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Some nights when I have time to kill I just put on a recorded music video show from MTV2 or Palladia and fast forward until I see something that looks interesting. I stopped briefly on a new band out of the UK that looked like half glam / half punk just long enough to get a screen shot… I don’t even care enough to spend ten seconds looking on the internet to figure out their name.
What I really thought about was that once it took guts and rage to look different from everyone else and music / lifestyle / looks were one and the same, not just an act that you put on like makeup. If you want to read about that in action, try “Get in the Van” by Henry Rollins, the iconic lead singer of the seminal Southern California punk band “Black Flag”.
Growing up we listened to Black Flag all the time, especially the iconic “Damaged” album. I was too young (and too chicken) to go see them in concert, but reading the “Get in the Van” book really brought home all the violence and flat-out deprivation that it took to live that lifestyle, with Rollins completing a set after being punched and kicked and often drenched in spit. We also forget that Rollins was one of the first individuals to get interesting tattoos in addition to his hairstyle and overall look, which constantly got him in fights everywhere he went. If you want to read about a real and dedicated artist, not some band that was prefabricated for TV and the internet, just read anything Rollins writes but start with “Get in the Van”.
Reading the book prompted me to get back in the spirit and listen to my favorite Black Flag albums. However, they’ve been lost from vinyl to cassettes to CDs and I’m pretty much done with physical media anymore. So I just signed up for Apple Music and there they all are – the whole catalog. Kind of ironic to listen to music that was made and played with fire in such a bloodless manner as through my iPad and bluetooth speaker…
Posted by Ginny on 29th June 2015 (All posts by Ginny)
David Foster writes of the “reset” button. I wanted to thank him in a comment, but it lengthened. And as he begins with the mistranslation, I should begin with an apology: I still know no Czech. But a memory from the eighties came so powerfully, I wanted to share it.
In those years, we hosted various musical and academic visitors. My language incompetence was a difficulty: fluent English wasn’t always an aid in getting those visas. Often a scholar or musical group was substituted for the requested one; visa granting was erratic and subject to bureaucratic whims.
But I remember vividly a group sent to a conference, around 1983 or so. One of the local Czechs, a family dedicated to the language (the father had taught Czech at A&M, his brother at UT), invited them to visit their farm. The folk singers were given tea and cake; sitting in the farm’s front yard, with grasshopper pumps near the house and broad land and skies behind that, they chatted. But then, they stood and began singing acapella with deep and strong voices an old hymn – one they knew well, but never sang at concerts, they said. The resonance came from their hearts. I didn’t know the language and decades have come between. Perhaps it was this one (or this) . If not, the simplicity and clarity were similar. It was a breathtaking moment.
Most of the tributes you see and hear today about BB will feature crap like “The Thrill Is Gone” and that terrible song he did with Bono. This is the real deal and is what I cut my teeth on when I was discovering the Blues. You can thank me later. Godspeed.
There is a festival here in Chicago focused on movies about music which also has a bunch of bands playing as well. It is our attempt to have a little “South by Southwest” action in the city of Chicago. At least they have some nice weather this year – this weekend seems to be the start of spring and everyone is out side and on balconies and has a lot of positive energy. Here is a shot from one of the movies on the cover of the Reader.
Unfortunately I can’t go to any of the events because I can’t stand in lines for too long and I can’t be jostled or have someone step on my foot and that’s what usually happens at a concert. I will look for some of these movies out there on the internet though later or if they come to an art house movie theater or something. Here is the site listing what is going on and an interview with the founder on Chicago Tonight (a great program) and below are some of the ones I’d go to see if I was able to do so.
