Jukebox Antagonist – Epsiode 2

28 Jul
That was a real cliffhanger back there in Episode 1, wasn’t it? I was threatening to name my “best” Nirvana song, with a hint that it wasn’t by Nirvana. It was one of those tropes that sounds good when you toss it out there, but completely impractical or even imaginative. See, I went back and basically rifled through the Nirvana catalog, and came away with the following conclusion. I don’t believe they had a best song. They had a bunch of really good jams, but to say that “Drain You” is better than “All Apologies” is a stretch.

A lot of bands were buoyed by the wake of the Nevermind sinking cruise liner, but only a small percentage could be considered in anyway to be Nirvana rip-offs or copy-cats. Bush was Nirvana with a decent guitar player. Anybody who wants to argue with me about Kurt Cobain – God bless the man, the myth, the legend – being an incredibly talented guitar player, get in line and you might want bring something to read, cuz it’s going to be a long wait. The so-called alternative-grunge phenomenon was bigger than any one band. Otherwise, there were bands that nicked bits and pieces from Nirvana’s routine, as every rock band has done since Bill “Handjob” Haley and the Fucking Comets. Alternative rock was a festering sore that had been building up for more than a decade, waiting to burst. And wallow in its own puss.

Failure – Saturday Savior

Failure is one of the few post-grunge, mid-90s American rock bands that make me think, “Why weren’t these guys huge?” As opposed to mid-90s British rock bands like Bush and Oasis that make me think, “How in God’s name are these guys huge?”

Failure first came to my attention in 1996, around the time “Stuck on You” reached #23 on Billboard ‘s Alternative Songs Chart. Dale Meiners turned me – us – on to Failure. Our band Whitey was recording with Dale at Ghetto Love, his Chicago studio circa 1996-97.

One day, Dale and said, “Hey guys, have you ever heard of [this band] Failure?” He put on Fantastic Planet and we were impressed. Very impressed.

It reminded me of a similar incident back in 1990, when our band Brain Kiss was recording an EP with Matt Suhar – who passed away last year in a bizarre and tragic accident. Matt Suhar was one of the good guys.

juke-2-fugaziBrain Kiss had enough money to record five maybe six songs. Matt was producing, while some cat named Neil was engineering. One day they brought in the first Fugazi record (Repeater, 1990) as a reference record. Matt said, “Dudes, you should be listening to this, not Jane’s Addiction.” And in a way, he was right.

We were embarrassed by how good Fugazi was. Oh wow, we really are a bunch of suburban slackers. Fugazi was kicking ass while we were tripping balls. And that was pretty much the last time you would have caught me wearing a tie-dye t-shirt.

Being in the studio puts me in a different headspace in terms of listening. If you’re a music nerd and you read interviews with producers and engineers, they frequently talk about having “reference records” during the recording process. For instance, Trent Reznor said that while recording 2005′s With Teeth he would use Brainiac’s Electro-Shock for President as a “sound reference.”

“Brainiac was a band that, on this particular record, the sound would be something we’d reference, because it sounded very low-tech, electronic garagey sounding. It has an interesting low-tech sound to it that was inspiring. Even thinking about that visually would lead us into certain paths of production ideas.”

Failure – did a band ever live up to their name like these guys? Were the Outlaws really outlaws? Were the Eagles really eagles? Failure had it all – good songs, great production, mid-major label support, critical and peer approval – but 1997 was more or less the last anyone heard from Failure – until now.

If you’re interested in their story, click here. or watch the following clip, in which Ken Andrews and Greg Edwards discuss Failure’s demise and recent revitalization. I’m kind of curious to see these cats live. I think it might be good.

“Saturday Savior” gets the nod over “Stuck on You” for several reasons. It opens the album, hence the first song I heard when Dale popped the CD in the player, and thus, remains my strongest impression. “Hmm,” I thought, “it sounds familiar, but sounds amazing!” Of course, the average music nerd could probably name about 10 bands that Failure “sounds” like – I could – but this is just…better.

The second reason is that it was more appeal to me than “Stuck”. The song has one progression with a tonic and a sixth. I hear it and I love it.

The third reason is:

Lionel Ritchie – Stuck on You

Doesn’t that make you smile? How about this:

Wesley Willis Fiasco – Jesus is the Answer

Even though I missed posting on Wesley’s birthday this year (May 31), “Rock Over London, Rock On Wesley Willis” tells the story of how we met and became friends – which led to meeting Dale Meiners, who played guitar in Wesley Willis Fiasco, one of my all-time favorite bands. See how I did that? Slick, huh?

The first time seeing the Fiasco (1995) was the most compelling live rock performance I had seen since Jane’s Addiction at the Aragon Ballroom (1990). And as I wrote in that original article, the Fiasco blurred the lines between spectacle and art, resulting in a jarring musical experience. When you’re standing there thinking, “Are these guys for real?” You realize that this doesn’t happen every day, but it’s happening right now.

Again, the above link contains just about everything I need to say about Wes, but here is a rare clip of WWF live in Hollywood.

Wesley Willis Fiasco – Intro/The Frogs/Casper the Homosexual Friendly Ghost

Arthur Fielder and His Boston Pops – Bond Street

When I was a youngster, Arthur Fiedler And The Boston Pops, What The World Needs Now: The Burt Bacharach-Hal David Songbook (1972) got a lot of airplay. For the most part, whenever my mom put it on, I’d think, “Christ, this again?” It’s an instrumental record but even a four-year-old can’t help but earworm that insidious trumpet bit about the clown and his pathetic shoes too big for his bed. Cryin’s not for me, no… Next thing you know, Dionne Warwick is standing in your living room, and she smells like lavender and cocoa butter.

But there was one song – “Bond Street” – which really pricked my ears. I was like, “That drummer is doing something cool!” and I didn’t know it was an entire percussion section.

The Frogs and Eddie Vedder – Jeremy/The Longing Goes Away

Ah, speaking of the Frogs and since we’re on this whole post-grunge kick anyway, it wouldn’t be right to leave Eddie Vedder out of the mix. I’ve watched this video maybe half a dozen times and I keep thinking that they couldn’t have picked a worse camera angle to film this shit, unless of course it was just some dude with an iPhone – wait, this was 1994, nobody had iPhones or even cell phones.

For a spell in the mid-90s, The Frogs were the underground band du jour for successful alternative musicians like Vedder and Billy Corgan. [I’m so tempted to post super embarrassing clips of Corgan on stage with these cats. Google it yourself. Corgan – is there anything he can do?] Anyway, the original recording of “The Longing Goes Away” is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard in my life, too, Ed.

It was also during the same period of time – the mid-90s – that I was writing for a series of Chicago magazines, most notably Tail Spins, Subnation, and Velocity. As a result, I got a lot of demos and press kits shifted my way.

For a year or two, I wrote a recurring, pseudonymous column in Tail Spins called “Felix Navarro’s Bitter Corner”, which was basically a free-form editorial platform for the most unhinged or diluted fake music critic/impressario in existence. The pseudonym was created from inter-breeding the characters Felix Unger (actor Tony Randall) of The Odd Couple, and Dave Navarro, guitarist for Jane’s Addiction, et al.

The writing wasn’t always AP style, or good, but it was conversational and real, and more importantly, the vitriol was present and accounted for. And surprisingly, appreciated by the readership. Felix was one of the more popular features of the ‘zine while it lasted.

juke-2-manugentindexSomewhere along the way, I developed a concept for the Felix Navarro column called Demo Dare, in which I literally dared bands – 95% of which were inherently obscure local bands who didn’t have a label and couldn’t get any press in the Illinois Entertainer if they held Ma Nugent at gunpoint – to send me their demo tapes, in exchange for a guaranteed review. That was a big deal for nobody bands – getting press. It didn’t matter if it was good or bad press, you just needed someone to talk about your stupid, shitty band.

