Posts Tagged ‘music’

Inspiration From Some Old Dead Guys

December 1st, 2016

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Isn’t it a pity

Now isn’t it a shame

How we break each other’s hearts

And cause each other pain

How we take each other’s love

Without thinking anymore

Forgetting to give back

Isn’t it a pity

 

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Whoever we are, wherever we’re from

We shoulda noticed by now our behavior is dumb

And if our chances expect to improve

It’s gonna take a lot more than trying to remove

The other race or the other whatever from the face of the planet all together

 

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And we all shine on

Like the moon and the stars and the sun

Yeah, we all shine on

 

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I’m afraid of Americans

I’m afraid of the world

I’m afraid I can’t help it

 

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Hey you know something people

I’m not black but there’s whole lotsa times I wish I could say I’m not white

 

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Get up, stand up

Stand up for your right

Get up, stand up

Don’t give up the fight

 

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Because of their half-baked mistakes

We get ice cream, no cake

All lies, no truth

Is it fair to kill the youth?

 

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This is not America

 

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Pardon me, brother, while you stand in your glory
I know you won’t mind if I tell the whole story
Pardon me, brother, I know we’ve come a long, long way
But let us not be so satisfied for tomorrow can be an
An even brighter day

Spotify <1000 Joints

October 23rd, 2016

Spotify, you win. I have downloaded you to my laptop and have decided to help you kill what’s left of the music business. Lady Gaga released her new album “Joanne” this week. The first single “Perfect Illusion” has been played on Spotify a whopping 38 million times. This will net Lady Gaga an estimated $154.77. Why? Because of the lopsided deal the record industry made with Spotify. So somebody is getting rich, but not the artists.

 

Another example. The rapper Nelly owes the IRS $2.4 million and some jokester wrote an article saying it would take 287 million streams of his hit “Hot In Herre” for him to repay the IRS. It would actually cost less if people went to iTunes and bought his song again but we’re just highlighting the ridiculous pay structure at hand.

 

Taylor Swift moved her tracks off Spotify. Prince only had one song on Spotify, as does King Crimson and Tool. Garth Brooks is the best selling American artist of the last 25 years and none of his music is on Spotify. The only Neil Young albums you can find are the shitty Geffen Records ones from the 80’s that were so bad David Geffen sued him.

 

So since Spotify exists essentially as exposure and a loss-leader, I’ll take the time do a series on artists and songs that have fewer than 1,000 streams. Give underheard music the Mike Farmer bump, whatever that’s worth. If this helps you find something cool to listen to, wonderful.

 

Peter Hammill & The K Group, “Live At Rockpalast”. A televised concert from 1981. Peter Hammill is the singer from Van der Graaf Generator accompanied by a backing band. It’s a 93-minute double album, so you may not get into the whole thing on first listen. You’ll know by the first three or four songs whether it’s your thing or not. Hammill is a strident vocalist, sings as if he’s protesting at a city council meeting. The songs have a prog-ish vibe with a 1981 new wave timbre. Makes sense since Hammill wrote them, he also wrote all the VdGG songs. I really love “The Future Now”.

 

Don Muro, “As Long As I’ve Got You”. The A-side of a Record Store Day single in 2015, the song was recorded in 1974. A power-pop synth-driven DIY production. I assume Muro played or programmed everything on the track. He still occasionally records and runs his own label, Flannelgraph Records. I heard this song on an episode of The Best Show and fell in love with it immediately.

 

Off-Ox, “Best Best Western”. A new project from my long-time friend Aaron Tanner, he of Stationary Odyessy, Fracasos and many other So. Indiana-based projects. (Fun fact: Aaron’s record label Dyspepsidisc released several Mr. Neutron albums about fifteen years ago). Off-Ox is Tanner’s new band and “Best Best Western” is the A-side of their debut single. Melodic, distorted instrumental indie with cool synths on the B-side. Of course, that only makes sense if you’re listening to it on vinyl which I don’t expect you are.

 

I don’t know how to do a Spotify playlist and I’m not going to take the time on account of three songs/artists. Do some searching, you lazy bums.

Things Worth Liking

September 18th, 2016

 

Let’s get positive for a few minutes. Let’s talk about some things that make me happy. Things that are worth liking. Sunshine, lollipops and weirdness. The glory of love.

