all the words to all the songs in that damn thing. And I wanted to, too, since occasionally it seemed better to be him than me (yes, I have issues). Well lo and behold, I memorized that bitch, including the Julie Andrews cuts. The Camelot Original Broadway Cast album became one of my life standards.

So last weekend I was scouting around my favorite download vehicle & found a site offering the complete original Broadway cast from 1960. I downloaded it, and when I opened up the master file, it contained two folders - Disc 1 & Disc 2 - wow! An expanded version?!? My excitement grew. I opened the Disk 1 folder - and there were the familiar track titles but also tracks entitled "dialog", and even more titles unfamiliar to me. Disk 2: more of the same! YOW! So as I loaded them onto my media player, It was like Indiana Jones finding the holy grail, or the guy at that flea market last year who found the studio acetate of 1st Velvet Underground album with alternate takes! For me it was that cool!

OK, OK, check this out: someone had recorded a complete overture-to-curtain call performance of the play from the audience! So this was one particular night at The Majestic Theatre on Broadway, sometime between December 3 1960 and January 5 1963 (873 performances!). I don't know who recorded it, or how they got it, but it's all there, all two hours-plus of it! The quality is pretty poor, but I can overlook that! From the very first strains of the Overture, which has a bit more punch than the cast album, it's an exciting sound. And what's more, you even hear audience reactions and applause! And of course, because the songs are being performed in front of a live audience you get slightly different vibes from the songs. Burton with his thick brogue, Goulet's voice booming like he didn't even need a mic. It was as if I were listening to something from a time before recording equipment existed. It's like the first bootleg album! Nowadays acts are playing entire albums in concert - it's kinda like what this is, even though it's a chicken/egg thing.

Anyway, if I memorize the dialog, I'll have one over on my cousin. Except I think he's got money.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

No Fun

Ron Asheton is dead. For those who don't know, he may have been solely responsible for giving a million guitarists who couldn't "play" but had scads of heart and soul the courage to get out there & do what needed to be done. How did he wield such power? Easy: he was The Stooges guitarist.

Ron was a rudimentary soloist in a time when rock guitarists were masturbating all over the fretboard. When everything else was peace & love, he was greasey & garage-y & full of Nazi memorabilia.

From jump street I was prepared to hate The Stooges. They were the "brother band" of the MC5, with whom at the time I was going through a nasty breakup (my aunt found the 5's lp, which I had lent my wiener cousin, and she went all Tipper Gore over it to my mother about its youth-corrupting properties, and I was banned from the stereo. Begrudgingly I inched towards safer rock & roll. How f#%king stupid was I?). So I figured here's more feedback-laden, out of control high energy noise, nothing like Clapton or The Airplane (yeah, no shit). Cut to a Saturday afternoon in the summer of 1969, & as I was getting in the shower, radio by the sink, WABX is featuring the first ever airplay of the 1st Stooges lp. First up: "No Fun". It was ... primal. Very basic, very rocking, handclaps & fuzzbox. Iggy's voice was the snottiest, most teenage voice I had heard at that point. The Stooges were dripping with "cool". I was too young to catch their shows at that point, but had heard and read all about them. I couldn't imagine their world, until that Saturday afternoon. Sold!

Initially I thought Ron Asheton, who was so not like Clapton or Jerry Garcia or those other counter-culture guitar heroes, played no better than the pork-brained guitarist in my first garage band. I was "going to school" daily on my generation's rock & roll at that time. At 15 I was trying to wrap my head around not only The Stooges & MC5, but also The Velvet Underground, Coltrane, Howlin' Wolf and Sun Ra. Thank God for WABX.

Wait, this is supposed to be about Ron Asheton, not me. OK. He and original Stooge bassist Dave Alexander went to England in the mid-60s and saw The Who - of which he said he had never seen such pandemonium. I guess that was it for him.

No Who, no Kinks, no ? & The Mysterians, no Velvets, no Hendrix: no Stooges; No Stooges: no Dolls, no Ramones, no Pistols, no Clash, no Fall, no Sonic Youth, no Jack White.

I saw Ron play four times. The first was 1971, just before The Stooges hooked up with Bowie. No plans for any new album at the time, I think the singer was "hurting" and they were about to go on hiatus. What I remember about that show is that Iggy spent the entire set on the floor in the audience & I never saw him. The next two times were in 1973, deep in the throes of glam-rock, the "Raw Power" years when Ron was pushed to playing bass to make room for sheet metal amphetamine guitarist James Williamson. Both '73 shows were famous ones: one was at the St Clair Shores Ice Arena, which was just outrageous because of the venue and the fact that I could literally reach out & touch the band, and they were stellar. The other was the (in)famous final show at the Michigan Palace, where the band were bottled off the stage by a biker gang. They never played again - until the 4th and final time I saw them - 30 years later at the 2003 reunion gig at Pine Knob, with Ron back on guitar. He looked old & fat, like your uncle who pulled out his guitar to rattle off the classic Stooge licks. But he was perfect, it was surreal, and they would go on to do the exact same show for four years, right down to what I originally thought were ad lib moments.

I hope he got some bread from these shows over the past five or so years. The post-reunion album sucked, but what can you do? 60-year-old Stooges can't write 20-year-old Stooges material and still be believable.

And heartbreakingly, The Stooges are being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame this year. Well, they always did want to be someone's dog.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Calendar Boy

OK, let's get back to our regular scheduled lives. Another day, another half-dollar. Little by little the crap TV shows are showing new episodes again. Certain life indicators get reset, like vacation days and authorized vision coverage. Year end lists should be just about over now. As for resolutions, who cares, they'll mostly be broken anyway. Live. Just live for life.

I was going to make an attempt to stop pointing out the significant deaths, but you can't control that. You can only control what you report. Like you don't need me to tell you Jet Travolta's dead, but I'm pretty sure you need to know jazz great Freddie Hubbard is.

I watched three absolutely horrible movies this weekend. The missus was sick, so it was x-chromosome-a-go-go at the video store. Do not watch these: The Women; Then She Found Me; Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day. I wish I liked thick-necked dude flicks or insipid gen-x crap because there is nothing out there for me, and there's no shortage of that. Actually, I'm satisfied watching The Ramones doc again for the umpteenth time.

I've been recording Bravo's Spectacle series hosted by Elvis Costello. He's a fairly decent interviewer, and of the episodes I've seen so far, Elton John has been the best - not really a surprise, he's a well known music fanatic, so he has an obsessive perspective on stuff. The Bill Clinton episode seemed too forced, he's smooth enough but there was an unnatural emphasis on music. You'da thought he was as obsessed as I am, and I know that can't be so. But to his credit, he acknowledged Trane, Stan Getz & Ray Brown, & admits to following off-the-beaten-path jazz. The worst: Lou Reed, who I'd truly like to punch out, and James Taylor, who apparently has never spoken in public before. I've yet to watch the Tony Bennett episode, who I'm sure has some ace stories, but I've seen him on TV before, and he also can't speak. If this is renewed for another season, they should try to round up Costello's past-collaborators as guests, McCartney & Burt Bacharach. Bowie'd probably be good, too. Or maybe the wife.

Also I've been catching Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour on Sirius/XM. I think this is fairly tight-scripted, but Zimmy does a pretty good job reading. He's funny, the facts are obscure enough, and the music choices are superb. The last show I heard he gave "his" meatball recipe after playing, of course, "One Meatball".

2009: more real-ism, more kicks, less shit. Sounds like a plan.