Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tuesday Tuneage
Mott the Hoople - "Death May Be Your Santa Claus"

This tune is the biting lead-off track to Mott the Hoople's second album Brain Capers. On that LP it was followed by covers of songs by Dion and The Youngbloods. This was similar to how their debut album started off with a bizarre cover of the Kinks "You Really Got Me" (it was an instrumental) and they followed it up with covers of songs by The Sir Douglas Quintet and Sonny & Cher. I am not listing complaints here. Mott the Hoople is up there with the likes of the Replacements in my pantheon of rock 'n' roll also-rans.

Turns out "Death May Be Your Santa Claus" is not a Christmas song, but I kinda wish it was. And Ian Hunter doesn't even sing the title words at all. Crap. But I just like that as Brits, Mott didn't title it "Death May Be Your Father Christmas." That just lacks hooks.

As for the illustration with this blog post ... that's how you get from Mott to Hoople in North Dakota. If you decide to take said trek, wait for the warm weather months, it's not a Christmastime trip.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tuesday Tuneage
Rod Stewart - “What’s Made Milwaukee Famous (Has Made A Loser Out Of Me)”

Greil Marcus in The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll: “Rarely has a singer had as full and unique a talent as Rod Stewart; rarely has anyone betrayed his talent so completely.”

Yeah, right, you’re thinking. Rod Stewart? I didn’t buy it either, that Rod Stewart was once a great artist. If the first time you heard him was in the era of “Hot Legs” and “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” like I did, you woudn’t believe that he was capable of the rock 'n' roll brilliance of Every Picture Tells A Story and Never A Dull Moment. Because that’s where I was a kid and into adulthood. People older than me swore by Stewart’s early work, but c’mon ... this was the guy who tortured me in high school with “Passion” and “Young Turks.” Nothing was going to change my mind.

But the conversion took place, sometime around all the press Stewart got over the release of his Storyteller box set. Maybe it when I was on the road to Damascus, or in this case I-394, when I heard his cover of the Temptations’ “I’m Losing You” on the radio. Or maybe it was when I read comparisions between Stewart and Paul Westerberg, both in their self-depracating humor and how the Replacements’ All Shook Down had that bass-drums-acoustic guitar music like in Stewarts’ early work. I know the deal was pretty much sealed when my buddy Turk loaned me his Every Picture Tells A Story LP. And you know how the story ends: I buy Stewarts’ first four albums and absolutely love them, because once the skeptic becomes the true believer there is no shaking his beliefs. And why do I love those albums?

Greil Marcus again: “A writer who offered profound lyricism and fabulous self-deprecating humor, teller of tall tales and honest heartbreaker, he had an unmatched eye for the tiny details around which lives turn, shatter and reform ... (Stewart had) an uncanny combination of the folksinger’s gentle touch, the rockers’s assault on all things holy and the soul man’s affirmation of the truth buried deep in every human heart.”

To further convince you of Rod Stewart’s brilliance in his early years, I give you a song he didn’t even deign to put on an album. While along with Ron Wood he was part of a fine songwriting team, Stewart also had an uncanny knack for finding just the right songs to cover. This one is “What’s Made Milwaukee Famous (Has Made A Loser Out Of Me)”, a big country hit for Jerry Lee Lewis in 1968. He put the tune on the B-side to his cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Angel” in a seeming attempt to bind the longhair/hardhat divide of forty years ago, ever the romantic was our guy Rod. Enjoy it with a nightcap.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Tuesday Tuneage
Lou Reed and Metallica - "Iced Honey"

Possible album titles instead of Lulu: Hide The Lightning. New Yakk.

My friend Steve: "Metallica sounds like as tight of a thrash unit as they've sounded since 1989, and Lou Reed just sounds like the dying old man in Magnolia."

Death Geriatic. I Wanna Be Black (Album.)

Canadian hard rocker Danko Jones: "It’s the Ishtar of rock 'n' roll. And if you don't get that, it's the Waterworld of rock 'n' roll. And if you don't get that, it's the Battlefield Earth of rock 'n' roll."

Metal Machine Mess. Kill ‘Em All And Start With These Guys.

Bill Tuomala: "There was a song I liked halfway through, kinda like day drinking with a hangover when there's that four minutes that you actually feel good."

Full Load. I Can't Stand It.

And yet you have to give Lou credit. At least he came up with the idea of recording a crappy album with Metallica before Neil Young did. Dave Mustaine, expect a call.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tuesday Tuneage
Hanoi Rocks - "Self Destruction Blues"

Hanoi Rocks were a group of Finns influenced by the New York Dolls (bassist Sami Yaffa is in the Dolls' latest incarnation), and never lived up to their sleaze-rock promise. Bob Ezrin - who had worked wonders with Alice Cooper and Kiss - couldn't even get them up and running at full raunch when he produced their Two Steps From The Move album. Though to be fair, they were crucial in the development of Guns n' Roses, at least looks-wise.

I tried to like 'em, I really did. Kinda felt I had to, with them being my fellow suomalainen and all. I bought three of their albums, one of them on vinyl even. But I never listen to them these days. At least I managed to fit a reference to them in a fantasy I wrote about opening a Finnish bar.

As for this tune, why does the narrator make breakfast for two? He had already said that his gal had left him the prior Monday. Is it some leftover instinct - unaffected by heartbreak, he went ahead and made breakfast for the two of them? Maybe he just had a big appetite. Self-destruction can make a guy hungry, that's why I hesitate to keep potato chips on hand in my pantry.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tuesday Tuneage
ZZ Top - "I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide"

A beer project is loosely defined as any project that is mundane enough that you can have a beer or two while doing it to make it a little more enjoyable. “Beer project” was coined by my good friend Bjerk, I believe the first time he used it around me was when we were repairing the windshield on his Glastron speedboat. And by “we,” I mean that I held the windshield in place while he drilled new holes. (I'd write something self-deprecating about how little I did during this project, but come to think of it ... it was a lot more than your typical second on a UND dorm maintenance project.)

It is while up north at the cabin that the beer project takes a special place. You don’t want to take too much time or have to drive into town for supplies because your ultimate goal is to get back on the water, so improvisation becomes key. This is how my brother and I constructed a “Mayor Country” sign (this was during a time of anti-mayor strife and my brother and I are of the mayor’s “vote early, vote often” constituency ... well, we would be if we had elections up there) from an Old Style Draft box, a magic marker, and some garden stakes. During that same era, I fixed the opening latch on my classic Schmidt cooler - one of those big aluminum ones with a padded cover for sitting and a bottle opener attached - with a latch designed for a window. It was while constructing a landing outside the garage that my Dad uttered the classic line: “We’re going to do something. It might be the wrong thing, but we’re going to do something.” (That landing actually wasn’t a beer project and Dad designed it rather well, but that quote sums up the Beer Project Mentality perfectly.)

So with Bjerk’s Glastron and the windshield ... This was in the days before the worldwide web, the iTunes Store, YouTube etc. freed singular songs from their album constraints. And I really had a hankering to hear ZZ Top’s “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide.” I never heard it on Twin Cities radio, it wasn’t one of the three songs by them that KQRS played, and we didn’t have a hard rock station in the Twin Cities. So I called Bjerk up during the week and asked if he had the ZZ Top album with “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide” on it. The next weekend he brought a cassette of ZZ Top's Deguello, a boombox, and some cans of Stroh's Light down to his dock. And that was our soundtrack as we fixed that windshield. A well-executed beer project on a sunny summer afternoon.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Tuesday Tuneage
James Gang - "The Bomber"

When I was in my mid-teens, I bought a couple of small paperbacks at the B. Dalton store in Grand Forks. They were short rock biographies published by Tempo Books and both were authored by John Swenson. One was about The Who, the other was about The Eagles. The Who went on to become my obsession in high school, ignored through much of my twenties and thirties, and now once again one of my all-time faves. The Eagles? Well I tried selling the Eagles book last time I moved but the bookstore wouldn’t buy it and now I’m glad I kept it because it has a photo of John Belushi wearing a Vikings windbreaker in it. The Eagles book also doubles as a bio of Joe Walsh and his original version of the James Gang. Swenson wrote that the James Gang blew away Pete Towhnshend when they opened for the The Who circa 1970 and this was enough for me to seek out James Gang LPs in high school. Swenson's descriptions of them - as I recall, and it's been thirty years or so - seemed to place the James Gang in a high tier of the great also-rans in American rock history. They were a homer-or-strikeout band to me, but when they went deep it was brilliant hard rock.

