Rock’n’Roll Is More Than Three Chords

Before I retired, I was a pretty high level Project Manager at ATT, a gig I worked my last eight years with the company.

Of course at work we all have our own styles, and my boss decided to audit a meeting I was holding one day. This was fine: I liked my boss a lot, and was good at my gig and always got good reviews and such.

And, with my job, I usually ran between 4-6 meetings a day. As it happened, during one of the agenda items the day my boss listened in, a couple of team members got tasks accomplished that should have taken at least another month and I blurted out, “you guys so rock it.”

The only comment Yolanda made about handling my duties was suggesting maybe another word than “rock” was appropriate. But, after another year, she retracted since my clients mostly loved my work and style telling me, “Just keep doing what you are doing and be yourself. That seems to work quite well.”

It was a big moment, for being told professionally to be yourself, was not something I have ever been used to hearing in any environ.

I have thought about that incidentt in concert with the stupid and incessant discussions (nee arguments) on this site about what RockRemnants is about.

It is clear to me that in Steve’s view, we should only be writing around Rock’n’Roll for as he points out, that is in the name of the site.

But, aside from that being boring, not to mention smacking the face of Aristotle, our first literary critic, who said writing should “teach and delight,” Steve’s provincial view of the term as it applies is just a bunch of crap.

For one thing, we all have views and the site is for fun, so suggesting some category of music or art shouldn’t be included is specious. If all he wants to write about is the Germs, fine. Boring, yeah, but again, if that is what he likes, who am I to call him “an idiot” or suggest he “ramble incoherently?”

But, to me, as I have stated repeatedly, Rock’n’Roll is about attitude and the music is simply a subset of that mindset, irrespective of whether Allan Freed named the shit before he saw Elvis swing his hips or not.

For sure Rock’n’Roll is in the first licks of Johnny B. Goode, but it also lies within the words of Howard Beale (Peter Finch in Network) when he screams “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore.” Rock’n’Roll is in the soul of any teenager who ever sneaked out of the house in the middle of the night to meet a lover in secret, or see a forbidden band, or ride fast in cars with one’s mates. And, like it or not, it is within Johnny Paychecks words when he said “take this job and shove it.”

So, for fun, here are some things that define Rock’n’Roll as far as I see it.

  • Muhammed Ali’s poetry and left hook.
  • James Dean’s smile.
  • Johnny Rotten’s sneer.
  • The Doors saying fuck you to Ed Sullivan with Jim Morrison screaming “girl we couldn’t get much higher” rather than the “much better” Sullivan insisted upon.
  • Mick and Keith’s on-stage interplay.
  • Joni Mitchell refusing to sell her song rights for commercial use.
  • Prince refusing to allow Itunes and Spotify stream his songs.
  • Marilyn Monroe’s voice.
  • Raj Davis’s homer to tie the 2016 World Series, and Ben Zobrist’s tenth inning double to tie it back up.
  • The wings at Virgil’s.

I could list more, but I think I make my point, and well, this is how I will continue writing and supporting the site because to me, Rock’n’Roll is indeed a music genre, but it is also part of a musical bigger whole, and music is one of the arts–like movies and painting and writing and all the other slices of imagination–the Muses ruled over.

To make one more point, if by having the name RockRemnants we are supposed to be limited to just Steve’s definition of the words and art form, then I suppose “all men are created equal” should only be applied to rich white landowning men, right?

And, if this song by Gabby Pahinui doesn’t kill you and tell you Rock is in everything, well, I feel sorry for your parochial existence.




Bad Songs: Frankie Avalon, “Bobby Sox to Stockings”

My Spotify does a cool thing: gives little subset genre playlists of my main giant playlist so if I just want to sample some new wave and no Motown, both of which are on the bigger collection, I can hear just that.

The other day I felt nostalgic, so I put on list that includes Buddy Holly and Gene Vincent and Del Shannon. I am not sure how Spotify associated this horrible Frankie Avalon song with those great artists, but it did, and the song I had forgotten came back to haunt.

This “music” represents the absolute worst of what people imagine of those wonderful nostalgic 50’s, when mainstream radio sucked, racism was rote, and despite the separation of church and state, we were forced to eat fucking fishsticks at the school cafeteria every Friday.

Aside from being a joke, though, the intro to this song from American Bandstand is cool because you can see the Top 10 at the time behind Frankie and Dick Clark. Other than that, the only thing worse than those Friday fishsticks is this song.

2017 Coachella Acts Announced

Please go find them yourself.

Headliners are Radiohead, Beyonce and Kendrick Lamar. If any of these bands(?) were playing in my backyard would I bother to look out the window?

