Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Tuesday Tuneage
The Dirtbombs - "I'm Through With White Girls"

Tuomala Triumphant: 2015 In Review

Credit Card Laundry Machines: For a moment, I thought my one and only highlight of the year was going to be my building getting laundry machines that take credit cards. No more counting quarters for laundry, no more going to the bank to get two or three rolls of quarters, NO MORE PLANNING MY LIFE AROUND QUARTERS (which should be for pinball anyway.) The Tuesday Tuneage would be the above sentences paired with The Pretenders' "Watching The Clothes". Quick, easy, done. But I did end up having a semblance of a life ...

Muse Prep: Wednesday is Writing Day and to start off the day with doing Magnetic Poetry on the fridge or studying a great coffee table book while pounding mug after mug of joe are great ways for me to loosen up the writing brain. Beats the low panic/one more game of backgammon on the phone/bleep-it-go-for-Netflix stumble that had taken down many a Wednesday in the past.

New Orthotics: And I got 'em a couple of weeks before I turned fifty. Classic Old Guy!

Whiskey River aka Whisky River: This was the year I made the move to higher-quality "brown stuff" (vodka-swiller Roger Sterling's term) like Tullamore Dew (my current Saturday late afternoon/early evening writing companion) and Laphroaig 10 Year (buy-it-when-you-can-afford-it damn good scotch.) But what if my scrappy slacker self-employed financial situation FALLS APART AGAIN?? There's always Old Overcoat when strapped for cash.

Podcast Reduction Act: Apologies to everybody (and their brother, sister, neighbor, and bookie) who now has a podcast. I vastly cut down my podcast listening time this year due to the reassertion of a lifelong motto/retort: "I'd rather read a book."

Teeshirt Breakthrough: 1) Turning fifty meant I could cash in on my right to buy a Ron Jon Custom Surfboards teeshirt. Check out the shade of blue! 2) ShirtManDude.com - This online shop has many gems, the shirts fit perfectly, and they have great pricing. Yes, I'm the guy in south Minneapolis sporting the Citizen Dick teeshirt. 3) New wardrobe - Losing weight means old teeshirts you bought when you were thinner fit once again. I turned that clothing savings into buying my own blood pressure monitor. (And then charged said monitor to my HSA.) (Tax break, y'know.)

Apple Music: This one deserves a separate essay down the road, because streaming music will likely change the way I deal with music. Before, buying an album generally demanded multiple listens of it because dammit I spent eight to sixteen bucks on that album and if it didn't do much for me on the first listen, there was still a wish to recover some of that investment. Paying a nominal monthly fee to stream music? If the album isn't doing it for me it's easy to pause, click, find another album/track/playlist to check out. Yeah, you all went through this with Spotify. But I'm not going to sign up for any service for which I need a Facebook account as I continue to avoid that social media hassle. Baby pictures just don't do it for me.

Naming Rights: Two weeks after I turned fifty (and hence four weeks after receiving my beloved orthotics), I was carded at a neighborhood bar. The pretty young thing studied my ID and said: "Nice to meet you, William." And she called me William for the rest of my stay there. I never bothered to correct her that she could use the familiar "Bill", because the way she said my Christian name sounded so much better than it does at the doctors' offices. The cute young black girl who works at my YMCA's front desk calls me "Will". Of course I have never corrected her either, as SHE bothered to learn how to pronounce my surname.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Tuesday Tuneage
Pat Travers Band - "Snortin' Whiskey"

Who let Pat Travers down?

1) Apple Music. Hey, it's "Pat Travers Band" NOT "Pat Traver's Band". Many of us who don't want to log into - or in my case, create - a Facebook account go to Apple for our streaming music needs. We value correct spelling and proper possessive vs. plural usage. Let the slobs over at Spotify mess that stuff up.

2) The designer of Pat Travers Band's Crash And Burn album cover. The orange mist that takes up most of the cover denotes some kind of explosion, but what the hell is going on here? It's almost like they took the cover of The Jimi Hendrix Experience's Electric Ladyland and removed Jimi's face.

3) The copywriter for PolyGram Records, who wrote the back cover notes to Boom Boom … The Best Of Pat Travers. (The only Travers album I own and hence the only one whose notes I have read.) It's like reading a book report from a mailing-it-in kid in junior high:

"Two of his songs have become legend, like rock and roll anthems…" LIKE rock and roll anthems? Show some conviction, scribe!

"(although he detests the term 'guitar hero')" Find me a guitarist who digs this term, it would be refreshing. If you got it, flaunt it.

"Pat Travers can be described as the thinking man's hard rocker, a master of no-frills rock and roll. Pat Travers and his breed of hard rock, are timeless." Rewrite please! YAWN. And what's with the needless comma in that last sentence? IT SEEMS LIKE A FRILL.

Below all of this is a declaration that this album is DIGITALLY RE-MASTERED, but if it's a vinyl LP, isn't that analog? I'm confused.

4) Canadian whisky. Our neighbors to the north spell this distilled beverage "whisky", as do the Scots. But Americans and the Irish spell it "whiskey". Pat Travers is a Toronto native, but "Snortin' Whiskey" is spelled the latter way, meaning that the song likely pays tribute to the superior American brands or maybe Old Crow at the worst. Heck, maybe it was the vastly underrated Old Overcoat that triggered the inspiration for this tune. What we do know is that this group of Canadians wanted nothing to do with their inferior sweet/ugh labels such as Windsor, Crown Royal, Canadian Club (sorry, Draper), Canadian Mist, Black Velvet, McAdams, McWhatever*.

Who did not let Pat Travers down?

1) Pat Thrall, Travers Band guitarist. According to Wikipedia: The inspiration for ("Snortin' Whiskey") came when Thrall showed up to a studio session late. When asked why Thrall was late, he fumbled his words saying that he was “snortin’ whiskey” and “drinkin’ cocaine” the night before. A Jeff Spicoli-like moment inspired a monster monster rock song and Travers took it to the hilt. Bravo.

*Or maybe the song title merely used clever placement of an "e" to gain acceptance in the massive American market?

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Tuesday Tuneage
The Uniques - "Mother And Child Reunion"

How I made it through the past fifteen years without hearing about or reading Colin B. Morton and Chuck Death's collection of rock 'n' roll comic strips Great Pop Things, I'll never know. But Greil Marcus is a big fan, and he referenced it in his latest book The History of Rock 'n' Roll in Ten Songs, and I ran out logged onto Amazon and bought a copy. Cue the hyperbole:

Riffs upon riffs, cheap shots, inside jokes, mangled names (on purpose) … a comic strip so searing that it got Morrissey to go on record and complain. (I can think of no higher recommendation.) This is the best rock book since Psychotic Reactions & Carburetor Dung, if not Rock Dreams. Mostly because it's the funniest rock book since Psychotic Reactions & Carburetor Dung, if not Rock Dreams. - Bill Tuomala, (foot)noted also-ran

Wait? Did I say "hyperbole"? Because I mean every word of the above. If I try to repeat the authors' jokes here I'm gonna fail, so instead look at the illustration that accompanies the title of this piece above. But I will relate how one of the Great Pop Things strips hit home and had me pumping my fist, grinning in solidarity:

In the late eighties, I stated to baby boomer coworkers that the way to make a Paul Simon album was to "strum an acoustic guitar over a bunch of third world music." This was met with eyerolls and I resumed stewing over the fact that I couldn't get Z-Rock on the radio in my office. In Great Pop Things, page 129, Morton and Death describe a "Do It Yourself Paul Simon Kit" that includes "one map of the third world and a selection of romantic, ethnic LP sleeves." Sample album titles are Eskimo Hunting Songs and Pygmie-Beat Revival! You are assured:

"Now you too can be Paul Simon in the piracy … OOPS we mean privacy of your own home."