For instance, their second album, James Gang Rides Again, featured a tune called “The Bomber.” which was a montage of:
1) A killer proto-heavy metal piece called "Closet Queen" (Closet what??) (Which makes me wonder what these lines exactly mean ... "So I began to notice some things I hadn't seen before/That's what's brought me here knockin' on your back door");
2) Maurice Ravel's "Bolero"; and
3) Vince Guaraldi's "Cast Your Fate To The Wind."

The inclusion of “Bolero” was no doubt influenced by “Beck’s Bolero” from a few years earlier. But Ravel’s estate forced the band to delete it from future pressings, so only the first 10,000 copies of Rides Again LPs featured "Bolero." Of course, the only reason I was aware of this "Bolero" controvery was because had I read that Eagles book - which described the Ravel estate's legal action - right around the same time as the movie 10 was popular and "Bolero" was a significant part of that movie. But I'm not sure I ever even saw that movie, it starred that tiny British guy with kinda long hair who I understand some people thought was funny and it also starred Ursula Andress Linda Evans Bo Derek.

I had mentally misplaced all this "The Bomber" stuff until the other night when for some reason I remembered it while listening to “Beck’s Bolero” in the dark on headphones. This lead me to YouTube, which featured The James Gang’s version of “The Bomber,” complete with the controversial "Bolero" excerpt fully intact. This made that YouTube moment A PROTO-METAL HOLY GRAIL! I hadn't been this excited over a proto-metal finding since: 1) Discovering a copy of the Stooges' quasi-bootleg Metallic K.O. in the racks at Let It Be in the mid-nineties. (Note, the album is not titled Punk K.O.); and 2) Hearing some of Rocket From The Tombs' recordings - officially released as the album The Day The Earth Met The Rocket From The Tombs - at Treehouse Records early last decade. I bought it on CD and came to find out that it was made up of recordings from various RFTT bootleggs. (One of those bootlegs was titled A Night Of Heavy Music - note, not titled A Night Of Punk Music.)

So what, you say, a minute-and-a-half of some Ohio band's interpretation of a tune was missing and now you found it. Big deal. Well here's another story, maybe it'll clear things up as to my state of mind, maybe it won't: As a teen, I bought a Canadian version of The MC5's Kick Out The Jams LP hoping as an import it would have the REAL intro to the title track. But I was bummed that it had the cleaned-up "brothers and sisters" intro to the title track. Imagine my joy when I bought the album on CD in the nineties and got my long-promised, never-heard "motherfuckers" version ... ANOTHER PROTO-METAL HOLY GRAIL ...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tuesday Tuneage
Thunderclap Newman - "Something In The Air"

This tune from the late sixties is a dreamy, well-constructed song that is a power pop parallel to The Who’s anthemic efforts from the same period. Unsurprisingly, Pete Townshend played bass for Thunderclap Newman and produced their only (brilliant) album, on which this appears. What is surprising - to me at least, and I’ve been hearing this song for years - most famously in the Almost Famous trailer - is that this tune calls for armed revolution. But lyrics have always been my blind spot.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tuesday Tuneage
Neil Diamond - "Solitary Man"

'Nuff said.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tuesday Tuneage
The Shins - "Sphagnum Esplanade"

What to make of this song ... fuzztone bass line, a guitar and piano picking out single notes, the vocals are mostly in falsetto, no drums, a synthesizer solo (I think), and a solo by another instrument that I can’t quite identify. If had never heard it and read that description, I would have scoffed. Plus I can’t decipher the words. But I realize googling those lyrics would take most of the fun out of the listen anyway.

Reminds me of early last decade when I first heard tracks from Pink Floyd’s first two albums and said: “Now I see where the Shins got that sound from.”

Conclusion? This song haunts, oh how it haunts.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Bourbon And Water

Until recently, my choice of mixed drink was rye and ginger. The way the ginger ale brought out the peppery taste of Old Overcoat was brilliant. Those went down sooooo good. Problem is with ginger ale though, it’s got about 50 calories per dose as a mixer. When you’re a middle-aged drinker who needs to focus on not putting the pounds on (for good health, for lower blood pressure, because I have flat feet which don’t need the extra poundage and pounding, because cardio workouts go so much easier when I’m lighter), it’s preferable to imbibe a whiskey drink neat or with a no-calorie mixer. Why not drink light beer instead of regular beer to reduce your drinking calories, you say. Please, I say. You’re not talking about eliminating Surly Bender or Summit India Pale Ale from my diet instead of ginger ale? You must be kidding.

So with rye and ginger out of the mix, what did I go with as preferred cocktail this summer? Well, I started with scotch (White Horse) and soda and then moved on to Glen Moray on the rocks. (It’s been on sale at my favorite neighborhood liquor store.) But buying a bottle of Evan Williams on a trip up north last month became a tipping point. At my parents, I started drinking it neat in a Dixie cup (an odd ritual, Old Fashioned glasses were available) while writing nightly on my laptop. I was turned on to Evan Williams by David Wondrich in Esquire a couple of years ago when he reviewed “best cheap booze” and immediately fell in severe like with it. It’s just as good as Jim Beam in my book and a lot lighter on the checkbook. Not to mention I saw John Munch pour from a bottle of it in an episode of Homicide. Sold!

Eventually what happened mid-summer was that I found myself in the mood for Evan Williams here at home. And since I didn’t have any Dixie cups, I started to pour myself some bourbon and waters on the rocks in an Old Fashioned glass, thereby reviving a fave drink of mine from the early part of the last decade. Sipping this drink is a favorite ritual while I write my eight hundred words a day (typically written at night), a task I set myself to do the rest of this summer for some unknown but noble reason back in early July. I'm generally not a good summer writer and most of what I end up writing is crap or at best middling writing practice. But it keeps the writing mind active and my fingers love it when I actually do tune into something that I genuinely want to write about. In such good times, I thank Evan Williams and whatever music is playing as I type. In bad times? I only have myself to blame. And I’m sure I’ll pour another drink in order to try to get over it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tuesday Tuneage
Steam - "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye"

Dedicated to the now-dead presidential ambitions of Tim Pawenty, who had been running for the White House for oh-so-many years. May he run for dogcatcher somewhere, sometime. Maybe then he might move above fourteen percent in the polls (which he recently couldn't do with Iowa Republicans) and perhaps even win a majority of the votes (which he never did statewide in Minnesota.) I've even got a catchy nickname for him if he does win that job of catching dogs: "TPaw."

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Tuesday Tuneage
The Fatback Band - "(Are You Ready) Do The Bus Stop"

I recently got rid of my car as I realized: 1) I barely drive while in town, 2) Half my miles were driving up north to see my folks, 3) Most things I need in my day-to-day life are within six blocks of my apartment, 4) The two clients I still travel to (the rest are all handled via telecommuting) are on easy, thirty-minute bus commutes. So now I bike to the close things and bus to the further things. No big hassles so far, and the one time I decided I needed a car, I went with my HourCar option to fill the void. Biking around the neighborhood is relatively easy, I avoid major traffic areas and tend to favor coasting, to nobody's surprise. Bussing has been the revelation, the drivers have been ever-friendly and helpful, it's where I get a ton of reading done and it's where I start to think, and think a lot (too much?) I'm sure it has something to do with the bus stop waiting and the passivity of the bus riding experience. My notes:

At the bus stop:
- If there is time between transfers, look for a coffee shop - this is Minneapolis, one should be within a stone's throw - and caffeine up.
- If there is bar near your transfer stop (this is on the ride home), ponder what exactly is important that you have to do today/tonight or tomorrow for that matter.
- Check Twitter on your mobile phone, you know you want/have to.
- Mentally citizen arrest all the drivers who drive by and are texting.
- Nod at the cyclists when they pass you.
- Drink from your flask (optional).