The complete story of Demo Dare is most definitely a tale for another time – I got death threats and shit – but one thing happened right after I’d published my first story about Wesley Willis (credited under my real name, Christian Adams):

I received a Demo Dare package from a woman in Franklin Park, Illinois, named Jan Terri. She sent a homemade VHS tape, a self-released cassette demo, and a press kit complete with glossy headshot that I wish I would have framed and saved for antiquity, but I didn’t. Now these people are telling me that Jan Terri is a “viral video legend.”

Jan Terri – Journey to Mars

At the time, I was initially reluctant to write about Wesley because of his schizophrenia. I didn’t want to write about him because he had issues, I wanted to write about how those issues influenced his art. Plus, he had a support system of righteous people who weren’t trying to exploit him.

With Jan Terri, I didn’t want to write about her because she obviously had issues, and it didn’t seem like anyone was trying to keep her in check. Or at least whoever was in her corner was like, “Fuck, yeah! This broad is insane!” And that was unsavory to me. There was absolutely no art to what she did.

juke-2-J.T.h_shotThen I learned the truth. Jan Terri was a limo driver who fancied herself a musician, entertainer, performer – and more or less continues to make it happen, depending upon how you define “making it happen.”

The VHS tape contained several music videos, most notably, “Journey to Mars”, and the press release said something about breakout hit single. Some shit like that. It was so cringingly bad that everybody I showed it to was like, “Nuh-uh, that shit is whack.” And so, Jan Terri may have had a mention in Demo Dare, but I don’t remember. I dropped the subject. Not interested.

This was absolutely pleasant news to me: Jan Terri appeared on The Daily Show in 2000, and was hired to play parties for Marilyn Manson. She’s considered an outsider musician.

Oddly enough, I’m pretty sure I still own that original VHS tape she sent me in 1995; I was haunted by the headshot for years.

Twenty years later, I’m online looking for the original “Journey to Mars” video, and I know it’s out there, when I stumble across the newest, latest, worst Jan Terri video I’ve seen to date. Actually, I’m a couple of years too late on this crap. “Losing You” is – according to Dangerous Minds a “regularly-voted worst video,” but “Skyrockets” is way, way worse. http://dangerousminds.net/comments/excuse_my_christmas_its_the_return_of_jan_terri

Jan Terri – Skyrockets

 

Only in Taiwan, Episode 4: Fruit Beer?

28 Jul
If there’s ever been a bit of unsolicited advice that I would wholeheartedly share with my child, it’s that nobody likes a whiner. People who complain all the time are a drag, and they’re generally more than willing to bring you down with them.

That said, my life in Taipei is somewhat stagnant. All work and very little play. But I don’t like to complain about it. I’m a problem solver, right? Therefore, I’m always on the lookout for creative projects to keep me busy during idle times, which is part of why I wrote The Lazy Bastard Guide to Mandarin, and recorded another Aztec Hearts album, and maintain Black Sunshine Media. It’s something to do.

My drink of choice - 2010 Don Vinico Carinena Tempranillo, NT$229 (approx. US$7.65). It's a palatable yet cheap guzzle.

My drink of choice – 2010 Don Vinico Carinena Tempranillo, NT$229 (approx. US$7.65). It’s a palatable yet cheap guzzle.

You know what else I do in my free time in Taipei? Drink. A lot. Pretty much every night, unless it’s physically improbable. Mostly red wine, but I will drink beer when I’m hanging out with friends. Hard alcohol (liquor) is almost never part of the conversation, but I’ve been known to order a cocktail – usually a vodka Martini – in the airport smoking lounge. I don’t have a grudge against cocktails with distilled spirits; they’re just too rough on my liver, which has taken a beating and deserves the benefit of the doubt. Don’t even ask me if I want a “shot” of anything. The answer is no.

Beer may be the oldest alcoholic beverage known to man, and the third most-consumed beverage in the world, behind water and tea. A fermented beverage using rice and fruit was made in China around 7,000 BC, and the product that early Europeans guzzled might not be recognized as “beer” today. Alongside the basic starch source – the sugar required for fermentation – the early European beers would contain fruits, honey, a variety of plants, spices and other substances such as psychotropic herbs.

By the 16th century, beer was so important that the Duke of Bavaria, William the IV, introduced a purity law called Reinheitsgebot, which was the only really notable thing Bill did in his life, but everybody took the law very seriously. According to Reinheitsgebot, the only permitted ingredients of beer are water, hops and barley malt. It remained the oldest food-quality regulation in use up until 1986, when it was abolished by the European Union as a ‘binding obligation.’ Germany passed some new law in 1993, and that’s all I know or care about that.

Fruit beer TaiwanTaiwan loves its beer, loves the fuck out of its beer, specifically, its own beer: Taiwan Beer, brewed by the Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corporation. They drink the stuff by the tanker. It’s pumped in through the hydrants – they use it to put out fires.

Taiwan Beer is unquestionably the island’s most iconic brand and prominent cultural institution. Brewed as an amber lager in a Pilsner style, its distinct taste is produced by the inclusion of ponlai rice (locally harvested “Formosa rice” 蓬萊米). The ponlai is added to the malt during the fermentation process in order to save money on more expensive ingredients such as hops and barley – you know, the stuff beer is supposed to be made from – which are not widely grown in Taiwan, as well as to impart a purported “smoothness.”

Though it’s somewhat of a contentious issue on the street, I’m going to be honest with you people. I can’t stand Taiwan Beer. It makes me unhappy. And I drank Taiwan Beer for my first year in Taipei mainly because I was running on adrenaline and not paying attention. I reckoned, “I’m in Taiwan, I should drink Taiwan Beer.”

A lot of rookies make the same mistake. My good fortune was to catch it and cut it out.

Taiwan Beer’s “distinct taste” is codespeak for raw, unpleasantly earth-like flavor, which gets progressively more rancid as the beer gets warmer in your paw. Some of the most difficult swallows of my drinking career were the last gulps of a Taiwan Beer tallboy. It’s like drinking run-off from a landfill. You kind of hate yourself after those.

Nowadays, when I’m in a situation that calls for drinking beer – usually hanging out at a 7-Eleven – I strongly prefer two Japanese beers, Asahi and Kirin, over anything else in the cooler. I can’t say that I would never drink Taiwan Beer again. There are plenty of extenuating circumstances in which I could imagine drinking a few Gold Medals. I can say with nearly absolute veracity that given other options, I would chose not to drink Taiwan Beer.

Taiwan Beer has one smaller local competitor, Taiwan Long Chuan Beer, owned by the Taiwan Tsing Beer Corporation and brewed in Kaohsiung City. In 2012, Long Chuan launched a line of fruit beers, which were supposedly very popular in the summer. Taiwan Beer quickly entered the market; they now have five different fruit beers in stores. Long Chuan has four – that I’m aware of. They might have 50 for all I know. I see four in the cooler at 7-Eleven.

Fruit beer SamsBack when I was a bachelor, I used to hang out at this local bar called Sam’s Club. One night a pair of women came in and ordered some strange bottle of beer, and then proceeded to share it, all the while cooing over the drink and taking a bunch of selfies with the bottle. I said to the bartender, my friend Simon, “What the hell are they so excited about?”

“That’s the new lychee beer. It just come out.”

“Lychee beer. Are you serious.” No question mark necessary.

“Sure. You want to try?”

“No thanks, man.”

“It’s good – haohe!” Good to drink.

All right, so I’m not a big fan of lychee, either. Shit smells like a grandma perfume to me.

So for the last two years, I’ve been seeing this gradual expansion of fruit beers in the coolers at 7-Eleven and my local supermarket of choice. Every time I walk by, I think, “Who the hell is drinking that crap?”