 

 

This cut off Lou Reed’s 1978 live album “Take No Prisoners”. The whole album he keeps interjecting asides, like he’s breaking the fourth wall on his own songs. It’s ridiculous. On “Walk On The Wild Side” the band plays for seventeen minutes and he barely covers the first third of the song. He does that on “Coney Island Baby” and it works better. The best part is the last few minutes when the band is surging to a climax and Lou sings so hard he’s unintelligible. Stallone-level elocution here. It’s beautiful.

 

 

We need to appreciate The Eric Andre Show while it’s still here. Four seasons of this show and it’s not only still on the air, it’s successful enough to merit a live nationwide tour. Eric Andre has a cult following of kids who want to “legalize ranch”, “bird up”, and “investigate 311”. The bread and butter of the show is the interviews with celebs, oblivious to what they are getting into end up in a psychological Gitmo TV production. If you’re lucky, you might get to see Kraft Punk, the cheese-helmeted suit-clad prankster.

 

 

Joanne The Scammer is my newest fave. Through Twitter and Superdeluxe, this character has become a cult figure. . . honestly, truly. Iconic. A messy bitch, problematic and proud of it. Combining shameless behavior with inspirational wisdom (“Only help women. Only scam men.”), Joanne is hilarious and reflects the unfairness of the world we live in. . . so get yours. You can be a beautiful Caucasian woman, too. Even if you are a black-latino male named Brendan. Especially such. Honestly. Truly.

 

 

Finally, we come to Scharpling and Wurster, the comedy duo behind “The Best Show”. This has been my favorite podcast of the last year or so. The Best Show was on WFMU from 2000 to 2013 then returned at the end of 2014 and has gotten stronger, with celebrity and musical guests, weird topics, host Tom Scharpling’s banter with callers both good and awful, and the chemistry he has with Jon Wurster who calls in as a variety of strange characters. I’ve included a clip of them together as a fine example, where Wurster calls as the obnoxious singer of a Nickelback-esque butt rock band touring corporate free festivals (“The Vanilla Coke Garden Party”, for one) doing a phone interview.

 

There’s four things I like. Four things you might also like. And I didn’t once mention wrestling. 

Love Yoko Ono While She’s Here

September 1st, 2016

I’m about nine hours into my Twitter break. It’s almost 9 in the morning. I’m going to try to go the whole of September without Twitter. Normally I would have checked it already. So far, so fine. In a pleasant enough mood. Hopefully this holds up. Listening to Yoko Ono, which I’ve never really done in depth.

 

In a pleasant mood. Listening to Yoko Ono. Not mutually exclusive.

 

If you find something that speaks to you, then go to it because that is a positive force that is speaking to you in the music. Have you ever been jolted out of your routine? Did it invigorate you? Did you want to go back and investigate it? Or did you want to go back and feel that jolt again and seek it out further?

 

I had a preconception that much of John and Yoko’s work was self-indulgent. Two Virgins, for example. My bandmate Rafe made me listen to it while we were in his car one time. Probably the only time that particular album has been listened to at a Wendy’s drive-thru. But he then played me “Mrs. Lennon”.

 

I didn’t know the lyrics immediately on first listen. What I knew and what resonated with me was the sorrow. It wasn’t shrill, indulgent or up it’s own ass. It’s a song and a sentiment that spoke out PAIN in dark neon letters. I felt it in my bones.

 

It was a long wait in the drive-thru.

 

What is that like to be a conduit for other people’s rage? To be a convenient excuse or scapegoat? “You broke up the Beatles! You can’t even sing! What is that ugly screaming all about?” What is it like to turn it around on people and have them ignore you anyway? When it isn’t convenient for them. Because it wasn’t about knowing the real truth. Because the Beatles would have broken up anyway and they were breaking up before she and John Lennon started dating. As if the breakup could have prevented Ringo Starr from making all those shitty solo albums.

 

“Mrs. Lennon” was my starting point into Yoko Ono’s universe. She is eighty years old and one would have to figure she won’t be around forever so let’s actually love the woman now. Let’s not just be nice to her because her husband was killed. Because when she’s gone, she’ll be gone and that’s when the thinkpieces come out talking about how she was underrated all along.