On the bus:
- Read a newspaper.
- Read a book.
- Find any songs on your iPod that relate to busses: “Kiss Me On The Bus”, “Bus Rider”, “The Load-Out”, “Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street”, and of course “(Are You Ready) Do The Bus Stop.”
- Check Twitter on your mobile phone, you know you want/have to.
- Always say “thank you” to the driver. Because as governor, Tim Pawlenty treated the drivers like some sort of bogeymen and boasts about it during his presidential campaign, means they have earned our courtesy and respect. Power to the unions, power to the workers. Speaking of our former (yet currently) pandering, whiteboy governor, I can’t wait for TFraud to drop out of the GOP race due to the extreme boredom he has inflicted on Republicans nationwide ... and/or due to his topping off at five percent in the polls ... and/or due to his coming off like a conservative version of Michael Dukakis: a wimp and a bore. Because if Dukakis had never done that tank photo-op, you just know that TClown’s people would have been calling around the country, looking for a friendly tank factory in an effort to shore up his foreign policy creds. The morning after “TPaw” (this is why I call him “whiteboy” only a true dork would allow himself to be called “TPaw”) drops out of the Republican race, I will have a hangover the size of Iowa and New Hampshire combined. Don't worry Timmy, you still have a future: I hear Sears is looking for a middle-aged man to model the men's version of Mom jeans ad in their weekly circular.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Tuesday Tuneage
The Surfaris - “Surfer Joe”

The things you find out while surfing (pun not intended) the Internet. Like that “Surfer Joe”, an okay song most notable for its protagonist showing up in others’ songs - we’ll get to that later, was an A-side and its B-side was The Surfaris’ biggest hit “Wipe-Out.” The B-side went to number two on the charts, and the A-side went only to number sixty-two. This makes sense as “Wipe-Out” is eternal rock ‘n’ roll genius, all noise and laughter and rhythm and further proof that it was more often than not that it was the little one-hit-wonder instrumental bands that made the best surf music.

“Surfer Joe” on the other hand, is tenative and features an awkward white guy singing, it's kind of proto-indie rock. Surfer Joe gets drafted and with this being 1963 it means the Gulf of Tonkin incident was about a year away and Joe likely got shipped off to Vietnam war with LBJ’s escalation. Poor Joe, indeed. Though this does lead me to believe that Surfer Joe was in part the inspiration for the Lance Johnson surfer character in Apocalypse Now. (And I gotta point out that Lance’s middle initial was “B”, which made him an “LBJ” ha ha Coppola that’s a good one, as good as naming Harrison Ford’s character “Lucas.”)

So “Surfer Joe” is middling music, a kinda-interesting story, and a grade-A musical history footnote as nobody would guess it was an A-side to golden oldies smash. But it gets interesting when Joe starting popping up in other people’s songs. The first I know of was when Neil Young featured him in “Surfer Joe and Moe The Sleaze” from his underrated 1981 Re-ac-tor album. It’s my favorite Young album ever, it features killer hard rock and keeps me interested at least seventy-five percent of the time during a listen, a win in my book for Young. But I’m not part of the Neil Young cult and can't be trusted, as when I delve into his albums I find them - aside from Tonight's The Night and Time Fades Away - not living up to the acclaims.

In 1990, Paul Westerberg referenced Surfer Joe in the Replacements’ “I’ll Be You”: Well, I laughed half the way to Tokyo / I dreamt I was Surfer Joe /And what that means, I don't know. “Half the way to Tokyo” has Pacific Rim written all over it, which indicates Westerberg definitely had Joe’s Vietnam fate on his mind while he slept. Neil Young, on the other hand, hints that we might able to see Joe surf again in the early eighties. It'll never get hailed as a Major Achievement, but I find it somewhat comforting to see such highly-regarded songwriters attempting to make a cult figure out of someone who otherwise would have ended up an obscure folk hero. Next stop, Cooperstown.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tuesday Tuneage
Funkadelic - “Funky Dollar Bill”

A certain circle of friends of mine sometimes call me “Dolla Bill.” (Because I’m an accountant, get it? Ha ha.) This is as whiteboy a nickname as “TPaw”, but in my own defense I am not a bore like Tim Pawlenty is, plus I support and genuinely like the Metro Transit bus drivers, while TPaw’s constituency is middle-aged white guys who are pissed that a Metro Transit bus is in HIS way on HIS road and HIS car can’t pass it! TPaw also Tpanders to evangelical voters (also always white, but not always middle-aged or male) who live in far-flung suburbs and exburbs where they don’t always have great bus service, or don’t have busses altogether, and in many cases don’t even have sidewalks. So that’s TFraud’s base: metro road-ragers and suburban holy rollers. Don’t bike near these people, even if you’re wearing a helmet.

Anyway - in my case, “Dollar Bill” would work better than "Dolla Bill", it doesn’t have that faux hip-hop flavor (I like hip-hop just fine, but I’m a middle-aged white guy and can’t pull off hip-hop) and is the name featured in Chank Diesel’s portrait of me that hangs in my living room (thanks Steve.) Also don’t forget that Dollar Bill was a minor character in Watchmen.

But to this week’s song ... “Funky Dollar Bill” is Exhibit A of what Jimi Hendrix, an artist every bit as inventive and daring as the Beatles, The Roling Stones, and Bob Dylan were in the sixties, wrought. Brilliant guitar in both the rhythm and effects area, a beat that’s just off-and-on enough to kinda reflect America’s War With Itself in that era, plus grade-A vocals (lead and harmony), and an odd keyboard that seems to prophesize Sly’s breakdown a few short year hence. Funkadelic at its prime was hard-hitting, chilling, and weird weird weird.

Oh, and the album that’s it’s on? The song before it references my birthday in the song title. As the Russian kid said to Curtis Jackson in the Russians-are-coming episode of The White Shadow: "Funk-a-what?"

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tuesday Tuneage
The Shys - "Never Gonna Die"

A glorious ode to debauchery. This isn’t Merle Haggard’s “Swinging Doors” or the Replacements’ “Here Comes A Regular,” this is akin to Ray Charles “Let’s Go Get Stoned” or Van Halen’s “Bottoms Up!” ... a tribute to ending up face first on the futon after a night of drinking.

Something in the lyrics makes me think it’s about a small-town kids who have realized they’re never getting out of that place, but what the hell it’s Friday night so pass the bottle around and get another twelver, don’t have to be anywhere until Monday morning at seven. Years down the road, they’ll be the ones listening to “Swinging Doors” on the jukebox after work and won’t use words like “wasted” or “never gonna die,” instead it will be words like “a taste” and “decent buzz” and “these heaters are gonna kill me.” And they will laugh with each other at the bar about when they were young and indestructible and stole drinks and cruised around the county like they owned it.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Index Cards

A couple of years ago I bought a laptop and it changed the way I go about the process of writing. I used to do all my writing - the jotting of notes, rough drafts, ramblings - in a Mead Five Star notebook. But once I got the laptop, I switched to doing most of my writing - practice, ramblings, drafts - on it. Around this same time, I took to the habit of always keeping a small stack of index cards with me, next to my writing desk, in my Mead notebook, in my bookbag. The intent with these cards was to have a handy place to write down the short notes that zapped into my brain from time-to-time. I used to write these in the Mead notebook, but now with laptop writing that is usually out of reach. Another inspiration for the use of index cards was reading the late Rick Johnson a few years back. He was hilarious, and I remembered in Jim DeRogatis's Lester Bang biography, Let It Blurt, he wrote that Johnson: "walked around with a stack of index cards, jotting down weird phrases and quips whenever he heard them, then shuffling through the deck while writing his reviews until he found the appropriate one-liners." (Johnson wrote this blog post's featured photo above.)

