KKK Took My Baby Away X 2

The National, a ponderous musical enterprise that some speak of rapturously and whose music I’ve never been able listen to for more than a minute or two before changing the dial, played recently at the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium. They covered the Ramones, local boys one and all, and led off with a dark story.

The Ramones demonstrate how to do it right.

Classic Discs Versus Teen Faves Versus Artistic Growth

In the process of discussing our teen favorites, Tom pointed to the incredible run of brilliant albums Steveland Wonder released and I commented, noting that I felt Talking Book, Fulfillingness First Finale, and Innervisions were on my list of artists who produced three just brilliant albums in a row.

Also added in were:

  • Blue/Ladies of the Canyon/Court and Spark (Joni Mitchell)
  •  Beggars Banquet, Let it Bleed/Sticky Fingers (Stones)
  • Revolver/Rubber Soul/Sgt. Pepper (Beatles)
  • Bringing it all Back Home/Highway 61/Blonde on Blonde

Elvis Costello (first three) and Neil Young (Goldrush through Harvest) also made it once the list was initiated, and Prince just missed. But Steve made suggestions of Alice Cooper, the Ramones, and AC/DC which I quickly dismissed

This does not mean I don’t love Road to Ruin and Love it to Death but if we look at Cooper and Steve’s example, maybe I can explain the difference, at least as I mean it.

Love it to Death triggered three wonderful albums from the Alice Cooper band, but the third, School’s Out was a little thin in my view, and Love it to Death included the throwaway Black Juju, an immediate disqualifier.

Why, you ask?

Because in looking at the records produced by the Beatles for example, in Rubber Soul the band clearly kicked their songwriting to a deeper level with the focus of their lyrics moving to a new level, not just for the band, but for pop music. The Fab Four continued this growth, both lyrically and sonic-ally with Revolver, and then even further with Sgt. Pepper. The same can be said about Wonder, Dylan, Mitchell, the Stones, Costello, and Young, all of whom have challenged themselves and their sound, pushing into new directions, and delivering breathing works that pushed the groups collaborative art to a new level.

Not that Love it to Death isn’t art, or a fantastic album, but as good as the record is, by Killer, the band was still spot on musically and lyrically, but while 18 might really fit what I defined above, nothing else on any of the three suggested Cooper albums suggests or provides any kind of growth of the group’s art and sound any further than where it was.

Not that this means Cooper or AC/DC or any performer(s) should be dismissed, but, there is a major difference between releasing three very strong discs that contain great songs, but all basically of the same ilk, as opposed to the other artists who truly moved their skills and experience to a different level.

Snotty? Maybe.

Elistist? Maybe.

But, well, hard to argue? I don’t know.

Have at it, and just to show I understand my roots, let’s leave with Alice, and as good a garage tune as you will ever hear. It is just the individual tune does not the album or artistic value of the relative catalog make.



Lawr, You Ignorant Slut

Gotta clear up a few things here, etc.

1) Me saying the Bad Brains have as much chance of getting elected as Trump had everything to do with the very slim chance of Trump winning and nothing to do with any notion of me hoping he wins.

2) When I said the Bad Brains are superior to the Clash, Ramones and X, I meant purely in terms of power.

3) And it’s so ironic that in the company of 99 percent of shit-loving music fans, I’d be aggressively defending these three bands. I will say:

Clash – Great first album (both versions). Good second album. Kind of went off the rails from there, spotty at best, horrible by the end. Wish you guys would read Gene’s favorite, John Lydon, call out Joe Strummer and the Clash’s “smart” political lyrics as nothing but a cheap, cheesy marketing ploy.

Ramones – Great first three albums. Very good fourth album. Fifth album had moments. Horrible from there on. Certainly had their own kind of power, but not as white hot as the Bad Brains at their best.

X – Betting I had their first album before Lawr. Liked it a lot. Second was good. Lost interest after that. Agree with Gene on the “going through the motions” of that video. Can’t Billy Zoom even smile anymore? (And please, Lawr, if you like X so much, you owe it to yourself to read John Doe’s very good recent book.)

4) Would never, ever, never say any of these bands aren’t rock ‘n’ roll. And some very fine rock ‘n’ roll at that. My qualms are with the frequent “not sure this is rock ‘n’ roll but” articles on Remnants and stupid shit like Tupac leading the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall ballot for 2017. Like I’ve said before, if Tupac belongs in the Rock Hall, then the Beatles certainly belong in the Rap Hall (if there is one). “Icon of non-rock popular music” shouldn’t put you in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall.