 

If anyone ever had haters, it was Yoko Ono. They said what she did was not music. It was more than that, honestly. It was a connection to the primordial. A link to the biological minutiae that makes us, aka the DNA. And not everybody wants to have their DNA rattled like that. But they need it sometimes.

Brian Came To B.G.

August 18th, 2016

Brian Wilson came to Bowling Green for a show a few days ago and I got to see him. He was on his “Pet Sounds” 50th Anniversary tour, with Al Jardine and Blondie Chaplin as special guests. It was a strange show, considering the setting and the audience. Watching the show at SkyPAC with thousands of older folks who seemed to want to have a nice, normal time enjoying classic Beach Boys songs. If it had been in a small club in front of a crowd packed with hipsters my age and younger, I wouldn’t think it was so strange. But the niceness of the venue and the oldness of the crowd and the content of the music, especially the “Pet Sounds” music combined for an intense but interesting show.

 

First thing you realize when held up next to the classic Beach Boys hits is how “Pet Sounds” is such a moody collection of emotionally intense songs. It’s not a happy album at all. Brian Wilson produced that album when he was twenty-four, which is a pretty good age to have an existential breakdown about your life. So maybe “Pet Sounds” is the musical equivalent of that breakdown except it sounds beautiful and universal. And then you hear that same guy at the age of seventy-four singing “God Only Knows” and you start thinking.

 

I got choked up at “God Only Knows”. My life, how it has changed. How I have changed. To hear the old man sing the song that he wrote when he was a young, young man. He wrote it and had his brother sing it but his brother has passed on. And Brian can’t sing anymore. Or he can but his range is limited. By age and drugs and life. My God.

 

Brian Wilson, this poor s.o.b. is a 74-year-old drug-damaged schizophrenic. And he’s the ticket seller for this 50th anniversary tour. Why don’t we just leave the guy alone? He has to sell the tickets and be there in person for the show. That concert did more for Bowling Green than it did for Brian. And it was pretty weird.

 

I also cried at the last song of the night, “Love And Mercy”. Choked up again. Because that’s what it is all about. Love and mercy is what we need tonight. Every night. Forever. He’s right. We really do need Brian more than he needs us.

 

A VIP experience was available. No thanks. Never meet your idols. Nothing like posing for an awkward photo with an anxious old man. What are you gonna tell him? “Thank you. . . for everything.” Anything I’d want to say would be way too personal for someone who I don’t know and doesn’t know me. I’d want to hug him. Can you imagine how his eyes would bulge if a stranger just grabbed and hugged him. Forget it. Leave him alone.

50 Fuckin’ Years of “Freak Out!”

July 14th, 2016

Quick, what’s the greatest rock album of all time?

Nope, it’s not Sgt. Pepper’s. Or Pet Sounds. Nope. Or Blonde By Blonde. Nice try, though.

Don’t trust anyone who tells you emphatically what the best album of all time is. How do they know? Maybe it’s the best album as ranked by a like-minded group of writers and musicians in the same peer group who all grew up with the same music which is why you end up with a bunch of fifty-year old albums like the ones above in the top spot (hi, Rolling Stone).

 

I’m sure if you ask the right group of people, they’ll tell you that David Bowie’s fucking Tin Machine made the best al-

 

Frank Zappa and the Mothers Of Invention released “Freak Out!” fifty years ago this summer.

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I think about how well regarded “Pet Sounds” by the Beach Boys is now. Brian Wilson is fondly remembered as a brilliant songwriter and producer. He gets to live his winter years being venerated as a genius, a Kennedy Center honoree, touring for adoring fans. After decades of disrepair and mental torment, Brian Wilson is the victor.

 

“Freak Out!” was released the same year as “Pet Sounds”. Zappa would make records with various lineups under the name “Mothers of Invention” until 1975, and continued a solo career up until his passing in 1993. There hasn’t been a revival of Zappa music at least since 1995 when Rykodisc released CDs of every Zappa and Mothers album (over 60). Rykodisc released several approved compliations of his music, and found long-lost treasures like the soundtrack to 200 Motels, which had been out of print over 25 years and the never-released “Lather”.

 

Unfortunately, Frank isn’t here to celebrate with us. He passed away from prostate cancer in 1993. Three of the five Mothers on the cover of “Freak Out!” are dead and a fourth is in prison. You don’t know want to know why.