Last week I went through the stacks of used index cards that were on my writing desk in order to sort them and help me figure out where my writing mind is (and was.) Some of them were notes on a novel I'm writing, some were ideas for my Tuesday Tuneage series, and some were just weird, random things I had written down. For instance:

"How many mainland Americans live above Grand Forks latitude-wise?"

"And then I'll get out of what's left of your hair." - I think Dark Star said this on Channel 23's Sunday night Sports Show, probably to Sid Hartman, though Sid still has lots of hair up top so maybe Dark targeted somebody else.

"Fake Bud Grant" - a never-created Twitter account whose intent was to make fun of the Vikings and their choking-dog ways. Would have been fun in last years 6-10 season.

"The manageable, pleasant winters are the reward for the humid, brutal months of summer with oppressive sunlight for hours on end" - Written in response to the get-outside dorks who think Minneapolis winters are tough and that summer is paradise. I hate the heat of summer, don't think Minneapolis winters are that tough, and love the gray skies, cool temps, and early darkness of fall and winter here.

"He'll be right back after a word from his sponsor."
"Shakes for breakfast."

- Alcoholism is a disease, Tuomala! Geez! (I am not proud.)

"Family is permanent, friends I hang with, former coworkers are meant to fade." - I was invited to join former coworkers last month, I stayed home and paid my estimated taxes.

"Henry Paulson" - This led to writing a prose poem where I imagined Paulson heeding his true calling as a college basketball coach.

"Make him a hero because he's the best failure we've got." - Paul Nelson on Rod Stewart. Pretty confident this is from the Stewart biography Nelson wrote with Lester Bangs.

"There aren't many Special Export drinkers left." - Overheard a bartender say this.

So if you're a writer who is plagued/blessed with random mind intrusions and don't know how to quite handle them, consider the Index Card Gambit. I even put up a bulletin board in my writing office to tack some of my used index cards to. Almost makes the so-called system official in some way.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tuesday Tuneage
Run Westy Run - "David's Drum"

In which Minneapolis heroes combine funk rhythm, wah-wah guitar, vocals spoken more than sung, and a righteously anthemic chorus into a heady mix of rock 'n' roll. When scrappy little hometown heroes pull off something this glorious, release it on a three-song EP, and get a little local airplay to boot ... it's just another reason so many of us rave about the Minneapolis music scene.

And needless to say, but I'll say it anyway: Their live show was great also.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Tuesday Tuneage
Kings Of The Sun - "Drop The Gun"

Don't fall in like with Kings Of The Sun, this song is a hard rock gem, but the rest of the album it comes from is sub-that-era-Aerosmith and I seem to recall a lot of creepy lyrics about stalking women on it. First heard this one on Q98 late summer 1991 while my buddy talked to an apartment building caretaker about a potenial lease in Fergus Falls, the other memory from that sweaty afternoon (no AC in the car) was a six pack of Special Export Light on ice in a little cooler to enjoy on that Highway 59 roadtrip through Otter Tail County. Don't know how the hell I ever tracked down this band in my pre-Internet days, but I was known as a resourceful lad even before I was the Silver Surfer.

So enjoy this, Australian guitar rock served up fine: Kinda interesting outlaw story, biting guitars, singalong chorus ... what more could you ask for? Drop the gun, boy.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tuesday Tuneage
Iggy Pop - "Cold Metal"

1) Conversation with a friend in my car in the late eighties while Iggy Pop's "Cold Metal" was playing on the radio:

BT: Hey, Iggy's singing about metal!
Friend: Isn't this Billy Idol?
BT: Nope, it's Iggy. He's singing about metal.
F: No, he's not.
BT: Uh, yeah. Listen to him: "Cold metal ..."
F: He's not singing "metal."
BT: Yeah he is. Listen. "Cold metal ...:
F: He's singing something else.

2) "Cold Metal" is from the album Instinct, which features Steve Jones of Sex Pistols fame on guitar. Iggy's next album, Home, would feature Slash and Duff from Guns N' Roses. Confusion reigns!

3) Cut to circa ten years ago, sitting with friends in bar. I declare Stooges Fun House album one of the greatest metal albums ever. I am told that the Stooges weren't metal, they were punk. I say that Fun House was their "metal" album and Raw Power was their "punk" album, kinda like how Kick Out The Jams was the MC5's "metal" album and Back in the USA was their "punk" album. This was like trying to convince a friend that Iggy was actually singing the word "metal" in a chorus of a song ...

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The GOP Rogues Gallery

The goofballs who attend Tea Party rallies favor a certain sign in which President Obama is sporting war paint ala Heath Ledger/The Joker in The Dark Knight. But one look at Michele Bachmann in HD last spring prompted me to tweet that she looks much more like The Joker than Barack Obama does. This led me to wonder: Which classic Batman villains do the other Republican presidential candidates match up with?

Sure he's out of the race, but no other GOP figure says "cartoonish villain" like Donald Trump. And Trump = The Penguin. Wikipedia says that in the past twenty years, animated Batman series have depicted The Penguin alternately as "deformed outcast and high-profile aristocrat." Both of those descriptors match up with Trump.

Michele Bachmann = The Joker. Not only does she have the maniacal eyes and grin of The Clown Prince of Crime, she shows up on TV to taunt her opponents, which is Jokerish behavior indeed.

Mitt Romney = Mr. Freeze. Because he does seem to live at a below-zero temperature and he moves slowly, mechanically, like he's wearing a cryogenic suit.

Newt Gingrich = The Riddler. Gingrich is smart, but wants to show it off so bad that he trips up on his own smartiness, much as The Riddler gives Batman just enough clues to get caught. Wikipedia describes The Riddler as "a malignant narcissist with an enormous ego." Sound familiar, Newt?

Sarah Palin = Catwoman. Both Palin and Catwoman favor leather, and there is a dominatrix aura to both of them. According to Wikipedia, in the fifties Batman comics revealed that Catwoman is an amnesiac flight attendant. This of course matches David Letterman's description of Palin's "slutty flight attendant" look.

Tim Pawlenty = Harvey "Two-Face" Dent. I have a relative who has met Pawlenty and although she doesn't agree with his politics, insists that he is the nicest guy. But what nice guy leaves his governorship with his state facing a six billion dollar defecit? Pawlenty recently showed more two-faced behavior. On a Sunday morning show he slammed Mitt Romney, then the next night at a debate he backed off from his attacks. Unfortunately for Pawlenty, America will not believe in Harvey Dent.

Ron Paul = The Scarecrow. Wikipedia says that The Scarecrow is addicted to fear and some would claim that a politician obsessed with the usual conspiracy, uh, scarecrows such as the Federal Reserve, the United Nations, and the North American Union is also addicted to fear.

Rick Santorum = This specimen is such a shrill scold that he doesn't match up to any villians. But remember in that great scene from The Dark Knight where The Joker says that he can spot the squealers? You just know that a pud like Santorum would rat out anybody and everybody if it means he would escape unharmed.

Jon Huntsman = ? Huntsman hasn't yet shown which masked threat to society he mirrors. But have no illusions, once he starts kissing up to the GOP base, Huntsman will reveal his creepy, belongs-in-Arkham alter-ego. And as others have pointed out, he - like Romney - already looks like the stuffed shirt who would hand you a pink slip to the applause of the shareholders.

And now you're waiting for me to annoit Barack Obama as Batman, right? Nope, consider Obama's cool demeanor, his ace handling of his commander-in-chief duties (offing pirates was just a prelude to the taking out Osama bin Laden, the what-Pakistani-sovreignty? mission reminds one of Batman's "he has no jurisdiction" taking of Lau in Hong Kong), and his background in Chicago - where Christopher Nolan has set his Batman films - and the resemblance is obvious. Our president is Commissioner Jim Gordon.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tuesday Tuneage
The Party - "In My Dreams"

In my mind, there are two battling theories as to how I first heard a group of Mickey Mouse Clubbers do a cover of a Dokken tune:

1) It was played on a local radio show like Cosmic Slop or Crap From The Past and I was immediately drawn to it, as I considered the original an eerie minor classic from my college years.