“Danny Says” which is a movie about the manager of the Stooges and the Ramones. That guy must have seen a lot of crazy stuff
“808” a story of how a device never intended to be a beatbox helped launch hip hop and modern music
“Morphine – Journey of Dreams” one of my favorite bands of the 1990’s was Morphine and I was very saddened when their lead singer / bassist dropped dead at a show overseas. Also the remaining members played a show under “Vapors of Morphine” as well
“Jaco” is about the fantastic bass player Jaco Pastorius who was a little crazy and unfortunately died young after being beaten by a club bouncer. At the festival the bass player from Metallica (who is from Suicidal Tendencies if you go way back to “Institutionalized”) talks about Jaco, as well
Local H is playing too. They are awesome and one of the few survivors of the 1990’s. See them when they come to your town
I am an enormous fan of “top lists” and almost any sort of categorization. If it is the top 100 guitarists, the greatest bands, a type of warship, or anything else – I like to see it in a category and classification that can explain trends and try to cut through complexity by organizing the data into different groupings.
Sirius XM radio stations are a great example of categorizations. Recently on a trip with Dan and our friend Brian we had the station stuck on “Hair Nation” – and then we started thinking through the different stations and how Sirius has chosen to allocate music across each of them.
Some bands are solidly “Hair Nation” – Poison, Warrant, LA Guns, and everything else with spiky hair and all about having a good time. While Dan is more “Hair Nation” – I am more on the “Boneyard” station, which has a big overlap with Hair Nation but a whole host of songs that aren’t on Hair Nation, such as UFO and older heavy metal like Judas Priest.
We started to have a mock “debate” in a snooty English style of “Dear Sir – I beg to differ with your classification of the band Skid Row. “Monkey Business” is more of a hard Boneyard song while their ballads of course could reside properly within the confines of Hair Nation.” Read the rest of this entry »
Newgrange is an ancient structure in Ireland so constructed that the sun, at the exact time of the winter solstice, shines directly down a long corridor and illuminates the inner chamber. More about Newgrange here and here.
A wonderful 3-D representation of the Iglesia San Luis De Los Franceses. Just click on the link–then you can look around inside the cathedral. Use arrow keys or mouse to move left/right, up/down, and shift to zoom in, ctrl to zoom out.
We watched an episode of “Chicago Tonight” the PBS news program where they discussed the Ed Paschke Art Center, a museum highlighting the work of the vibrant visual artist Ed Paschke, a Chicago native who died in 2004. They also have other artists featured at the museum, and when we went it was photographer Steve Schapiro, who photographed Warhol, Reed and Bowie among many others.
The museum is easy to reach – by car you can take the Kennedy and get off at Lawrence, and it is an easy walk from the blue line or the metra (if you take that line). Here is the outside of the building, which is painted in the style of his work. The museum is free (we made a donation) and the docent working there was friendly and interested if you had any questions.
We talked to the museum employee and the building used to be a call center; they redesigned it to hang his big art canvas projects and set it up so that the light illuminated everything properly. Downstairs they had his paintings, and upstairs they re-created his studio, including the last painting that he was working on at the time of his death. Read the rest of this entry »
I was recently on a plane doodling and thought of some funny / interesting stories from 25+ years of working and traveling. So I decided to write them up as short, random chapters of a non-book with the title of this post. Hope you enjoy them and / or find them interesting. Certainly the value will be at least equal to the marginal cost of the book (zero)…
Chicago, the 1980s
Recently I was at an art exhibition and I saw a book about the “School of Rock” which takes kids with an interest in music and sets them up in a band situation and allows them to work together and perform live. I think it is a great idea and I have a friend whose son plays drums and has really gotten a lot out of this in terms of confidence and poise.
I had my own experiences learning an instrument and playing in a band which really were formative to my business experience, although I never really thought of them as “formally” part of my background until I looked at that photo and remembered these 25 posts.
Back in the 1980s I used to play bass guitar (switched from regular guitar) and was in various local bands with friends which typically went nowhere except maybe some free gigs in a public place or someone’s backyard. I absolutely am not a good musician nor was I particularly talented.