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Tuesday Tuneage
The Rockets - "Oh Well"

Last Friday, a thirty-year-long misconception of mine was cleared up, a boneheaded belief that led me last month to tweet something wrong about the season two premiere of Fargo. I had tweeted a chide at Rolling Stone about them stating that a song by Fleetwood Mac appeared in the episode. That was The Rockets version of "Oh Well", I confidently stated. "Oh Well" appeared shortly after the opening, and was soon followed by Billy Thorpe's "Children of the Sun", meaning that this episode set in 1979 was dead-on in its grasp of the power and the glory of late-seventies AOR radio. But after being steered in the right direction on this song (more on this later) and watching the beginning of the episode again on demand, it turns out it was Fleetwood Mac, with a live version from a 1980 album.*

A summary of the three versions of "Oh Well" that should be familiar to classic rock fans:

 - Fleetwood Mac original studio version from 1969. Written and sung by original Mac leader Peter Green. A long cut on the album, radio usually plays a shorter version.

- The Rockets studio version from 1979. A more hard rock take on the song.

- Fleetwood Mac live version from 1980. Here, Lindsey Buckingham takes over the lead guitar and singing duties from long-departed from the band Peter Green. This version also rocks harder than the original.

On Friday, my friend Jeff and I were raving about Fargo and I was still under the belief that The Rockets version was used in the premiere. Jeff said no, it was the Fleetwood Mac live version. Then after we tracked all three versions (and likely annoying Jeff's studio mates in the process, nothing like trying to wrap up a workweek late on a Friday and two middle-aged dudes are having an AOR bull session complete with playing a single song over and over again), Jeff posited the gotta-be-true theory that after The Rockets rocked up "Oh Well", Lindsey Buckingham responded by making sure it was on their live album and released as an AOR cut to stations nationwide.

Which brings me to the source of my confusion over whose version of "Oh Well" is whose. Because The Rockets released a live album in 1984, which OF COURSE featured "Oh Well". I was at beer-fueled game of Risk in the Twin Cities circa 1986 and a debate broke out over whose version of "Oh Well" was being played on KQRS. I was still relatively unfamiliar with the song, and one of the dudes insisted that the "hard rock" version of the tune - whether it was studio or live - was by The Rockets. This was eventually accepted as fact, further discussion was shelved, and I proceeded to get my armies blown off the world map. Being someone who never cared for superstar-lineup Fleetwood Mac, I was totally unaware that they even had a live album in 1980. Or if I was, I wrote it off as the "cash in on the fans with a quickie tour souvenir" it surely was. (And I ain't gonna give it a listen now, not even for research purposes. Not with The Rockets available on Apple Music.)

And now, looking back, I realized I got my bogus "Oh Well" information from the same crowd who a year earlier had insisted that a new Boston song was out from their long-rumored, always-pending third album. Things were tricky back then in the days before we had the Internet. Oh well...

*And with this season of Fargo being set in 1979, this means the use of this song is an anachronism. This is a slight bummer, as so far this season is one of the best things I've ever seen on TV. If they had used The Rockets 1979 version, they'd still be pitching a perfect game.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Tuesday Tuneage
The New York Dolls - "Don't Start Me Talkin'"

As I have written before:

The YMCA is not my social club. The goal of going there is simple: Get an elliptical workout for thirty minutes with my iPhone blasting some metal; walk on the treadmill for forty minutes while listening to more music; stretch; and then get the hell out of there.

But my fellow middle-aged folks who work out at my Y? Way too social for my tastes. Worse, the men are always looking for new members to recruit into their coffee klatch. Last year, I was carrying my bike helmet and one of them nodded at me and asked about my bike ride. I made some dry comment about it not being bad because "it was all downhill", and now we give each other the nod of recognition. Perfectly fine, because he is content to chat away with his other workout friends and leaves me alone to go sweat it out. But early this year, I made the mistake of talking to another klatch member. He was leaning on an elliptical machine that I wanted to use, talking with his buddy on the next machine. I should have just went and grabbed a treadmill and watched Sports Shouting on ESPN. Instead, I asked him if he would be using the machine, he said no, gave me room to get on it, and then started joking around on how I would have to keep his buddy company. Except I think he was only half-joking. I smiled, put on my earbuds, cranked Motorhead, and put any potential conversations out of my mind.

Look, if you want to be pals with your fellow sweat-soaked companions at the gym, feel free. Just leave me out of it. I don't care about your mortgages, kids, lawn care duties, retirement dreams, grandkids, careers, travel plans, or what you're grilling on your decks. Like I stated above, my focus is to get my exercise and get the hell out of there after stretching. But now that I had spoken to the coffee klatch, in future visits they made eye contact with me, nodded at me, tried to draw me into their conversations. I could see as the year went on that some sort of stratagem was needed to back the coffee klatch away from me. Get a shirt that says LEAVE ME ALONE on it in big block letters? No, not passive-aggressive enough. Quit the Y? No, it's only four blocks away. Work out at a different time? No, the late afternoon time is perfect, allows me to blow my accounting number-crunching brain away and then glide into the evening with a fresh mind. Besides, I'm sure other times of the day have their own coffee klatches.

A few weeks ago on a Tuesday, a few of the klatch were standing around chatting over the NFL Network's replay of the Vikings game from the prior Sunday, which was airing on one of the big screen TVs in the cardio room. The Vikings, sheesh. The joke franchise which has choked/quit/clowned its way through over a half-century of existence, yet is still vastly beloved by the vast majority of sports fans in my part of the world. I actively cheer for the Purple to lose, sad but true which is great fun. So I'm not fascinated with the destined-to-fail folks like Zim, Teddy, and Norv that Vikings fans fawn over. I hopped on my usual elliptical machine that was located in front of the group, began my workout, then after a while glanced at the TV to my left. It was late in the fourth quarter … manna from heaven … and my scheming, conniving, avoiding brain, ramped up on endorphins came up with a plan …

Vikings are driving late for a tying or go-ahead score. Teddy Bridgewater drops back to pass … and Broncos blitzers come through unchecked, strip-sack Bridgewater, and pounce on the fumble. Broncos win, remain undefeated, Vikings lose, remain team that can't beat a good team on the road.

And just like I did on Sunday when this game aired live, I pumped my fist and grinned broadly. I didn't overdo it and shout like I had two days prior, but I didn't have any scotch or beef jerky on me this time either. The coffee klatch hasn't tried to lure me into a conversation since.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Tuesday Tuneage
U2 - "Gloria"

Summer is overrated. All those folks with their exhortations to get outside and enjoy the weather are bores: As if the act of being outside is some sort of magical event or that it will solve anything except to keep Coppertone in business. What about those books to read*, TV shows to stream, and LPs to spin? Now that summer is gladly in the rearview mirror, it has dawned on me that October is my favorite month, hands-down. Let me list the reasons:

- Any lingering oppressive heat and humidity goes away. You can shut the windows and not be woken up by your busybody home-owning neighbors who are mowing, blowing leaves, and making general homeowner noise. I like hunkering down inside while it's chilly outside. The landlord (or more likely, my building's thermostat) turns the heat on at some point in October and then my apartment will be 79 degrees until April. I sit inside wearing shorts, a teeshirt, and keep a living room window partially open so that it doesn't creep above 80. Bud Light Lime-A-Rita anyone?

- While the weather is nice enough to still go for long walks, the street fairs and festivals that tend to populate summer have mostly gone away. What this means is that street vendors who invent their own little currency of paper tickets (X amount of tickets for Y dollars, a beer costs Z amount of tickets) aren’t lurking, screwing up the value of straight cash. October: When the good ol’ U.S. dollar stands less of a chance of being dissed and diminished.

 - Hockey starts up. UND and the other NCHC teams generally play Friday and Saturday night series so I can have plans for the weekend. Plus I can double my pleasure: I automatically have an excuse to not meet people for social activities on Friday and Saturday. "Sorry, gotta support my team." Not that I get invited out much these days, but it's nice to have a ready-made alibi. But it's not only the weekends where I can indulge in hockey. The NHL starts and it's a fast-paced, highly-skilled wonder. And it's not just hockey. October is a rich smorgasbord of sports on TV. There's college football, NFL, and THAT PLAYOFF BASEBALL GAME YOU FORGOT ABOUT ON IN THE MIDDLE OF THE AFTERNOON!