2) I heard it in my car while scanning the likes of Radio AAHS or Radio Disney, the only stations I ever listened to in the nineties that would have had this tune in rotation.

My gut tells me that option #1 is the more logical choice and normally I would write it as such, but the "heard weird cover version of pop metal song in my car" storyline is also compelling. This brings up an ongoing debate in nonfiction personal writing. One school of thought says that you should always try your best to write the truth, another says you should write things how you remember them. I go with the latter as I generally write on trivial matters and being lazy I don't want to spend time verifying accounts of trivial matters. Though I have been scolded a few times as I have gotten the cast of characters wrong in one or two of my old-days memories I have written down. This hasn't convinced me to do any fact-checking on my memoirs though, I keep writing 'em down in the way I remember 'em.

Anyway ... Dokken was eighties pop metal and The Party was nineties bubblegum dance pop and OF COURSE they do the song justice, so what if their preteen/tween fans are not haunted by The One That Got Away? Which leaves it to us adults to listen to "In My Dreams" (which artist? pick 'em) and do a shot with a beer chaser. Damn you, haunting pop music.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tuesday Tuneage
The Replacements - "Can't Get Enough"

In Jim Walsh's oral history of the Replacements, All Over But The Shouting, Roscoe Shoemaker explains that he had taped a Replacements set at a small show in Oklahoma City in 1984. Shoemaker says there were twenty to thirty people at the show at that they yelled out requests that the Replacements honored. Somebody seized/stole the tape and it went on to become a released by Twin/Tone Records in 1984. (Full disclosure: In this book, I relate two anecdotes about seeing the band in 1984 and 1987.)

Available at first only on cassette titled The Shit Hits The Fans, and then later something of an urban legend - unavailable in the pre-Internet ages, rumored to be a bootleg, this Oklahoma City set went on to become known among Replacements faithful as the "'Mats get drunk and play cover" live album. I scored a copy off of eBay ten years ago or so, the seller claimed it was a CD, by which he meant that it was a CD-R with the album title written in a kinda-fancy font on the disc. No cover art, no liner notes. I think I paid ten bucks.

A close listen reveals that The Shit Hits The Fans isn't quite the "they play drunk covers" of legend. While undoubtably drunk, the Replacements first half of the recorded songs is a mixture of originals and straightforward covers of Lloyd Price, Robyn Hitchcock, and The Jackson 5. The songs of legend happen after they wind up their original song "Hear You Been To College" - a slow blues - and people in the crowd yell "play white music!", "Lynyrd Skynyrd!", and "play some rock you fucking pumpkins!" Or maybe it's "bumpkins", which might make more sense, sounds like "pumpkins" to me though. I'm convinced it's the ignorant demand to "play white music!" that pissed off Westerberg a little or maybe more and which prompted him to unleash the band through a string of classic rock covers like "Saturday Night Special", "Breakdown", "Misty Mountain Hop", and "Takin' Care Of Business." Most of these they fail to finish, and "Iron Man" actually starts out as "War Pigs" until Westerberg starts singing "Iron Man." Funny stuff, and damn fun to listen to, also, though probably only to diehard Replacements fans. It's not exactly the stuff you'd play to someone unfamiliar with the band to win them over.

The best of the covers is that of Bad Company's "Can't Get Enough", in which they blister through it straight-on and even convince themselves to pull off the guitar solo. That beats being able to stand up straight most nights.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Tuesday Tuneage
Def Leppard - "Rock of Ages"

How much do I love vintage Def Leppard? Too many reasons to go into here, so let me go with this: I regularly compare them to another fave - Mott the Hoople.

"Rock of Ages" is from Pyromania and like the rest of that album, it's hook-tastic and helped Def Lep get on the radio for those oh-so-long months before the deluge of radio greatness that was the year 1984 started. You have to remember: This was 1983 when crappy fop fellow Brits like Culture Club and all those New Romantic bands had Newsweek wondering about a New British Invasion. Def Lep were leftovers from the NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) who after their debut album were picked by Mutt Lange for him to work his wonders, and work his wonders he did. High 'N Dry was a hard rock classic, and Pyromania topped it. With radio (and not the office building on its album cover) the target in mind, Lange and Def Leppard unleashed song after song that landed on Top 40 and AOR radio. One of these was the chorus-heavy, Mott-reminding, anthem that was "Rock of Ages."

The great thing about the video for this tune is that it's a parody of so many insipid heavy metal/Dungeons & Dragons videos (see Dio, Ronnie Fucking James.) Though it is strange to see drummer Rick Allen with both his arms, his losing an arm in a car accident in 1984 would provide the opening for Mutt Lange to completely take over the recordings of Hysteria, create a dozen or so more Top 40 and AOR hits, and leave Def Leppard as the faces to tour behind his studio effort. (So goes the theory, just don't ask a Shania Twain fan about it.) Regarding Rick Allen ... sixties garage rockers The Barbarians also had a drummer with one arm and their most famous song is "Are You A Boy Or Are You A Girl", which sounds a lot like Def Leppard AND ... Mott the Hoople!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Hunter S. Thompson On Mitch Daniels

A few months back there was numerous postings on Twitter about the late Hunter S. Thompson, his ESPN.com column that followed the attacks on September 11, 2001, and his predictions on the post-9/11 Bush administration reaction. Some say Thompson nailed it correctly, all I know is that he was dead-on with: This is going to be a very expensive war, and Victory is not guaranteed -- for anyone, and certainly not for anyone as baffled as George W. Bush.

Imagine then my surprise this past weekend when I was reading Generation of Swine: Gonzo Papers, Volume 2, a collection of Thompson's columns for the San Francisco Examiner in the eighties in which I find him writing about Mitch Daniels.

Ah yes, Mitch Daniels, the governor of Indiana who top-notch Republicans were begging to get into the race because ... he wasn't Mitt Romney. Daniels recently decided not to run, so the GOP elite is now trying to recruit Texas governor Rick Perry ("Governor Perry ... have you met General Sherman?"), former Florida governor Jeb Bush (we are assured that Jeb is "the smart one", though there's a lot of room for improvement when it comes to the unnnamed individual who Jeb is supposedly smarter than) (and let's elect another Bush ... because after President Obama brings the troops home it's time for another Iraq invasion, right?), and New Jersey governor Chris Christie (insert fatboy joke already used on Minnesota GOP chair Tony Sutton here.)

Back in 1987 when Thompson was penning his column that mentioned Daniels, he was then a chief political adviser to President Reagan. And what was Thompsons' take on Daniels?

He is a flimsy little yuppie who looks like something that got rejected at birth, in the throes of some mixup at the hospital, when the mother had to choose between it and some healthy-looking fetus that turned out to be Patrick Buchanan.
   "Take the strong one," she said. "He will have a long life and be a comfort to me in my later years."

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tuesday Tuneage
Beck - "Mexico"

I was going to claim that this one gets most of its charm from being mentioned by Greil Marcus in the discography of Invisible Republic, where I learned that Beck got the music from a folk song called "The Hills of Mexico." Then I was going to make fun of all the slacker elements of the song, complete with a snide aside at "lo-fi", but you know what? This song is absolutely charming; a goofball story with an ending to the story that is absolutely brilliant. Though it doesn't make me want to become a Scientologist, it does make me want to go for a Big Mac and normally I'm a two cheeseburgers guy.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tuesday Tuneage
Barney Miller Theme

Fish: The doctor said he was very lucky, the bullet just grazed him.
Barney: Where'd she hit him?
Fish: In the inseam.

Dietrich: I've always admired the Japanese outlook on death. The calm acceptance, the treating it as a part of life...
Yemana: [to Wojo] I dunno what he's talking about - personally, I'm going kicking and screaming all the way.
Wojo: Well, why don't you tell him that?
Yemana: I like my image.