 

It’s a double-album, which was unheard of at the time. The only other artist to do it at that time was Bob Dylan who was at the apex of Bob Dylan God-hood. It took a lot of nerve for Frank to insist on this for his very first album but perhaps he thought it would be his “only” album so why not get the most out of it.

 

The sound of the album is indicative of 1960s California rock, complete with session musicians. Unlike “Pet Sounds”, the Mothers actually play their instruments on “Freak Out!” even when joined by orchestral accompaniment. The horns are replaced by the grating of kazoos. Either to save money or because it sounds appropriate. The first song is a garage rocker with anti-LBJ Great Society sentiment and bile to match in the lyrics. It’s dirty punk before punk is a thing. Zappa is barely singing, mostly sneering his lyrics. Ray Collins is carrying most of the melody vocally. Ray does such a great job as a singer and as a straight man to Frank’s wiseguy on the side.

 

“I Aint Got No Heart” is a vicious anti-love love song. Ray handles the lead and Frank lays back and harmonizes instead. They don’t play it for laughs which gives the song its’ power. There’s a hallucinatory cut right at the end that you don’t expect. “Who Are The Brain Police?” is when things turn for the strange. More hallucinatory cuts and a main tune that disturbs. This song is why distorted fuzz bass was invented. Also the song is asking you who are the fucking brain police.

 

“Motherly Love” is a song about how good the Mothers of Invention are at sex. “Wowie Zowie” is a nonsense with a nice marimba part that’s designed to make children happy even though there’s a line that says “I don’t even care if your dad’s [a cop]”.

 

The first disc on “Freak Out!” is a cynical take on 60’s culture and pop music skewed and bent totally out of shape with lyrics that reflect the band’s daily reality as a nighttime entertainment on the Los Angeles club circuit. “You’re Probably Wondering Why I’m Here” is the culmination of the bar-band musician’s nightmare and he completes that sentence with “and so am I, so am I”.

 

Disc two is where “Freak Out!” separates itself from any other album before or after it. “Trouble Every Day” is the last conventional song, a lengthy talking protest blues written by Frank after the Watts riot in ’65. It is unfortunately still timely today.

 

“Hey you know something people? I’m not black but there’s a whole lotsa times I wish I could say I’m not white!”

 

You know we got to sit around at home
And watch this thing begin
But I bet there won’t be many live
To see it really end
‘Cause the fire in the street
Ain’t like the fire in the heart
And in the eyes of all these people
Don’t you know that this could start
On any street in any town
In any state if any clown
Decides that now’s the time to fight
For some ideal he thinks is right
And if a million more agree
There ain’t no Great Society
As it applies to you and me
Our country isn’t free

 

From there, the album devolves or evolves into experimental music. First with the bizarre “Help I’m A Rock” which uses those hallucinatory cuts from “Who Are The Brain Police” to connect its’ parts. Smash cuts of gibberish over a one-note beat into multi-level stoned doo-wop about Kansas and swimming pools, all with the sinister refrain “it can’t happen here”.  In between, Frank complains about being a rock: “Wow, man, it’s a drag being a rock. I wish I was anything but a rock. Heck, I’d even like to be a policeman.”

 

 

The final track on “Freak Out!” is “Return Of The Son Of Monster Magnet”. It’s about twelve minutes long and is the sound of a room full of acid freaks banging on a bunch of rented percussion equipment. The only people not on acid during the recording were Frank (notoriously straight his whole life) and the recording engineer. The “song” is an edited but unfinished rhythm track (because the label would not let Frank spend more money to finish it) and sounds like a trip, either good or bad. Through the acid mist, there’s the mocking voice of Frank Zappa cutting in to say “America is wonderful! Wonderful wonderful wonderful! It really makes it!” before the track speeds up into absurdity and flies away forever.

 

A lot of bands tried to copy “Sgt. Pepper’s” after it came out but many more tried to copy “Freak Out!” right down to its’ end-of-album freak-out. Some albums become important retroactively but “Freak Out!” had an impact that was felt immediately. Every band had to try to do their own version of that album.

 

Frank didn’t know if he would ever get a shot like that again. He was twenty-five, which was old for rock ‘n roll at the time. The Mothers were not an attractive band but what they had were attitude and commitment to an ideal. They also had the chops to go against just about any other band but what did any of that mean career-wise? They were still struggling on the club circuit. If you only get one chance you want to make it the best you can and not save your better material for better circumstances. You have three days to make this album. The band is practically starving. Well-rehearsed but starving. What do you do?