- Nostalgia. It was in an October that I started my self-employment. At the end of September of 1999, I finished a temp job assignment. During my time off in October I worked a few hours a week doing books for the sole client I had who I worked directly for and waited for the agency to line up my next steady assignment with an outside client. One night during this time, I met my friend Jeff for beers at the CC Club. Jeff was someone I had known for ten years, the brother of one of my college friends. We had never hung out, but having the same interests we would run into each other once or twice a year at shows or movies. During a pitcher of Summit, he mentioned that he was dreading going to his design studio the next day as he had to do client invoicing. I said hey that is what I do for work! Barely-blinking, hops-infused lightbulbs went off over our heads and this led to my securing Jeff's company as that valued second client that I needed to kick temp work to the curb and head into self-employment. Another pitcher of Summit was summoned and we spent the rest of our evening talking about movies, music, TV, etc. Guns n’ Roses was mentioned during the conversation. I got home fired up, abuzz in excitement and pop culture and possibilities. I made a pot of coffee and stayed up until four a.m. writing into my notebook everything I could think of that I wanted to say about Guns n’ Roses. Over the next couple of weeks, this became Exiled on Main Street #21, which was listed in Best of November 1999 in the St. Paul Pioneer Press and also led some fans of alternative rock my age to (gasp) say that they sometimes too liked metal. Me, I was on a path where I no longer had to wear khakis and a collared shirt to some downtown office and could stay out late at shows any night of the week. A captain of industry? No, more like a lieutenant of leisure.

*Don't yap at me about summer reading. I do my book reading on my phone and the sun's glare makes this difficult.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Tuesday Tuneage
David Lee Roth - "Yankee Rose"


I'm sure I wasn't alone in thinking when David Lee Roth split from Van Halen in the mid-eighties that things were never going to be the same with that band. The goofy theatrics of Roth vs. the rock 'n' roll chops of the other guys was too valuable a dynamic too be recreated or equalled. Even as a teen I knew this.

Buzz started among many hard rock fans when Sammy Hagar was rumored to be the new VH lead singer. I was skeptical, but nobody seemed to agree with me. Sammy Hagar? He was a journeyman, a servicable dude who churned out some decent hard rock earlier in the decade with the likes of "There's Only One Way To Rock" and "Three Lock Box" before veering into meathead territory with "I Can't Drive 55". Seriously, c'mon: The Red Rocker? (I had a college friend who would never call him "Sammy Hagar", it was always "The Red Rocker." Like he knew Hagar well and felt comfortable with the familiar.) Being the only remotely interesting guy in something called HSAS does not lead's one resume in an interview to front the greatest band in mid-eighties America. But the rumor became reality and Hagar was in.

The first Van Hagar album, 5150, had Atlas on the cover, signifying its hope to be a slick mythic product. Rolling Stone (by now the house organ of The Rock Establishment, its publisher Jann Wenner would soon lend a huge hand in codifying all that rock 'n' roll rebellion into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) praised it to the heavens because of its tunefulness and slick sound and that Eddie Van Halen's musical abilities obviously outweighed that showy punk Roth's lack of solemnness and how instead Hagar was a nice fit as collaborator. (Rolling Stone's Tim Holmes: On 5150, you taste the clean air of the ozone, see the radiant sunbeams shooting through storm clouds, while the fire burns down below.) (Not mentioned: This album's leadoff single had these lyrics: Only time will tell if we stand the test of time.) Those of us destined to become back-in-my-day VH curmudgeons were already grumbling: "it's just not the same …" while a whole generation of Van Hagar fans was born.

I remember running into a friend on the UND campus in the first half of 1986 and he was telling me how fresh 5150 sounded and how much Hagar added to the band and I was smiling and he thought I was looking forward to hearing the album, but over his shoulder I saw this girl Trish who was petite, hot, and flirty and once made it a point to say stop and say hi to me when she was wearing only a towel wrapped around her as she left her shower … she picked that exact moment to say hi, such are the dangers of stopping by a girls dorm to get some class notes, and somehow my brain stayed engaged on this nonsensical Van Hagar stuff JUST enough to pass on getting a taped copy of 5150. Sure, I could have been a nice guy and taken it, but what if it fell into the wrong hands? What if I then loaned it to somebody in the dorm and it became a soundtrack to our intense post-dinner backgammon games? The horrors.


David Lee Roth's "Yankee Rose" single emerged a few months later in the summer of '86. Roth declared "a REAL STATE of INDEPENDENCE" in case you were wondering what was up behind all the harmless double entendres. The rolling bass into riffing guitars and the ending cries of "bright lights, city lights" toward the end signified that somebody left from the still-remembered, already-long-lamented good ol' Van Halen of two summers prior still gave a damn about rock 'n' roll and making interesting noises and style being character. Rumors that it was a tribute to the Statue of Liberty made the whole thing noble somehow. Roth put together an ace band and recorded a solid album where he appeared on the cover in not-blackface, a native, not a mythic character. Weirder, he also went and cut the full Eat 'Em and Smile album in Spanish. But in the end it all made sense, of course: Because both gringo and amigo editions were PRODUCED BY TED TEMPLEMAN.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Tuesday Tuneage
The Eagles - "Those Shoes"

"I hate the fuckin' Eagles man."
 - The Dude, The Big Lebowski

"Go Eagles! E-A-G-L-E-S! (chuckles loudly)"
 - Mike Tice, December 2005

On a Friday last July, KEXP out of Seattle set about to play every song that was sampled on The Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique. It was a ridiculously fun project, lasting 12 hours. I heard a few hours while it was on at an accounting client and certain songs would bring interjections from us of "no way!" and "they sampled THIS?" One of the songs played was "Those Shoes" by The Eagles and ever since that afternoon I have tended to go through a phase once a week where I play "Those Shoes" three times in a row and then force myself to do something else in fear that I will keep listening  to it on a loop until bedtime. Strangely, I listen to no other Eagles songs. And this has led me to grab off my bookshelf Headliners: Eagles, a paperback by John Swenson I bought and read back in high school in the early eighties. I'm in a sudden and thankful backlogs of books to read, so I only occasionally peek and page through the book, but I recall it being pretty good as fan bios go. Swenson is a fine writer, and much of the book sneakily doubles as a biography of Joe Walsh and his James Gang*. Walsh is the man who turned The Eagles from a pleasant country-rock outfit into a kinda-hard rock band, and his weirdo persona gave the band a glint of a personality.

So while Walsh didn't have a hand in writing "Those Shoes", his fingerprints/fretboard is all over it. It's got that Midwestern funk thing down like he did in The James Gang  ("Funk #50"?) and more importantly he does croaky guitar like on "Rocky Mountain Way". And let's be honest, Joe should put out an EP of his just playing guitar with that sound. I'd buy three. (One on vinyl, on in mp3, and one for the car I don't have.) But it was a longer-term Eagle who came up with the lyrics, and some of them are doozies.

"You're so smooth and the world's so rough" is lyrical gold, it's like a PG-rated Gene Simmons line. "They give you tablets of love" - is this a pill? And I think "handy with a shovel" means cocaine? I'm drug naive unless it involves antihistamines, caffeine, or pour-your-own depressants. "Jerkoffs in their fancy cars" is a universal lyric … HELL YEAH! "You can't believe your reviews" is probably an aside about the Eagles and rock critics. ("With nary a hint of responsibility in their voices, they sing of Los Angeles' decadent culture, and in the end personify the smugly detached professionalism of much of that city's music." - John Milward, The Rolling Stone Record Guide, first red edition.) Put Cameron Crowe on retainer!

That "Those Shoes" was used heavily in The Beastie Boys' "High Plains Drifter" on Paul's Boutique is huge, but that Beasties ditty pales in comparison to Van Halen's earlier Eastwood-lifting "Hang 'Em High" so I say HAIL CALIFORNIA HARD ROCK/KINDA-HARD-ROCK-WHEN-IT-INCLUDES-JOE-WALSH. DO NOT LOOK BACK. THE EIGHTIES AND BEYOND ARE YOURS. SEE YOU AT US FESTIVAL 3.