Here’s something you probably didn’t know about me. In 2004, I took and passed the Introductory Course for the Court of Master Sommeliers. The certificate essentially means that I had a fundamental yet significantly developed knowledge of wine – how it’s made, where it’s made, who makes it, what it tastes like and most importantly, why. [The passing rate for the course is 60%, by the way – so it’s not terribly difficult, but it’s not a walk in the park, either.] It would be hubris to call myself a sommelier – I am not. But if I had stayed in the restaurant business, I may have moved on to the next level. It’s impossible to say.

The other day, my friend Beldone and I were yapping back and forth about some random people promoting their fancy beer-tasting event at a local restaurant. We were basically making fun of them, because that’s what we do when we’re not making fun of each other. But man, even beer can be pretentious, especially in Taipei. I [wrote], “Yeah, I taste beer every time I drink it.” Real clever, sport.

Anyway, this afternoon I went to the supermarket and I saw a woman perusing the fruit beer section – and it is a section, no doubt – and so I stopped to see what, if anything she would buy. I was super curious, man. I’d never seen anyone buy or drink a fruit beer, other than that one time at Sam’s. The woman picked up and eyeballed a couple of items, but ultimately walked away without making a selection.

Then it hit me. Let’s do a fruit beer tasting! And so I grabbed a basket and loaded up on 11 cans of liquid, which set me back approximately ten bucks.

After putting the fruit beer in the fridge for a couple of hours to get it down to a drinkable temperature, I reluctantly selected the first candidate – grape – because I really dig grape soda, which Beldone tells me is the number one drink of choice among inmates on death row. Now, I don’t know where he got that information but it seems highly plausible; grape soda does kind of seem like the beverage of the doomed. Let’s see how much further down the line of damnation we can go.

Fruit Beer Tasting Notes

* The majority of these beverages are 2.5% alcohol unless otherwise noted.
Fruit beer grapeTaiwan Beer – Grape
  • Light-bodied, clear and pale, orange-pink color; effervescent but short foam.
  • Strong Welch’s grape juice nose with watermelon overtones. Hints of a Jolly Rancher dissolved in bleach.
  • Pungent mouth feel on impact – a reflection of the underlying rice brewed swill – which lingers unpleasantly, almost bitterly on the dentals; grape jelly infused with chutney shoots toward the back of the palate and mercifully, immediately disappears, leaving only a fleeting wisp of grapesque flavor. Nail polish as an aperitif.
Fruit beer mangoTaiwan Beer – Mango
  • Bright complexion, slight effervesce, rusty-gold color – could be mistaken for regular beer, if you didn’t see the mangoes clearly pictured on the side of the can.
  • Prominent mango nose. Floral and sugary aroma. Hints of lychee nut and honeydew.
  • Surprisingly mild and tangy flavor. The passion fruit overpowers the rice beer funk. Not nearly as horrible as I thought it would be. Took a voluntary second mouthful. Much longer finish than the grape. Slightly tacky residue on the palate.
Taiwan Beer – Pineapple
  • Redundant visuals on complexion and depth – looks like beer, nothing special.
  • Beguiling, frustratingly vague nose. Smells of something that maybe stepped in some pineapple a couple of blocks away.
  • Grimacingly immediate garbage mouth presence. Wisps of pineapple and salt water taffy. Not the worst thing I’ve ever had in my mouth, but certainly the most unpleasant of the day – so far.
Fruit beer green apple 123Taiwan Beer – Sweet Touch Green Grape
  • Soft, rusty color, medium bodied, clear complexion. Flat as a pancake.
  • Sour, unidentifiable nose. Would not have guessed “grape” if it wasn’t on the side of the can.
  • Foul raisin, prune, and pickle mouth presence. Tacky finish. Flouride aftertaste. 3.5% alcohol.
Taiwan Beer – Sweet Touch Green Apple
  • Brilliant, medium bodied, pale color. Slight clouding near the top. Decent amount of bubbling.
  • Hardcore candy apple nose. Sickly sweet aroma. No mistaking what this is.
  • The sweetest of all flavors so far. Like insulin mixed with antifreeze. Had to spit it out. Super gross.
Fruit beer lemonTaiwan Long Chuan Beer – Lemon
  • Flat, clear, yellowish-gold, diuretic urine color. Nothing on bubbles – went flat within seconds.
  • Medium scent of 7-Up or Sprite that’s been left open for a couple of days. Slight hints of lemon drops.
  • Clean, fresh mouth feel with a slight tartness of lime and lemon, without a beery aftertaste. Not unlike a Shandy. Unfortunate brackish, fish tank water finish. Off-brand lemon-lime soda with suggestions of some kind of nut, like walnuts or something. No fruit presence or persistence of memory.
Taiwan Long Chuan Beer – Banana
  • Redundant color, depth and complexion. Good initial head, but faded quickly. A few stray champagne bubbles persist.
  • Potent banana aroma popping straight from the can. Reminded me of my mother’s banana pudding, but sadly, not Baker’s Square banana cream pie.
  • A touch too sweet and overboard on the banana flavor. Not unpleasant, but almost chewy.
Fruit beer hello kittyTaiwan Long Chuan Beer – Hello Kitty Apple
  • Medium bodied, clear color. Another dud on the fizz.
  • Intriguingly complex aromas of hard cider, green apple, Washington apple, and almond.
  • Pulpy, cotton apple mouth feel. Long finish. Slightly astringent, low-grade cider aftertaste. Slightly disappointed by the complete lack of Hello Kitty flavor.
Taiwan Long Chuan Beer – Peach
  • Bright, clear, pale yellow. Persistent bubbling. Zero depth, but strong, long-lasting head.
  • Subtle nose with hints of peach pit and mild petroleum jelly.
  • Bold fruit mouth feel. Strong peachy peachesque presence. Overtones of apricot, watermelon, and honey. Subtle urging to punch someone in the spleen. Smooth finish. Slightly chemical aftertaste.
Fruit beer kirinKirin – Lime Drink
  • Wasn’t sure if this was a beer or what, but it was on the same shelf as the fruit beers and there’s a lime on the can, so let’s do it. [I'm pretty certain this is Happoshu (発泡酒 happōshu lit. "bubbling spirits"), or low-malt beer. The Japanese are as particular about their beer requirements as the Germans. Let's skip the rest.]
  • Call it a 3% alcohol version of a vodka tonic, cuz that’s exactly what this tastes like. Maybe even the most-watered down gimlet you’ve ever had. It’s not bad, it’s just not the cocktail I would want to drink more than once, on a lark – unless they jerk up the alcohol content to something reasonable, like 15-20%. Very strong tonic water and lime presence.
Kirin – Grapefruit Drink
  • Have you ever been drunk enough to accidentally put your cigarette out in your cocktail, but still have enough on the ball to catch yourself right as the butt hits the drink, so it’s only submerged for a second, but extinguished nonetheless? And you’re like, screw it, the drink is fine, but it has that little bit of nicotine-tar cigarette flavor until the very last drop? That’s what this crap tastes like to me.

And there you have it, kids. Another episode of Only in Taiwan comes to an end. I’m going to open a bottle of Tempranillo and get rid of all these stupid fruit beer cans.

Jukebox Antagonist – Episode 1

23 Jul
Eno's first two solo albums are my preferred dosage, but lemon flavor you say? Hook me up?

Eno’s first two solo albums are my preferred dosage, but lemon flavor you say? Hook me up!

Facebook has been an unlikely source of musical inspiration that I’ve confused and stonewalled for a long time.

There is a wanting to “be involved” on social media that transcends a thumbs-up or a re-tweet. By posting status updates are we not inviting others into a conversation? The danger, which all of us are susceptible on various levels of engagement, is trying to change the conversation by one-upping the guy who posted the original video. “Oh yeah? What about this one?” Or worse, “Boo! Dave Matthews blows!” And that’s bad for business anyway you look at it. Fortunately, almost everybody behaves like an adult and just keeps scrolling.

Something I’ve learned the hard way – which also applies to my own status updates – unless I have something very personal or relevant to contribute to the conversation, I try to keep my mouth shut. The end. Now hit me with your Candy Crush invitations!

