Saturday, January 14, 2017

High School Faves

Did ya see that Facebook meme where you're supposed to put ten records you loved in high school up?  Here's mine:

I’m not going to put this in any order.  It’s just kind of ten records that I remember really playing the hell out of when I was a teenager.  Some will be from Jr. High, some from high school.  Some were borrowed and eventually returned, some just discarded along the way.

The Tubes – What Do You Want From LIVE!  That stereo up above is the receiver I had and a turntable quite similar to the one I had for Jr. High (in high school I bought a used Dual).  I used to slide that volume slider all the way to the right, and it sounded pretty okay.  It was loud, but not awful.  I did this when I got up for school in the morning, and I remember my mom complaining once, and my retort was that everyone was up anyway, so who was it really bothering?  My door was shut, it was just some background noise, like a fan or something.

I loved The Tubes.  I used to blast “Mondo Bondage” before school.  I remember in Jr. High being at the pizza shop and standing on the Pong game (it was a table top version) while we blasted “White Punks On Dope” on the jukebox and being told to “Sit the fuck back down or you’re outta here!”  I had a “deep” conversation with a girlfriend about how “Don’t Touch Me There” wasn’t so much about sex as it was about breaking someone’s heart.  We went to see The Tubes in a big group, and everyone bought the same shirts, except me.  I don’t like looking like everyone else.  I thought The Tubes were really on to something with the prudery of the Nation butting up against the sleaze of TV and being all aghast at the titillation found there.  Those prudes were the ones watching that shit, it wasn’t lost on teenage me.

Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention – Over-Nite Sensation.  I bought this used where I bought my Dual turntable.  I still have it, and it’s pristine (somehow) and an original pressing.  I liked Zappa a lot when I was 17 or 18, but he hasn’t managed to stay with me through the years.  I’ll keep his stuff, but I rarely listen to it.  I remember I had to take an English class my second senior year (I cut school a LOT), and I had to re-take a speech class.  I loved speech class, so it was no big deal.  I was the only senior in a class of 10th graders, and let’s face it, I was high all the time.  I had to do a speech by Reading From Manuscript, and I chose “I’m the Slime” from this album.  (A bit of a side note, a girl couldn’t believe that we could do a song and chose to do one of the more popular things of the day, and looked pretty embarrassed when she had to say, “Oh baby” and “Yeah baby” constantly.  I practiced this so I wouldn’t do it in a sing-song voice and had it down cold so that it would be awesome, she didn’t get how much went into being a wasteoid that could get away with it).  I called Frank Zappa one of “Today’s most interesting and thoughtful “contemporary artists” and my teacher sat in the back laughing.  When I finished he asked me to stay after class a minute, and he told me he was a HUGE Zappa fan, and he loved how I did it and that he really appreciated the fact that I was putting forth an effort in his class.  Huh.  Who’d a thunk it?

We also used to drop acid and listen to this.  It was sure to make us erupt into fits of hilarity.  The idea of growing crops of dental floss in Montana was just the god dammed funniest thing!  This record led to us listening to a lot of FZ’s output back then, and we were a small little cult of friends out here in Midwestern Suburbia that loved FZ.

Manfed Mann’s Earth Band – Solar Fire.  OK, so this one even predates Teenage Me, but I can assure you, this got more play than any record in my collection by many, many plays.  I wore out several of these.  I still like it quite a bit, and I think it very well may be the record with my favorite drum sound.  The Stones have a lot of records with this dry, natural drum sound and maybe that’s a big reason I was initially attracted to them.   I loved Mann’s outrageous keyboards, but the guitar solos on songs like "Saturn, Lord of the Ring/Mercury, The Winged Messenger" are what really hooked me.  Everyone that ever came to my house heard this record at least once.

Yes – Fragile.  OK, I promise this won’t turn into a treatise on the wonders of Progressive Rock.  I think this will be it.  God, I loved this record, especially Jr. High me.  I’ve heard “Roundabout” probably 100,000 times and the part after the “mountains come out of the sky and they stand there,” still gets me leaning for the volume knob.  I love Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman’s interactions and the drum sound I love is there, with the added weirdness of Chris Squire’s bass.  Hell, half the time it seemed to me like Squire was playing a completely different song than the rest of the band just to see if he could make it work.  It always did, and I remember one of the pictures on my wall was Chris Squire with a cape, leaning back and blasting the foundation from under an audience somewhere with a cool name like Stratford-On-Thames, or Pasadena.