*I gotta read this book again cover-to-cover and maybe I'll report back on it here. (Or in typical fashion, I'll instead go crack open Swenson's Headliners: The Who and forget to write about the Eagles book.) A couple of things I do need to bring up though: 1) Swenson signs off with a fan-friendly: "Altogether it seems like the 80s will hear quite a lot from the Eagles", but the book instead appropriately reads as a nice short biography of The Eagles if you don't care about any of their comebacks. 2) In classic fan bio form, the book contains uncaptioned photos. Here's one of Glenn Frey and John Belushi, who is wearing a Minnesota Vikings windbreaker. Why is Chicago guy Belushi wearing a Vikings jacket? Was it the drugs? Did he steal it from Al Franken?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Tuesday Tuneage
Fastway - "Say What You Will"

Zeppish riff predicts The White Stripes, kinda
vocalist lays up short of Stephen Pearcy, surely
not as mysterious as Zebra
not as stone-cold cool as PJ Harvey
not hooks like Billy Squier
not unintentionally funny like Kingdom Come
(or Coverdale/Page for that matter)
maybe shoulda been produced by
recorded by Steve Albini
like Page and Plant?

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Tuesday Tuneage
Burton Cummings - "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet"

A couple of years ago I received this email:

Hello, a few of my friends and I are huge Blackhawks fans and we stumbled upon this article you wrote back in 2006 on Jonathan Toews: There's been some debate as to whether it's a parody or not. Any clarification you can give would be great! Thanks!

I would have loved to have responded in deadpan with: "Oh yes, it's true." But I was on vacation and only had my phone to type on and didn't have the energy to mess around with these folks. (Yes, Virginia, there is a Wheatfield Soul Line …") So I revealed the truth: I am a huge University of North Dakota hockey fan who at the time was frequently spinning The Best Of The Guess Who on my turntable and wrote the mashup that took place in my writing mind. While I've written lesser essays with better source material, I would never be quick to dismiss The Guess Who. In 2008, I was deejaying at an art gallery and while spinning "Share The Land", a rather attractive fifty-something wanted to hire me to deejay a party of hers. "Um," I said, "I just do this is a hobby." She looked puzzled. Me, I was probably in a hurry to play Brownsville Station's "Smokin' In The Boys Room". It was a political event, after all.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Tuesday Tuneage
UFO - "Lights Out"

A) Excitement and Euphoria
B) Disenchantment
C) The Search for the Guilty
D) Punishment of the Innocent
E) Distinction for the Uninvolved
 - Aubrey Powell

As a young lover of vinyl albums and their packaging, I was incredibly naive about how album artwork was conceived. If I had a working theory, it was probably thought that each record company had an arts department, and a person or people in that department would deliver artwork after conferring with the recording band or artist. But as a big teenage Pink Floyd fan and a compulsive reader of liner notes, I would always see "Sleeve Design By Hipgnosis" noted on the Floyd LPs. I conjectured that there must be some cool company in the UK somewhere that specialized in trippy Floyd LP art. Later, I would see the Hipgnosis acknowledgement on other bands albums and figured Hipgnosis was some big design company that specialized in album art. I was only half right in my guess.

Last winter, I bought For The Love Of Vinyl: The Album Art Of Hipgnosis by Hipgnosis founders/main collaborators Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell. Every Wednesday morning for a stretch of weeks this past spring, I would drink coffee and flip through the book for thirty minutes or so and enjoy the ride. This coffee table book is crammed with album art - front covers, back covers, liner sleeves, posters, outtakes, rough takes - and Storm and Aubrey each provide a few paragraphs telling the story of how they came up with the design. You are in the hands of a couple of highly entertaining guys, they yukk it up through the narratives and sometimes draw a blank with a "that's all I remember, hopefully (the other guy) can provide more detail" confession, and then The Other Guy always does deliver the goods.

I can't do their storytelling justice, but a certain singer is referred to as "Olivia Neutron Bomb" and the tale where Storm jokingly pre-caller-ID answers the phone as Groucho Marx to a quick-to-anger Peter Grant - Led Zeppelin’s notoriously feared and violent manager - has to be in any Hipgnosis biopic. (I may write its script on spec!)

Paging through this book, I fell in love with their approach to their craft. While the Hipgnois album covers are hip, winking, cool; the way they put together album art was the DIY ethic at its best:  Two (later three) guys working in a small London studio. Stock photography stills for background. Get a car, round up some friends to be the models, head to the countryside or an old house for a shoot. And this was all done pre-Photoshop; one of the guys refers to Hipgnosis as "masters of scissors and glue", using montages to great effect.

While Pink Floyd's The Dark Side Of The Moon is their best-known work, it isn’t “typical” Hipgnosis. Floyd's Wish You Were Here is more representative of their aesthetic. A few more examples:

- The effect for Peter Gabriel’s “melt” album cover was obtained by taking a Polaroid and then applying a blunt pencil to it while it developed. The book is full with anecdotes like this: A make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach unleashed for maximum effect.

- The Strawbs' Deadlines album. Yes they actually filled a phone booth with water and put a (non-stunt man, yikes) guy in a suit in it upside down. (Then there's the inside sleeve, ha!)

- Compare AC/DC’s original Australian cover for Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap to what Hipgnosis came up with for the international version. Storm came up with the design in London, Aubrey was reached by phone in Los Angeles on a different assignment and shot a still of a no-tell motel in LA for a background, then shot models back in London to be the characters in the photo. And I just noticed - there's a dog on the cover! (Aubrey deadpans: "We didn't meet the band and never heard from them again.")

- The UFO Lights Out album. Some guy wearing a jumpsuit, he’s down by where the power works are. But wait: The jumpsuit is zippered down uncomfortably low. And in the background is another person - whether it’s guy or gal isn’t easily identifiable - slipping on his/her jumpsuit. Did they trip out London’s power supply just to have a rendezvous? Or did the hanky panky occur after they fixed a power outage? During? These are the types of stories that form in your mind while gazing upon Hipgnois album covers.

I felt genuinely a bit down when I got to the end of this book, that there were no more pages to flip through and study. Like Rock Dreams and Stairway To Hell, it will likely become one that I occasionally grab to page through, to reference, to allow me to daydream/write/give a damn. As Adrian Shaughnessy writes in the opening commentary, Hipgnosis's work "speaks to people who normally don't care too much about visual expression, in other words ordinary people."

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Tuesday Tuneage
Funkadelic - "Friday Night, August 14th"

I turned fifty last week and it was the best sort of birthday. Not only did I not work AT ALL (though working wouldn't have been completely horrible - I'm self-employed and mostly work from home - but I am still in the mindset from having an office job many many years ago where working on your birthday meant spending it with the annoyances/semblances of human beings that are coworkers …), my day consisted of: 1) Biking over to Our Kitchen for a Denver sandwich (their Denver = solid) and hash browns, 2) Biking to Lake Street Spirits for some Summit Saga, 3) Coffee at home with the Common Man Progrum and backgammon on my iPhone, 4) BIGGEST DEAL: Took the bus to Target Field to watch the Twins. Awesome seat (ticket provided by my Dad, still taking care of me when I'm a senior!), Premium stand close by, and fireworks after the game. Twins lost, but I was emotionally prepared for that with Corey Kluber on the opposing nine's mound.

With fifty being a Landmark Birthday, I keep thinking I'm supposed to write something profound, something poignant, something BIG about being around a half-century. I don't have much to say, but I can proudly offer this on Me Being Fifty:

No wife, no kids, no house, no car, no boss, no Facebook account. To quote some of the best lines in Watchmen: "What's happened to The American Dream?" "It came true, you're lookin' at it."

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Tuesday Tuneage
Little Anthony & The Imperials - "Hurt So Bad"

Towards the end of many a calendar year over the past twenty, I have said to myself: "Next year is the one I start listening to a lot of soul music" and every time I'd chump out and end up listening to BTO, ELO, BOC, etc. with a vague promise to "get into soul when the next calendar year starts." (Why it has to be a January 1st start I think is because soul artists have recorded so many classic Christmas songs that the pump would be primed in December, unless Greg Lake's "I Believe In Father Christmas" got me sidetracked …) But signing up for Apple Music last month has allowed me to listen to a whole slew of classic soul artists that in the past I was too cheap/white/lazy to delve into before. So hell yeah, 2015: A Second Half of a Year of Soul.

"Hurt So Bad" isn't the tough type of soul that I generally prefer, but it's haunted me since I was a tyke and Mom would take me with her when she ran errands in her Ford. She would play Fargo's WDAY-AM and "Hurt So Bad" was in regular rotation along with the likes of Simon and Garfunkel and "I Never Promised You A Rose Garden" and "Love The One You're With" (the lyrical content of that one confused the six-year old me … free love wha?) and "Those Were The Days". Tracking this song over and over and over again on Apple Music has been a blast. Now I see why little-kid me had such a weird fascination and jitters over this song: The "like needles and pins" line is incisive, masterful (don't play with sharp objects, Billy) while the production of Teddy Randazzo - the sharp sound, the almost-subversive "Hurt! Hurt so bad!" of the background singers -  elevates the tune out of pathos.