This had been going on for a few years before I could articulate the paradox – if it is a true paradox. It feels like one to me. Since a lot of my friends have the Facebook-YouTube routine covered, and do a good job of keeping me entertained, rather than compete or dispute – as in, tit-for-tat, wouldn’t my time be better spent thinking about something else?

The answer was yes – and no. Yes, I have better things to do, and no, because thinking about stuff is what drives everybody insane in the first place. At least if I’m thinking about music, I’m not thinking about all the bad shit in the world, like planes getting blasted out of the sky. For sure, I’m a relatively frequently flyer and that stuff scares me. I don’t want to think about it.

The last couple of months produced a collection of YouTube links that I would have ordinarily shared on Facebook, but more importantly, took some time and put some effort into explaining why – this is an extended status update.

Why is this important?

Despite unlimited access to the world’s record collection, I listen to less music now than at any point in my life.

juke-1-Bitches_brewThough I’m mostly interested in rock music, variety is crucial to a colorful existence. Should I be ashamed to admit this or not, the other night I sat down and listened to all four sides of Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, start-to-finish, for the first time in my life.

Bitches Brew isn’t just a seminal jazz record by one of the all-time greats, and the progenitor of what became jazz rock. At the time it was released (1970), it was a revolution; a pivotal moment in modern jazz; someone called Davis “the Picasso of Jazz”. I respect that and listen to his music more out of obligation than pleasure. You can’t really know anything about music without an intermediate background in Miles Davis.

Over several decades, I’d become familiar half of the record; “Spanish Key” and “John McLaughlin”; got groovy to the crazy-funky “Miles Runs the Voodoo Down” at least a dozen times. Miles Davis is not easy listening, you do know. Generally speaking, this isn’t zippity-zop-zop jazz. It’s serious as a heart attack.

As a non-visual experience – the album runs 94 minutes, about the same as the average Hollywood film – it’s nice enough if you put it on and do a bunch of housework; you’re not going to miss anything during the first 20 minutes of Side A (“Pharoah’s Dance”) – but I’m just not interested. To be sure, it’s an astounding work of art. “Miles Runs the Voodoo Down” is hot lava – transcendent music. But my overwhelming impression of the double-album experience was, “Damn, that was almost a total waste of time.”

At times, I don’t want to hear any music – ambient and/or otherwise – at all. To be frank, the one thing I want to hear more than anything else is the one thing that’s the hardest to come by: complete silence.

The majority of my musical life is hunting down music that I missed (or didn’t get enough of) along the way. Forty-six years is a lot of ground to cover. More importantly, with a two and a half year-old son, I’ve got Thomas and Friends on a recursive loop in the background of my thoughts, spinning like a ceiling fan. You try humming “Anarchy in the U.K.” over that nonsense.

Believe it or not, for years I’ve made a concerted effort to seek out new music, albeit on the internet – it’s been a few years since I’ve seen a “real” rock show. But name a currently trending indie or otherwise rock band. Go ahead, don’t be shy.

____________________. I’ve heard at least three minutes of their music – and I was not impressed.

Margot and the Nuclear So and So's

Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s

There have been a few exceptions. My brother Ronnie Kwasman plays in Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s – they’re good, I like them a whole bunch, and not just because Ronnie is in the band. There’s a crazy metal band I’ve written about before, Red Fang, who give me a few toe-tapping moments. Likewise, I’m sure there are millions of people are still making killer music, the current crop of chart-topping, “alternative” rock bands notwithstanding. For whatever reason, either I don’t need it or I don’t care one way or the other. I’m happy for everybody who is doing their own thing. No beef. End of.

This applies to the music I’ve made, too. My best years are at least eight to ten years behind me. I’m not listening to my own records at home, that’s for sure.

Regardless, a huge part of this weird “aversion” to music comes from the fact that I hardly have to make an effort to hear music in general. Something pops into my head, “Bam! Google, YouTube.” Just in case you’ve wondered how it’s possible (or legal) for people to upload copyrighted material to YouTube, watch this two-minute video – it’s very enlightening.

Furthermore, I’m spending exceedingly less on music with each passing day. And forget about downloading free MP3 shit. What’s the point anymore? I’ve bought no more than 20 records on iTunes in my life, and thus, the majority of my library is from a CD collection that nearly gave up on itself in 2010.

It’s something you wouldn’t wish on your enemy, but I recently gave away the remains of my vinyl collection – the sweet stuff – that survived an even earlier purge. The records went to a very good home but they are no longer mine. Twenty years of music, gone forever. Nearly every single one of those records told a story. Maybe it told a tale in relation to the music, like, “I was listening to this when I heard about John Lennon getting shot.” Maybe it was something about how I acquired the record. Each one had its own descriptive pedigree.

And this is why I believe the internet has killed music. In nearly every case, I had to go out and get those records. In some cases, I spent a long time looking for them, and paid a dear price, too. In fact, just going to the record store was a big part of the experience. Nowadays I have to look hard for a record store, but every band has a groovy website, and it’s a thousand times easier to buy the record on iTunes. Ninety-nine cents is the current value of a song. It simply makes me shrug.

juke-1Rush-All-The-Worlds-A-422461The recent revival of vinyl is trendy but unsustainable, and this opinion has nothing to do with the wistful nostalgia of the days when we’d roll a joint using the gatefold of All the World’s a Stage as a de-stemming tray. The future is virtual or viral or in the clouds; and the future travels light – no matter what anybody says. Eventually, every vinyl collection will be sacrificed to the gods, but will live theoretically, forever. The music will carry on.

***

My goal is turn you on to some stuff you might not be aware of, or remind you of something that maybe you had forgotten about. This is the only way I know to use the internet as a positive force for rock music. Maybe you’ll dust off some of your old records and get them into the computer. Maybe you’ll go out and buy a few records. Maybe.

This got me thinking about what I actually listen to on a regular basis, aside from what’s playing on the sound system at my supermarket of choice. For instance, it’s a slow day in the office – a radio station day, so to speak – which doesn’t happen nearly as often as it used to. There are a few ways this can play out, but generally speaking, let’s say I’m in the mood for Rod Stewart – the early stuff, relax.

There are three maybe four Rod Stewart records from 1969-72, not including his work with the Faces, that I can sit through – and by sit through I mean not be compelled to skip a track or three or all of the B-side. If I never hear his version of “Twistin’ the Night Away” for the rest of my life, I think I’ll be OK.

juke-1-rodstewart-neveradullmoment-lpHowever, I’ve heard Every Picture Tells a Story far too many times. Likewise, I know every record in Stewart’s catalog, so I know where not to look for simpatico jams. And I don’t see this trend reversing itself in the foreseeable future. It occurred to me – again – thanks to the internet, I don’t have to get up and move the needle or change the disc. I don’t have to put the record back in its sleeve and slide it back into the rack. Click. What do I want to hear next?

The fact is I seldom listen to albums anymore. Does anyone? Simply put, I listen to isolated songs from the artist’s catalogue. This is the way of the world, cherry-picking from here on out. Stick with the Rod Stewart example. Out of all his early material, there were a couple of jams that never got their due – those are the cuts I want to hear, not “Maggie May” or “You Wear It Well”. For example, here’s “Los Paraguayos” from Never a Dull Moment (1972) – but I could have just as easily chosen “True Blue” or “Italian Girls”.

Rod Stewart – Los Paraguayos

Not even halfway through this jam, I’m already thinking about what I want to hear next. How about Queen? That’s a fairly logical transition.