There are certainly plenty of acts.

Are any of them good?
Are any of them rock ‘n’ roll?
How many of them do you know?

My over/unders are zero, one and three.

Wasn’t Coachella originally an alternative rock festival?

Does music suck today or what?

Big Macs, Nick Drake, Jellyfish and KISS

bmAs a result of my posting of Bruce Springsteen’s Prove it all Nighta discussion ensued that sort of points to not just the essence of art, but the packaging of said commodity.

Peter noted that indeed the E-Streeters were a well rehearsed machine, conveying the The Boss’s message, however he noted the message was indeed that of Bruce, and while Steve does give cred to Bruce’s early material, he did not think that much of the band live.

Fair enough.

In fact, Steve noted in addition that the Bruce and Co. had pretty much become mainstream–the stuff of “average Joe’s”–and that in general, that told him he was not interested.

Again, fair enough.

Personally, I agree with both of them, and I use the argument of McDonalds, for the company of the Big Mac is surely the most popular and successful food selling machine in our country, let alone on the planet.

But, that does not necessarily mean the “BM” either tastes good, or is good for us.

Truth is, I like a Big Mac once in a while for some perverse reason, which is indeed odd since I do all of our cooking and prepare almost exclusively from scratch.

But, I also suspect the had we gone to the original McDonalds in Southern California in 1957 and ordered a double cheeseburger, it would have been good like a burger at Burger Me, in Truckee, would nail it today. I think both would hit the spot, just as were Burger Me suddenly franchised, the animal I would eat today would probably not be like the sandwich I would get in ten years.

I think as part of the musical parallel I pointed to, I loved the Clash through their first albums, and even saw them four times during their early years. But, once Combat Rock became anthemic to the “average Joe’s,” I lost interest, no matter how good the album might have been (I have obviously heard some cuts from it, but I never owned it, unlike London Calling, or Give ”em Enough Rope, or the first Clash album).

But, I do pose the path of three artists, starting with the great British folker, the late Nick Drake, who died of an amphetamine overdose in 1974, but never got a chance to make it with the average Joe’s. Although, his great tune, Pink Moon was used as a soundtrack for an ATT commercial, and two of his tunes, Magic, and River Man, did make the charts 30 years after his death after the release of a compilation album (Made to Love Magic) and related tributes in 2004.

Had he lived, would Drake still be so dark, so moody, and to me so hauntingly accessible (we could ask the same about Buddy Holly, but please leave the over-rated James Dean out of the conversation)?

How about the bay area band Jellyfish, who had a killer debut album (Belly Button) in 1990 that fostered a big time signing, and three years later the over produced (Queen sang back-up) and under delivered Spilt Milk which resulted with poor revues and the dissolution of the band.  Heard of them, average Joe?

I thought not.

Then there is Steve’s childhood fave, KISS, whom he stands behind over their first few albums, who developed as dedicated a following, and as staged a performance as Springsteen et al. And, a band the average Joe’s love, it seems, as much as the Boss.

So, it seems the way of art is that bands or writers or painters or whatever do indeed start with a vision, and with the pain that was too much for Drake (who suffered from depression), and then either become another animal, as in Jellyfish and give up, or they simply evolve, succeed, and become boring and the apple of the average Joe eye?



KISS My Whatever

There have been more than a few discussions about KISS and their music and what is real rock and roll since we started up here around nine months or so ago.

For the record, I have seen KISS live, in 1979, and they did little or nothing for me (though I did get some great photographs of the band).

However, as I am about a decade older than my two friends who are the biggest fans of the band I know–Steve Moyer and Scott Engel–I will admit that just age and experience had a lot to do with my indifference to the band.

I got the Beatles and the Stones and the Who and the Kinks when they were new, and then a few years later I lived in the bay area when the San Francisco bands hit it.

So, one of the things at play here is that the bands we love and which form the basis for our likes and dislikes, make their impression during our adolescence and in that context, I was too old for KISS.

That said, I still don’t really think that much of them as a band, but I also know there are those who hated the Moody Blues when they were my favorites, and well, look how Bob Dylan was received when he plugged in. And, all Dylan was trying to do was keep his art growing.

Anyway, over the past week, KISS has come to my radar in a couple of odd ways.

First, the previously noted Mr. Engel invited me to come play miniature golf in Las Vegas when we were both there for the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Winter Meeting.

The kicker was this pee-wee golf course is dedicated to KISS. Which kind of makes me like them (I love miniature golf) and kind of hate them (how much shilling does Gene Simmons need to do?).