Every girl I ever met hated Yes.  You definitely can’t dance to it.  The lyrics don’t make any sense, but Teenage Me would have pretty much bloviated about how brilliant the lyrics were, that they were pure poetry and you just didn’t understand poetry.  Little would you have known (so I thought, anyway), I knew fuck all about poetry, except how to write a shitty haiku.  So when I said the lyrics to “South Side of the Sky” were brilliant, you better believe that I thought they were, and I thought I’d understand why they were so brilliant some time in the future.  I was wrong, but I still like Yes.

Neil Young – Decade.  Ever come across those people that tell you to write a list of your favorites but then say that “Greatest Hits, Live albums and using the same band more than once is cheating?”  What the fuck does that even mean?  It’s my list.  I can guarantee you that Neil Young’s Decade was a constant for me pretty much until I graduated high school.  Some of this stuff is probably a reason I like a lot of whatever passes for Americana these days, and some of these songs have guitar solos that I hear in my favorite bands today, like The Dexateens’ “Diamond in the Concrete,” which otherwise doesn’t sound like a Neil song at all.

I remember a conversation with a girl I used to hang out with all the time that I haven’t seen since school, and we were talking about “Expecting to Fly,” which I figured was too weird and mellow for anyone to like, but she said it was her favorite song on Decade.  Why do I remember this conversation?  It was pretty inconsequential, and it’s not like it’s the greatest Neil song ever, but I remember it really well.  I remember going to a guy’s house that was a budding drummer, and he’d play along to records and he told me to pick a song.  I picked “Cowgirl in the Sand,” and he turned it off partway through because he couldn’t bang on things like he wanted.  It was really part of my plan to not have to listen to him, but we spent a good hour listening to him fuck up on drums on other songs later.

Then there’s “Ohio.”  That still chokes me up to this day.  I had a teacher with a Kent State 1970 ring.  Said teacher was also gay, but kept himself well closeted (good thinking in the 70’s).  I loved this guy.  We used to play Chess and checkers and stuff in his In School Probation room (I was in there a lot).  We talked about what it was like in 1970 at Kent, and he said it was scary, and yes, he knew some of the students that were killed.  He said he didn’t think anyone should ever forget.  I couldn’t believe news interviews where the people said the students “got what they deserved.”  How the fuck is it I live in the same world as those people?  That teacher convinced me I should go see the little memorial and where it happened, and I’ve done that, and that song helps me remember that rich people are in charge and our kids are no more than cannon fodder to them.  I kind of moved away from Neil for years, but I’ve been back, at least with his old stuff for awhile now.

Artful Dodger – Babes On Broadway.  Clevelanders my age know who Artful Dodger was.  The rest of you don’t.  This is NOT their best album, in fact it’s probably their worst.  It’s still pretty good, though.  It was their third album, and an obvious shot at getting some airplay outside of Cleveland.  I remember a friend of mine had a decent old car and I can remember meeting girls and making out in there with this album playing.  It was pretty great.  Girls in the 70’s were great.  They turned into great women, but they’ll always be those girls to me.

Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True.  I really don’t give a shit that the backing band is Huey Lewis’ guys.  I didn’t know back then that Elvis had a different band, and I just thought “Watching the Detectives” was the coolest song that had ever happened.  Listen to the drums!  Elvis obviously liked Buddy Holly, and that was always a big plus in my book (preteen me loved 50’s Rock N’ Roll).  I got this for my birthday from two girls I still know and love to this day.  They got me this and the next record, and they gave them to me in school.  I opened them in the cafeteria, and I think I actually stayed in school most of that day so I could carry those records around with me.  I didn’t have a notebook or books or anything, just those two records.  I remember a Ted Nugent fan making fun of them, and I just shook my head and walked away.  This was just such a cool record to have in high school (so I thought, anyway).  “Alison,” “The Angels Want to Wear My Red Shoes,” these songs were changing everything for me.

The Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bollocks.  The second birthday record.  The first record that turned my head upside down.  The first record I had to defend because so many people HATED it, without ever having heard it.  I was listening to college radio ( I always had because I loved trying to find weird radio stations and back then I was close enough to a college campus that I could hear their 2 watt station, plus another one or two in Cleveland with more power).  The pistols were definitely a marketed product, but they also had this weird integrity that they would only do what they wanted.
I don’t understand why so many Classic Rockers hated these guys.  The guitars were great.  The lyrics were political.  Was it the weird way they looked?  Maybe all that, but Black Sabbath looked weird and they were popular.  None of this mattered to me.  I dragged this record with me everywhere for a month and tried to get people to play it.  One friend out of all of them had the same thing happen that happened to me.  It changed everything for him, too.  We really started connecting musically, then he moved.  Kinda bummed me out.  I hope he’s still listening to music like we did then.  I hope The Sex Pistols stuck with him like they did with me.

J. Geils Band – Live! Blow Your Face Out.  I hated these guys.  Really, it was a deep-seated hatred.  I have since found out it was their fans I couldn’t fucking stand.  A bunch of jocks that liked to drink and fight.  They’d fight over girls, they’d fight over basketball games and they’d fight over music.  They never had their own pot and they’d bring things like four beers to parties and start drinking ours (well, they’d try).  All the while they’d be blasting the “Woofa Goofa” and playing the same side of Blow Your Face Out over and over again.  I remember being at one guy’s house where his brother would let us play records and he had some good stuff, and hearing side one of Blow Your Face Out six times in a row.  I know, “I musta, I said I b’leeb I musta, I musta got LOOOOOOOST!” is awesome.  Once in awhile, I guess.  Over and over?  Not so much.

These days I have that record and I play it now and then.  It’s pretty great.  They made a bunch of great records that are easy to enjoy without some douche-nozzle that smells like BO and Jovan Musk spitting in your face while they attempt to be Peter Wolf while the real Peter Wolf is blasting out of the stereo.  “Detroit Breakdown” and “Chimes” are really pretty terrific.

The Doors – Strange Days.  I can’t skip The Doors when talking about Teenage Me.  He decided one day that Yes was still totally great, but his new favorite band was going to be The Doors.  Shortly thereafter, the rest of American Teenagerdom jumped on this bandwagon and The Doors started selling more records than they had even when Jim Morrison was alive.  I was glad we were all digging a band that wouldn’t ever do anything else (I was wrong, of course, but I was young).  Now I could tell people how poetic the lyrics were, because Jim Morrison had interviews where he actually said he was a poet.  So this was the real deal.  I thought Robbie Krieger was cool and I liked how they said they didn’t need a bass player because Ray Manzarek could do all that on him Moog.  I know it’s bullshit because you can plainly hear the bass guitar on a lot of their songs, but Teenage Me loved it!

I mean, they had a little of the Progressive spirit of Yes with their keyboards, but their longest songs were only ten minutes or so.  Plus, most of their songs were only two minutes or so.  I really thought Jim was onto something for a year or two, but then I quit doing so many drugs so much of the time and I kind of decided Jim was a bit of a dick.  These days, I still have most of those albums and I like some of the songs quite a bit. I’d rather hear what Ray did with X any day, but these guys were a big deal to me for a few years. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

Todd Rundgren - Something/Anything?

Todd Rundgren's Something/Anything? was pretty much ubiquitous throughout the 70's.  Almost everyone had it, or if you didn't have your own copy, you knew five people that did.  The biggest hit was Hello It's Me, which was probably Todd's biggest hit in his storied career.  I always thought it was interesting that the album had this one massive, mellow hit on it and then when people would buy it, it had three sides of just Todd doing whatever it was he wanted to do, and one side of a very loose studio session (which is where Hello It's Me came from).  Whatever it was, people loved it, though.