Meanwhile, if you pay attention to the lyrics, you might be in for a little bit of a surprise. Here’s my favorite bit:

Honey don't even ask me if you can come along
 Down at the border you need to be older
 and you sure don't look like my daughter
 Your ridiculous age, start a state outrage
 and I'll end up in a Mexican jail
Queen – Long Away

Again, veering away from the mundane, here we have a beautiful little power pop number written and sung by Brian May, from A Day at the Races (1976), which in itself is a sneaky record. Critical reception remains mixed; the Allmusic Guide gives it 3-and-a-half stars, while Rolling Stone gives it two out of five. The big hits from the LP were “Somebody to Love” and “Tie Your Mother Down”, both fantastic numbers, but neither of which I need to hear again in this lifetime

With few exceptions, most of the following tracks may be familiar in the sense that you probably own the record it’s on, but most of these jams have not received a significant amount of radio airplay to be considered a “big hit.” In some instances, the artist is obscure enough to have escaped the Billboard Hot 100 on several occasions. These are some of my personal Deep Cuts – these are or would be on my iPod as opposed to some of the artists’ more popular works.

 

PJ Harvey – 50ft Queenie

From her second album Rid of Me (1992). Produced by Steve Albini. Not much else to say. Wow. Very attitude. Such rock. Though I wasn’t a big fan when Harvey was the Next Big Thing, she snuck up on me simply by coincidence. It’s tempting to compare every female rock singer with Chrissie Hynde – this is the Pretenders with jagged edges.

There was a year in the early Oughts that I used to hang out at a bar in West Portal called the Philosopher’s Club, which was next door to a super-cool, old school chophouse called Bullshead Restaurant. The bar attracted a very uneasy mix of college kids from SFSU and grizzled old winos who staggered out from their elderly mother’s basements around noon, and killed the afternoon at Portal’s Tavern before rolling down to the Club.

juke-1-Rid_of_MeAnyway, Rid of Me was on the bar’s jukebox; somebody played this jam, and I thought, “That’s pretty good.” It became one of my go-to jams whenever I felt like stuffing a few bucks in the jukebox, which turned out to be something of a contentious endeavor.

There was this one cat named Richie who tried to dominate the soundtrack. He’d beef with people if they jammed up “his” playlist, so most folks didn’t bother with the jukebox. And for whatever reason, the bartenders put up with this guy – I guess he was a long-time regular.

Of course, I didn’t know all this in the beginning, so I’d post up, get a beer and make a beeline for the jukebox. One night, I happened to be seated next to Richie and his old lady; Richie had his back to me but his lady was eyeballing. She said something about the music – I had played Ray Charles or something – and Richie said something to the bartender about “bumping the box”, which as far as I knew, some jukeboxes had remote controls.

The selection on this particular jukebox was about as eclectic as I’d ever seen; it had everything from Bobby Darin to the Melvins. And it was the first jukebox that I ever saw where you could download additional songs from the internet. So if what you were looking for wasn’t on the box, it could grab the track from Napster or whatever.

juke-1-backstabbersFor the next hour or so, not one of the songs I had selected were played. It was all Richie’s nonsense. I mean, some of it was tolerable, but seriously, he played the same stuff every time. One of his signature jams was “Back Stabbers” by the O’Jays – and he’d play it three times a night. Now I liked the jam – the first 50 times I heard it – but at some point, enough is enough.

So I said something to the bartender and he feigned ignorance about the jukebox. This led to me and Richie having a discussion, which turned into an argument, and he basically invited me out on the sidewalk for a beating, which I politely declined – mainly because Richie couldn’t walk; he had been in an accident and his legs were almost useless; he got around on crutches. So I started coming in a little earlier than usual to avoid the guy.

Alice Cooper – Halo of Flies

Sounds like it could be the Pixies – if the Pixies wrote eight-minute progressive rock suites about a quasi-fictional counter-intelligence agency. Unfortunately, whenever I think of the Pixies, I think of Nirvana. [Does this really need to be explained?] From there I was thinking, “What’s the best Nirvana song I’ve ever heard?” Here’s a clue: it’s NOT by Nirvana.

***

That’s all for today’s episode of Jukebox Antagonist.
NEXT EPISODE: Failure, Wesley Willis Fiasco, Arthur Fiedler, Deerhoof, Roy Thomas Baker and much more!

First Encounters With Mr. Jimi

21 Jul
Rock royalty meets Jimi Hendrix for the first time, in their own words.

B.B. King and Buddy Guy

– Of course you gotta start with these two cats.

Frank Zappa

– Coolest dude of all-time.

Little Richard

– From the 1973 rockumentary Let the Good Times Roll; the clip is must-see, the film not so much.

Joni Mitchell

– Met in Ottawa, where Joni was a folk singer; Hendrix taped her show and they went back to the hotel together for sexy time, at least I hope so

Eric Clapton

– An excerpt from a questionable BBC documentary, ‘The Seven Ages of Rock – Episode 1 The Birth of Rock’; Clapton isn’t in this clip but the two had obviously met at some point.

Chris Squire

– Changed his bass strings every night; had never spoken to a black person before opening for Hendrix at the legendary Marquee Club in 1966.

Ron Wood

– Shared a flat in Holland Park for several weeks; says Hendrix could play guitar left and right-handed.

Robert Fripp

– Shook Hendrix’s left hand, once…and goes on for four minutes on how and why [Fripp] began sitting during live performances – unheard of for rock guitar players at the time, for sure – and coincidentally, Hendrix was present at that show – 1969, it’s unclear if King Crimson and Hendrix shared a bill because I can’t be arsed to watch it again; they met the show; Hendrix said, “Shake my left hand, it’s closer to my heart.”

Jeff Beck

– This cat’s ego is as predictable his “jams”; he should have been a railroad engineer or something, because right on schedule, he claims that Hendrix swiped one of his riffs; even this clip is over-rated.

Robbie Robertson

– Brief story about hanging out with Brian Jones and meeting Jimmy James! Something about this clip says, “Cocaine, lots of cocaine.”

Les Paul

– Awesome Yarn from The Man Who Invented Stereo; rambling in a cool grandpa sort of way; he had no idea who Hendrix was when they first met; wanted to manage him; watch both clips

George Harrison

– Haha this has nothing to do with Hendrix, but watch it anyway.

Lou Reed

– The earliest reference and use of “bitchin’” to describe a guitar player that I’m aware of; Lou doesn’t actually say whether he met Hendrix, but it’s a fun clip anyway.

Shuggie Otis

– Shugs still has something on the ball…kind of. He got an autograph.

 

 

The Good News: Pink Floyd is Releasing a New Record – The Bad News: Pink Floyd is Still Making Music

9 Jul
Pink Floyd, "It Would Be So Nice"

Pink Floyd, “It Would Be So Nice” (1966)

Here’s my beef with megalithic rock corporations like Pink Floyd. They are absolutely filthy rich, yet they continue to churn out boxed-set after redundant boxed-set with the supposed bonus of unreleased demos that nobody was supposed to hear in the first place. And that’s exactly what the latest “new” Pink Floyd scam is all about. Do you really need a need a 5.1 Surround Sound Mix of a record – The Division Bell – that neither Syd Barrett nor Roger Waters played on? Cuz those two dudes, like it or not, were Pink Floyd. What we’ve been listening to – or not – since The Final Cut, is The Dave Gilmour Band. He’s a fine musician, but he is not Pink Floyd, except in the eyes of the law, and justice is blind. Right?

According to pinkfloyd.com and I’ve no good reason to doubt it, the band and their label just released the 20th anniversary boxed-set of The Division Bell that nobody – not one fucking person – was waiting for. On the heels of this crowning achievement of greed and banality, comes The Endless River.

“Pink Floyd can confirm that they are releasing a new album, The Endless River, in October 2014. It is an album of mainly ambient and instrumental music based on the 1993/4 Division Bell sessions which feature David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Richard Wright. The album is produced by David Gilmour with Phil Manzanera, Youth and recording engineer Andy Jackson. Work is still in progress, but more details to come at the end of the summer.”

You can read the who, what, where, when and for God’s sake, why? by clicking here.