However, the act of participating in a band in that era had many of the hallmarks of being in a small business. First of all – you needed to have some money to buy gear. You needed a bass guitar, a few amps (one to practice on at home, and one to leave at the primary practice space), and if you had extra money – a PA system which we could use for the entire band and microphones for the drums, vocals, etc… Actually having gear and these extra pieces of equipment immediately made you a more attractive potential band member, regardless of your skills. Read the rest of this entry »
Over the past year or so I have been dinking around on the banjo. I bought a decent instrument along with a couple of books and have been watching a few youtube videos here and there. In general, along with getting some basics down, I am trying to listen to bluegrass songs to try get my ear put together. I am stuck for time – running a business, raising kids, running a tiny farm and all the rest and didn’t want any big commitment – so when I feel like playing, I play. When I don’t, I like looking at it in the corner of the room. After I get some decent basic technique put together and know basic cords, and have some extra time, probably in 2024 or so, I may start taking some lessons.
The banjo is a surprisingly fun instrument to play, and even when you miss, the mistakes aren’t really cringeworthy, like if you were playing a clarinet or trombone. Progress has been slow, but I probably have 25 or 30 years left on this mortal coil to perfect my skills – or not.
Anyways, on the way home from work, after I get the financial headlines from Bloomberg on XM, I typically flip it over to the Bluegrass channel. A few days ago I heard this remake of a (bad) familiar song. The original, from The Proclaimers:
I really have always hated that song.
This is the remake I heard, by Wayne Taylor and Apaloosa:
Obviously, this is the way this song was meant to be played.
Tributosaurus is a Chicago cover band that has been around over a decade and has covered an astonishing range of songs and artists. When they cover a song they go to great pains to sound as close as possible to the original song – this usually involves multiple guitarists to do overdubs which are tracked in the studio, horns, strings, and an array of drummers, synthesizers and backup singers. Here is their web site and they are a lot of fun. I have seen them do XTC, Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones, Dire Straits, and most recently the “One Hit Wonders of the ’80s” at Copernicus Hall at Jefferson Park in Chicago (it is a few blocks off the blue line stop; we took the train and walked).
Here they are at the start of the show. Later they bring on the horns, the strings, more backup singers, and more of everything. It was a lot of fun – they played a lot of forgotten songs like “This Beat Goes On / Switching to Glide” by the Kings which got the whole place rocking (it was a huge hit in Chicago) and also Dexy’s Midnight Runners with real banjo players. Read the rest of this entry »
Riot Fest in Chicago was held over three very cold and rainy / muddy days in Chicago’s Humboldt Park in September. I went with a friend on Friday which was cold, rainy, muddy and insane and on Sunday when the weather was nice (still cold) and the mud had somewhat hardened. Riot Fest is more of a fan-friendly (cheaper) Lollapalooza with a bigger dose of punk / emo bands and without any of the EDM flavor that you get from Lolla (and get on a massive scale elsewhere). It was also held in Humboldt Park which is relatively far afield for the more gentrified classes but actually is closer to where the younger fans of this music might actually live and work. For me, it was an opportunity to see some of the bands I like such as Social Distortion, Mastodon, Slayer, Primus, Weezer and the Afghan Whigs. Definitely skewing a bit older for certain.
Here is Gwar! I wasn’t a huge fan of Gwar before seeing them live but they put on an awesome show that needs to be seen to be believed, where they kill a giant dinosaur and banter with the crowd in a completely disturbing manner. At one point they wanted everyone to put their heads down for a moment of silence (their former front man died recently) but then their deranged emcee said that everyone was looking down for a crack rock that the band had dropped since they couldn’t do this sort of stuff sober. They also sprayed everyone near the front with fake blood which is their trademark – many fans throughout the park for the rest of the day looked a bit sunburned from the residue of their pinkish hue thanks to Gwar.
Riot Fest had great food and it was very reasonable. They had a Cevapcici stand where I had a great Serbian sausage for about $7 and all kinds of different items, not just the usual “festival” type stuff. Fortunately they set up most of these stands on the roads that curve through the park so they didn’t sink into the mud. Read the rest of this entry »
As I was growing up in the 80’s I listened to heavy metal music of all types and had a great time doing so. I went to a lot of shows as well and that is part of the reason that my hearing is fading at an early age, I assume. No regrets. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Lexington Green on 2nd September 2014 (All posts by Lexington Green)
This is an unusual entry in this occasional series. A demo from a songwriter that is later recorded by another artist is not exactly a remake. Nonetheless, the contrast here is interesting, so I pass it on.