I remember a couple of older girls from when I was a sophomore, and they were friends of one of my best friends' older brother.  The one girl lived in an old house owned by a woman who was a councilman in our city, and absolutely one of the coolest old hippie ladies that ever walked the planet. The old house was huge, and the upstairs was a place where girls without families lived.  I don't know if it was a foster thing or what it was, because not all the girls went to my school (even though it was within walking distance).  The girl I knew was Chinese, and I think she had a family, but they were in China.  She had lived in the US for most of her life, I think with an uncle or aunt and I think they died and she wound up here.  She had what these days would be considered a horribly racist nickname, and she was really a cool chick.  She had her own car, got killer grades and worked and I think she paid her own way through college.

Her best friend was my friend's brother's biggest crush.  It really pissed him off the first time we all went to the big house to party and I knew her and got a big hug.  We had a lot to talk about because our fathers were both in the school district athletic department.  We had seen each other at functions for years, and we were close to the same age and most of the other kids that always had to go were much younger.  So we hung out, sneaked smokes and talked about music while pot lucks and awards ceremonies raged in the background.  So we had a lot of catching up to do, and she was impressed that I was good at getting alcohol together, even on weeknights.

My first order of business at any one's house was pretty much to attack their record crate and try not to be too much of a snob about what was in it.  There was a lot of slightly mellower 70's rock, and a lot of Todd.  I always loved Something/Anything? because it was such a sprawling project and it seemed to have either really mediocre songs, or really great ones.  The great ones are unbelievably great, like Couldn't I Just Tell You, I Saw the Light and Black Maria.  I really love Black Maria, and I can remember grabbing the album out of the box, and saying, "Hey, can we play side 3?"  We were all pretty buzzed, and the girls out voted me and stuck on side 4.

So I figured it was because they wanted to hear Hello It's Me, and I'm okay with that. There's some other stuff that's a little raunchy and funny on there, and I'm thinking it will be funny to see what they do when those songs come on.  Because teenage me had no fucking clue that other people actually listened to their albums, just like I did.

So the girls change the lyrics to you Left Me Sore to something I was pretty sure you needed to be a fifteen year old boy to find funny, and were dancing on the bed, spilling beer and ashtrays and singing at the top of their lungs to Slut.  I learned a lot about teenage girls that night.  I learned that I didn't know anything about teenage girls, and that I wanted to know teenage girls like these two.  I also learned that older brothers are dumb and I'm glad I don't have any.

So while I'm listening to my copy I pulled out the insert with the lyrics and personnel on it and I notice that there's a little star drawn next to the titles of some of the songs, like *It Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference and *It Takes Two to Tango (This is for the Girls).  So I bought this one used because that's not something I ever did.  It's funny to see which songs the original owner liked, but better yet on *Black Maria and *I Went to the Mirror written above the * is HEAVY.

These days you may be thinking, "Todd is heavy?"  Not just heavy, but HEAVY.  Back when this was a popular record, heavy meant more than just Black Sabbath or Grindcore or whatever kind of core is heaviest these days.  Sometimes it just meant that it made you think, which is what I think the person that owned this meant I Went to the Mirror was HEAVY.  I don't necessarily agree with them, but I like the commentary from the past.  The records are in good shape, so I think I'd have liked whoever owned this record.

Of course, I'd have liked them more if they danced and sang on the bed in 1977, but for now I'll just thank them for the memories.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

David Bowie - The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars

Well David Bowie died the other day and everyone and their brother has posted about him ad infinitum.  I suppose that's to be expected and to be truthful I'm pretty happy to see that so many people had good things to say about him, and that everyone seemed to see that the guy was a genius, even if they didn't like parts of his career (like me).  To me, Bowie will always be the guy from the 70's that constantly was changing and pushing the envelope of Rock Music and essentially challenging us to keep up with him for as long as we could.  He was cool with it if you didn't want to keep up anymore.  Someone would take your place.

Now I find it odd that despite not really caring for his later music (and by later I mean pretty much my entire adult life), his newer music hasn't detracted from his legacy to me.  Hell, with some bands if I hear a bad album or two in a row I'm done and don't even listen to their older stuff that I liked before.  I don't know why that is, and I'm sure it's an issue with me and not them.  It's something I never faulted Bowie for, though.  He didn't need to prove anything to me, because he is a titan just for the 70's music I grew up on.