Meanwhile, here’s to hoping that everything on The Endless River is just as wasteful and insipid as every note of The Division Bell, which couldn’t possibly be any further from the Pink Floyd which mattered. Otherwise, I’m going to start feeling sorry for them. And I’m sure they can afford my pity.

BSM Joints: San Francisco Muni – Joke, No Joke

7 Jul
The California of my mind is a “magical” place where everybody gets a prize of undetermined value. Likewise, San Francisco is many, many things to me, but most of all, it was home for nine years. And for a long time, I thought it would be madness to live anywhere else.

According to a Business Insider report on Transit Score® rankings, S.F. has the second most reliable public transportation system in America, second to New York.

Muni1A lot must have changed in the six years I’ve been gone, because the S.F. public transportation system I’m familiar with, was less than dependable. That’s being nice. Muni is a joke – a total joke, and then again, you’ll hear people say, “Muni is no joke.”

During my residency, I relied on Muni for approximately three long, excruciating years of unpredictable service and general anxiety – I never knew from day to day if I was going to get to work or school on time. Almost any bus or light rail line could be inexplicably shut down, delayed or re-routed according to the whims of the central command, and/or circumstances beyond any one person’s control, or at least, that’s the way I chose to see it.

To be fair, Muni got me to where I needed to be more often than not. You never remember all the mundane trips back and forth where nothing unusual happened. It’s always the unpleasant events that linger in your memory. However, I never left the house in a big hurry. You can’t roll on Muni without a comfortable time buffer. If I had to be some place that would take an hour on Muni, I left an hour and a half in advance.

This most recent trip to California was 95% business – not much time for fun. In S.F., Chris Lanier offered to let me use his car when he didn’t need it, but that left me with a day or two without wheels. In the past, I had always rented a car; this time, I decided to let fate decide. Roll the dice.

Arriving at the outset of Memorial Day Weekend, both the Giants and the A’s were playing at home, so the Bay Area was buzzing with baseball fever – and nowhere were people more buzzed than on public transportation.

The first-place A’s had Detroit and the Giants faced the bottom-feeding Cubs. My man Sean Cunningham invited me to attend the A’s game with his family on Memorial Day. So for the first time in three days, I found myself on Muni.

njudah500I was staying with my brother Matt Tucker at 48th and Ortega– deep Outer Sunset. Getting to Rockridge in Oakland – our initial meeting point – required Muni and BART, the latter being an infinitely more reliable system, but it was a two-hour-plus journey in either direction. Anyway, it was interesting to see the confluence of A’s and Giants fans as they moved in both directions. For the most part, the trip to the Coliseum was uneventful, but the ride back to the Sunset was mildly amusing and somewhat nostalgic.

Among other things, I came across The Post-Prep Muni Sizzurp Boss.

On the N-Judah headed west; this cat oozed his way onboard at Cole and Carl, rapt in stupor, and deliberately – it must have taken him five minutes – proceeded to mix up a batch of promethazine and codeine cough syrup, otherwise known as Sizzurp. Then he sat like this, taking painfully long and tedious draws from his cup, until 19th Avenue, where the double-red light gave pause. Sizzurp Boss very slowly – glacially – made his way off the train just before the doors closed.

Muni SizzurpI snapped this photo on my phone right before its battery died. Obviously, Sizzurp Boss didn’t notice.

Even though I think those hats are silly and have my own personal stereotypical assumption about people (men and women) who wear them, I was impressed. New shoes, new jacket, new backpack. Just a real nice, junkie-next-door kind of cat. Clean. A fiend with style, more or less. Kind of refreshing, actually.

I thought, “Well, would you look at that – he’s got a pink iPhone.” A regular student.

On the other hand, cough syrup and codeine is for amateurs.

Two stops later, I treated to a much more familiar sight – something I was used to seeing on a daily basis: A pair of straight-up junkies – a man and a woman – climbed aboard and began arguing about which direction they were supposed to be headed. These two were Old School needle fiends; bundled up for Arctic conditions on one of the most temperate and reasonably warm days in a decade, their exposed patches of skin had the consistency of hamburger meat.

The man seemed relatively composed and convinced they should be heading west – which they were. The woman was shaking uncontrollably and clearly wasn’t sure exactly where the hell she was. They smelled like rotting garbage, of course, and the few riders left onboard sighed in relief when the pair disembarked at Sunset.

A skater kid sitting nearby looked over and said, “Shit, man. I thought I had a drug problem.”

“Not anymore, chief.”

***

The next day’s agenda was packed with stuff I needed to accomplish, but it was back-to-work for Chris and I wouldn’t have access to his car until later in the day. The morning couldn’t go to waste, so I took a deep breath, and decided to see how far Muni would get me.

Took the 71 bus from the western terminus at 48th and Ortega, got off at 23nd and Judah. Following a bizarre 45-minute delay for an eastbound train, during which time, that unfortunate lot of us standing at the N stop watched not one but five westbound trains come sailing past. And at the same time, we’re all facing west, looking for the next train to come up over the hill at 34th. Finally, a two-car N rolled up, and of course, it was packed to the gills. No way I was getting on that thing. The Muni app on my Samsung said: Next train in 22 minutes. My agenda had been all but thrown out the window – I couldn’t throw it out a window because I was out of doors. Disgusted, I walked to Irving Street, hailed a taxi, and went straight to Enterprise Rent-a-Car on South Van Ness.

The precise location was 22nd and Judah – in terms of how far Muni took me before I said, “Screw this.” It was approximately 11:30 a.m, over an hour since I left Matt’s house. I could have walked there and back in the same amount of time.

The kids at Enterprise gave me a Ford Focus. It was a nice enough car, and pricey, too. But man, it was worth it. The agenda was back on track, and in fact, from here on out, almost everything went as smoothly as it possibly could. A game-changing decision. Get off Muni, now!

Bottom line: There’s a reason I owned a car for most of the time I lived in S.F., and it wasn’t a love of paying a grand in parking tickets every year. It was Muni, plain and simple.

 

BSM Joints: Frank ‘n Hank – Low Budget Libations in Koreatown

22 Jun
Frank 5As it were, I found myself with a night to kill in Los Angeles. A Google search for “dive bars in L.A.” turned up Frank ‘n Hank, a throwback, low-brow watering hole purportedly frequented by Charles Bukowski when the joint was run by its original owners: Frank the father, and Hank the son. And Koreatown wasn’t Koreatown – we’re talking 1960s and 70s – it was considered Central L.A. The point is, things have changed, but Frank ‘n Hank is still serving cocktails from 6:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m., seven days a week.

The establishment in question is now run by a very nice, capable older woman named Snow, whose countenance suggests, “I’ve seen it all, and most of it I don’t want to see again.” Fair enough.

Frank ‘n Hank was a leisurely 10-minute stroll from my hotel, which was about as far as I wanted to travel that evening. So, according to the Frank ‘n Hank’s Facebook page, Wednesday night’s special was $2 bottles of Pabst Blue Ribbon. No mention of karaoke.

barflyposter_zps72d5c656As an exceedingly vague pop cultural reference, the façade of Frank ‘n Hank is one of a dozen or so bars that appear in the opening title sequence of the motion picture Barfly (1987) starring Mickey Rourke and Faye Dunaway – written by Charles Bukowski. When viewed as a semi-autobiographical depiction of the author’s life in L.A. – which it is – Barfly is a decent movie. If you didn’t know anything about Bukowski before watching the film, you might not appreciate it as much as an aficionado of his work.

Meanwhile, there is only circumstantial evidence to suggest that Frank ‘n Hank had anything to do with the film and it’s important to note its location – about three miles south of Barfly’s fictional but very real location – the vicinity of Hollywood Boulevard and Western Avenue. In fact, there’s no mention of the joint in this short film [part of a documentary The Charles Bukowski Tapes (1985) by filmmaker Barbet Schroeder – who directed Barfly]. However, this map shows that in 1972, Bukowski occupied an apartment at 151 S. Oxford, which is definitely in striking distance of Frank ‘n Hank.

