Wednesday, December 30, 2020

America and its unfortunate sons

Rich old rich men start the wars but poor young men fight them. Unless you are a fortunate son then someone else takes your place in the trenches.

I was a few years too young for Vietnam but old enough to be aware of the war and to understand the devastation it wrought in my country and in the jungles, rice paddies and highlands of Vietnam. Fourteen young men from my hometown died in Vietnam; another seven from the small towns that dotted my home county.

In search of a television memory

Who in the hell is Atlee Yeager, and why did I ever like him?

Damned if I know but come with me as I try to figure it out.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Tom Waits found his way home with Rain Dogs

Tom Waits got a lot of mileage out of his persona as down-on-his-luck boozy lounge lizard. It carried him for about a decade and through several pretty good albums a long time ago.

I found that stuff interesting for the most part. I was a fan of a couple of those early albums and was happily entertained at a 1982 show in a small concert hall in Houston when Waits was part of a three-piece cocktail-jazz band.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Transformer: The beginning of a long friendship

Transformer, released a few months after I graduated from high school, sent shock waves into my system that would reverberate for about three decades.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Leonard Cohen: The Future as present

I was visiting a friend in his apartment in Northern Virginia about 30 years ago, small-talking about something or other when he stepped to his turntable to introduce me to a new favorite album of his.

Yes, I had heard of Leonard Cohen, I told him. I knew Cohen mostly as the guy who wrote "Bird on the Wire," which several years prior was a staple of Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour. I told Tom that I knew Cohen was a respected songwriter and that I did give a quick listen to one of his early albums once. But it didn't interest me enough to pursue Cohen any further -- he was a bit folky and quiet for my tastes.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Rocking out in a high school gymnasium

“Hey, man there’s a party at the lake Saturday night.”

In the days before cell phones and the internet - no texting, instant messaging, Facebook or Instagram - word-of-mouth was the only medium available on the teenage information highway to alert us to the next blowout at Wappapello Lake, a state park nestled in the foothills of the Missouri Ozarks near my hometown.

Old friends, new perspectives: Revisiting The Doors

An outtake from the Morrison Hotel photo shoot, by Henry Diltz

I hadn't listened to any of The Doors' albums much in several years. I've known them all by heart since I was in high school -- especially the six studio albums from the Morrison years. But in the past 40 years or so, I probably have listened to Absolutely Live, the 1970 double LP that followed Morrison Hotel, significantly more often than any of the other Doors records.

That dry spell was broken a week or two ago when I streamed through The Soft Parade three or four times while working on the first post in this blog. The first couple times through, I got interested in how the album sounded different to me after all these years away.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Poco: Ballad of an outlaw queen

In the house where I was raised, there were two types of music: There was country, and there was western.

And in an era in which one TV set per household was the norm, the patriarch of the family usually determined what was watched. In our house, that meant my dad routinely selected country-music stalwarts such as The Porter Wagoner Show (with a young Dolly Parton) and Hee Haw.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Primal screaming on stage in Toronto

In high school we had our own version of the Fab Four and our very own Yoko Ono, only things worked out much more amicably for us.

I was a member of a very tight group of four guys -- ironically all with the first name of Robert, but that's a story for another post -- who was joined my senior year by a girl named Peggy (no, it wasn't Peggy Sue, but she was from Texas).

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Jagged Little Pill: 33 million people got it right

It's in our DNA. Bob and I and every other person on the planet who take our music listening seriously tend to be insular snobs. We like what we like, we know what we don't like. And we bristle in anger and fear, putting our brains and hearts into lockdown, when those not in our cult invade our nests to push some mainstream pop propoganda. If a gazillion indiscriminating lowbrows are laying down cash on the newest Next Big Thing, we know it as we breathe: It's a pile of shite.

And then, one day, some of the luckier among us discover that the unwashed masses sometimes know what the hell they are talking about.

Friday, December 18, 2020

MC5: Revolution in the Motor City

As much as possible in my backwater town in southeast Missouri I was a student radical.

I was suspended from high school for participating in a demonstration at the campus administration building. I owned Mao Tse Tung’’s “Little Red Book,” Abbie Hoffman’s “Steal This Book” and “Our Time Is Now,” a collection of radical essays from high school journalists. (All of those books were confiscated from my locker during a surprise sweep by school authorities.) 

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

'It's only knock and know all, but I like it'

One day in the fall of 1974, co-worker and regular concert pal Marty Bauer told me we should go to the Ambassador Theater the Sunday before Thanksgiving to see Genesis. Marty and I had become fast friends working side-by-side in that machine shop in Ballwin, MO, where I was biding my time between high school and college. We spent most of our workdays sharing our growing musical knowledge, taking a break in our discussion every now and then to focus on fire-testing those freshly made acetylene-torch heads soon to be shipped out the factory door.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Welcome to The Soft Parade

The Soft Parade might be the most impactful record of my life.