Bowie really was a titan, too.  He was like our cool yardstick.  If you weren't into Bowie, we weren't into you.  I said somewhere the other day that when I was growing up it seemed to me that you were either into Bowie and new, cool things or you were into Ted Nugent and beating people up.  That probably over simplifies things but that's certainly how I feel looking back at it, and I think I felt that way back then.

I'm not kidding when I say he was like a litmus test for us, and the album that you needed to know was Ziggy Stardust.  You needed to know a lot more than the fact that Moonage Daydream was on it, too.  You needed to know the whole album.  You needed to know it like the back of your hand, too.  It was okay to flub some lyrics here and there because who really knows what Bowie was on about half the time anyway, but you needed to know that record.  We could be friends without it, but we were tight if you knew it.

One of my favorite memories of high school is driving around in my friend's old Ford and I can't remember where we met these girls, but they didn't go to our school and they agreed to go hang out with us and drive around and do whatever stupid crap it was that we were going to get into that night. I was in the back with one girl and the other girl was up front with my friend.  I think my normal job was manning paraphernalia and handling the tunes as copilot but since this girl was up front she got to pick the music and I told her, "You can just play the radio or pick any tape outta here," and I handed her the tape box that held something like 36 cassettes.  I was the one that kept my friend's tapes organized and I remember her saying that she didn't know many people that kept everything alphabetical and then by release date (right about then i wished she was in the back with me!).  I told her it just made copiloting easier for me and that my friend just messed them up and left them lying around outside the box and I had to clean it up every time I got in the car.

Anyway, who cares, ya know?

So this girl says, "Wow! You have a lot of Bowie tapes!  Can I play Ziggy Stardust?"

"Uhhhh....yes.  Yes you can!"

So we put it in and the four of us drove around and smoked a bit of Happy and the four of us sang every single word to every single song to the best of our ability.  We may have messed up some lyrics but all that singing and smoking fogged up the windows (it was winter) and we were fucking cool as hell.  We sang Five Years.  A little to ourselves at first, but then when we all could tell that we all knew it, we built up some confidence and let it out a little.  I rolled another.  We sang Soul Love. These girls knew all the words to Soul Love?  Then Moonage Daydream and Starman.  We just aimlessly drove around, singing "It ain't EASY," and it was just weird and cool.

The auto-reverse kicked in and we sang Lady Stardust.  We sang Star and Hang on to Yourself  and it was good.  We practically cheered when we sang Ziggy Stardust and the girls sang the "Hey, man!" parts of Suffragette City and we sang, "Oh! Leave it alone!" and it went like that throughout the song. We sang, "The smell of that chick just puts my smile out of place" together and then went back to our "parts."  It was really something.

We finished with Rock N' Roll Suicide and it was the second coolest time I ever heard that song. We sang it kind of quietly because it was the end of the record (actually tape in this case).  When it was over the girl in front just turned off the stereo and we just talked for awhile until someone absent mindedly turned on the radio.  I don't remember where we went after that, I know we didn't actually make out with these two, which I'm sure was the goal when we started out, but we just hung out and had a really good time.

I never saw those girls again and I don't remember their names.  I wonder if they remember that night.  I wonder if my friend does?  Probably not, and that's okay.  Most people don't remember stuff like that, I guess.  I remember because I thought it was really worth remembering, and I still think so. When I heard Bowie had died it was the first thing I thought of.  I thought, "Thanks, Dave.  That memory is a really good one.  Looking back, I can't think of any single album that meant more to me when I was seventeen than Ziggy Stardust and I still love this record like it's a part of me.

My copy of this was a gift from my wife, who wasn't one of those girls from that night.  She probably doesn't remember giving me this particular record, but she did, and I'll never part with it because I think it's one of my favorite gifts ever.  Partly because I like that she bought something that she knew means a lot to me, but also because she likes Bowie, too.  We don't like that many of the same things musically but we like Bowie.  If I would have a Top Ten list of records I know that Exile on Main St. and Ziggy Stardust would be on it for sure, but I don't know about the rest.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Roxy Music - Stranded

I still listen to college radio.  I've always liked it, since I was a kid and stayed up late, well past my bedtime listening to my pillow speaker and looking for stations that played Rock songs I had never heard.  That's where I found out about things like Punk Rock and it's even where I first heard bands like Roxy Music.  I'd lay money on it that WCSB is the first place I ever heard Mother of Pearl from Stranded.  WMMS eventually played it, but it was one of those late night songs.  I mean, they played Love is the Drug during the day and that was about it.