Anyway, the general tone of Yelp reviews described the bar as a ‘classic dive’ which tends to draw it’s fair share of “hipsters”, particularly before and after a show at the nearby Wiltern Theater, but notwithstanding an eclectic mix of characters or friendly regulars. The drinks are cheap, the bartender is nice; they have a pool table, dartboards and a jukebox. CASH ONLY! The only thing more agreeable would have been a pinball machine. Then you really have my attention.

Chuck and MickeyFrankly, I wasn’t expecting much out of Frank ‘n Hank, and I was not disappointed. Other than $2 PBRs, there was nothing especially outstanding – impressive – about the visit. The joint retains a superficial veneer of its bygone dive bar ambiance, but none of the funk. When I first walk through a dive bar door, I’m waiting for the funk – the noxious combination of stale beer, rancid cigarettes, and the lingering fumes of industrial cleaner, self-loathing and addiction. Meanwhile, the clientele is what truly defines a dive, and other than one lone shark pool hustler sitting idly in the back, unnervingly quiet, the only two “characters” in the joint may have been the bartender and yours truly.

A dive bar is the kind of place – or used to be the kind of place – where it’s not a question of whether some chick puked in the ladies’ bathroom last night, whether some dude got hit over the head with a beer bottle by his old lady, it’s how many times and how much vomit/blood was involved?

ThinLizzy-Jailbreak-FrontThough it’s easy to imagine Bukowski hanging out in that kind of a place, Frank ‘n Hank isn’t that place anymore. Aside from a rough portrait of the irascible man hanging behind the bar, his ghost was not present. The joint seemed completely devoid of dive bar “edge”. If someone had broken a glass, I might have twitched in surprise. A baseball game was on the flat screen. Nothing happened. The joint was one continuous shrug. Of course this impression is based entirely upon one anonymous visit, by a dude who doesn’t and has never lived in L.A.

The jukebox was decent, if homogenous and predictable for a dive – surprising for a so-called “hipster” joint. You’da thought at the bare minimum, it would have Slint’s Spiderland or something from My Bloody Valentine, but no dice. In this way, F’nH jukebox reminded me of a true dive; it had all the big hits – Johnny Cash, AC/DC, Metallica, G’nR, Tom Petty – but nothing that would knock my socks off, like for instance, Thin Lizzy’s Jailbreak.

Did they have any Thin Lizzy? Nope. But I accidentally programmed “Long Black Veil” three times because I forgot how a jukebox works, basically.

Six or seven beers – let’s call it seven – and four hours later, I’d pumped $5 into the jukebox but hadn’t talked to anyone other than the bartender – and that was “May I please have…?” and “Thank you”. For the most part, I didn’t even eavesdrop on people. It was kind of nice; I just sat there and chilled with my thoughts and listened to the music – a type of purgatory I don’t always get the opportunity to enjoy.

Frank 2The place never got close to full, but the crowd seemed to rotate every half hour or so. The only thing I remember anybody saying is some kid telling his date that he was thinking about becoming a driver for Uber. “What a great idea!” the woman gushed.

All in, a body could get fairly squared away at Frank ‘n Hank for $26, and that’s infallible.* The joint might be running low on atmosphere, but it’s rocking the economy.

Bottom line: If I lived in or near Koreatown, I would probably frequent Frank ‘n Hank on a semi-regular basis. If I lived elsewhere in L.A., it would make a good pit stop for a show at the Wiltern, and at this point, the contingencies have will reached critical mass. Frank ‘n Hanks plays the part, but doesn’t come with the dive bar funk – location and bargain prices are the main attractions.

* Generally speaking, I tip $1 per bottle/can/drink/glass no matter what it is. So for me, this was $3 PBRs all night, which is not too shabby.

 

The Takeaway Monday Morning Mood Reset: Bill Burr and the Philadelphia Incident [NSFW]

16 Jun

BurrWARNING: The following video contains extreme profanity, includes graphic descriptions and vulgar representations that go beyond the pale of what is considered appropriate in public or even private discussion. It is also the funniest thing I have seen in at least a decade – since Chappelle’s Show went AWOL – and easily one of the most courageous things you will ever see anybody do in front of an unruly mob, in this case, 15,000 sunbaked and drunken Philadelphians.

Comedian Bill Burr has balls of steel, but he’s actually pretty funny, too. As it was for me, perhaps this video will be your gateway into the comedy of Bill Burr. True story: I had only a vague recollection of Burr from his three appearances on the aforementioned Chappelle’s Show [in one episode, he plays the cop that gets whacked by Wayne Brady] and although I’m pretty sure I’d seen his stand-up routine, he really wasn’t on my Comedy Radar. Anyway, comedy is my thing – it’s my joint. As I mentioned in the Rodney Dangerfield post, I’m not interested in watching anything unless it’s funny. You wanna go to a movie? I don’t care if the theater has four movies: three potential Academy Award nominee/winning films a la Silver Lining Playbook, American Hustle, and Schindler’s List – AND then, let’s say Dumb & Dumber 2. There’s no question, we’re going to Dumb & Dumber 2, even though the first one didn’t make much of an impression on me. Or…we’re not going to the movies. Together.

Dave Chappellephoto by: Danielle LevittSame with television – although I admit to a weakness for NCIS and CSI: Miami. Regardless, here’s the gist of what I’m trying to say. Maybe I like comedy so much precisely because there isn’t enough of it in my daily life. Therefore, I’d say at least half of all my YouTube searches involve comedians. I’ve been on a George Carlin/Mitch Hedberg trip for a couple of months. Anyway, I came across a video of Carlin dealing with a heckler – a video for another time and not nearly as epic as what you’re about to see. From there, I used the sidebar to watch a few other videos of comedians destroying hecklers – Jimmy Carr has a couple of good beat downs. And then…I came across the Bill Burr in Philadelphia Incident. This is no exaggeration, I have watched this video more than two dozen times – all 13 minutes of it – and it never fails to bring tears to my eyes – from laughing so hard.

Backstory: Opie and Anthony, hosts of American talk radio/comedy program The Opie and Anthony Show on XM and Sirius Radio, hosted Opie and Anthony’s Traveling Virus comedy tour in 2006. The roster of comedians included Bob Saget, Jimmy Shubert, Jim Norton, Dom Irrera, Bob Kelly, Bill Burr, Ralphie May, Patrice O’Neal (R.I.P.), Otto and George (R.I.P.), Rich Vos and Tracy Morgan – a veritable Who’s Who of Upstart and Established Stars of Stand-Up Comedy.

On September 9, 2006, the gig at the Susquehanna Center in Camden, New Jersey (part of metropolitan Philadelphia – the towns are separated by the Delaware River), got off to a bad start. Philly fans are notoriously rude. They boo everybody; that’s their thing. But today, they met their match: Bill Burr. The first two comedians, Bob Kelly and Dom Irrera – the latter being from Philly – were mercilessly booed off stage. As the story goes, Burr was third; he was waiting and watching in the wings as both Kelly and Irrera were humiliated. Right before taking the stage, Burr said to Opie and Anthony, “They ain’t fuckin’ doin’ that to me!”

What happened next is legendary, and will stand as the greatest beat down of heckling in the history of comedy time. Enjoy!

Just in case you weren’t convinced about Philly’s reputation for being hard on performers, here’s Destiny’s Child getting booed at the 2001 NBA Finals – Philadelphia 76ers vs. Los Angeles Lakers – and nobody asked me, but I’d never heard this song before – “Bootylicious” – and I think on the merits of the music alone, they should have been booed out of the arena. Fuck Beyonce and all that Whitney Houston over-emoting uh-oh-oh-whoa-oh-oh-whoa-oh-oh-oh shit. They move around nice enough, it’s the music that makes this a four-minute ordeal, so fast-forward to about the 3:25 mark.

No matter what you do, keep the spirit of Bill Burr close to your heart as you face yet another Monday morning.