And how bad did Linda "The Butcher" Ronstadt carve up this one? After listening to Little Anthony & The Imperials, her version is schmaltz, a mailed-in affair, an afterthought. Be careful which oldies station you listen to, folks.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Tuesday Tuneage
Marah - "Pizzeria"

Glenwood Springs (CO) Post Independent - June 23rd, 2015:

Anson Lemmer had no way of knowing that on his last delivery order of the night of June 15 for Uncle Pizza in Glenwood, he would perform CPR and help with a potentially life-saving rescue. Lemmer, 19, of Denver is staying in Glenwood with his parents to work over the summer. Only two days after starting with Uncle Pizza, this incident occurred.

“This was my very last order of the night. I expected to just run right out there and back,” Lemmer said. Instead, when he arrived at the address on Valley View Road with a hot pizza, he saw a man turning blue outside of the house. Two other people were with the man — one attempting CPR and one on the phone calling it in. “When I pulled up there, I knew something was wrong, and I had to act. They asked me right away if I knew CPR,” Lemmer said. “I jumped in right away to do those chest compressions.” 

Trained in CPR a year ago, Lemmer didn’t think twice about acting. He said it was like a fight-or-flight choice, and he had to fight. A situation like that is tense with a lot of variables, he said. “It’s important to not get caught up in the bystander effect,” Lemmer said. “I felt a couple of ribs break. He’s going to wake up with sore ribs.”

It all happened in 10 to 15 minutes, he said, when EMTs from the Glenwood Fire Department showed up to take over. Lemmer said they shook his hand and thanked him. “He started to breathe ... very wheezy. Not coherent yet,” Lemmer said. “I backed off.”

Fire Chief Gary Tillotson confirmed that his EMTs responded to an incident on the 15th of a CPR in progress. The man was taken to Valley View Hospital, but the man’s name and further details were not available.

His manager thought he had gotten lost, wondering what had taken so long. Soon after, he called his parents. “I called my parents and said this has been the craziest pizza delivery ever. I left a pizza boy and came back a pizza man,” Lemmer said. “They were proud of me. Totally unexpected thing.”

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Tuesday Tuneage
Chris Norman and Suzi Quatro - "Stumblin' In"

You knew Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn, bored with writing all those rah-rah teenybopper songs for Suzi Quatro, The Sweet, and assorted never-broke-in-the-US glam rockers like Mud and Smokie of course had a crossover country shuffle up their sleeves, just waiting for that moment when it could make a major dent on the charts. Pair Quatro - known mostly to America from post-shark Happy Days episodes but with no US hits to her name - with the vaguely Rod Stewartish-sounding (with Rod's brand near its all-time post-sellout high) Chris Norman and BOOM! The charming "Stumblin' In" went to Number Four on the US Top 40 in 1979. Not that you'll hear it on the condensed oldies playlist that KOOL 108 now uses, but that's what SiriusXM's Seventies on 7 channel is for.

So we can spend the rest of the day gazing at Quatro in her leather and contemplating that she had an album titled Rock Hard, but one nagging question: Who the hell is this Chris Norman? A few stabs at his identity:

- He's Greg Norman's brother.
- He's AWA wrestler Norman Christopher.
- He's a Chapman/Chinn creation, who they later renamed "Nick Gilder." (Not "Bryan Adams" as the urban legend claims.)
- He was one of those guys in Mott the Hoople that wasn't Ian Hunter and that didn't later join Bad Company.
- He's the guy who played Eddie Haskell on Leave It To Beaver.
- He's the cousin of Paul Norman, who once yelled "jump!" at a guy leaning out of a fourth-floor window on the University of North Dakota campus in the fall of 1983. I cracked up, so any time we saw each on campus we would yell "jump!" at each other. A few months later, Van Halen released "Jump" as their leadoff single from 1984. Back in school for the second semester, first time I saw Norman, he grabbed me, grinned, and asked: "Heard that Van Halen song??"
- He's that guy who turned down "Because The Night" so Bruce Springsteen turned and offered it to Patti Smith.
- "Chris Norman" is a nickname for Suzi Quatro's bangs.

And more important question regarding Chris Norman: Should we ever trust a man with two first names?

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Tuesday Tuneage
Public Enemy - "Don't Believe The Hype"

Public Enemy's It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back came out in 1988 and during my first listens to it in 1989, I knew it was unique and great and a landmark. Sonically and lyrically revolutionary, and funny, the album contains unforgettable mottos that I've appropriated over the years, trying to slip them into conversations, tweets, and asides: Bring the noise, How low can you go?, Don't believe the hype, Who gives a fuck about a goddamn Grammy?, No more music by the suckers.

Once at work back in the late eighties, my pal and fellow writer Janell - she's the one who bought me the first notebook that I seriously scribbled through in the nineties - had bought a mini tape recorder to assist her in her writing and pulled it on me in the break room, asking me to say something. I immediately said: "No more music by the suckers" and of course was overly gleeful when she played it back to quizzical looks all around. Nobody in that room knew what I was talking about, of course. Then again, I barely did.

My fave one lately is when I saw the headline of the Star Tribune on June 27, 2015 - RIGHT TO MARRY FOR ALL - and unleashed a "Yeahhhhh boy!!!" that my neighbors likely heard.

As for "Don't Believe The Hype": How many times have I brought that slogan out in the past quarter-century-plus? For any number of overrated movies (Forrest Gump), TV shows (Six Feet Under), bands (where do I start? I'll use Ben Folds Five as a placeholder …), sports teams (so many Gophers hockey teams), boozes (Johnnie Walker Black), food (Krispy Kreme, Popeye's chicken - at least the location four blocks north of my place), the Aeron chair (good way to further mess up an already-messed up back), any big-name designer promoted hard by Target, literary novels (Jonathan Franzen's Freedom and Michael Chabon's Telegraph Avenue) … etc. etc.

All those cheap shots, good thing I live alone. Plus all those cheap shots divert from the basic core of this wacky little post: In 2015 as in any other year since I bought it, when I track It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back it still feels like I'm listening to some mind-blowing music from the future. For reasons too lengthy to get into here, I lost track of hip-hop in the early nineties. Time to play some catch up, starting with Public Enemy.

And does Hot 102.5 FM have a request line?

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Tuesday Tuneage
Kevn Kinney - "Heard The Laughter Ending"

7th Street Entry, fall 1990. Went to check out Drivin' N' Cryin', a blast - both ears-wise and mood-wise - of a night that ended with them doing the Ramones with Bob Stinson guesting on guitar, it starts with a polite-as-heck guy my age wearing a nice sweater asking me if I had heard the band before. I said no, I showed up on a recommendation of a friend. He tells me to check out the lead singer Kevn Kinney's solo album. That it's mostly acoustic, produced by Peter Buck, outstanding. That he's called Cities FM to request that they add Kinney to their playlist.

I soon bought Drivin' N' Cryin's Mystery Road, a solid and at times spectacular album. Around the same time I also got the Kinney album, MacDougal Blues and was stunned. This was the type of folk music I could rally around. I hyped it incessantly to friends, nobody seemed to care though my pal the receptionist at the office I work at was intrigued when I played a bit of a song over the phone to her.