Telephone Repairman: Are you really a cop?
Yemana: Yeah, why do you ask?
Telephone Repairman: Never seen a Japanese cop before.
Yemana: Ever been to Tokyo?

Scanlon: Harris! How's things down in Funkytown?
Harris: Oh, dey fine, dey fine!

Barney: [to former Det. Kelly] Hello, Kelly. What are you doing here?
Fish: Making friends.
Barney: How do you like Narcotics?
Yemana: They haven't helped him a bit.

Dietrich: Uh, Nick, there's no exclamation point on that typewriter.
Yemana: That typewriter's over forty years old.
Dietrich: I guess people didn't get as excited back then.

Stripper: In many parts of the world the naked female body is revered.
Dietrich: Yeah. My place.
Stripper: Fiji, Samoa...
Dietrich: My place is closer.

Dietrich: I knew a guy who when he got depressed would just put on his coat, leave the house, and just start walking.
Barney (to Wojo): See?
Dietrich: Sometimes for hours on end. One time he was gone for almost a whole day.
Barney: Yeah, some people just like to be alone. He came back, didn't he?
Dietrich: Yeah.
Barney (to Wojo): See?
Dietrich: The tide brought him in.

Dietrich: Swan Lake is one of the best ballets ever written. It's an artistic milestone!
Marty: Have you seen it?
Dietrich: I had hockey tickets.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Tuesday Tuneage
Scatterbrain - "Down With The Ship (Slight Return)"

Scatterbrain was a metal band with a comedic twist, they covered Alice Bowie's "Earache My Eye" and I recall them sharing a bill at First Avenue with Ugly Kid Joe. Or maybe it was the Entry ... hell, yeah the Entry just feels right at this late date so I'm going with it.

"Down With The Ship" provides further proof - if you even need it at this point, the hip hoppers sure don't - that hard rock riffs make for great sampling.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tuesday Tuneage
Ozark Mountain Daredevils - "Jackie Blue"

When I shave in the late morning, I generally put on KOOL 108 on the portable radio in the bathroom. More times than not, I hear one of these songs: "Piano Man" by Billy Joel and "I Want A New Drug" by Huey Lewis and the News.

"Piano Man" is pleasant, but I got sick of it years ago. On my last listen, Joel drove me nuts ... he must have been pretty proud to own a rhyming dictionary back in '73, but who the hell drinks a "tonic and gin"? Do the Piano Man's buddies also like to order a "soda and scotch"? It reminds me of an establishment who try to gain respectability by billing itself as a "grill and bar."

"I Want A New Drug" is also pleasant, but I feel weird shaving with a razor and shaving cream as in the song's video, Huey uses an electric razor. (While on a boat!) (?)

The other day I must have been shaving at a different time than usual, because on KOOL 108 I heard the end of "Amy" by Pure Prairie League and then "Jackie Blue" by the Ozark Mountain Daredevils. Having not heard it in years, "Jackie Blue" was a knockout of a blast from the past. I love the soprano/falsetto/whatever-Italian-word-they-are vocals, the eerie guitar, and lyrics like: "you like your life in a free-form style." (Me too, but I can never get the free-form thing going! Where do I sign up to learn this?)

As an elementary school kid, I lived in a golden age of Top 40 radio in the mid-seventies. This tune is further proof of that. Which makes it such a great soundtrack for shaving. And good thing on that recent morning I finished shaving as the Ozarks wrapped up, as the next song up was by the dreaded Supertramp. Still haven't figured out with them if it is a guy or a chick singing.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tuesday Tuneage
Go-Go's - "Vacation"

The decline and fall of a staycation, April 13-24, 2011:

1. I'm going to get so much done. Read a book, watch a Netflix movie every night, get caught up on my magazines, write every day.

2. Hey, I don't have to work tomorrow or the day after or the day after. Time to pour myself a drink and celebrate.

3. Damn this cheap scotch doesn't taste too bad when you're halfway into the second one. Cut with club soda of course. You know else I'm going to do on staycation? Go check out the Foshay observation deck, go to the Science Museum, go the Minnesota Historical Society, and definitely check out an art museum. I think it's time to switch to beer ...

4. I listened to
Secret Treaties last night? What's that can of Premium doing next to the stereo? Did I feed the cat? Damn, I'm hungry. I was going to go to Lowbrow or Burger Jones tonight but I gotta spend my dining dough on a greasy breakfast and lots of coffee at Curran's pronto.

5. Okay, I'm going to watch that highly-acclaimed miniseries on my streaming Netflix. Oh wait - this episode of
How I Met Your Mother on WGN is a classic. Cool, they're showing four episodes in a row tonight.

6. It's nice out, I should bike down to Roadrunner and check out what's come in on vinyl. Hmmm, it does look like it's clouding up. Might be best to pour a microbrew and listen to
The Best of Uriah Heep.

7. I've watched the Twins and/or the NHL playoffs on TV seven days in a row. Tonight let's make it eight.

8. I had forgotten how much fun making a beer can pyramid is.

9. In your face, iPod Touch! That's four consecutive victories in Hearts!

10. Boy, that Sid Hartman sure is a character.

11. Crap. I don't want to go back to work tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tuesday Tuneage
Guided By Voices - "Teenage FBI"

I'm not at all qualified to write about Guided By Voices, not being a card-carrying member of the cult and having never even checked them out live. Plus after all these years of hearing the hype, what finally got me to go to my iMac the day after Christmas and buy a GBV album? Hearing their atypical polished "Glad Girls" on a rerun of How I Met My Mother, it played as montage music while Ted did something romantic and/or world-embracing. Then I chumped out by settling on the one-disc anthology Human Amusements At Hourly Rates rather than getting a real album, rationalizing it because Allmusic.com wrote that it's the equivalent of GBV leader Robert Pollard making me a mixtape of his best work.

But I write because I write. So, thirty-two songs on the disc and which one do I present to you?

"Teenage FBI" because I love the title, it's got hooks galore, and the lyrics start out as an ahhh-romance cliche than throw in some Fed-level 21 Jump Streeters at the end of the chorus, all in a buck-thirty-nine.

And speaking of that Allmusic.com review, it sums up the appeal of Guided By Voices on Human Amusements - an album whose vast majority of songs now seem to be on some sort of shuffle in my brain during many waking moments - perfectly: "77 minutes of great hooks, hummable melodies, man-sized guitars, and general rock geek bliss." No argument here.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Four Random Memories Of Frozen Fours

I wrote this up in honor of tonight's Michigan vs. Minnesota-Duluth title game. Go Bulldogs! And don't worry, none of these involve the University of North Dakota:

1984: Due to my folks moving from Grand Forks to Chicago in March of my freshman year, I moved into Walsh Hall at UND mid-second semester. I had only been there a couple of weeks when on a Saturday night I wandered down to the basement commons area to get a pop from the vending machine. I saw that the Minnesota-Duluth vs. Bowling Green final was on ESPN on the big TV in the little viewing lounge. There was just a few minutes left in the third, so I grabbed a seat and joined the three other guys - complete strangers - there to cheer on UMD's inevitable win. But Bowling Green scored late to tie it up. And then for four overtimes and well into the night we cheered on our WCHA brethren Bulldogs, who eventually lost in the fourth OT.

1988: Maine and Minnesota were favored all season to match up in the title game, I think Sports Illustrated even bothered to cover college hockey midseason for a page or two and declared the matchup all but inevitable. But the Black Bears and Gophers were upset by relative unknowns Lake Superior State and St. Lawrence in the semifinals. An obviously frustrated Maine and Minnesota matched up in the third-place game that ended up being a brawl-filled mess. I didn't see it, but I think the officials may have even called this game early with how nasty it got. The NCAA got wise a year or two later and eliminated the third place game altogether.

1990: I didn't have cable and nobody wanted to watch the game with me, so I walked to the Park Tavern alone and watched Wisconsin dismantle something called Colgate. I foolishly gave up booze for Lent back then and recall drinking near beer in bottles. Ugh.