 

You swing for the fucking fences? That’s what you do.

 

Frank made over sixty albums in his lifetime. Some of them are pretty good (“One Size Fits All”, “Joe’s Garage”), some of them are the dirt worst ever released (hi, “Thing-Fish”) but NONE of them would exist without the artistic success that was “Freak Out!” which is worth it all on its’ own.

Eat That Question

June 24th, 2016

We could really use Frank Zappa right now but we lost him twenty-three years ago.

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When a major news event breaks, I sometimes wonder what Frank would have had to say. After 9/11, or Hurricane Katrina or even now with the UK and its’ Brexit news. Frank died at the young age of fifty-two in ’93. It’s possible he could still be here if not for the cancer.

A new movie called “Eat That Question” compiles interview footage from Zappa’s entire career, from years before his ’60s fame until months before his death. He was an intelligent guy, outspoken and unafraid to state his opinion when asked. He fought for the First Amendment, the rights of creative people, and pushed the envelope in his own music. He fought governments, record companies, public views of what’s acceptable.

 

The world is a better place because Frank Zappa was in it. Frank Zappa stood for freedom and actually applied it instead of paying lip service to the idea of freedom. I would like it if somebody could do that now. Is it too hard now? To stand up for what you believe in wholeheartedly? To not compromise in your integrity or your art? To say what you want to say without fear of backlash? If it is then we’ll need another person to come along and show the way again. They needn’t have to compose music as incredible as “Peaches En Regalia” but it couldn’t hurt.

 

I want to see “Eat This Question” and am waiting for a screening somewhere near me. The nearest so far are in Indianapolis and Atlanta. I’m holding out for a Louisville or Nashville screening. I want to see this in a theatre. I want to see this with other people who want to see this. I want to take my best friends to see this and say “Here. Here is the guy I wanted to be when I grew up.”

I Have To Do Rolling Stone’s Job For Them

June 22nd, 2016

RollingStone.com has an article up called “22 Terrible Songs by Great Artists”. Two songs in and I already know they need my help. So I’m going to help them. They don’t know what they’re doing over there, what with the death of print media and the struggle to monetize clicks. Sometimes in the middle of all that, people forget to make sure their content is tip-top. It’s clear that they ran out of steam after about 15 and forgot they needed to include hip-hop acts just for inclusion’s sake.

 

Their pick: “The Laughing Gnome” by David Bowie (1967)

My pick: “Too Dizzy” by David Bowie (1987)

Bowie was embarrassed by “Gnome” but being a 19-year-old who wasn’t DAVID FREAKING BOWIE yet he had to do what he could in order to be famous. So let’s leave “Gnome” alone and pick “Too Dizzy” from 1987’s “Never Let Me Down”, a song so bland and boring Bowie left it off future rereleases. “Gnome” might be worse, but 1987 Bowie had more options than he had twenty years earlier and something as phoned-in as “Too Dizzy” should be heralded with equal mockery.

 

Their pick:”There’s A World” by Neil Young(1972)

My pick: “Lotta Love” by Neil Young (1978)

Hear me out, HEAR ME OUT. It’s a fine song, but listen to this version. It’s like he’s barely trying. Then you hear the Nicolette Larson version and then you go “oh, that’s how it should sound”.  Like that’s what a song sounds like when the musicians are trying and the microphones are pointed they should be and the singer cares and someone is actually producing the thing. Neil didn’t give a shit.

 

Their pick:”Tea For One” by Led Zeppelin (1976)

My pick: “Hots On For Nowhere” by Led Zeppelin (1976)

Same Zeppelin album. Presence isn’t a good album by any means. “Tea For One” is actually not a bad track. Starts with a nice riff then goes into a slow blues burn. “Hots On For Nowhere” is just. . .there. It exists in the universe. And the title is horrible. I’m not even going to link it. Just picture the most generic, shabbily recorded Zeppelin song. There you have “Hots On For Nowhere”.

 

Their pick: “France” by The Grateful Dead

My pick: “Truckin'” by The Grateful Dead

With the exception of a handful of songs, the best and worst Grateful Dead songs are tied. If you say the Dead are “great” artists? Fine, it’s your list.