It's no secret that I'm not a lyrics guy, but Kinney's "Heard The Laughter Ending" is brilliant words-wise. A snapshot of an also-ran of a comedian working away on the road because it's all he knows to do, dreaming of getting home to an imaginary plush mansion far, far away from where he grew up. He plays small rooms, isn't asked to do a residency or come back any time soon. He somehow plays a bigger room, he bombs, he's quickly forgotten. One thinks of the episode of Louie that features Doug Stanhope. A mirror is mentioned twice, and that imagery takes you to the final scene of Raging Bull. The comedian in this tune does finally get to go home, we're not sure if it's a victory or a loss.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Tuesday Tuneage
Los Pets - "Hello I Love You"
circa mid-sixties

The Doors were for the most part dorks, let's admit. Their shorter songs were inevitably their better ones, that way the bands' hackneyed sound and Jim Morrison's pretensions were left fewer chances to be exposed. Francis Ford Coppola found great use of "The End" in Apocalypse Now and while the likes of "People Are Strange" do strike a certain chord in the I'm-weird/I'm-unwanted/I'm-so-alone category, it was soon outclassed by the likes of "Do You Know How It Feels" by The Flying Burrito Brothers. You don't hear many great covers of Doors songs either. What do you think of when you hear "Doors cover"? That you've wandered into what looks to be a cool dive bar for an Old Style and a shot of bar whiskey, but there's some lame hippie band meandering through a lounge-music-with-bad-poetry bore. (Maybe Blood, Sweat & Tears should have covered "Touch Me"? That mighta worked.)

So. We are left with this tune by Los Pets and it's the one great cover of a Doors song, and it's amazing. This run through "Hello I Love You" is more punk than most anything to come down the pipe from the UK or US the following decade(s), better trash than any number of overhyped tracks you've heard over the years. Fuzz-guitar greatness replaces the chintzy Manzarek keyboards, and it's vocals in left ear, that guitar in right. It stands as a certain singular madness of garage rock genius. The liner notes to Mexican Rock and Roll Rumble and Psych-Out South Of The Border succinctly/correctly state: "The Pets were actually from Venezuela and the Doors should've sounded like this in Hell!"

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Tuesday Tuneage
The Reds - "Self Reduction"

The Reds are/were a whatchyamacallit band out of Pennsylvania. Easy to dig, harder to label. Like The Cars (new wave with a hard rock edge) and Cheap Trick (hard rock, but we thought they might be new wave due to their name and Rick Nielsen's outfits), The Reds made one of those late-seventies debuts that decidedly sounded quite unlike anything out there in hard rock or new wave. They were arty enough to win over the college rockers, had prominent cool keyboards to signal to the new wavers, and had guitar riffage to placate the hard rockers. And they weren't just some grab bag of genres attempting to be all things to all listeners: Their self-titled debut album from 1979 shows a band that doesn't mail it in or go cold, a singer who sounds like he gives a damn.

I only became aware of them while doing my bimonthly skimming through Chuck Eddy's Stairway To Hell: The 500 Best Heavy Metal Albums In The Universe, where he tucked their first album in at #279 between ZZ Top's Tejas and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts' I Love Rock 'n Roll. Eddy correctly described them as "sorta like if Joy Division had come from a Philly suburb instead of some stupid factory burg in Blighty." Enough for me to take a six-bucks gamble on their their debut album at Amazon. It contains nine tracks of angsty/angly high-quality rock. Cool cover, too.

So who the fuck exactly were these guys? They seem to still exist as a rumor thirty-five plus years after their A&M debut. Nobody ever slapped a Reds tape into my hands as a youth, they don't show up on those same radio stations that play "What Do All the People Know" by The Monroes, and they aren't appearing this summer at Mystic Lake Casino (featuring two original members.) Googling gets you a few songs on YouTube, that they contributed to the soundtrack for the Chris Elliott vehicle Manhunter, and that they did a garagey version of The Doors' "Break On Through" (though it doesn't top the sheer punk garagey-ness of Los Pets' rip through "Hello, I Love You".) So The Reds are but a postpunk rumor, a mystery for pop archivists to tackle in 2015.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Tuesday Tuneage
Aerosmith - “Let The Music Do The Talking”

A comeback from back when comebacks still mattered, you gotta love the sheer Orwellian audacity of Aerosmith starting off their Done With Mirrors album with a cover of the best song from the Joe Perry Project. (Joe Perry is a member of Aerosmith, Joe Perry has always been a member of Aerosmith.) Like an aging boxer throwing haymakers in a one-last-defense-of-the-title match, it harks back to classic Aerosmith raunch. Outstanding rumbling rhythm, that swagger, Perry’s slide guitar. The lyrics also swagger, they tap into Carl Perkins' "one for the money, two for the show…" but take it somewhere else.

Perkins' rock ‘n’ roll take on a nursery rhyme started the song which put him on the map. (Though many associate it with Elvis Presley. This was a critical moment in a WKRP in Cincinnati episode when Johnny Fever realizes he has truly sold out when he credits “Blue Suede Shoes” to Presley rather than Perkins.) It takes me back to a short story in Boys' Life in the mid-seventies about the free spirit quarterback of the football team who is a flake - and a winner - and once calls out the signals by singing: ”One for the money, two for the show....” Boys' Life had some great short fiction, stories I would read again and again. They had a whole series about these kids who found a time machine and had adventures in time travel. One brilliant story here was when the narrator devises a way to place a phone call to himself in another timeline. Man, that story blew me away. 

Then there was the story about this regular kid who is recruited by his high school’s chess team coach to play on the team because he knows how the game is played and the coach needs a body to fill out the roster. This kid works and studies at chess, becomes not half-bad, ends up scoring victory after victory (a forfeit may have been involved) in a tournament, then ends up in the championship against the Local Teenage Chess Terror, a character obviously based on Bobby Fischer. Our hero figures his magical run is over, but early in his match against the prodigy, he realizes Fischer Junior has fallen into playing the losing side of a past grandmasters’ match he has long memorized. The protaganist is also familiar with this match and realizes his opponent is on an autopilot losing mission. He has an inner debate: Is it ethically okay to claim this easy victory? And does he want the attention of being the local chess champion when he will undoubtably be exposed as a chess fraud in the next tournament? Wish I had kept some of those issues or at least cut out the stories that I loved.

But I daydream. Back to Aerosmith and “Let The Music Do The Talking”: They outdid the Joe Perry Project version and you can give equal shares to Tyler’s personality and the band for their inspired playing. Me, I see PRODUCED BY TED TEMPLEMAN and you might guess at what kind of rambling I’m going to concoct after enough listens, enough coffee, and sudden memories of the mid-seventies, the mid-eighties, and a lifetime of reading.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Tuesday Tuneage
Humble Pie - "30 Days In The Hole"
This is what happens
 when Peter Frampton's sunny disposition
 and boyish good looks
 aren't around to save us.

This ain't The Small Faces. It's not Lazy Sunday; one of those precious, dainty English songs. Like when Small Faces morphed into The Faces, Steve Marriott's Pie outfit embraced soul screaming and jagged guitars.

   background female soul singers
   booming bass rolls into it late,

imitation of a stuttering Southern lawman threatening to cut your hair, jailhouse bound

   a greasy whore, Hammond B-3
   finger snapping
   still controlled enough to pass for blue-eyed soul
     but about to tilt hard into boogie

Enough drug references to make you look for a B12 shot: Red Lebanese, dust, coke spoon, Newcastle Brown (smack, not the Schmidt Dark of imported beers), Durban poison (a type of marijuana apparently, the internal rhyme here is "urban noise"), Black Nepalese.

CONCLUSION: Thirty days for the levels of illegalities detailed in this one seems light. So much for Nixon's promises on law and order.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Tuesday Tuneage
Various Artists - "Buy The World A Coke"

On first viewing, I think I got the ending of Mad Men wrong. I thought after Don hugged Leonard - the not-stunningly-handsome, not-cool Dad stuck in a boring office job and an afterthought with his family (an average Don with zero moxie) - he embraced the om-om-om of the counterculture as the only thing keeping him from going off on a dismal, despaired, life-ruining bender. Peggy had told him he'd never get to work on Coke, and the last we saw of her she was intensely typing. Being a sucker for an image of a hard-working writer hammering out work, I figured she was typing up the script of the Coke ad that co-opted the very new age beliefs that Don had adopted.

But upon discussion with my brother and reading Meredith Blake's (they are always great) episode recap in the Los Angeles Times, it appears that Don was simply going with the flow at Big Sur in order to cunningly find a way to work on Coke after all. That is a better explanation of the smile that appears on his face at the end of the episode: He has found a way to turn this hippie-commune nightmare; where he is abandonded by the only person who is tied to his Dick Whitman past, a person he genuinely tried to help, into an iconic ad. Always the ad man, that Draper.