KMMG course entrance

However, a few days after I got home from Vegas, Diane and I were snuggled in bed, watching the tube before we fell asleep, and the Road to Europe episode of Family Guy came on.

Now, as with the miniature golf, I have mixed emotions. On one hand, again, sigh, KISS all over the fucking place.

OTOH, we both love Family Guy.

And, this episode was particularly sweet with us finding out that Peter is proud of his wife Lois for “doing” KISS (we find out as an aside that she also did the Geils band).

How can you not like that?



Radio Rules

My site mate Mike Salfino really touched on a subject so near and dear to my heart with his piece on listening to the radio–and pretty much only the radio–during his time in Southern California in the early 70’s, that it really spurred me on to state just how much I love the radio.

Say what you will about cable and streaming and dish and CDs and downloads and instant gratification: I come from time where no one had to walk six miles to school through a driving snow storm.  My version of childhood deprivation is that we only had three TV stations in the Sacramento Valley (four in the Bay Area) and as a kid, local radio was AM only.

Since it was the universe in which we lived, we did not think much of it. FM was as odd and obscure as was cable TV, when it was offered at hotels a few years later for an extra charge.

But, whatever you wanted was out there on AM at the time. In Sacramento KROY was the station in the early 60’s, and though I hungered for time in Berkeley–which meant decent bookstores, and extra TV station that showed Dodger/Giants games, and much better radio–with my grandparents while I was too young to move back to the Bay Area, there were some ok things about what I now refer to as “excremento.”

towerThe main was the original Tower Records store, about 3.5 miles from our home, which seemed to make for a formidable bicycle ride for an eight-year old (don’t ask me, no one wore helmets then, bikes had maybe three speeds, and if you wanted to ride your bike to the record store, yay, we were out of the house for three to four hours) in 1960-61.

Tower was a treasure trove, though, with listening booths and stacks of current stuff and oldies, and since part of the deal was to build a record collection, it was not out of the question to buy “The Wa-Watusi” as an oldie, as it was “The End of the World” as a current hit.

It was the radio that was our salvation, bringing the new, and to me the rockin’ and the loudest, inhabiting my every pore and cell so infectiously that I was almost paralyzed when I heard a song that sent me.

At night we could often draw in the cool Bay Area stations–KYA and KEWB–which somehow seemed to waste the local stuff in its sophistication, something I seemed able to discern that early in my years (I was also always drawn to The New Yorker at the Dr.’s office for some reason, and I don’t ever remember anyone suggesting I read it).

At the time–before I realized I had a contrary streak in me–I was also a Dodgers fan in Northern California, and sometimes I could adjust my radio against the evening sky and pull in KFI, 50,000 watts over Los Angeles, and hear Vin Scully and Jerry Doggett anounce my beloved team (sponsored by Farmer John and Union 76).

Before clock radios, and bedroom stereos, though, I would go to sleep,  seemingly surgically attached to my transistor which was stashed neatly under my pillow, full volume, so I could hear it through the down feathers upon which my head rested.

Then, magically, as those same stereos and clock radios became more mainstream, so did FM radio, and San Francisco debuted the first free form station–KMPX–started by two ex-KYA jocks, Tom Donahue and Jim Washburn.

Within a year or so there were political issues at KMPX, so Donahue fled and started KSAN, right around the time I moved back to the Bay Area for good in 1972 (that station lasted until around 1983).

Much like listening to my shuffle, though, it was great. I will never forget a set that featured a movement from Swan LakeBrother Jug by Gene Ammons, Chelsea Morning by Joni Mitchell, and She Said Yeah by the Stones.

All so different, and yet all so great, and none of it disrupted by commercials or any of that crap.

To this day, listening to radio like that–be it music, or especially baseball which still translates so beautifully via the radio medium–is and will always be my favorite.

I don’t really do Sirius/XM, or even play CD’s much any more.

But, there is something so right and intimate about listening to the radio, hearing a familiar voice describing  a 53 ground out, or telling us about a new Jake Bugg tune.

So, I must share the station I have been listening to for almost the last year: KTKE, 101.5 in tiny Truckee, California (population around 10,000).

Truckee is about 40 miles southwest of Reno, and about 20 miles from the North Shore of Lake Tahoe, and as we have some property in Soda Springs–about ten miles east of Truckee–I simply discovered the station by accident, surfing through the car radio dial looking for any signs of intelligent programming.

When I found KTKE, though, it was paydirt.