The Johnny Cash Show’s Top 20+ Guest Performances

15 May
Cash 1A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned Johnny Cash as an example of the songwriter I didn’t want to emulate, and nobody said anything and that’s fine. I meant no disrespect. At all. In fact, he didn’t even write “A Boy Named Sue”; that was Shel Silverstein. There are few people who ever lived that I would say you gotta like, but you gotta like Johnny Cash and Shel Silverstein, if nothing more than for their compassion and humanity.

Although I own maybe one or two of his recordings on vinyl, my respect for Johnny Cash’s life, work and legacy will never be diminished. His television appearances, including the commercials, are perhaps the most under-rated or over-looked aspects of his career.

I’m not the world’s biggest fan of movies and television, but I generally know what’s currently cooking. Likewise, as a toddler of the 70s, TV wasn’t my life but I still had my jams. WKRP in Cincinnati, All in the Family, The Jeffersons, Sanford and Son, The Odd Couple, Good Times, M*A*S*H*, The Benny Hill Show, et al. These are classic, eternal programs that will forever stand the test of time.

To be frank, since the early 70s contemporary television has gotten progressively worse and I don’t see it ever getting better. In fact, there’s still room for deterioration; it can and will get worse. I think people watch reality shows out of sheer laziness. This is what TBS is giving us this season? OK, let’s watch that. All forethought is precluded. People continue to watch reality shows even though they know it’s a bunch of scripted nonsense precisely because it’s scripted nonsense.

Cash wkrp_headerFortuitously or not, we now have YouTube and an ocean of online media providers, so nobody is lacking for terrible programming to make or watch. Likewise, there’s a ton of great stuff just floating out there in the ether.

Take for example The Johnny Cash Show, a music variety program hosted by the Man in Black from 1969 to 1971 on ABC. While I was too young to remember, I’m 99% certain that my family watched at least a couple of episodes. The JCS was somewhat unique at the time for featuring a wide range of folk-country musicians, such as Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Linda Ronstadt, Kris Kristofferson, Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot, Merle Haggard, and James Taylor, in addition to jazz great Louis Armstrong, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Charley Pride, and even Derek and the Dominos, who are surprisingly good (without Duane Allman). In fact, the complete list of guests over the course of 58 episodes is pretty staggering. Ed McMahon and Albert Brooks made appearances. It was a cool show. Enough said. Here’s a link to the complete first episode which features Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. Insane.

Cash opened each show with one of his own jams, usually backed by a rotating cast of regulars including June Carter Cash (his wife) and the Carter Family, The Statler Brothers, Carl Perkins, and The Tennessee Three, and The Statler Brothers performed brief comic interludes, which I believe may have been influenced by Hee Haw, a similar but more comedy-centric variety program that originally aired on CBS at the same time as the JCS. Hee Haw was the premiere showcase on commercial television during the 1970s for bluegrass, gospel, and other styles of American traditional music.

Cash TVindexAnyway, after sifting though the clips on YouTube, I’ve assembled what I believe to be the best of the best performances – the Top 20+ – although you can compare it to this article by Margaret Eby on Flavorwire, which was written in 2011; we agree on three accounts: Joni Mitchell, Derek and the Dominos, and Louis Armstrong. In particular, Eby was impressed by CCR’s performance of “Bad Moon Rising”, which to me, is musical styrofoam. Anyway, no question, the duet between Johnny and Joni on “Long Black Veil” is one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen in my life on YouTube.

And as a bonus for all you industrious kids who scroll to the bottom, I’ve also included a trio of television commercials featuring Johnny Cash. You gotta be at least 30 years old to remember that Taco Bell spot, which is among the greatest things I’ve ever unwittingly stumbled upon while surfing the net.

1. Joni Mitchell “Long Black Veil”

2. Joni Mitchell “Girl From Saskatoon”

It’s easy to see why a lot of dudes fell hard for Joni. She’s magnetic or something. Quite a soul, that woman is.

3. Neil Young “The Needle and the Damage Done” and “Journey Through The Past”

One of the finest Neil Young performances of “The Needle” that I’m aware of. Gave me goosebumps the first time.

4. Stevie Wonder “Heaven Help Us All”

I’m partial to Stevie. He’s pretty much my favorite vocalist of all-time. Here’s another reason why.

5. Hank Williams Jr. Medley of Hank Sr.’s “You Win Again/Cold, Cold Heart/I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still In Love With You)/Half As Much”

Man, that kid could sing before he turned into a cartoon character. Much respect.

6a. Bob Dylan “Girl of the North Country”

6b. Bob Dylan “I Threw It All Away”

I’ve reversed the original order of appearance. I don’t know. “I Threw It All Away” sounds to me like a throwaway. It rates here because it’s great to see Dylan in this era, just making his comeback.

7. The Everly Brothers “That Silver Haired Daddy of Mine” feat. Ike Everly

Very rare clip of their father, Ike, on guitar.

8. Louis Armstrong “Crystal Chandeliers”, “Ramblin’ Rose” and “Blue Yodel #9″

9a. Derek and the Dominoes “It’s Too Late”

9b. Derek and the Dominos feat. Carl Perkins “Matchbox”

This is amazing. And I don’t even like Clapton, but he’s alright. Sweet.

10. Charley Pride “Able Bodied Man”

Charley Pride was actually the first and really only country guy I cared for as a kid, and in fact, I own the 45 of this jam.

11. Roy Orbison “Oh Pretty Woman”

Johnny kinda stumbles a bit on this one, but Roy is rock solid.

12. Waylon Jennings “Only Daddy That’ll Walk The Line” and “Brown-Eyed Handsome Man”

It’s only been the last decade or so that I’ve come around so to speak with this outlaw country stuff, but it all starts right here. Waylon was the original, and he’s really loose here. Good stuff.

13. Shel Silverstein “A Boy Named Sue”

Bad audio. If you really need to see this, look for a better version.

14. Burl Ives

If you’re old enough to remember “Chim Chim Cher-ee”, then you’re old enough to know that Burl Ives was amazing.

15. Ray Charles “Ring of Fire”

16. The Everly Brothers “Bye Love”

17. James Taylor “Oh Susanna”

18a. Chet Atkins “Recuerdos de la Alhambra”

I taught myself how to play this jam from this video. Or at least, I tried.

18b. Jose Feliciano “I Guess Things Happen That Way”

Love me some Jose, baby. Should really be rated higher, but things got hectic.

19. Bobbi Gentry “On the Bayou”

I think Johnny and Bobbi did it a few times. Watch this and say otherwise. Christ.

20. The Monkees

Just watch.

 

BONUS!!!!!!!!!!

Johnny Cash Television Commercials
Taco Bell

Amoco

Lionel Trains

40 Years of Brilliance: Genesis on The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway Complete Interviews

9 May
LambLike every genre of modern popular music, mid-1970s progressive rock has watermarks as well as washouts. Along with a handful of other records – for example, Yes’ Close to the Edge and King Crimson’s Lark’s Tongue in Aspic – Genesis’ The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway is quite possibly the most impressive and influential progressive rock album of the era.

Recorded and released in 1974, “The Lamb” as it’s known to aficionados, was by far the band’s most ambitious and accessible effort to date. Forty years later, standout cuts like the title track, “Back In N.Y.C.”, “In the Cage”, “The Carpet Crawlers” and “Fly on a Windshield” bear repeated listens, year in, year out. And so, rather than blather on about what a great record it is, etcetera, why not let the band members tell their side of the story. These interviews were part of the Genesis Box Set 1970-1975 and conducted in 2007 with band members Peter Gabriel, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, Phil Collins, and Steve Hackett. OK, so let me say something. As a big-time Genesis fan, these interviews are phenomenal. Peter, Phil, Mike and Steve come off as a genuinely cool cats. Tony, on the other hand, kind of comes off sightly arrogant and maybe bitter. You be the judge.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

 

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