During one of its revivals on TV years ago, a friend said that the "Buy The World A Coke" song is great. I disagreed, with that weary purist mentality that something appearing in a commercial is automatically not "real" and hence inferior. Then after hearing it again with fresh ears and an open mind, I agreed with him. It is a great song. Turns out it was written in part by the same guys who wrote The Hollies hit "Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress" and (even better) the "If You've Got The Time" jingle for Miller Beer.

Hats off to all the folks behind Mad Men, it was quite the run. For a few weeks a year, that Sunday-night-creep, I-don't-want-to-go-to-school feeling was banished. On a kinda-related note, I saw an Alison Brie doppelganger in south Minneapolis last week. Same walk, same legs that we see Trudy Campbell sporting as she gets on the Learjet. Yessir.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Tuesday Tuneage
Various Artists - Melrose Place: The Music

Polygraph Operator: Did Kimberly steal Jo's baby?
Jerry: I don't know.
Polygraph Operator: Did Billy sleep with Alison's best friend?
Jerry: I don't know.
Polygraph Operator: Did Jane's fiance kidnap Sydney and take her to Las Vegas? And if so, did she enjoy it?
Jerry: I don't know.
Polygraph Operator: Did Jane sleep with Michael again?
Jerry: Yes! That stupid idiot! He left her for Kimberly, he slept with her sister! He tricked her into giving him half her business, and then she goes ahead and sleeps with him again! I mean she's crazy! How could she do something like that? Oh that Jane, she makes me so mad!
  - Seinfeld

Of course I watched Melrose Place. It was quite a bit of fun there for a few years and the first half of its run was on while I was working some soul-draining corporate job and any escapism on the tube at night was a welcome relief. I wish I could say I bought Melrose Place: The Music used at Let It Be during one of my runs there late mornings while on the (morning break) lam from the Young-Quinlan Building, but the sticker on my jewel case indicates it was bought used at the Electric Fetus in the late nineties, when I was free. I'm sure I bought it almost solely for the Paul Westerberg track that ends it. A few weeks ago on an impulse, I put this album on my phone and gave it a full listen. Verdict:

Aimee Mann, "That's Just What You Are" - A perfect pop gem makes a heady leadoff track. Prior to this song being on the radio, I was vaguely aware of Mann and this one burned a way straight to my heart. For some bizarre reason, a coworker at the time was slightly offended that Mann had albums titled Whatever and I'm With Stupid, but those just seal the deal between her and Generation X.

Urge Overkill, "Back On Me" - This song is certainly solid, though it doesn't have the same exuberance as songs like "Sister Havana" and "Postive Bleeding". These tunes were all on their Saturation album. So, while Urge Overill didn't put one of their better songs on this soundtrack, they still managed to shill for their fan club in the liner notes! Love that.

Sam Phillips, "Baby I Can't Please You" - Phillips started out as a Christian rocker. A wag decades ago described Christian rock as simply "taking pop songs and inserting 'Jesus' where 'baby' normally goes." Good thing Phillips moved into the secular, so this song wasn't "Jesus I Can't Please You". I could listen to the percussion on this one all day long, plus it makes me want to read Peter Guralnick's "Sam Phillips Talking". (Different person, but still great art.)

Dinosaur Jr, "Blah" - The ultimate slacker rock, naming your song "Blah". The recurring guitar riff is intriguing, plus J Mascis sounds like he's trying to emote or somesuch. That's gotta count for something. (Or maybe he's just riffing on he and his band's disdain for punctuation.)

Frente!, "Ordinary Angels" - They/she/whoever have an exclamation point on their name. Mr. Lippman would not approve.

Annie Lennox, "Precious" - She's got great pipes, but this one is overproduced and it bores me.

Divinyls, "I'm Jealous" - Holy moly, I'm glad I dug this album out of the archives. While the guitars on this alone are worth the price of admission, this is also a perfectly produced psychodrama worthy of Roy Orbison.

Seed, "Kids … This is Fabulon" - Dumb band name. Dumb song name. Interesting Hammond B-3 though … who are these guys again? They certainly aren't The Seeds, those American heroes who were so punk that they earned the epitaph: "Two great chords - five great albums!" The Trouser Press Guide To '90s Rock describes Seed's sound as "a yeoman's mish-mash of 60's effluvia, '70s genericsm, '80s heartland-grunge and '90s faux-funk weirdness." It also says they have another song that "falls somewhere between Blind Melon and Boston." Wish THAT one had been on this album.

Letters To Cleo, "Here And Now" - Admit it -  the first time this song aired on your favorite alternative rock station, your immediate reaction was: "How are Beavis and Butt-head going to react to this one?"

James, "How Was It For You" - Not as annoying as their hit "Laid" (the one where the singer shrieks like he's doing a show tune), which still plagues the Jack FM playlist. This one is utterly devoid of soul or grit. Sounds like rock, but it ain't rock 'n' roll. A typical mid-nineties Brit-dork mediocrity that was of course embraced in certain Anglophile circles.

Paul Westerberg, "A Star Is Bored" - Typical Westerberg: He writes an acoustic masterpiece, records it in his Minneapolis basement, then mails it to his producer's house in Los Angeles for him to mix and add to the gorgeous backing vocals. Also Westerbergian: He makes you wonder what exactly is going on with the lyric's protagonist, then slaps a classic Paul Pun on the song title/chorus. A fitting closer to an album I had mostly forgotten and dismissed ("oh yeah, that's the one with that great Westerberg song on it"). This album states the case for second chances everywhere.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Tuesday Tuneage
Sir Lord Baltimore - "Helium Head (I Got A Love)"


see, this is how it's playing
everybody's going on about
all these sincere, earnest scams
in music, but I don't want no
folk revival, bluegrass gives me
the creeps. Trying to enjoy a book at
the coffee shop, the PA is playing
some hoary crap from youngsters
 - banjos and stringed instruments without
   amplification and some twentysomething
   bum trying to sound old -

And there's no relief at home,
sheesh I'm trying to focus on this
hockey game or at least on Kathryn Tappen
(woo-woo) and
somebody on Twitter
was going on about John Hiatt.
Who has always been a
Grade-A Bore, and it all piles up and it
all grates and I just want to focus,
get a clear head without all this
earnest, sincere music boring the daylights
out of me so the only known answer/cure involves:
A) headphones, B) Tullamore Dew, and
3) metal metal metal.


Electric guitars go from ear to ear like in "Whole Lotta Love." A singer who sounds insincere as hell (yeah!), then some monk-drone sounds like the Yardbirds' "Still I'm Sad" but not weighing anything down. More guitar freneticism. Crazyman lead singer goes on about how he's got a love, more monk sounds (did these guys ever correspond with Uriah Heep?) and bashing and a shriek and a freakout akin to the Yardbirds (them again) in "I'm a Man". John Fucking Hiatt you say? I'll take a handshake of reds instead, please.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Tuesday Tuneage
Led Zeppelin - "Immigrant Song"


again ascend into the heavens
again get lost in words
again write, don't speak
again notebook, again pen

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tuesday Tuneage
Donnie Iris - "Love Is Like A Rock"

"Love Is Like A Rock" is a gem that's almost as awe-inducing as Donnie Iris's "Ah Leah!" from the prior year, it strips down that single's bubblegum-metal into a simple-yet-tasty mix of chants, disco/metal guitar riffing, and a killer chorus. The background singers feat of pulling off multiple miracles in this one - to wit: 1) shouting "hey!", 2) starting the chorus, 3) sliding into "ahhhhhh…" mode, and 4) gleefully finishing the chorus - is in every way remarkable. Plus there's a drum break for you to bust moves to. The tune ends in an extended mix that was likely just put together by producer/keyboardist Mark Avsec using loops. ("You can leave, guys. See you at the bar in an hour.") Being a Bubblegum Statement of Purpose, it has no "meaning" - you could argues it's a lessons-not-learned-from-authority-figures followup to The Who's "The Real Me" - but mentally I keep trying to tie it to the wise Finnish proverb that states: "Love Is A Potato."

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Tuesday Tuneage
Michael Jackson - “Billie Jean”

Distractions can stop a writing habit cold. In my case recently it was Saturdays delayed with sports; there was the NCHC tourney, then the NCAA regionals, then the hoops semis, all weaved into this was a desire to go for a long walk late Saturday afternoons because Sundays were similarly sports-booked and a weekend walk clears the mind so effectively. So out the window went the 6 pm scotch-and-writing that is the crucial approach shot to get Tuesday Tuneage done. In fact, many times ninety percent of the work is complete in that late afternoon/early eve rush before hockey faces off on Saturday night, then left for final clean-up and posting on Tuesday.