The college stations would play popular albums but they'd always play some oddball song that I had never heard.  That's how I found out I really liked a band like Roxy Music.  I know I never heard the brilliant A Song for Europe on a commercial station, but I've loved this song since high school because some kids used to play it on their shows.

Then it seemed like a lot of the music I liked kind of disappeared from college radio.  Hey, I'm not a kid anymore and I'd expect that to happen. Things go away, and they really kind of should.  If Styx, Supertramp and Foreigner had moved out of the way then there would have been room for plenty of bands that deserved their shot.  Not on the college stations, but regular commercial radio.  Things should fade away and become a niche, I think.

College stations are a great place for niche music because the DJ just plays what they want to play anyway, which is really pretty cool. So I was saying that all these bands that I grew up with that were on the fringes of major label life back then had kind of faded away and I was getting around to saying the only place I ever hear these songs now is at my house or maybe my car.  I was pretty resigned to this and I really don't mind because I think it's the natural way of things.

Lately though, I've started hearing these songs crop up now and then on college radio.  There's even shows dedicated to older, guitar driven Rock and I'm pretty surprised how many of the songs I always loved are being discovered by another generation of people, and by people I mean people that aren't my kids or relatives.  I was listening the other day on some trips around town for work and I heard Brownsville Station.  I heard Johnny Winter.  I heard Artful Dodger and Blue Oyster Cult from their first album.  Now to me this stuff isn't all that obscure because I've been listening to it my whole life, but to someone in their twenties this isn't exactly the stuff packing the bins at the used record store.

It's not just one show these days.  There's a few people doing it.  Hell, I even heard Gentle Giant (hey kids, they suck - you can really stop that now!).  I was pretty damned floored when I heard Phil Manzanera's wicked guitar opening to Mother of Pearl the other day, though.  It was almost like hearing it for the first time.  It was just so unexpected and, shall we say, Out of the Blue.  I really liked hearing it and it just got me to decide I should go home and listen to Stranded because it's been too long.

I really love Manzanera's playing throughout this album.  On Amazona he sounds like he just learned something new and he just seems to play with a joy most players don't (or maybe just can't) get across.  I've always felt Street Life and Song for Europe were two of Roxy's absolutely best songs and the aforementioned Mother of Pearl is one of my favorites.  This is the first record without Brian Eno and I suppose it isn't quite as adventurous as the first two albums but it just seems a little more solid than the first two.  Like most Roxy albums, I like it a lot.

Getting back to the radio thing, I think it's cool that there's a few shows playing things that college radio actually used to play long ago.  Hell, I've heard The Yardbirds and Rose Tattoo in the same hour.  That's pretty cool.  There's hope for the future yet, but I hope these people are still listening to new stuff, too.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Quadrajets - Alabama Hip Shake

OK, so ya remember Punk Rock, right?  Not today's Green Day and their offshoots, but the original stuff from the 70's?  I love it.  I pretty much always have.  Then it turned into Hardcore, where everyone was trying to out Sex Pistol everyone else.  It kinda lost me there, especially when it morphed into stuff like Straight Edge(sorry, I never had a problem with people being wasted).  Well, you may think I'm kind of getting started saying that The Quadrajets are some kind of  Hardcore offshoot, and they aren't.  They're certainly capable of being that if they wanted, but they seem to understand that there's something to be said about getting back to the old aesthetic of "Fuck you, we play what we want and it just doesn't matter if that's in front of ten people or a 1000."

Man, I love that attitude.  I mean, The Quadrajets are Southern.  They use three guitars and they use them for making a wall of guitar noise.  They do it so well that one of my favorite bands in the whole world, The Dexateens, essentially make their own Quadrajets album once.  These guys are loose, they're loud and they must have been one of the most brutal live bands ever.  They sing about girls and cars.  Considering this came out in 1996,you kinda gotta wonder what they were thinking because like now, this is not the kind of stuff the radio is interested in.