1991: I was at the Boston University vs. Northern Michigan title game at the St. Paul Civic Center. The game went to three overtimes and after two, some Badger fan out in the concourse yelled to the delight of his buddies: "... And after two overtimes, Wisconsin is still national champion!!"

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Tuesday Tuneage
The Rulers - "Wrong 'Em Boyo"

Tonight on Album Club, we tracked The Clash's London Calling, which features their version of "Wrong 'Em Boyo." If it weren't for my many readings of the notes at the end of Greil Marcus's Mystery Train, I wouldn't have known that "Wrong 'Em Boyo" was a cover of a tune by the Jamaican rocksteady band The Rulers. The Clash even went so far as to use The Rulers' "start with 'Stagger Lee', stop, and then start a different song with a different beat but tells kinda the same story" move. Yeah, that move.

If the Clash's version of this song is burned in your brain, it takes a couple, three listens to get the vibe of the Rulers' version. But it's worth a few listens and is a lot more fun than most folk music. Weirdly, "Stagger Lee" celebrates the shooting of a guy named Billy (ouch) and I still can't get enough of its multitude of versions, whether it's Lloyd Price's chart-topping version from 1959 or by some rocksteady guys from Jamaica. Go Stagger Lee!

Friday, April 01, 2011

My Latest Fortune Cookie Said: "Writing Is A Craft Not An Art."

The writing mind game can be a tricky one for some of us. There are writers who can hammer out solid writing "using a trash can to set my laptop on" as my friend Jim once claimed, while some of us - yes, my hand is raised - are fussbudgets who need the right desk at the right height, the right chair, the right music, coffee at the right temperature, not too full of stomach, but not too hungry either, etc.

After all these years of writing, I still can't do much for creating at my apartment. Too many distractions: Day job (my accounting office is at home also), TV, email. Plus I haven't done a good job of creating a comfortable writing space. I have a desk, but it faces a wall and while that wall has a framed Van Halen Fair Warning LP cover, a Sergio Argonnes' "MAD Pictorial Map of the United States," a beautiful painting of Lester Bangs (by Alice DuBois), and a small bulletin board with writing notes tacked to it; I still feel boxed in. It's a space to rewrite and edit in, and to do original writing in short bursts; but it's not a place to catch the muse for a long period of time.

Hence the need for a coffee shop. There isn't much else for public spaces that offer caffeine plus a table and chair to use for writing. And my fave neighorhood coffee shop closed last week. Its chairs and tables were reminiscent of something used in the library of a high school or public college. The rest of the place provided bohemian comfort to go with the just-right lighting. The brick wall, the bikes and accessories hanging on the walls. Copies of bike and music magazines on the shelf of the coffee counter. An always-trusty paperback of Bangs's Psychotic Reactions And Carburetor Dung on the shelf. A PBR sticker on the wall of the bathroom. For six months or so this was my place to write. Now I have to find a new coffee home.

The prior coffee shop, the one I regularly went to for fifteen years or so until last fall, lost its appeal. There was this old guy who was there every afternoon that I went there. And while I have seen his photo in the paper being linked to one of the many local Ponzi schemes, his real crime is the amount of cologne that he wore. That oldster stunk up the room. I couldn't concentrate any more, and every little thing about that coffee shop started to bother me.

It's a similar situation to another coffee shop in my neighborhood in which I can't get good writing done. There it's not an old shyster who gets to me, it's some aged hippie. He has a weird habit of grinning at people -and his grin is evil - or trying to lock their eyes in for some contact. Otherwise he stares at his laptop and is quick to close it when you pass his table. Plus, I've seen him rummaging through my apartment building's dumpster; which means he's on the same level of civility as the neighborhood squirrels and racoons, but not up to the level of the neighborhood crows - those guys rule. I'm pretty sure he doesn't like me, maybe it's because I have a crew cut and look like a square. I got the same vibe one night years ago at the late Viking Bar with the West Bank hippies, though then the haircut was short back and sides. Hey comrades: I'm small in stature and totally nonthreatening. Plus, the sixties are over man! The other problem with Evil Hippie Guy's coffee shop is the general atmosphere. It's noisy, it's busy. It's kid-friendly (hence noisy and busy.) It's hippie-friendly, there's lots of notices on the board about new age stuff, and lots of stuff about being eco-friendly. I just want to write, I don't want to save the world.

So now the search for a new coffee place starts. It's rumored there's a new place opening up down the street soon, maybe that will be it. I just want to write someplace cool, a place that IS NOT too loud, hippie-ish, obsessed with going green, or being kid-friendly. I want someplace dark, where they have rock 'n' roll on, where the folks talk about booze instead of composting, where people smoke out on the sidewalk, where when it comes for my time to leave I want to walk or bike home and print off the notes I had been typing and attack them with a red pen. You know ... a writer's coffee shop.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tuesday Tuneage
Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band - "Hollywood Nights"

Topics - real and imagined - addressed in a short email thread with a friend today:

- Dancing at Williams Uptown Bar, back when it had an upstairs.

- Schmidt Beer, back when it was good.

- Violating open container laws, back when that was cute.

- Krista Tesreau, back when she was Mindy Lewis on Guiding Light.

- Bob Seger, back when he regularly had hits.

My friend fired me off a little "Fire Lake", and I responded with some "Hollywood Nights." Mainstream late-seventies rock at its finest and impetus for me to dive into my old Seger vinyl this weekend. I'll open the window and yell to get your attention when the needle hits "Get Out Of Denver" - probably the song I should have written about, but where would Krista Tesreau fit in?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tuesday Tuneage
Schooly D - "Signifying Rapper"

"Signifying Rapper" is two or three times (at least) more interesting than Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir", whose riff and rhythm are the basis for this tune's music. The words are from folklore; also see Moore, Rudy Ray.

This tune was subsequently used in the film Bad Lieutenant and then dropped from future versions of the film as Zep has deep pockets and hence great attorneys and sued because Schooly D sampled "Kashmir." Somewhere I hope Willie Dixon, Howlin' Wolf, Robert Johnson, and Albert King are chuckling over this, as "samples" of their music are all over Led Zeppelin's first two albums and the blues artists weren't originally credited. But hey: When you're a British rock star you can get away with pretty much anything, especially stealing American music and selling yourself and your music as original. That was the old Brit MO, but they don't really have such or any strategy these days. Not that I care to pay too much attention: The Brits have largely been big-time bores in rock 'n' roll for at least thirty years now.

As for Schooly D's song, there is a phrase/warning used in Corporate America that didn't exist back when I was stuck there. I don't have to pay attention it now as I'm self-employed and work out of my home office but am hip to it anyway ... Schooly D is NOT SAFE FOR WORK!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tuesday Tuneage
James Gang - "White Man/Black Man"

A plea for racial unity complete with gospel-tinged background singers and Joe Walsh turns in some pretty sweet guitar work for the last 1:50 or so. Earnest as heck, but I'll stick with Jerry Seinfeld's "Look To The Cookie" speech, which is shorter and just as insightful.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Tuesday Tuneage
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - "Jammin' Me"

This tune was written by Tom Petty, Mike Campbell, and Bob Dylan. Not protest music, more along the lines of complaint music; though you can't at all complain with the catchy riffiness (guitars and words) of the whole thing. The ever-reliable Wikipedia claims the song is about "a man overwhelmed by the volume of disconnected news generated in the disinformation age." If said dude was overwhelmed in 1987, imagine how he would feel today with Twitter, blogs, RSS feeds, and 24/7 cable news.

Speaking of TV news, I can stream Al Jazeera English on my Roku box, but they seem to only want to focus on uprisings in the Arab world. Nothing about Charlie Sheen or Lindsay Lohan, nor do they have a conversative and liberal pundit arguing over every issue they bring up. Their female anchors and reporters are all smoking hot though, so there may be hope for AJE yet ...