So last week, I thought hey I’ll just take the laptop to the coffee shop Tuesday afternoon, load up on caffeine, and hammer out a Tuesday Tuneage in ninety minutes or so. That’s how I started them in the early days five years ago. But then on Tuesday, some utility workers outside of my building started work on replacing a telephone poll and woke me up with truck-beeping about ninety minutes before I normally wake up. And I am not a morning person, so early rising does not mean an early mental start. When the utility guys ended up disconnecting the electricity for what they said would be two hours, I figured I'd walk over to Our Diner on 36th and Bryant and get a huge ol’ breakfast prior to heading over to the coffee shop, and set things in place for what could be quality time with my laptop. At the coffee shop I decided to read first to get my mind loosened up. I was enjoying a great science fiction story on my phone, when some gal took a table a couple of down from mine with her two little kids. Needless to say these kids were noisy. They cried, they whined, they demanded. For the life of me, I don’t understand why people feel the need to be Cool Parents and take their kids to the neighborhood coffee shop. Take your little noisemakers to McDonald’s where they belong. Why ruin our workplace?

So I pounded my coffee, booked it home, finished that short story on my phone, and took a nap to try to claim back some of the sleep that had been taken from me that morning. Then it was time for a workout (breakfast was about 900 calories, oof), time to read the paper, time for dinner, time to watch hockey, time to watch The Sopranos. And that was Tuesday.

I play a system. The system dictates that time spent on Tuesdays and Saturdays is when these blog posts get written. When the system is disrupted, I cannot adapt quickly.

Because even if things are in place to finish Tuesday Tuneage at the coffee shop, The System applies in micro also. I must set quite the scene when I approach the little table at the local coffee shop. First, I make sure the table is set so the wide side faces me and not the short side. This is so that if I am typing notes, there is room for my notebook to sit next to the laptop while also leaving room for the all-important mug of coffee. Then hang my jacket on the other chair, make sure the collar isn’t sticking up in some funny fashion and place my UND hockey hat on the table so that the brim is facing out towards the public. Get all the necessary tools out of the bookbag, then make sure the bookbag sits on the other chair comfy and isn’t about to tip over. Then the chair I sit in has got to be right. Sure, they all look the same but some of them wobble and (worse) some of them have flat backs rather than the curved ones where my back fits comfy into. Hard to concentrate when I’m constantly distracted by worries of back pain. After all this, I can sit down to work on writing.

What does any of this have to do with “Billie Jean”? Well it goes back to a bit from the early days of David Letterman’s Late Night show on NBC. There was a claim floating about that in the song's chorus it sounds like Michael Jackson sings “that chair is not my son.” So Letterman played a clip of the song, and his crew so deliberately overdubbed an announcer voice saying “CHAIR” into the chorus it was so dumb it was hilarious. Every time I hear “Billie Jean” on Jack FM (which is frequently, which is great, because it is an awesome, timeless song), in my mind at some point I sing “CHAIR”. And for me to write effectively, chairs everywhere - literal ones, figurative ones - must be in their correct places. And that is (one of the many reasons) why there hasn’t been a Tuesday Tuneage in three weeks.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Tuesday Tuneage
The J. Geils Band - "Come Back"

On their way from a gallant attempt at being America's Stones - funny, swaggering, revivalists of classic blues, R&B, and soul  - to not-quite new wave (but certainly not the blues) hitmakers extraordinaire (shorthand: from guitars and harp to synths and guitars), The J. Geils Band released the Love Stinks album which points both forward and back.

"Come Back" is a dance marvel, co-writer Seth Justman does mainstream synth work up there with seventies masters Pete Townshend and Stevie Wonder, and his production is flawless. When other co-writer Peter Wolf enters the chorus after the instrumental break, the background singers' stuttering is an amazing thing, one of those great rare pop touches. The extended coda makes me think/demand that there be an extended play twelve-inch dance mix out there somewhere. Disco never, ever died. Always remember that.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Tuesday Tuneage
The Hellacopters - "Gimmie Shelter"

Leave it to garage hard rockers The Hellacopters to open their take on "Gimmie Shelter" by sounding as ominous as the original, then throw it into high gear around the 30-second mark and play the hell out of the thing like their Swedish lives depended on it. The punk/metal "speed it up to make it something unique" trick works, much to their credit. They own this one, complete with tough/freakout vocals, Stooges-like piano, frequent pick slides, harmonica wailing at the end, and somewhere in all of it a "Satisfaction" riff as well. Covers of classics don't get much more daring or better than this.

That they tucked it away on a B-side and later on a stuff-that-didn't-make-albums compilation titled Cream Of The Crap! only shows the (earned) arrogance with which the 'Copters carried themselves during their run. The next time that Microsoft anthem  "Start Me Up" pops up on your classic hits station, play this one instead LOUDLY.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Tuesday Tuneage
Uriah Heep - "Bird Of Prey"

Some fifty-cent LPs you regret, most you don't. IT WAS ONLY FIFTY CENTS. Scoring The Best of Uriah Heep at the closeout sale at St. Paul's legendary Root Cellar Records back in '04 was arguably the best Kennedy coin gamble I've ever taken on a slab of vinyl. Uriah Heep was from the same Brit/heavy/metal cloth as Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. Like Sabbath they had some mystic occult mumbo jumbo going on, like Purple they had an organ and over-the-top vocals. Me, I eat this stuff up. Speed it up and substitute a lower-range vocal grumble and you have Screaming Trees, who I also love. Also, with Heep putting short songs on the A-side and longer (but not deeper) songs on the flip, I have almost all the Heep I need* in a single album.

And if you're going to buy The Best of Uriah Heep, you gotta get it on vinyl. The back cover features a handy chart that shows who was in/out of the band during its run. And that was in 1976 - early in Heep's run, it turns out - the folks over at Wikipedia were helpful enough to show in/out to present day. You are forgiven if you mix that chart up with the chart detailing the Lutheran Laestadian Divisions in America.

* "Almost" is the key word here. Weirdly, Uriah Heep's best song by far - "Stealin'" - is not included in this package!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Tuesday Tuneage
Electric Six - "Nuclear War (On The Dance Floor)"

At the end of 1991's Stairway To Hell: The 500 Best Heavy Metal Albums In The Universe, Chuck Eddy posited that a disco-metal fusion was inevitable in the nineties. Among his 25 reasons were Kiss's disco song "I Was Made For Lovin' You" (paired with) Rick James's most metal moment being "Love Gun", Black Sabbath's "Children of the Grave" having the exact same rhythm as Blondie's "Call Me", and Van Halen's "Dance The Night Away" and "Dancing in the Streets." And, he wrote: "In Canada circa 1980, an unjustly noticed pop vanguard starring Loverboy, Bryan Adams, and Aldo Nova took it for granted that metal, disco, and new wave were all gonna be ONE AND THE SAME THING." The conclusion being that not only was disco-metal inevitable, it had been with us all along.

Last decade, Detroit's Electric Six debuted in 2003 with "Danger! High Voltage", the best rock 'n' roll single since "Smells Like Teen Spirit". The album, Fire, was a Revelation (capital "R", New Testament-like). It shares a similar concept to Prince's 1999 album, the lesson seems to be that a nuclear apocalypse is imminent, so let's hit the dance floor and/or sheets. Along with stops at "Taco Bell" and a "Gay Bar" (gays -  along with blacks and Latins - invented disco, and I'm not even going to Wikipedia to confirm this) and a nod to Van Halen's "Panama." Not sure where an extremely pale girl fits in ("She's White" - Detroit bands don't seem afraid of addressing race. See also The Paybacks' "Black Girl" and The Hentchmen's "I'm Through With White Girls", both available on the Sympathetic Sounds of Detroit anthology) but the Six's relentless disco-metal attack pulls it all off seamlessly. Perfect for dance parties in your apartment's living room or getting through a cardio workout. The riffs, beats, jokes, and asides pile up so furiously that there's no conceivable way these guys ever made another album. (They've made many, many more …)