Mostly people don't get interested in stuff like this because it's loud, fast and hard and they don't take themselves too seriously.  The kid inside me LOVES that.  I mean, a song like The Rosedale Sons of Kong is just the kind of thing that makes me want to drive 100 miles an hour and throw beer bottles at mailboxes as I drive by (not that I would, because that's irresponsible and hopefully no one's done it since 1979).  Other songs on here make you want to light fires and piss on cop cars.  Songs like Dixie Speedway and Blaster are exactly what you'd think they'd be.  They have three goddamned guitars and they don't have two of them doing the same thing all the time, trust me.  They use them ALL.

Side two keeps the energy level (and the volume level) all the way up.  Stone Cold Kickin' It (At Giza) is pretty much the Dexateens blueprint for playing fast and loud, and this original blueprint is definitely just as good.  Then the Quadrajets take Neil Young's Computer Age and turn it into something worthwhile (sorry Neil, I think Trans sucks).  Then I think my two favorite songs show up, 40 Wt. Dope and Bad Motherfuckin' Bitch.  There's just so much to love about these songs.  The riffs are HUGE.  The drums are loud and who can't sing along to "my bad motherfuckin' bitch?"

I can.  You can, too.  I'm telling ya, if you've got a coma going on, and someone plays this stuff for you, there will be a drunken party that ends in a fight on your hospital floor and when they check the security cameras it will be your comatose ass up drinking Pabst Tall Boys and lighting your mattress on fire, then sneaking back to your bed, and probably going back into your coma from being so plowed at your coma party.

I have to highly recommend these guys.  maybe I make them sound a little one dimensional, but they really just stay true to their really loud vision.  You just can't fault a band for that.  You can only admire them.

And turn them up!

Monday, August 10, 2015

James Gang - Live in Concert

I suppose I'm a dyed in the wool homer.  I like Cleveland and I like Ohio.  I think musically we really kill it, and some of the evidence of that is Cleveland's own James Gang. I know people that have actually never heard any of this stuff, which is where Joe Walsh proved that he was a certifiable Rock Guitar God.  Not with any disclaimers tossed in, either.  No one that's ever seen and heard Joe tear it up says he's a great guitar player, he's like toss your favorite in here but not quite as good.  You just don't say that about the guy.  When you see Joe play you can't imagine how utterly effortless his playing appears, like he was just born with a guitar.  He can pull out an acoustic guitar and play as pretty as anyone, and then just plug in and peel your face right off.

Live the James Gang stuff is mostly the peel your face off variety of Joe's playing.  That's my favorite stuff anyway, and Dale Peters and Jim Fox keep the bottom end hard and heavy so Joe can do his thing.  The beginning of side one always seemed kind of like one big song to me, but it's actually three.  These were what caught all of our attention when we were teenagers, hanging out in this one guy's room who had a sister that was a decidedly harder rocker than most people I knew.  These days the stuff she liked the best can be dismissed as Blooze Rawk or just lunkheaded stupidity.  I really don't care where the cool kids have decided this stuff falls when they plot out what is and isn't worthy.  I like plenty of critical favorites, but if you've never ripped a bong to Tend My Garden or Walk Away, then maybe you just haven't figured out what this Rock N' Roll stuff is all about.

Because Joe Walsh has always been fun, and he's always been smarter than he lets on.  He's written some stuff that's just kind of throwaway novelty things, but he's the guy that wrote Walk Away, and while it gives him plenty of room to play a big, fat riff it's also nothing he should be lyrically ashamed of, either.  I think it's kind of funny that of the biggest songs James Gang had, Walk Away is far and away the most popular that made it on to this record.  They left Funk 49 off.  They left The Bomber off.  you can kind of think, "What the hell!" but trust me, the closer on this record is killer.

The closer is the Yardbirds classic, Lost Woman.  You gotta have some confidence in your guitar playing when you decide to not only cover a song Jeff Beck unleashed on the world when he was a true rock god, but then to just annihilate your guitar for fifteen minutes on Jeff's song, well that takes real chutzpah.  Joe kills it, too.  Dale peters gets to do a bass thing for a bit and while it's not Chris Squire, it's certainly not the kind of thing that whatever the guy with the real long name at AllMusic  seems to feel Joe had grown out of.