That is a lovely bit of vintage pop, with the feel of that musical annus mirabilis of 1966. It would have been a good single by itself, and possibly a hit just as it is. Carole King had a very nice voice. She wrote a lot of hit pop songs in the Sixties, which were great. I am not a fan of her later solo career music, which is pleasant but does nothing for me.
Here is the version of her song which was a well deserved hit for the Monkees:
The Monkees are more rockin’ with it.
The changed lyrics are interesting. The Monkees sing “My thoughts all seem to stray, to places far away. I need a change of scenery … .” Carole sings “My thoughts all seem to stray, to places far away. I don’t ever want to see … another Pleasant Valley Sunday.” The Monkees leave their rejection of the bucolic suburban scene more ambiguous, which is a lyrical improvement.
I’ve had a long relationship with heavy metal. I remember being a kid for a show at the Aragon Ballroom back in 1986 – I think it was Yngwie Malmsteen (who is often known as Yngwie “F@cking” Malmsteen for his reputation as being a jerk) and we waited outside all day for a general admission show. At that time the Uptown neighborhood was dangerous and populated at all hours by drunks and bums. Some of the more clever fans had stolen lawn chairs along the way so they’d have something to sit on during the long hours of waiting. We watched the minutes click by oh so slowly at a big bank across the street. And of course everyone in line was drinking or smoking or doing something else to pass the time. Many people passed out not once but twice in line, shook themselves off, and went back to what they were doing (one guy in a big mud puddle). Later a kid had a limo drop him off in front of the venue and walked out towards the line. That was a big mistake as the entire crowd was jeering him as one. A few homeless people came by asking for change and someone had the idea to toss a quarter at them and soon the whole line was hurling their change in a shower. Towards the end they installed barricades to segment the crowd so that the entire line of a couple thousand people wouldn’t all surge forward at once when they began letting people into the venue. At that point you were penned in like veal in a cage packed next to other leather jacketed rowdy and drunk fans. The grizzled Chicago street cops eyed the crowd with disdain… you could tell that if they had their way this whole bunch of bums and idiots would get taken into custody…
Over the years I don’t go to as many metal shows as I used to and won’t spend all day in line, obviously. But I still feel affection towards the music and the no-compromise attitude of those that have stuck with it regardless of the fact that it gets no radio airplay, little iTunes action, and is on the fringes of the “general” entertainment landscape. Of all the genres of music, metal can live on because it doesn’t need any of these things, just fans who are dedicated, and these fans revel in the fact that they are outsiders.
Indonesia just elected a new president, a “man of the people” named Joko Widodo who took on the establishment tied to the former dictator. I am astonished to see that he is apparently a fan of metal, and even a fan of bands like Lamb of God, whom Dan saw recently in Madison and described their show as “insane and sonic”. All of this comes from this Noisey article (Noisey is part of the awesome Vice media empire). It is unthinkable that a US presidential candidate would ever admit to being a fan of metal, especially the non-cartoony metal bands like Lamb of God. Lyrics are NSFW (if you can understand them). Here is a clip…
Posted by Ginny on 20th January 2014 (All posts by Ginny)
Steve Fromholz died in a hunting accident this week-end. One of the Austin songwriters of the seventies, Fromholz perfected a kind of tough lyricism. The laconic irony was caught in a tag from that time – “a rumor in his own time.” But he was a rumor with legs. His influence on the next generation is obvious in works like Lovett’s.
Fromholz was named poet laureate of Texas in 2007, four years after he’d suffered a stroke and then retrained himself in his art. Perhaps best known for the narrative precision of the Texas Trilogy, which captures the tough (and often rewarding) life of ranching in dry places. Here is a version of the lyrics. It’s hard to get some of those lines out of your head; they reverberate because they work, somehow, intensely; they give us a warm strength (“and cattle is their game and Archer is the name they give to the acres they own . . .”) thinking of those resilient characters. Another obit.And another.
Lovett saw him as mentor and they share that ranching/literary background.