And good God, Lawr, I certainly envy your happiness and the fact that you’re happily retired and have set yourself up well. A hearty and sincere “Good for you!” from me to you.

Finally, here’s that wasp in the pants song (can you guys seriously sit still and listen to this?):

And finally finally, here’s National Official Spokesperson Of Rock ‘N’ Roll Dave Grohl talking about the Bad Brains. Hell, if it’s about rock and Dave Grohl says it, how can it not be true?

Compare and Contrast: For the Love of Money

Live at Daryl’s House is this oddball show. The idea. Musicians go to Daryl Hall’s house and record songs with Daryl Hall.

When it started Daryl Hall seemed to be bankrolling these video casts, which were available on his website, and it was hard to see how this was a sustainable program. But the quality was always exemplary, the pairings interesting, the musicians great.

I came upon this O’Jays show tonight. Here’s For the Love of Money at Daryl’s House:

It’s not my favorite O’Jays song, it’s kind of a Temps’ rip, but there’s lots to like in that live version. Including Daryl Hall’s vocals . Here’s the much-more restrained original:


Cage Match: Greg Maddux v. Bill Frisell

frisellI did not get to see The Upper Crust last night, but my life-long mate Stephen Clayton and I did venture across the bay to San Rafael, to Terrapin Crossroads (Phil Lesh’s place) to see Frisell and his band touring behind the guitar player’s latest disc, Guitar in the Space Age. maddux(Note that I have wanted to see the guitarist for years.)

True, it ain’t rock, but, that does not mean the music doesn’t rock. These guys–for this video is the same band Stephen and I saw–were arguably the most talented collection of musicians I have ever seen playing live with one another. The interplay and musicianship and notes chosen by the collective was breathtaking (watch this and you will see what I mean).

But, in deference to my previous Edge  v. Tekulve post, I have started thinking of guitarists in terms of ballplayers, and this time, I could only think of the great Cub and Brave, Greg Maddux as a parallel.

Both can clearly paint the corners, and are artists with a true craft within their respective profession. And, they don’t really look alike, but do sort of have the same look in their eye in the above pics, huh?

Stylish, smart, never overtly overpowering, yet always dominant, Maddux could make the perfect pitch just as Frisell squeezes out the perfect note. Both Hall of Famers!


Cage Match: Kent Tekulve v. The Edge

tekulveAs I walked into BileTones (I guess that is the correct spelling) practice the other day, my mate Tom Nelson handed me a pamphlet that had a pic of Phillies hurler Rick Wise on the cover.

Tom told me he got the little handout–the title of which is Balk–at a Twins game at Metropolitan Stadium back in 2009. The whole little brainchild of Balk was by David Selsky, who along with former Pirates closer Kent Tekulve concocted an hysterically funny collection of baseball cards of bespectacled players.

The names and pics are priceless: Gary Gross, Rick Reuschel, Lee Walls, Carl Sawatski, Chris Knapp, and Craig Kusick (just looking at his beak on a card makes me wonder how he wound up a hitter and not a plumber?).kusick

However, the whole thing made me think of submariner Tekulve, and for some reason I contextualized his skill set with that of the Edge, the guitar player from U2 who I like and who Steve does not.

Let me say this to start: I have never had a friend quite like Steve. For some reason, about half the things we believe in and process could not be more simpatico; however, the remaining 50% could not be more diametrically opposed. Very strange.

Back to the philosophy, Tekulve was not a hard thrower. In fact, to the contrary, he threw underhand and lived on sinkers, location, and delivery deception to build a pretty successful career with a 98-90 record, 2.80 ERA, and 184 saves. But for sure, he did not overpower hitters a la Goose Gossage or Eric Gagne or Aroldis Chapman.

But, he got the job done, satisfactorily, and were he pitching today, Tekulve would be a well thought of Fantasy Baseball closer (1.250 career WHIP).

OK, so to the Edge, where the guitar player does not really approach his craft like Eric Clapton or Mick Ronson or Keef, who are clearly masters of the axe. edge

Edge relies more on sonics and harmonics–though he can play blues licks for sure–and pedals, along with dropping the fifth of the chord very often, to attain this signature chorusy shimmering sound.

Now, I get that Steve doesn’t really consider this playing, but my philosophical question to start the week is what the Edge does any less successful–and thus worthy of our approval–than was how Tekulve nudged his outs via groundballs by frustrated hitters?

Since I do like the Edge (and U2), and can not legally see without my spectacles, I approve swimmingly of both.

But, I guess it is a personal thing.

What do you say?