To give an example of the breadth of what they play, here are the last ten tunes they list on the live stream that showed as I write:

  1. Time to Move On (Tom Petty)
  2. Further On (Bronze Radio Return)
  3. Radio Girl (John Hiatt)
  4. Vaporize (Broken Bells)
  5. They Told Me (Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside)
  6. Smile Happy (War)
  7. Louie Louie (Black Flag)
  8. I’m Shakin’ (Jack White)
  9. Sugar Craft (Medeski Martin and Wood)
  10. When You Were Young (Killers)

I admit, I don’t know Medeski Martin and Wood, nor Bronze Radio Return, and I could do without the Killers, but War, John Hiatt, Black Flag, Jack White, Tom Petty, and Sallie Ford all in the same set?

And, that is pretty much why I gave up tracking the news all day, or simply listening to my shuffle, as I love streaming KTKE, hearing the funky commercials from the Tahoe area (like Smokey’s Cafe and Burger Me) and the great playlist of new and old from really good and personable jocks (whom I also feel like I know).

Mostly, I love this though because I really do love listening to the radio.

I always have, and I hope I always will.


15 Shuffle Songs

One goal of the exhausting essentials series was to show where our musical tastes overlapped here at Remnants HQ. In the coming days I’ll be posting the songs from each of our lists where we didn’t overlap with anyone, but I was reminded today of a Facebook meme from a couple of years back called 15 Shuffle Songs. The instructions were:

(1) Turn on your MP3 player or music player on your computer.

(2) Go to SHUFFLE songs mode.

(3) Write down the first 15 songs that come up–song title and artist–NO editing/cheating, please.

Back then I went to my recent history in iTunes and found this list, which does show the breadth of stuff I listen to:

Bob and Marcia, Young Gifted & Black: 60’s pop reggae

Elvis Costello and the Attractions, You Bowed Down: Rock

Marvin Gaye, Poor Abbey Walsh: R&B

Bob Wills, Stay a Little Longer: Country Swing

Liz Phair, Perfect World: Indy singer-songwriter

Augustus Pablo, Skanking Dub: Dub reggae

Daby Balde, Halaname: Senagalese singer-songwriter

Mavis Staples, Down in MIssissippi: Gospel R+B great covers Dylan

Tricky, Overcome: UK hip hop (though I know that’s not what it’s called)

Impossible Shapes, bombs: Neo psychedelic folk

John Fogerty, Rambunctious Boy: Classic rock solo

Neko Case, Maybe Sparrow: Singer-songwriter indy rocker

Tabu Ley Rochereau, Lily Mwana Ya Quartier: Classic afro pop

Hank Jones, Ray Brown & Jimmie Smith, My Ship: Jazz

Foo Fighters, Exhausted: Rock

So, when this list popped up because of the new Facebook page layout, I thought it might be a good conversation starter here. The only problem is that I now use five different collections of music: There is iTunes on my computer, as well as Google Music and Mog streaming service. Plus on my phone I have a selection of songs in the music app, and a connection to my Amazon purchases, which allows me to stream anything I ever bought at Amazon. And on my iPod I have another collection of songs.

I’ve been listening to the Amazon collection on my phone most recently, so I thought I’d pull from that for my 15 Shuffle Songs.

Beck, Blackhole: Indie rock from his major label debut, which strongly suggests the lush music he would go on to later.

Leonard Cohen, A Singer Must Die: Classic Singer-Songwriter from his evolutionary New Skin for the Old Ceremony.

Kanye West, Say You Will: Hip Hop Pop par excellance from the initially underrated 808s and Heartbreaks

T. Rex, Christmas Bop (1975): Their Christmas greetings special release.

Rolling Stones, Memory Motel: Classic Stones.

Beck, Loser: Classic Beck, the song that broke him big.

Rolling Stones, Stray Cat Blues: Classic Stones grinding blues leer. It may not get better than this.

Eddie Head and His Family, Down on Me: 20s Country Gospel from a fantastic compilation called American Primitive.

John Hicks, Day Dream: Jazz.A fantastic pianist plays Billy Strayhorn.

Elder Otis Jones, Holy Mountain: More 20s Country Gospel from American Primitive, which doesn’t have the greatest sound, but is still very listenable.

Jens Lekman, Julie: Great Swedish Singer-songwriter mixes tunefulness with shaggy dog storytelling and excellent writing.

Ray Charles, I Can’t Stop Loving You: R&B  star goes Country enjoyably.

John Hicks, Lush Life: More Hicks plays Strayhorn.

Baka Beyond, Spirit of the Forest: New age world music pablum. I’ll push Next before I hit delete.

Nick Lowe, Withered on the Vine: Pop genius rebirth as singer songwriter genius,

Now it’s your turn.