 

Their pick: “Did You Steal My Money” by The Who (1981)

My pick: “Music Must Change” by The Who (1978)

Why pick on post-Moon Who when we can pick on a song from the last Moon-era Who album that didn’t have Moon on it because he was in such decline he couldn’t play the drums. So the song has no drums, just a few cymbal splashes. The only reason either song works at all is due to Roger Daltrey’s vocals.

 

Their pick: “My Fist Your Face” by Aerosmith (1985)

My pick: “Voodoo Medicine Man” by Aerosmith (1989)

The ‘Smith were trying to sober up and “My Fist Your Face” is the best they could come up with under the circumstances. 1989 (fully-sober) ‘Smith has this lyric “Livin lovin, gettin’ loose/masturbatin’ with a noose/now someone’s kickin’ out the chair”. I confess that I thought the lyric said “masturbating with a goose”. Why, because Steven Tyler seems capable of anything.

 

Their pick: “We Are The Clash” by The Clash (1985)

My pick: “Mensforth Hill” by The Clash (1980)

It’s literally another song in reverse. The whole thing. It’s from Sandinista! which is three-LP’s which is a sure sign of filler bullshit. “We Are The Clash” is the second best song on the worst Clash album because Mick Jones was fired. On “Mensforth Hill”, there’s no such excuse. This is the Clash in their prime. And it’s filler.

 

Their pick: “Driftin’ Too Far From Shore” by Bob Dylan (1986)

My pick: “Man Gave Names To All The Animals” by Bob Dylan (1979)

Bob Dylan has put out a lot of stinkers. He even recorded an album with the Grateful Dead. He did three albums of Christian-influenced originals. “Man Gave Names” is a reggae song. Bob Dylan doing Christian reggae just pushes things too far.

 

Their pick: “German Kid” by Dee Dee King (1989)

My pick: “Go Lil’ Camaro Go” by Ramones (1987)

Dee Dee King is the rap persona of Dee Dee Ramone. It sucks. Everyone knows it. It’s not great. The Ramones are great. So I chose a bad Ramones song written by Dee Dee. It has backup vocals by Debbie Harry. What a waste.

 

Their pick: “My World” by Guns N’ Roses (1991)

My pick: “Get In The Ring” by Guns N’ Roses (1991)

Insecure Axl challenges a bunch of rock writers to a fight in song. Fails to follow up with an actual fight even when he was taken up on it. Got beat up at a party by Tommy Hilfiger in the 00’s. Couldn’t beat up anybody but his wife. Wimp.

 

Their pick: “Smart Girls” by Brian Wilson (1989)

My pick: “Some Of Your Love” by The Beach Boys (1980)

“Smart Girls” was not officially released. Brian was still under the “management” of Eugene Landy. Go back a decade to when all the Beach Boys were still around and explain the lack of quality control. Late ’70s Beach Boys is a real pile. Look at the album: The band is trapped in a giant bubble in a frozen wasteland.

 

Their picks which I won’t argue with:

Elvis Presley: Confidence

Chuck Berry: My Ding-a-Ling

Paul Simon : Cars Are Cars

Joni Mitchell: Dancin’ Clown

Bruce Springsteen: Real Man

 

 

 

The Glory Of “38”

March 28th, 2016

I am a middle-aged man. I am thirty-eight years of age.

 

This is not about approaching middle age or confronting one’s mortality. This is about me trying to build up the reserves to occasionally have a moment like I did when I was in my early 20’s.

 

Did you ever get in a car with friends and drive hours to a distant city to see a favorite band you loved but wouldn’t appear anywhere near you? I did that a lot in my youth. Now, not so much.

 

It’s harder to get away. It’s harder to get a group of friends to get away together for a day or two. Let’s get in the car, go to town, see a concert and drive immediately back. No stopping for a hotel room. Pull an all-nighter, get collective white line fever. Get home and sleep it off the entire next day. Wonderful, right?

 

You can do that all you want when you’re 21, 22, 23, but at 37 it takes a lot of effort to get away. March 26th was my 38th birthday, so I celebrated with a trip to Chicago to see the French progressive group Magma.