I mean, this is a great 1970's live album, and yes, it has a goddamned drum solo on it.  But at least it's pretty furious and doesn't last too long.  The acapella part is kind of weird but it doesn't last long, either and at least it's kind of funny.  I never got to see the James Gang, and I really wish I had been old enough to see them.  I'm fine with who I am and how old I am and I don't really regret not seeing them, because I did see Joe solo when he was running for president, and he played a long time and killed it.

I don't know how long I've had this.  It's in really good shape and it sounds terrific.  All in all, definitely one I'll never be getting rid of.

Dire Straits - Dire Straits

Ya know, the late 70's were an interesting time to be a teenager.  Mostly because it wasn't horribly hard to hear new music.  You had to work at it to hear anything underground or local, but you could turn on one of the Rock radio stations and sandwiched in between the Zeppelin and Stones were plenty of new bands like Dire Straits or Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.  It didn't mean that all those new bands were good, or even worthwhile but at least when you turned on the radio you didn't hear the same shit your dad grew up with 24/7.  It's like people demanded to hear new things alongside of their old favorites and then one day those people all said, "Fuck it," and radio decided to just play what used to work and quit trying to expand their audience, or even try to stay interesting ot the kids that made Rock radio important in the first place.

That's a damned shame, too.  There's obviously a shitload of people interested in Rock music.  They're so interested in it that modern Country has appropriated the whole damned thing, power chords and all.  They're so interested in it that professional sports blasts those old songs out ad nauseam.  The interest is there, but the major labels have bought all the radio stations and they only play their own tried and true surefire moneymakers.  Heaven forbid some PD at a station in Akron, OH play a song that isn't thoroughly tested and proven to make .006 cents per listener per minute for three fucking minutes.  Someone might turn off the radio and miss the next nine minutes of tampon ads.

In 1978 Dire Straits were one of those bands that were untested, and they were kind of quirky and slow and mostly moody, but for some reason someone around somewhere decided to keep pushing them a little at a time and by mid 1979 Sultans of Swing was our new "classic" rock staple.  That song was everywhere.  Every station played it, to the point where I always figured I'd just be sick of these guys until the day I died.  Something happened, though.  I just never really get tired of these guys.  I have to be in the mood for them, but give me a nice summer night and a cold beer and a little peace and quiet and I can listen to some Dire Straits.

I think a lot of it is that while I don't think they have any truly great, monumental songs, they also don't have any truly shitty songs.  At least not on the couple of albums I have, like this first one.  It never sounded particularly fresh and new when it came out, but the music on this album has a remarkable quality of never sounding old and stale, either.  I guess this album is kind of like a good pair of jeans.  They fit pretty good but you've got better ones, and they just never seem to wear out.  that's how Dire Straits seem to me.

That's okay, too.  Everything doesn't have to be the absolute greatest thing that ever happened.  When did people quit appreciating talent and craftsmanship and demanding nothing but a handful of songs that most everyone agrees are the definitive statements of their era, not to mention deciding that one era was more or less deserving of any other?  I mean, I love home made ice cream, but I can appreciate and enjoy Dairy Queen, too.  There's so much stuff in the world that's so much better than average and people ignore these things because they aren't the "best."  Man, that's really stupid.

That's where Dire Straits is for me.  At least this album and another one.  They're better than most things.  The playing is terrific, and Mark Knopfler is certainly deserving of all the credit he gets for his playing (and probably more).  Sultans of Swing was a big hit, deservedly so, but Wild West End, Down to the Waterline and Six Blade Knife are maybe not Top Ten material, but there's a lot of meat on those bones and these are the kinds of songs that make for a solid, strong album.  The kind of thing that deserved the accolades it got at the time, and the kind of thing that was more than worthwhile for some PD to take a chance on.  I know those days are gone, but while everything people took chances on back then didn't work, when they did they paid off and paid off for years.  it's too bad people aren't like that anymore.

So I like this record.  I don't love it, but I like it a lot.  Mine is a Columbia House version, and it sounds terrific.  Super flat, super clean, super quiet and just as good as a record gets.  I think it was a quarter and I can't imagine that I've spent many quarters on many other things that are this good.