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Tuesday Tuneage
The Grass Roots - "Live For Today"

I'm never quite sure how to look at this tune. Is it a supremely catchy peace-love-and-understanding artifact that only the sixties could provide, in the vein of "Get Together" by the Youngbloods and "People Got To Be Free" by the Rascals? Or is it simply a half-step above something that effectively parodies it - Spinal Tap's "(Listen To) The Flower People"?

Either way is a fun listen. I try not to think about it too much, don't want to be one of those squares "in a hurry to complicate their mind."

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tuesday Tuneage
The Music Machine - "Talk Talk"

First of all, I have a bone to pick with those weenies over at Wikipedia. At their search engine, unless you type in the "The" in The Music Machine, it brings up some Christian children's music albums called Music Machine, which I read about on Wikipedia and had to supress laughter. (Where the hell in the Bible is "Agapeland"??) But I like to think that whoever came up the religious Music Machine albums was some sort of agnostic double agent secretly in love with The Music Machine, a group of LA-based punk rockers who had long moptops, dressed all in black, and each member wore one black glove (kudos to the organ player for his deft handling of this potentially difficult workplace issue.)

As for "Talk Talk," it hit #15 in 1966. Take a look at these guys on YouTube lip-syncing the song: All the menace of the Stones and Yardbirds unleashed in under two minutes. Except instead of the usual I'm-scared-of-women bluster normally associated with sixties punk, this song is about having the deepest of blues:

My social life's a dud
My name is really mud
I'm up to here in lies
Guess I'm down to size

The song ends with the shortest of choruses: "Talk talk. Talk talk. Talk talk." What's it mean? Does it matter?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tuesday Tuneage
Rank Strangers - "Life During Wartime"

In which a scrappy trio of Minneapolis rockers take an overrated Talking Heads song, lift out David Byrne's lyrics, and add much better music. This is a powerful song, with a paranoid give-you-the-creeps vibe, and after repeated listens I don't know if the narrator is actually living during a war, after a war (my Rank Strangers single names the tune as "Life After Wartime" on the disc, though the sleeve retains the original title), or if the whole Us vs. Them thing is in his mind. Pretty amazing.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Tuesday Tuneage
Donnie Iris - "Ah Leah!"

When it comes to choosing my favorite hands-down hard rock songs of all time, I know they include: "Jumpin' Jack Flash" by The Rolling Stones, "Workin' for MCA" by Lynyrd Skynyrd, "Complete Control" by The Clash, and "Ah Leah!" by Donnie Iris. (I never complete the list because this isn't the late nineties.) All you have to do is listen to "Ah Leah!" once to recognize its greatness: Incessant bass, crunching riffs, soaring background vocals, the whole "caw-caw" thing with the keyboards - Chuck Eddy correctly compared it to Uriah Heep - before the guitar solo, the femme fatale who is the subject of the song. But here's what else I love about the tune:

- It originally came out on the Midwest National label, an affiliate of Sweet City records. Indie rock, right?

- Even though I'll have another song blasting on my iPod, when I see (Ah) Leah McClean on TV doing the news while I'm working out at the YMCA, this song immediately takes over my mind. And I hate local news. Come to think of it, I don't even know what (Ah) Leah McClean's voice sounds like. I just know seeing her on the TV at the Y makes my day better.

- The song's video, which you may have chosen to watch while listening to this tune, either features Donnie Iris or Earl Camembert as its male lead!

UPDATES AFTER POSTING THIS: 1) I love how Donnie Iris adusts his bow tie postcoitally before talking to Leah. 2) That YouTube video is from Canada's MuchMore channel. They spell Donnie's name "Donny" ... obviously they don't like him stealing Earl Camembert's look.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Patting Myself On The Shoulder After Fifteen Years

I woke up this morning realizing that fifteen years ago today was my last day at a salaried job in Corporate America. I thought of that beautiful quote from Office Space:

"Human beings were not meant to sit in little cubicles staring at computer screens all day, filling out useless forms and listening to eight different bosses drone on about mission statements."

Later I walked over to the coffee shop and treated myself to a sandwich and chips. I was going to write, but instead I keep skimming through my first zine and find myself back in those heady days of 1996, when I quit my job and was temping:


I didn’t get to explaining the nuances of how do to the things I was famous for ... like how to make it through the day when you’ve got a huge hangover, paying absolutely no attention in meetings but still have an answer when the boss calls on you, using the warehouse for your napping enjoyment, etc.


Things I miss about work: that wonderful coffee; being one of the nine percent in the office who doesn’t feel above making that wonderful coffee; talking about boring sports like professional football; hearing people say how cool it would be if we had rules like those countries where they cut your hand off if you steal; hearing phrases like “team”, “quality” and “empowered”. Whenever I end up working again, my motto could be “employed, empowered, embittered against corporate fucking gurus who come up with idiotic buzz words.”


The HR Mgr. shows up and she’s the most gorgeous gal I’ve seen in weeks. We got into the conference room to meet with one of their accountants and of course she sat next to me and she had on a miniskirt and as I was saying “debit, credit, balance sheet” I was trying not to stare at her crossed legs. I got through the accountant’s questions okay and then the dolly started asking me the typical “what are your strengths and weaknesses” questions and I hate to say it, but I said the usual bullshit about how I’m an “effective communicator” and can “manage multiple priorities” while at the same time all I could think about is her lipstick on the coffee cup...


This place has a “business casual” dress code, which basically means that you don’t have to wear a tie but still have to iron your clothes. (Then again business casual kinda bites because the babes don’t wear miniskirts and pumps.)


This company is staffed almost exclusively by ladies my mom’s age who leave me alone so I don’t have to make much small talk. The owner’s son has the office next to me and he takes lots of naps.


And it’s not like things aren’t challenging. Trying to not get busted for looking at the legs of the manager of the contracts department when she walks by is tough work. It used to be easy because she never looked in my direction anyway as she’s suburban ice personified with her medium-length black hair, serious demeanor and business attire complete with the matching skirt and jacket and pumps. But last week we ended up riding in the same elevator at the start of the day and she was talking to the new cutie intern (yes!) about the horrendous traffic and while she’s talking during our four floor journey, I’m sneaking peeks and constructing an elaborate fantasy where I’m cleaning the pool - like that new Levi’s commercial - or delivering groceries at her Edina home and she’s pouring me some iced tea and talking about how her husband doesn’t keep her satisfied and why doesn’t a handsome young man like me have a girlfriend and then SUDDENLY “did you notice that?” she asks me, we’re back in the elevator and it’s her first words to me ever and she’s talking about the traffic. “Yeah, it’s like New York City.” I say and she nods and goes back to talking to the intern. I ride the bus, what the fuck do I know about traffic?


The phrase I truly love these days is “real job.” As in “when are you going to get a real job?” This, of course, is an euphemism for “career.” Or “when are you going to join the rest of us in Corporate America so we can put one of those convenient labels on you?” Real job - hmmm... okay, but along with a real job comes real meetings, real bosses who change their minds after you get your stuff done so you have to redo it, real whiners, real people with their real boring conversations, real bad coffee that only a few people don’t feel above making, the real copy machine that only a few bother to feed with paper, the real voice mail, real - actually phony - team spirit (corporations love teams unless workers form the biggest team possible - a union - then a team is a bad idea), real parking spaces, real (nonpaid) overtime, real assholes on the phone, real doublespeak from management worthy of 1984, real bad jokes, real office politics, real corporate bureaucracy and red tape, real cost-of-living increases, real company gatherings where we’re all supposed to pretend we’re a family or something, etc. Anyway, if I get one of those real jobs then the next step is to buy those materialist goods that go hand-in-hand with such career choices. The nice car. The nice house. The nice furniture. You get the point. I actually had a friend tell me recently I should look into getting a cellular phone because they and their airtimes are coming down in price. Uh-huh. Let’s see, I barely answer the phone at home, so why would I want to carry one of those things around with me? Anyway, I’m in this whole work thing solely for the money, not for an identity or some feeling of a job well done.