 

I have done this before. On my 30th birthday, I went to Chicago to see the Boredoms, a Japanese noise rock group. That band had three percussionists, one vocalist and somebody playing a seven-neck guitar that was stood up on the end like a christmas tree. Maybe the strangest show I’ve ever seen. It was also a great way to ring in my thirties.

 

This Magma concert, this was the second strangest show I’ve ever seen. Second only to the Boredoms. And unlike the Boredoms where I traveled up in an car with friends, I went to Magma by myself. . . on Greyhound.

 

I took a Greyhound bus from Louisville to Chicago (nine hours), then took a Megabus back to Louisville (seven hours) immediately after the concert. I don’t recommend it to anyone. I was awake for twenty-seven hours before I got back to my home in Fordsville.

 

For those sixteen cumulative hours I rode on the bus, I was cramped and my legs were sore. My body played a game, seeing which body part could hurt the most at any given point. My knees, my ankles, my ass were all prime contenders.

 

I can’t do that again. Maybe I can do the car trip all-nighter but I can’t do the bus thing. No way on Earth. There was a point on the way back I thought that if nobody had ever committed suicide on Megabus, I might be the first.

 

MAGMA: JUST WHAT EXACTLY WAS THAT?

 

Okay, where were we? In Chicago, at Reggie’s Rock Club on South State Street, watching the second strangest show we’ve ever seen in thirty-eight years of life.

 

Magma is a French group formed in the late ’60s by drummer Christian Vander, and beyond that you should go read the band’s Wikipedia because it’s far too complicated to discuss here. Key words include: “John Coltrane”, “space opera”, “quasi-operatic”, “tribalistic”. I don’t know if that helps. I hope it does.

 

If I have to play the role of David Fricke, I’d tell you to check out Magma’s 1973 album “Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh”. If I knew how to add umlauts I would because that title has so many umlauts, Motley Crue would bow down.

 

They played four songs Saturday night. Four. The first two were thirty-five minutes EACH. They didn’t warm up with a short one and then go into the longer pieces. They went straight into the hard stuff. Their drummer is sixty-eight years old and played two thirty-five minute songs in a row.

 

To be fair, he stopped in the middle of the second song to take a scat vocal solo. For ten minutes, he scatted, he pretended the mike was a clarinet, he squealed and screeched like a maniac. And then he started drumming again. He didn’t exactly make it easy on himself.

 

The only way he could have made it harder is if he had taken a nine-hour Greyhound bus trip right before the show.

A Feeling I Hope You Get

October 18th, 2015

This is for all the people who musicians. All of the people in bands, all the people who want to be in a band, you name it. This is for you.

 

There are occasionally major proclamations made in media “the best album ever”, “album of the year”, “best concert of all time”. Major hyperbole invoked to hype up a thing that somebody somewhere is enthusiastic about. I have done it myself, claiming Sparks’ No. 1 In Heaven is one of the best albums ever. I qualified it with “one of” but the point is anyone who writes enough/posts enough will end up going full hyperbole mode.

 

Unless you’re Brian Wilson, one of the Beatles or in Blue Oyster Cult, chances are you will not be referred to as “the best” anything. That’s okay. You don’t need to be validated by others. What you need is to feel that way yourself.

 

There have been a few select moments in my life when I was either on stage or at the practice space with Technology Vs. Horse and everything clicks and it feels irresistible. I have had a few moments in my life when I thought “I am in the best band in the known universe right now.”

 

Are we the best? Were we ever? No and no. But who cares. Those moments have been rare for me so I treasure them when I have them. The odds of ever getting out of your own hometown playing with a band are boggling. So doing this music thing for fame or glory is a fool’s game. It took me a long time to learn that. But the sooner you learn this, the  sooner you can appreciate what you have for what it is. Those moments when a bunch of strange people come together and make it work. The kind of synergy that a corporate boardroom preaches about but cannot inspire.

 

I really hope everyone who ever joins a band has that feeling, if only once. If you’re out there writing songs, I hope you have a moment in your life when you can look at one of your creations and go “that’s a masterpiece”. You deserve to feel good about what you’ve done. It’s not like you put toxic smoke into the world. You’ve made the air molecules around you wiggle in a particular fashion. You’ve attempted to communicate to others using this commercial form of songcraft.

 

What else do Elvis Costello, Blackie Lawless and Farrah Abraham have in common, really?